Saturday, December 15, 2012

Comfort For Those Who Grieve

Like many of you, I spent much of yesterday reading, listening and watching as details of the evil done at Sandy Hook Elementary were reported on the news. Having lost a child, I mentally compared their loss to my own. Isn't that what we all do? What would I do in that situation? How would I feel? 

I have to say that the one thing that kept coming to mind is how tortuous it would be to know that my child's body was in there, and I couldn't be with them to hold them, touch them, and comfort myself by comforting their body one last time. Even in death, you want to be close to your little one. They may be gone, but their hands, their little toes--you want to etch them in your memory so you never forget. It grieves me that these families were denied this, and that what memories are seared into their minds are so painful. I pray for healing of their hearts and minds.

I mourn for those mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. They are 24+ hours into a dark tunnel that won't have light in it for a long time. They have suffered an amputation in their families. Their child's absence will be felt in innumerable ways, for as long as they live.

The empty chair at the table.
The missing smile in family photos.
The car rides where their child's laughter is only a silent echo.
The name on the insurance card of one who no longer requires checkups.
The bed that remains perfectly made, with favorite toys waiting motionless on the pillow for a child who will never play with them again.
The gifts that will sit unopened under the tree.

Grief will lay heavy on these families for a long time, like an unwelcome, suffocating blanket.

What can help? What can restore hope to these families whose loved ones have been violently torn away from them?

First, I think it's good to acknowledge that although there are many similarities to how people grieve, no one's grief is the same as anyone else's, and frankly, no one's is better or worse. Your grief is yours. It's your loss, and you feel it in every wretched detail. So although it's not good to compare grief, there are similarities that can serve as guides along the way for someone new to grief.

Here are a few things that helped me:

1. Resolve the Why question. Some people struggle with why? and some don't. For those who do, I'd recommend the book I've talked about here before, "If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil," by Randy Alcorn. A book especially helpful, I think, to address the evil perpetrated upon these kids and teachers at Sandy Hook. The bottom line is, some things transcend why, because there is no good reason someone would do what that person did yesterday. So really, why isn't a good question. What answer would begin to adequately explain why? It would be an offense to the memory of those killed to say that this happened for such and such a reason. There is no reason--it was evil, plain and simple.

2. Where was God? Often the question why did this happen? is followed by where God was when it happened? It comforts me to know that God saw it and He hates it. In fact, that's the reason Jesus came to earth--to conquer the evil that has a strangle-hold on us and our world. Jesus was tortured, murdered, died on the cross, and rose from the dead, conquering Satan, sin and death. He is coming again to judge the living and the dead, and those who believe He died for their sins will be forgiven and saved from God's wrath against evildoers. So to answer the question "Where was God?" God was there, and He is coming again. And the shooter at Sandy Hook is at this moment receiving just punishment for the evil he has done.

3. Where is God now? This is the most important question, I think, and the one that will give them the most comfort in the days ahead. For us, God demonstrated His comfort through the people He sent us in those early days after Annie died. People who brought food to us, who sent us cards and flowers, people who came by to give a strong hug. Friends who called to invite me to coffee or lunch, or who came to dig weeds in our yard. Friends who e-mailed. God was near to us in our grief through His people.

And for us, when the calls from friends faded away, God continued to comfort in unexpected ways:

~~The kindness of a clerk tenderly wrapping a bouquet to be placed on her grave: "How's this? Pretty pink for a pretty princess."

~~A breathtaking rainbow over the cemetery to remind us that God keeps His promises, and we will see Annie again.

~~And dreams--like the one I had last night. I don't remember if I've ever dreamed of Annie since she died. But after yesterday's news, all the memories of Annie's death came right up from where I'd buried them the last time. And God gave me a dream about her. I dreamed that Annie talked to me again.

I was helping her clean up her toys, and was singing the clean-up song, to which she chimed in, "Everybody do your share!" And how amazed I was that she could talk again, and I thought to myself: it's probably because we've taken her off a lot of her seizure medicine recently...

After I woke up, I thought how comforting it is to know that Annie does talk again now, and she doesn't take medicine anymore!

I pray that thoughts like these would comfort the moms and dads of Newtown now and through their days, months and years of grief.

Dear Lord, be with those who mourn tonight. Heal their broken hearts and bind up their wounds. May the sweet memories of their loved ones replace the painful memories of the last two days. And be with them through the loving acts of friends who will weep with them as they weep. Amen.


Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which means God with us." Matthew 1:23


Anonymous said...

You are still in my frequent prayers and thoughts, Jean.

Sue Powell

Gretchen said...

As only a mom who has endured this type of loss would so eloquently write and share...Love you. Sending pink hugs. xxxooo

Jean said...

Thank you, Sue & Gretchen. I truly feel God's love and comfort through you, and I pray that for these dear folks in CT.

Cindy Nelson said...

Jean, what a poignant word of wisdom and compassion for those who are suffering such grief. Praying for you and all these parents who have lost a precious child. Lots of love. CINDY

Cyndi said...

You know and understand in a way which many of us cannot.having been through such a loss. Thank you for putting into words so tenderly, helping the rest of us to know how to pray, bringing to mind some of the obstacles ahead for these families. Thank you for sharing Jean. Your wisdom, your depth of compassion, your grace is always appreciated. Keep writing Jean. You have much to teach and share xoxo

Carla Speer said...

Thank you for sharing. We love you guys and continue to pray. Someday we will get to hear Annie worshiping in heaven, as we worship right there with her! Oh what a day!!! Love you Jean!

Jean said...

Cindy--you totally get this, too, I know. XO

Cyndi--I do want to help people to understand better what's going on, not only so they can be a more compassionate friend, but also to get a glimpse of what it will be like when they also suffer a loss. Because we all will at some point.

I remember years ago being in the church at your step-dad's funeral, and was "coincidentally" sitting next to Sarah, who had recently lost a baby at 6 months of SIDS. During the responsive reading of the 23rd Psalm, I heard the quiet sadness in her voice because she knew firsthand what it was like to walk through the "valley of the shadow of death." Grief and loss are part of this broken world, and we need Jesus and God's people to help us through it, don't we?

Carla--Yes, I can't wait!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you..