Thursday, September 29, 2011

Friday's Faith - God does not fill the gap . . .

Dietrich Bonhoeffer before his death in the

Flossenbürg concentration camp in 1945

Friday's Faith

God does not fill the gap . . .

Nothing can make up for the absence

of someone we love. . . . It is nonsense

to say that God fills the gap; God

doesn't fill it but on the contrary, God

keeps it empty and so helps us keep

alive our former communion with

each other, even at the cost of pain. . . .

The dearer and richer our memories,

the more difficult the separation. But

gratitude changes the pangs of memory

into a tranquil joy. The beauties of the

past are borne, not as a thorn in the

flesh, but as a precious gift in themselves.

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Picture Dietrich Bonhoeffer -

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Thursday's Therapy - Grief-and-Trauma Treasure Hunt: Is There Healing to Be Found?

Thursday's Therapy

Grief-and-Trauma Treasure Hunt:

Is There Healing to Be Found?


Before, we always thought there was a separation between body and emotion. Even in our doctors' offices, there are physicians who treat the body and psychotherapists who treat the mind and emotions. But we are discovering more and more that body and emotions do not operate separately ~ in fact, they cannot operate separately, as if they were in a vacuum from one another! Instead, all parts of the body and the emotions feed off of the messages of distress each part of the system may send, and then work together to find and then produce the solution.

So what if one part of this intricately interwoven system is thrown off balance by, say, something like life's trauma?

Then one's whole system can be thrown off track, and can even become toxic to oneself. Psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists seek to examine the system to determine what best helps to put the system back together again on behalf of the "psyche" ~ the emotional well-being of the person. Neurologists seek to work on behalf of the brain. Cardiologists seek to work on behalf of the heart. And so on, and so on.

We are now realizing, there needs to be a much more integrated approach to the whole person as all systems are affected by trauma and therefore, the whole person needs to be considered.

The development of our traumatic symptoms over the years has convinced us that the effects of Child-Loss are as much about trauma as about grief!

"We carry our stress with us for a lifetime."

~opening line of his book, Does Stress Damage the Brain, by J. Douglas Bremner, M.D., assoc. professor of psychiatry and radiology at Emory University of Medicine, psychiatrist and neuroscientist

For these first five years of child-loss, we have experienced the effects of a damaged brain due to the trauma of losing our child! It is an invisible disability; others do not see it, but we feel it and know it's there, sending us into hypervigilance and/or hyperarousal and leaving us there whether danger is present or not.

We begin to fear that we cannot trust our own emotions to correctly hone out the REAL dangers present. And that is only one component of our trauma. Many of us cannot work our jobs or careers the ways we once did. We cannot be as "active" with our living children as we once were. Our lives are affected in so many ways, that, even though we walk and talk and breathe and look normal, we know we are not our whole selves that we once were.

Just going to a grief counselor won't cut it.

A grief counselor misses a large part of our child-loss issues. A regular grief counselor does not understand the massive degree of grief in child loss nor do they even know that TRAUMA is a huge factor, or that it even exists in child-loss!

Most counselors come from a "stages-of-grief theory," believing there are essentially several concrete, finite stages that they think come and go in linear fashion, and then one is "healed." Many counselors (and even doctors) do not realize that such a simplistic theory has been totally debunked.


"The brain areas involved in emotion are also involved in memory formation."

~J. Douglas Bremner, M.D.

So child-loss grief and trauma is not just about our emotions. It is also very physiological, greatly affecting our brain! Brain areas including hippocampus, medial prefrontal cortex, and amygdala become extremely affected by our trauma, and they must be managed to best mediate our symptoms of Traumatic Grief. Many of us will have some degree of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and each of these three areas of the brain must be accessed to help us navigate our way through such distress.

These three brain areas mediate memory and the fear response. We are now going to have an impaired brain. We often begin to think we are "losing our minds" because things don't register like they once did; we or sometimes our family members fear seeing symptoms that seem an awful lot like Alzheimers. And it is no wonder, for in both disorders, the hippocampus has been damaged! Our severe grief-and-trauma throws us for a loop. At times, it will impair our memory and dis-regulate our fear response (the part of the brain that should turn off our fear if no real threat is pending, does NOT turn off our fear, so we are left feeling traumatized over and over, and wonder if life will ever be "sane" again. We wonder if we will ever be able to trust our brains to discern true danger as opposed to just signs of possible danger, for example.

The stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol race through our systems trying to protect us in such a hypervigilant state even when there is no real danger. And such racing through our bodies repeatedly can ravage our system, weaken our blood vessels, depress our immune system, and before we know it we have added problems like heart disease, or cancer, or both.

But, though we have massive amounts of adjustments to make to our "New Normal," possible treatments to undergo to stabilize our psyche, and preventive activities to do to soothe our post-traumatic stress disorder, it is important to know there is another positive side to things!

Most of our neurologists and psychiatrists were taught that: once the brain becomes damaged and neurons are killed, there is nothing we can do; the neurons die and scar over, making worse problems for us…

But now, we are learning about "Neuroplasticity"!

neuroplasticity - The brain's natural ability to form new connections in order to compensate for injury or changes in the environment. The ability of the brain to reorganize pathways between neurons as a result of new experiences.

Scientists are now discovering a whole new world since brain-imaging shows us the reality of the brain's world. We are learning by watching the brain at work that the brain has the potentiality for what is called "neuroplasticity," meaning there are things we can do to reverse our "brain-damage"! And that is the Treasure Hunt that scientists are on now to find out what all we can do to achieve this recovery of the damage our trauma has done to our brains. And that is the Treasure Hunt Tommy and I are undertaking too so that we can learn how to help ourselves and how to help you heal the parts of yourself that, indeed, can be healed! Stay tuned!

Picture: thanks to
Definition of neuroplasticity -

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wednesday's Woe - Misfits

Wednesday's Woe


~Tommy and Angie Prince

Are you starting to feel like a Misfit in your child-loss-grief world? We are. Our child was killed. So, for example:

We now KNOW the world is not a safe place.

We cannot go to the store, mow the grass, even walk around the neighborhood without a gun in our pockets! We KNOW the world is not safe.

And on top of that, in our Traumatic Grief, we know our brains have been damaged by the severe stress of the past five years.

(No, no one else knows it, but we know it. Our lives have been traumatized, and our psyche is changed. You may not be able to see it, but we FEEL it.) So we know now, as normal as we might look, we still are going to be Misfits in many ways.

Now being a Misfit is not all bad. We now know what is important.

For instance, my family-of-origin is all fighting over 50-year-old furniture in my parents' house, to the point they refused to give me the key to my parents' house to spend the night this weekend (even though I live 250 miles away) because they can't find a few towels and a Bible! But they had already said we could spend the night the week before, and were too chicken to notify us their plans had changed. All over a couple of missing items...

Seriously, this happened! And these people are not poor people. They live in country club settings, and some of them right now, this very minute, are walking the streets of Italy on a vacation, one of whom is the one who had me locked out. So, they're away in Italy, but they sent their underling to ban us from my own parents' house where I lived since I was in second grade. It beats all I've ever seen; they don't need a stick of furniture in this house, but they sure don't want me to have anything either! (As if I want it, with that attitude coming at me!)

But I am so thankful; I KNOW what is important, and fighting over fifty-year old furniture is NOT, in my book anyway. What is important to me is my parents loved me, immensely, and never would have locked me out of their house. And that love will carry me the rest of my life, not their furniture.

Now, let any of us Misfits walk into a church… We are in intensive-care spiritually. We need God like we've never needed God; but we need Him intensively. Do you think we are going to get God intensively in a church of today?

Not in any that I have seen lately. If I were to hear any more nationalism in a Sunday School class or in a sermon, I think I literally would scream.

They are touting a platitudinal gospel that if you follow all these rules, God HAS to protect you and your family.

Do you think I belong there? Absolutely not.

I know my God loves me. I know my God loves my child.

I know my child was killed, so we will NOT always be protected in this fallen world; don't tell me otherwise.

But I also know my God is holding my child this very moment, and that is more important than anything else in the world to me right now.

The world is living out a mantra of "Blessed are those who are prosperous." (I think my family has fallen for that one unfortunately.)

God says, "Blessed are those who mourn." God is WITH us in our suffering; it is the sweetest visitation one can have to have the Loving, Living Lord put His arms around us as we weep.
He ministers to the weak and destitute. He ministers to the broken-hearted. And as broken-hearted as I am, I have a peace inside that others might pay fortunes for. For "blessed are those who mourn."

Some in the church would say (or insinuate): "Get over it. Come back to church." You can't! Your belief system has been challenged, if not ripped to shreds over your terrible loss. No fault of God's mind you; He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But the faulty beliefs that somehow fell into our belief system have thrown us for a loop and forced us to re-examine everything, held up to the Light of God's Truth this time. And that takes work, WORK, Work.

Don't tell me to "Get over it"; you have no idea what child-loss-grief-and-trauma requires me to work through. You are cruel if you put YOUR agenda of "move-on-ness" on me, when I have SO MUCH to grapple with and work through.

In a book Tommy and I were reading last week, the pastor said two women came to church one Sunday to testify:

One said my child was in a terrible car crash this weekend, but God was there; my child was saved.

The other woman said, my child was in the car crash too, but she was killed; where was God?

Now, that is real life.

Tommy says,

"I am traumatized over what I can and cannot pray about anymore.

"I prayed for God to keep my child safe; she was killed. I am almost afraid to pray now for anything other than comfort."

That confusion has to be walked out, worked out before the Living, Loving Lord, not in a church building hearing platitudinal talk bantered around.

We have real life crises to walk through, including this crisis of faith… Somehow we had thought we would be protected, almost like being in an exclusive club, but now our insides know something different. This is the "Spiritual New Normal."

If a church member says "You should move on, and be over this by now," why would I want to go back there? It would be just like an abused person; why would you want to go back into that family?!

You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free. We know the truth. We are all going to die some day. The others are whistling by the grave yard, thinking they'll live forever, and fighting over fifty-year old furniture that they may not be able to enjoy but for the next year or two. So, I ask you, what is really important? I think we child-loss grievers have a better clue than most anyone else. Perhaps being a Misfit ain't so bad after all.

Picture: thanks to

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tuesday's Trust - Please Fend Off Fiends! God Bless the Child-Loss Mommy Griever

Tuesday's Trust

Please Fend Off Fiends:

God Bless the Child-Loss Mommy Griever

Grieving takes 16 hours

Out of my 24-hour day,

Yet what else devours...

Whittling my time away?

Doctors call with cancer scares.

The IRS taxes my nerves.

Property tax man charges fares.

Th' Insurance Company, their note serves.

I cannot charge with harassment

Those who're just doing their job;

But can't you see--each drastic moment

You require, my Child-Loss Grief you rob!

My life has stopped, been put on hold,

And yet I still have bills to pay--

So may I dare be so bold

To say, "All pests, please stay away!"

I cannot even do my work

For Grief demands each drop of me...

So of course, other tasks I shirk--

I must grieve t' restore SANITY!

My heart is broken...

Wide open.

My rattled brain

Is deranged.

My poor body

Is looking shoddy.

My ravaged soul's

Shot through with holes.

Such is the life of the Child-Loss Griever:

A mother's world has come to a stand-still,

Yet sharks molest, seeking to bleed her

Even as her child...lies completely still...

God bless the Child-Loss Mommy Griever.

Please send to her a gentle breather,

And fend off the fiends who seek to impede her.

As she grieves her child, please gently receive her.

"Blessed are those who mourn," You tenderly greet her...

Though others shun, barrage, or pester,

You comfort and nurture this grieving mother.

Poem - Please Fend Off Fiends! God Bless the Mommy Griever - Angie Bennett Prince, 2/2011, revised 9/26/2011

Monday's Mourning Ministry - I'm With You ~Nichole Noordeman and Amy Grant

Monday's Mourning Ministry

I'm With You

~Nichole Noordeman and Amy Grant

I’m With You

~Nichole Nordeman & Amy Grant

Love is a hurricane in a blue sky
I didn’t see it coming, never knew why
All the laughter and the dreams
All the memories in between
Washed away in a steady stream

Love is a hunger; a famine in your soul
I thought I planted beauty, but it would never grow.
Now I’m on my hands and knees
trying to gather up my dreams
trying to hold on to anything

And we could shake a fist in times like this
When we don’t understand
Or we could just hold hands

You and me, me and you
Where you go I’ll go too
I’m with you, I’m with you
Until your heart, finds a home
I won’t let you feel alone
I’m with you, I’m with you, with you

You do your best to build a higher wall
To keep love safe from any wrecking ball
When the dust has cleared, we will
See the house that Love rebuilds
Guarding beauty that lives here still

It’s you and me, me and you
Where you go I’ll go too
I’m with you, I’m with you.
Until your heart, finds a home
I won’t let you feel alone
I’m with you, I’m with you.

Who can say I’m left with nothing
When I have all of you, all of you, yeah?
In the way you’ve always loved me,
I remember: He does too!

It's you and me, me and you
Where you go I’ll go too
I’m with you, I’m with you.
Until your heart, finds a home,
I won’t let you feel alone;
I’m with you, I’m with you.
(We’re gonna make it through)

You and me, me and you
Where you go I’ll go too
I’m with you, I’m with you.
Until your heart, finds a home
I won’t let you feel alone
I’m with you, I’m with you,

With you.

Picture: thanks to

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Saturday's Sayings - "A Response to Grief Advice"

Saturday's Sayings

"A Response to Grief Advice"

Tommy and I have been away for several days attending a Trauma conference in Atlanta, Georgia. We continue to learn amazing things about this trauma through which you and we are walking; hopefully we will share more about it soon. So here it is Sunday, and I am finally posting "Saturday's Sayings"! I hope it ministers to you.

"A Response to Grief Advice"

by Marsha Bell on Saturday, September 17, 2011 at 9:43am

I am stricken when fellow bereaved parents report outsider’s advice on grieving or when I get a taste of that myself. I would ask the outsiders …move on? To what? No grief?


Feeling no grief for our dead children will only happen when we get to heaven and have our tears wiped away from the Lord, Himself.

Our children aren’t lost… like a pet. We have hope for where our children are, which is heaven, and we hope to join them; soon. And short of that hope, there is nothing we can do about where they are or aren’t but grieve for what we can do nothing about.

We mothers and fathers were created to create and to care for the creations God blessed us with as we glorify the Lord in fulfillment of that mandate.

Sin messed up the original plan, but we must do what we can to make the best of God's plan in a sin-laden world. I say, "we must", as we are not in charge - God certainly is. And God is good.

I don’t think we work through grief as if we could possibly get to the other side of it. I don’t think it’s going to end or be resolved. We don’t work through it; we work with it.

Storms have a season. While a storm is raging we seek shelter. We wait until the worst is over then deal with what remains. We pick up the pieces and sort through what’s worth keeping. Sometimes nearly everything has been destroyed and we must completely restock and rebuild. Sometimes we’re just in the eye of the hurricane and it seems calm for a while, but the rains still come; tornadoes are spawned; floods inundate and the banks are perilously crested.

But it’s still storm season; clouds will return and with them another round of storms. What’s more, when this season is over the next season will come in its due time. That’s life.

That’s life for a parent stricken with grief over the death of their child.

Grief isn’t an illness, chronic or acute. It isn’t a scabbed over scar that gets re-injured on holidays… it’s an intensely painful open festering unhealable mortifying wound. The only cure is heaven itself.

If we look rational or even happy on the outside… we’re just trying to spare YOUR feelings. We think YOU can’t handle it. We are. We have no other choice but to look for and count on the rainbow. It will come. God is good and he is faithful.

Thank you Marsha for your gracious permission to share with my precious blog readers. ~Bless you!

Picture via
Article, thanks to grieving mother, Marsha Bell

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday's Faith - Help us God as we grieve: "When will it not hurt so hard?"

Friday's Faith

Help us God as we grieve:

"When will it not hurt so hard?"

I got a note from a mother today,

Grieving her heart out, a turbulent day,

As news from a stranger ripped down her guard,

Dropping off shoes belonging to her child,

Sudden semblance of her child's life beguiled

Flashes of normalcy at once her heart jarred:

Her plaintive cry: "When will it not hurt so hard?"

Crying for grieving mothers writing to me,

I turn to You God; this is my plea:

It seems we take and we take till we can take no more:

You lovingly blessed our lives with our babies

Touches of Heaven come down, now a tease,

Reminding us of what we can have no more ~

Seems so cruel as now we're left with what we abhor.

In these days left on earth, how are we to survive

With constant evidence our babies didn't thrive?

How are we to walk through each and every day

Without the children You'd asked us, to guard their way?

The precious treasure that gave our lives meaning

We must lose to ashes, our sweet child's life demeaning?

As days go by, weeks, months, now years are piled,

How are we to live when our child's life was defiled?

"My child, keep your eye on the longer view;

You know if My Son wept, you will weep too,

But your child is not now being defiled ~

She lives here with Me now, awaiting your smile,

For those who sew in tears will reap with songs of joy

All who go out weeping will return with songs of joy.

"Sorrow does last for this little while,

But I'll make up for it with your baby's smile!

Like My Son, you must carry your cross,

Knowing, with Me, it won't end in loss!

Come to Me; I will wrap you in My arms;

Don't be beguiled by this world nor Satan's alarms.

"You were meant to live in Heaven where love abounds,

Suffer there, bearing your cross, and I will present your crowns.

Now comfort one another with these words of Mine:

Satan cannot conquer what's in the hands of the Divine.

Weeping may last for the night, but Joy will come in due time.

Do the work I have for you to do in your lifetime...

And I Myself will guard your babies in the meantime!"

Poem - Help us God as we grieve: "When will it not hurt so hard?" - Angie Bennett Prince - 9/23/11