Category Archives: Grief

Every Dollar Helps

Our campaign goal seems huge. Unimaginable. Unattainable.

But when you’ve struggled through the grief of a child’s death, when a dark day is right behind or in front of you, when you’ve walked through unimaginable pain and considered unattainable hope, facing a large fundraising goal doesn’t seem as daunting.

It might feel like a big dream, but when reaching out to help people who are going through some of the same pain you’ve experienced, wanting to help them and walk beside them, any pursuit, even if it seems challenging, seems worthwhile.

That’s where we are as Hope House founders, board members, campaign team members, and friends and family. We lean into the future, knowing many people are hurting and have a need for refuge, a getaway with family as they heal.

Hope House of Central Illinois will hopefully become a reality in 2019. We have the land and many volunteers. We want to break ground soon. Please help us.

Every dollar helps.

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A Good Place

photo-1521993067561-ce35b1ce9a91Whatever your preference and habits with faith and worship with a church family, we wanted to share a glimpse into one Hope House founder’s heart through something he recently shared at his church. Randy shared the following during a communion meditation. The habit at his church is to take communion every time the church family gets together for worship per Jesus’ instructions to share communion in remembrance of him. The weekly routine is intended to remember what Jesus has done for each of us as well as invite us to take inventory of our lives and consistently invite him to correct and encourage us. It is a reality check of sorts. And recently, Randy shared a glimpse into his own reality of grief and hope.

A few weeks ago, I went on a farm call.  It was a lovely spring day and I was thankful to get out of the office that afternoon. The farm is a pleasant place located on a hilltop. I knew well my way to this place because it was the home of my first and best friend after moving to Taylorville 32 years ago. It is a place that I’ve visited many times and I have only the fondest memories of being there. In my mind it is a happy place. But my friend moved and now I don’t go there so often. My friend’s son lives there now, and I will admit that I like him, too, and will gladly claim him as a friend. But our relationship is different and I just don’t visit as often as I probably should. While there, I looked at a few sheep and a couple dogs. Then I had a conversation.

We talked about our jobs, families, and all the interesting things going on in our lives. Then I told my young friend about a visit I had made the week prior to another place, very different place; Anderson Cemetery. I had gone to see my son. It is my son’s final resting place, and I don’t like going there.  I don’t visit often, and when I do go, I don’t stay long. I did not start that day planning to go. I have no idea why I went but I did, and for the first time, it wasn’t so awful. Maybe the sting of death is not as sharp now. I not only visited Dan’s grave but I also looked around. I saw Eddie there. He was my first neighbor in Taylorville. Eddie was a good neighbor. He used to watch my daughter, and she took her first steps in his house. Lyle is also there. He was funny and used to love repeating a story of when his mule bit me in the rear. I saw lots of names that I recognized and many whom I never knew. I saw headstones for young people, old people, and even people born in the 1700’s and Anderson Cemetery is said to be the final resting place of every last one of them.

Then I told my young friend that I had visited the grave of his daughter, and we talked about that for quite a while. Then he said something that really stuck in my head. He said that his life is in a good place now, and that he is content. Upon reflection, I feel that I, too, am in a good place now. But this good place will not be my final place. Nor is Anderson Cemetery the final resting place of our loved ones. There will be another place after my final resting place.  In John 14, Jesus has a conversation with his disciples and talks to them about his final resting place.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going. Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Jesus came from heaven to earth to give us a glimpse of our Father and to lead us to a very special place called Heaven. Jesus has gone before us and prepared a place for each of us. Today at this communion, celebrate what Jesus has done.

Do More Than Check Out

photo-1422190441165-ec2956dc9eccI know the desire to curl up in a ball and pull the covers over my head and retreat from the world. It’s okay for a moment, but at some point, it’s time to go for a walk, reach out to a friend, spend time with people who love you. Do something. Do more than check out from the reality of the world that is so hurtful, because it is so much more than that.

What do you see?

We have all seen them. Those social media ink blot type photos that you are  supposed to stare at for 30 seconds then look away, blink three times, and see an image like Jesus or a bunny. Maybe a flower. The life of a grieving parent can be like an ink blot. You see one thing but after careful attention and then a glimpse from another perspective, you have a whole new picture. We grieving parents have buried a very very precious part of our lives. What would happen if we found a way to change that picture from having buried something precious to having planted something precious? With soil and water, things grow. With our tears we have watered what was planted at the burial of our children. What grows from that is up to us to some degree. Will it be a more loving and compassionate person in ourselves? Or will it be something not quite so pleasant? Don’t be too hard on yourself if what grows from your grief isn’t always pretty. After all, one of the most beautiful and well known flowers has thorns. 

Learning to live again

In the beginning, I didn’t understand how it was possible to ever return to my previously normal daily life after I lost Lucy.

We are different after the loss of a child. The way we interact with people is different. The way people interact with us is different. Our view of what is important has been changed. Our perception of so many aspects of life is altered by our grief. Small things may set you off that you would have laughed at previously. Or little annoyances are suddenly the most upsetting and can rocket you straight into a meltdown.

But it won’t always be this way. Yes, somethings you will forever be ultra sensitive to. Others  will return to the same little annoyances they were previously. It doesn’t happen all at once.

For example, it was a good year before I could hear a helicopter and not freak out or have flashback nightmares. (I was flown by helicopter from Springfield to St. Louis in heavy labor which they were attempting to slow down.) But today, I can hear a helicopter and not have nightmares. I think about the events leading up to the flight, and of course how the day eventually ended, but still sleep soundly.

For a while now, I have been able to shop without fear of a breakdown when I walk past the maternity or baby clothes. I can see the cribs at Target without playing the ‘if only’ game.

I can not give you any big psychological explanation of exactly how and when these changes took place. I only know that with time, I have come to accept that this is my life and I try to live each day to the fullest. I try to pass on love and hope to people around me. I don’t remember making a decision one day that I was going to learn to live again. I only know that it has happened.

Yes, there are some things that still feel like a knife to my chest, but those moments have become fewer and farther between. I can pick up a newborn at my job and think momentarily “Oh I need one of these!” but then I think about my husband and our life and that we have so much to be thankful for and I am content. I am happy. Because we have chosen to live to the fullest the life we have been given.

 

 

Journal entries from fall 2013

Journal entries from fall of 2013:

2/5/2017

It’s been 3 ½ years since we lost our daughter. We have been through dark days and come out with hope. No, there is no hope that we will ever conceive again, but we have found joy in our life together even with this certainty. We did not arrive at this place overnight or even within months of the loss we experienced. But we, as a grieving mom and grieving dad, keep waking up every day, breathe in, breathe out, and look for one positive in the day.

You can do the same: look for one positive in your day. Some days this will be easy; some days it will seem impossible. Just know the day will come when you will smile or laugh and surprise yourself.

Today I’m sharing a couple journal entries from shortly after delivering and losing Lucy on 6/18/13. The loss of hope for any brightness in the future is very real and very devastating after loss. I’m here to let you know those dark days of hopelessness didn’t last forever for me. I’m praying the same for you.

June/July 2013

Today, I’m having a difficult time trusting in God’s goodness.

I have learned of God’s attributes since I was a small girl. He is ever present, faithful, loving, kind, and full of grace and mercy. He is all powerful, all knowing, above all. He is creator. Author of life. I believed these things from an early age. I put them into practice in my life. I wrote about them and taught them at church and to my sons. However, some days the grief overwhelms me, and I feel like a hypocrite. In November 2012, I stepped out in faith and believed for something I was fearful of – being pregnant after miscarriage in 2008 and years of infertility between 2008 and 2012. In March 2013, while I was still pregnant, my husband and I were told there was no hope for our daughter to live. But I trusted God had a purpose and that life would come. He would be victorious. Again, I was robbed of my hope. How do I trust God’s identity when this past year has been a lesson in seeing hope disappointed?

I know there is a bigger picture. I know it is not all about me, my husband, Lucy’s brothers and grandparents.  It is not all about our lost hopes and dreams. I do not have to live in this hopelessness. But today I am having a difficult time trusting in God’s goodness. I am afraid to be devastated – again – for his glory and plan. How do I get past that?

September 29, 2013: Sunday morning at the cemetery

How can I trust you? I sought you for her healing. You taught me to hope. Dared me to hope. And hope disappointed. Hope devastated.

I sit beside a headstone. I should be sitting beside a crib.

I know you do all things well. I know you want to give good gifts to your children. I know you have power to heal. I know who you are and that is why this is so difficult to accept. That is why it is so hard to trust. If this was for your glory, then why do I want to live to glorify you?

I will NOT turn my back on you. I will not deny your existence or sovereignty.

I do fear that you are going to tire of my questions and grief. I do fear you have a time line for my grief that I am not living up to. I fear you are tired of my hurt and tears. I fear that you are saying “Enough already. This is your life. Get on with it.” But I don’t know how to do that – spiritually or physically. I know I just get up in the mornings and go about my day. Spiritually everything seems off and I am not sure what to do with that. Where do I go from here? What do I do with my doubts? Where does the pain, hurt, and disappointment need to go?

I don’t want to be angry and bitter. But I am angry. God help me. I am so mad I don’t know what to do. When I am mad at people, I go to you. When I am mad at you, God, what should I do? How long will you put up with me? At least one day more.

I am so lost. I am so broken. I am so tired. I am so lonely for the closeness I shared with Lucy while carrying her. I feel like I let her down. I know I let me down. But I honestly did everything I could. Why didn’t you, God? Why didn’t you?

Monday, September 30, 2013

From a Bible study by Jennie Allen: “We have got to quit pretending faith is easy. We fight for faith and ask God to give it.” Sometimes we have to fight for faith and what we know to be truth – especially when situations in life take us to dark places.

Some of those journal entries are difficult to read. Believe me, it was more difficult to be in that place. If you are there, just know that God’s answer truly is that he will put up with your doubts, fears, grief, or anger at least one more day. His mercies are new every morning. He dealt gently with me in all my doubts, fears, and anger and somehow He helped me get through the hopeless days. One day at a time.

Many people kept me in their prayers when I could not find the faith, strength, or hope to pray myself. And God proved himself faithful. He always does. His faithfulness and mercies look different than our view or expectation of them. I do not have my daughter back. I do not have a “rainbow baby.” We have an empty nest. Lucy’s brothers are now young men, each living on their own.

Yet here I am, 3 ½ years later, hoping again. Hoping that we will be able to raise funds to build Hope House and be able to serve other parents of loss. Hoping that the right words will come when I sit at the computer to send out another message to others. Hoping that somehow, I can share with other parents of loss that dark days and questions are not the end of the story or the end of your life with your child. My husband and I have learned to live our new normal after the loss. We have learned to laugh again. We embrace the things we can learn through our journey with Lucy and hold on to them as a piece of her. We will never be the same – and that has become a good thing.

 

I had a meltdown.

I had a meltdown.

 

1/28/2017

 

Let’s call it a culmination of numerous factors which led to the meltdown. Grief can be like an exposed nerve root.  We can try to keep it covered and padded by layers and layers of protection but at some point and time, that root is going to get bumped and send your emotions into a tail spin.

For the rest of our lives, grief will be part of us. We all have triggers. They may be topics we have dealt with for years before our loss or they may be all new subjects or situations that arise. Whichever the case, our reactions will be determined by how hard that exposed root is hit as well as where we are emotionally, physically, and spiritually at that moment of exposure. The more vulnerable we are, the harsher or more dramatic the reaction.

Lately, my sleep has been disturbed. My body is uncomfortable due to some minor but very irritating issues. My emotions are on edge as I begin to blog and open myself up to the world, so to speak. Along with the blog, we are taking some next steps to make Hope House a reality. Life is busy and full and most of the time pretty good. But the other day, my nerve root was exposed and got hit hard and I over reacted to something that normally would have bothered me but not caused an extended meltdown and crying jag.

So what do we do when our vulnerable places are exposed and bombarded with emotions? What do we do when our reactions are more dramatic or over the top compared to ‘normal’? We can beat ourselves up about it and let it haul us in to the depths of self-loathing and self-judgement or we can learn from it and hope to react differently or less over the top the next time an exposure occurs. Because chances are, it will happen again.

Today, I choose to forgive myself for overreacting. I choose to not be disgusted with myself for the vulnerable pieces of my emotional make up. They are part of me. Those vulnerable parts help me be a more compassionate person most of the time.

Today, I choose to see the possibility of a better day.  I will get up, live my life, and look for ways to give of myself and help those around me. I will continue to reach out and try to spread hope to those who find themselves in a place where hope is difficult to find.  I am loved at my darkest moments and I will let others know they are as well.