I Hope This Makes You Feel Less Lonely

I visit Mom’s facebook page late at night, when I really miss her. Sometimes I half expect there to be new pictures, and then quickly realize that there won’t be. There aren’t new memories to make and new pictures to post. She has no more life left to live. Pulmonary Fibrosis took that from our family.

So there I am in bed, scrolling through the same pictures I’ve scrolled through countless nights before, hoping to see something I haven’t yet. And I always find myself disappointed.

I’ve had conversations with God that go something like “I miss her so much. I just want you to give her back to me.” I said those words last night, actually. But I also realized last night – how cruel would that be? And not because Mom was sick, but because I realized how heartbreaking it would be to reach heaven, to be in the sweet presence of our Savior, only to be sent back here.

I picked up a new book at Barnes & Noble the other day called The Dead Moms Club. It recounts the author’s experience of losing her mom to pancreatic cancer. What I’ve really appreciated about this book is that the author, Kate Spencer, lays it all out on the table. The real, raw emotions that losing your mother to a horrible disease brings out. It’s made me feel like a human being actually understands my story. And it’s made me feel less lonely.

And maybe that’s why I’m writing this rambly, gloomy post – so that maybe someone else could feel just a little less lonely, too. Grief is isolating. But friend, you are not alone. You are not alone in your sorrow. You are not alone in what feels like irrational/crazy/dumb/whatever-you-call-them thoughts.

You are not alone. Because I am here, ready to listen to you gush about how amazing your mom/dad/brother/sister/child/best friend ever was, your favorite memories with them, the words you wish you would’ve said, how much you wish God could just give them back. But more importantly, you are not alone because God is with you. In the middle of your grief. Ready to listen to your questions, your angry words, your deep sorrow. He is near to the brokenhearted, and he saves the crushed in spirit.

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An Honest Conversation

Dear, Church.

Let’s chat real quick about grief. I’ve noticed over the past several months how poorly equipped we can sometimes be in dealing with this. And I don’t know that it’s really anyone’s fault. Grief and death are tricky, and not everyone handles them in the same way. So what do we do when someone we know loses a loved one? How do we respond? How do we support our bereaved friends and family?

We can listen.

Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But here’s the catch – try to just listen. As Christians, it can be so easy to want to slap a bandaid on with our words. We mean well,  but what we don’t always realize is that these statements can sometimes come from a place of our own discomfort. Just listening to someone and sitting with them in their grief can be awkward, and we don’t always know the right words to say. But friend, want to know the magic secret here? We don’t have to have words to say in these moments. Your grieving friend will so appreciate you quietly listening to them as they share how much they miss their loved one.

We can remind them of truth.

“But Sabrina, you just told me to listen?” Yeah, I know. I also told you grief was tricky, remember? While your friend desperately needs you to listen as they process their grief, they also need to be gently reminded of truth. Whether they’re angry, sad, anxious, or just a little numb, remind them that these feelings are normal. Grief can make you feel a little crazy, and it helps to have a friend validate your feelings and remind you that you’re not.

Along with feeling a little bit crazy, grief can also bring up feelings of guilt. In my personal experience with grief, my feelings of guilt have been where I’ve needed the most truth spoken into my life. My husband actually handled this really well. Each time I found myself broken over thoughts of “I could have given Mom one of my lungs. We had the same blood type. We were the same height. I probably would have been a match.” He lovingly reminded me that even if I had been the perfect match, Mom never would have agreed to it. And her doctors wouldn’t have either. This truth is just what my brain needed in that moment – to be reminded of the irrationality of it all, while still acknowledging that the pain is real.

Most importantly, you can remind your friend of truth found in Scripture. Please hear me out for a second- this is not the time to share your “everything happens for a reason” statements. They just don’t hold water here. (Sickness and death happen because we live in a broken world. Amen. The end.) However, this IS the time to share scripture like Psalm 34:18, which says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Another that I’ve continually reminded myself is John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not overcome it.” Your grieving friend needs to hear Scripture that comforts and gives hope.

We can be a friend.

This one sounds obvious, but it’s equally as important to note here. We have to be careful to not only see our friend for their grief. Sure, they want you to ask how they’ve been doing since so-and-so passed away, but they don’t want every conversation to find itself there. Go have lunch with them. Talk to them about a book you just read and are LOVING. Take them to get a pedicure. Just be their friend and love them like you’ve always done, but maybe with just a little extra grace, okay?

Church, I know that death makes us uncomfortable. And I’m certainly not claiming to be an expert in the matter. But I really think these three actions – listening, reminding of truth, and being a friend – are at least really great steps in the right direction. Let’s work on this together, shall we?

 

God is in the Grief

I recently read a blogpost that asked the question, “Where do you feel God?”. I sat for a minute and jotted down a few places and ways in which I most often feel God’s presence – sunsets, stars, hiking, music, quiet time spent with him. And then I thought, where do I feel God in my grief? I know that he is there. Right in the middle of it. But it took a little more digging to figure out specific ways in which I have felt God while grieving the loss of my sweet Momma.

I felt his Spirit in the hospital room with my dad and brother as my mom struggled to take her last breath. There was such a deep sorrow shared between the three of us as we held her hands and brushed her hair away from her face. But I also felt a calm stillness that I knew was the presence of my Jesus. I felt a peace in the midst of our sadness.

I have felt God through people. I felt his thoughtfulness in the meals that people brought to our family’s home when we left the hospital.  I felt his joy as I watched a video of mom’s friends releasing balloons to celebrate her birthday. I felt his love in the sympathy cards, notes, and encouraging texts sent by family and friends. I continue to feel his love in the hugs and forehead kisses my husband gives me on days when I really miss my mom. I’m so thankful that God uses ordinary people to make his presence known in such tangible ways. He knows how much I need this, and he’s faithful to provide it.

I continue to feel God in prayer and Scripture. Prayer is not easy in grief. Sometimes I’m irrationally angry, and sometimes my prayers are not more than a few words long. But I know that he is close. And I know that he is listening. I can feel his nearness. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and he saves the crushed in Spirit.” I cling to this verse because it reminds me of the nearness I feel in prayer. It reminds me that even in the loneliness that grief can bring, God is there, and he’s walking through this alongside of me.

Nothing quite prepares you for this kind of loss. The kind that hurts so deeply it can become all-consuming. I sometimes think about  about all the things that my mom won’t get to experience – growing old with my dad, skydiving with my brother, holding and helping to raise her grandchildren – and my heart is broken. But I am thankful that in the middle of my grief, I am able to feel God’s presence in so many ways, and that in his presence I find peace. I am thankful that he comforts me through his Holy Spirit, through his people, and through his word. And I am thankful that my sweet Momma is experiencing his presence in the most real way.