I went for a walk this morning on the River’s Edge Trail, which runs along the bank of the Missouri River. The leaves were glowing a brilliant yellow and several birds flew ahead of me along the way – a magpie, a robin and a chickadee. The way the sun hit the trees on top of the hill and how it caused the foilage at the side of the trail to glow took my breath away. I am almost overwhelmed at times with the beauty of God’s creation. Since losing my son in 2014, I see things with different eyes. I went on a walk with a friend who also lost a son, and we agreed that it’s almost like layers have been peeled away and everything we see is blindingly beautiful compared to how we saw it before.
There have been many days over the last year, however, when I have been engulfed in darkness. I have experienced the dark night of the soul and experienced pain so intense that I just couldn’t stand being me. During the first year after losing Christian, I did what one of my grief books recommended, which was to lean into the grief. This meant that I cried the tears I needed to cry and felt what I needed to feel. I leaned on God constantly, read His word more than once a day for a while, and prayed often. He has done a great healing in me that I will never forget.
The darkness set in during the second year. Taking care of my youngest son, Andrew, although difficult to do while processing the tragedy of losing Christian, gave me purpose and something to focus on. I still felt important and needed. When I returned to work after over 10 years, everything I had ever believed about myself was dramatically changed. All of a sudden my husband was taking care of Drew, cooking meals and cleaning the house – things I have done since we married in 1992. Suddenly I had no idea who I was.
Rather than turning to God in prayer and to His Word and reaching out to supportive friends, I turned inward and started defining myself by how the world viewed me and by what I did each day. I felt unimportant and lost. I stopped blogging because of the fear of what people would think if they knew I was in so much pain. I didn’t want to be a downer by writing about the darkness and sadness.
The truth is that without darkness, we are unable to learn what needs to be brought into the light and healed. The pain and difficulty we endure becomes life experience, and although we would rather aviod it, we can use it to help others. Sharing my broken heart can actually help someone else who is going through their own personal tragedy.
As much as I want to be done grieving, I am not. As Marianne Williamson states in Tears to Triumph, “it (grief) is a process – not an event- best served when we surrender to it fully. Grief allows us to process incrementally what might be too shocking to the system to have to process all at once.” Tears are nothing to be ashamed of, especially when they are for someone we cherished and loved so much who is not longer with us. They wash away layers from the heart and help us to see everything with new eyes. As I continue to cross this vast sea of grief, I will share the lessons learned and the things that God wants to show me in hopes that I can help others know that no matter how deep the sadness, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.