Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Merry Katherine’s Valentines Day Present For Me, 2009

Merry Katherine gave me another Valentines Day present this year. I stumbled across a c.d. she had made. She knows my heart, and she knows just what I need to calm a large part of this aching mother’s heart.

One of my big fears for her before she was killed on 8/2/06 (besides the obvious safety issue of a child with her high-energy, high-risk behavior) was that she would wander so far away from God in her acting-out that, without realizing it, her heart would harden more and more until she wouldn’t turn back to Him. (Her heart was already icing up somewhat toward us, her parents; she seemed to be living so many lies that I think she was starting to believe some of them.) Sin itself is destructive and alienating; it blinds you to God’s truth that could save you from its ultimate destruction. I could see her heart getting more and more hardened, and she was becoming more and more brazen in pursuing what she wanted despite its destructiveness.

So when she was killed in the midst of her rebellion, as a mother my next biggest question was where is she? Is she okay? Which means, Is she in Heaven with God? There are many questions rolling around in my mind of course—you go over and over the “what if’s” and the “why’s” all the time, but the “safety and security of her soul now” has been the most agonizing question for me.

So finding this cd on the 10th of February was a delight for me, to see where her heart was with God—she hadn’t totally tuned Him out; she was struggling with needing Him, yet not obeying Him, while still recognizing His provision for her . . . which she recognized was her “Only Hope”.

I did wonder why I didn’t find her “gift” on Valentine’s Day this year (like I did last year), and the scary thought crossed my mind that maybe God knows I’ll need to be dealing with something else that day. . . the next day 2/11/09, I discovered my handicapped brother had pneumonia, couldn’t breathe, was choking, but was not strong enough to cough up the choking congestion. His wife called the ambulance for him to go to the hospital because he couldn’t breathe. After getting to the hospital and getting some intravenous antibiotics in him, he began to improve, but the next day, 2/12/09, my older sister called me, crying, and said, “Come home.” So we drove the 5 hours to Georgia that evening, and we were in the hospital on 2/13/09 to see him in the Intensive Care Unit; for twelve days now, we have been taking shifts in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit with him so someone in the family would be with him around the clock. . . . So God knew I would need to get Merry Katherine’s present on the very day that I found it!

The cd I found had songs on it that revealed her heart to me. These were the songs that were on it:

Life Means So Much by Chris Rice
Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus) by Chris Rice
Only Hope by Caedmon’s Call
Masquerade by Caedmon’s Call
Sara Beth by Rascal Flatts
Everything You Ever Wanted by Hawk Nelson
Heaven’s Bright Shore by Alison Krauss

Here are the lyrics of one of the songs on Merry Katherine's home-made cd that showed this grieving mother what was really in her heart toward her sweet Savior and Shepherd:

My Only Hope
Caedmon’s Call
(Found 2/10/09 on a cd Merry Katherine had made for herself)

Depth of mercy, can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can, my God, Your wrath forbear—
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?

It's my only hope,
You're my only hope!
It's my only hope of Heaven—
At the cross forgiven!

I have long withstood Your grace,
Long provoked you to Your face,
Would not harken to Your calls,
Grieved You by a thousand falls,

It's my only hope,
You're my only hope!
It's my only hope of Heaven—
At the cross forgiven!

There for me the Savior stands,
Shows his wounds and spreads His hands,
Face to face before the Son
And like Isaiah I'm undone . . .

Depth of mercy, vast and free,
So much deeper than the sea,
God of love, You heard my cry,
Now into Your open arms I fly!

It's my only hope,
You're my only hope!
It's my only hope of Heaven—
At the cross forgiven!

Jesus was her only hope of Heaven (just as He is my only hope). With Him in her heart and crying out such songs to Him, I know my precious baby is now safely nestled in her Heavenly Father’s arms where I’ll someday see her again. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for such a precious Valentines Day gift, sweeter than anyone could ever give to me!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and Grief

My brother Rick is in the hospital tonight with pneumonia. Since I was a child, we had to be sure to get him right to the hospital if there was a chance he had pneumonia. You see, my brother is handicapped--he can't walk; he's never been able to walk, so he is in a wheelchair. Being in a wheelchair over all those years, (he is 58), Rick's muscles have gotten weaker and weaker, so contracting pneumonia can be extremely serious when he doesn't have the muscle-power to cough enough to clear his lung congestion.

By this evening after intravenous antibiotics, Rick is doing better, but isn't out of the woods yet (he's still in Intensive Care). He reflected back over the day with my sisters who have been with him since 8:00 this a.m. that he thought for awhile there he really wasn't gonna make it. No wonder my sisters had called me (I'm five hours away), tearful and frightened this morning. Tommy and I prayed intensely for him all day. I'm so thankful God heard and is answering all our prayers!

Having lost my daughter, I find myself getting traumatized when anything bad happens to someone I love. The possibility of losing them has become all-too-real to me. So my body and emotions fast-forward ahead to the worst possibility, and I'm there, fearful and grieving the worst.

Even though I'm a therapist, I forget that Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome can happen right along with grief. When I get triggered (like if one of my sons forgets to call me when going away, and I hit near-panic over the possibilities), knowledge doesn't seem to phase my emotions. Even though I might know intellectually that the odds are great he just forgot to call, my body and emotions are already traumatized, and there's not much I can do to undo them at that point.

Grief can be so complex and complicated. It is almost impossible to help someone else to understand all the intricacies involved with grief where one thing affects another, affects another, and so on. (I can't even understand complicated grief, and I'm living it!) Some days, I can hardly function when the grief has been intense; okay, I'll admit . . . at some level, that pain is always fairly debilitating; for it not to be debilitating is the exception.

That's one reason I'm so glad I can write during this time--doing something productive when just about everything else is "high" on the dysfunctional scale. Thank You, God, for Your creative juices to be flowing through me when I'm out for the count for much else.

But wait, isn't that how You always said it would be? 

"My grace is sufficient for you; for My power is made perfect when your power runs out."  2 Corinthians 12:9a

Move in and through me, Lord; I guess I am primed and ready for Your power to flow!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Music in Grief - "Like a Cleansing Deep in My Soul"

Re: Comments -- Music
One of you, after reading my first post on this blog, made the following comment:

I also find I weep the hardest when I hear good gospel music, and it's like a cleansing deep in my soul.
Thank you for sharing what helps you to best express your grief! What is it about Music? It just seems to penetrate right into our hearts and souls! Some say music is the “language of the emotions.” I agree with you Digger; good music surely speeds up the grief process for me; it just cuts through any “intellectualizing” I might be doing to try to explain away my grief, for the music brings it right out of me in such a poignant way—painful, yes, but tender, too.

Speaking of music that helps us to express our grief, I added this music bar in the sidebar to the left (and two others at the bottom of the page) to share some of the songs that have been so meaningful to me and my family members; some were even ones Merry Katherine gave to me, or loved herself. (One of my favorite memories of her is hearing her belt out “My Redeemer” in her bedroom with Nicole turned up many decibels! So sweet to see her heart pouring out to God like that!)

--See the music widget at the bottom of the blog to get the full rendition of Nicole Mullen's song, "Redeemer."--

I would love to hear more comments from you all! (To comment, just click on "Comment" that is just underneath each post in the blog, and then type in your comment.) Perhaps you could share some music that has been especially helpful to you in grief. (The two music widgets at the bottom should allow you to even play some of your own favorite music while you peruse the blog. But let us know in your comment what some of those songs are!)

Thank you for your comments! I will discuss some others in a blog, coming up soon!

Thanks for being Followers!

Thanks guys for signing up as Followers! I love to know something about you and how you are receiving any information, songs, pictures, videos, poems, etc. found on this blog. For those of you who haven’t become Followers! I would love to have you “follow” this blog; it is here to be helpful to you in your grieving process as I know how painful that process can be. There is a “widget” to the left on the sidebar, just a little below this post, that asks if you would like to be a follower; being a follower makes it easier to click back in to blog -- (You can add your name at any time, and you can remove it at any time. You can add your picture, or choose not to add your picture.) Click back in anytime to check out new posts and to write comments and more comments! So please feel free to add comments at any time. You can share some of your experience with grief, or respond to any aspects of the blog that may pique your interest.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Projectile Grieving

Tommy's friend called him today. . . .I'll give a little background: Yesterday was Tommy's birthday, the third one after Merry Katherine's death. As Tommy says, "Now the numbness (of the first two and a half years) has worn off and the agitation and weepiness have set in."

After Tommy's birthday party last night with our family--our two sons, our daughter-in-law, and I were all present with him, yet . . . our baby girl was starkly absent . . . we sat down in the now-quiet den this morning. I took that opportunity to give Tommy a birthday card I had felt Merry Katherine wanted me to give him, and a present --two books, and a clear plastic teddy bear full of cotton-candy jelly beans which were always hers and her daddy's favorite-- When he saw the card that read, "DaDa" on the envelope, he thought it was a card from Nathan, our younger son. When he opened it, it took him totally off guard when he looked down and saw the card's picture of a little girl that looked just like Merry Katherine when she was little, and as he said it, "That was the end of being able to breathe normally for the next hour." He couldn't read the card.

After he saw the picture, Tommy's three-day agitation--like deep-freezer ice--went through an instant melt-down. Here came the gut-wrenching sobs that needed to come but had been put "on ice" to be able to get through his birthday party the night before in a pleasant way for his family's sake.

Tommy described this sobbing phenomenon in his own inimitable way this afternoon when I overheard him talking to a friend who had called him on the phone to talk and to check on him. (This friend has also lost a child):

His friend asked, "How are you doing?"

Tommy candidly stated, "It's been a rough day. It's twice as bad as the last one when you saw me so upset."

His friend then responded, "I'm sorry you're feeling bad."

Then Tommy said,

(Grief's) just one of those things that's gotta run its course. It's just like being nauseated; you can try to talk yourself out of throwing up, but you're gonna throw up anyway.
I thought boy that captures it, the inevitability of sorrow. . .that it's got to flow, or it will come out one way or another eventually! I think he was then greatly relieved to have been able to finally "feel" those pent-up feelings in a warm, safe, and private environment. The rest of the day today, he says he has felt some relief yet is also emotionally spent.

Then, to top it all off, we found out later in the day that a girl in our neighborhood (who had been a friend to our three children) was found--murdered . . . .

It's affected his ability to talk the rest of the day. And I am not doing so well either. . .

Friday, February 6, 2009

Writing "The Stone" out of my Anguish

The poem, “The Stone,” was written out of my terrible anguish and confusion; I wrote it before I could set foot into that funeral home to decide what we “wanted” to put on Merry Katherine's gravestone. We were literally about to walk out the door when I just had to stop, sit down and write first. I absolutely knew I could not go there until I met with God first to process through some of my torment.

He knew the funeral home was the last place I wanted to go on behalf of my vital, lively, ever-active nineteen-year-old, and He so tenderly gifted me with that poem. Then we were able to go and complete that task—not an easy one, but with much more peace in my heart to be able to tackle it anyway. God is so merciful; He meets me in my heartache and pain, restoring an eternal perspective, and then, He wraps His arms around me and comforts me.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Stone

Angie Bennett Prince July, 2007

We go today to plan your stone.
We don't want to go there--it chills us to the bone.
We miss you and want you here;
We think of you and shed more tears.

The funeral home wonders where we've been;
Eleven months now--will our hearts ever mend?
I tried to explain the difficulty one day on the phone:
The last thing we ever wanted to happen--
We now have to carve in stone?!

So we go there today in God's strength alone
To carve your precious name upon that stone
Only because we know for you death is not the end;
On that fateful day, your life in Heaven did just begin!

And since for your sins and ours Christ did atone,
We know we will join you in Heaven
To worship our Lord around His throne.
Because some day, just as He did for Jesus
When the disciples thought He was gone,
For those of us who know Him, and by Him are known,
God--in His resurrection power--will come down
Himself to earth again to roll back all the stones!

Be sure to listen to "Then Came the Morning" (see the sidebar to the left) before or after reading my poem!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

God's Comfort in the Midst of Raw Grief . . .

Last night was hard. My husband and I were listening to music; I was writing a poem about my baby. When we heard Vince Gill's "Go Rest High On that Mountain" (see words below; this song is one of our favorites as it so aptly describes our baby's dilemma), our grief went back to square one. My husband said he cried as hard as he did that first day . . . So did I.

God continues to be SO sweet to meet us in our grief: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." . . .

So then we immediately heard Dottie Rambo's "Sheltered in the Arms of God" - from Bill and Gloria Gaither's "Reunion-Precious Memories" (see words below); it was like our baby wanted to remind us- that's where I am now -- sheltered safely in the arms of God!

Go Rest High On that Mountain (Vince Gill) [You can view and hear Vince singing this beautifully inspired song he wrote at the time of his brother's death on the sidebar YouTube to the left of this page; it has meant so much to us as well!]

I know your life on earth was troubled, And only you could know the pain. You weren't afraid to face the devil, Were no stranger to the rain.

Go rest high on that mountain; Son you work on earth is done. Go to Heaven a-shoutin' - Love for the Father and the Son.

Oh, how we cried the day you left us, Gathered round your grave to grieve. Wish I could see the angels' faces When they hear your sweet voice sing.

Go rest high on that mountain; Son, your work on earth is done. Go to Heaven a-shoutin' - Love for the Father and the Son. Go to heaven a-shoutin' - Love for the Father and the Son.

Sheltered in the Arms of God (Dottie Rambo)

I feel the touch of hands so kind and tender, They're leading me in paths that I must trod; I'll have no fear 'cause Jesus walks beside me, And I'm sheltered in the arms of God. So let the storms rage high, the dark clouds rise, They won't worry me for I'm sheltered safe within the arms of God; He walks with me and naught of Earth shall harm me, For I'm sheltered in the arms of God.

Soon I shall hear the call from Heaven's portals, Come on home my child, it's the last mile you have to trod; I'll fall asleep and I'll wake up in God's new Heaven, sheltered safe within the arms of God. So let the storms rage high, the dark clouds rise, They won't worry me for I'm sheltered safe within the arms of God; He walks with me and naught of Earth shall harm me, For I'm sheltered in the arms of God.

Soon I shall hear the call from Heaven's portals, Come on home my child, it's the last mile you have to trod; I'll fall asleep and I'll wake up in God's new Heaven, sheltered safe within the arms of God. So let the storms rage high, the dark clouds rise, They don't worry me for I'm sheltered safe within the arms of God; He walks with me and naught of Earth shall harm me, For I'm sheltered in the arms of God.

So let the storms rage high, the dark clouds rise, They don't worry me for I'm sheltered safe within the arms of God; He walks with me and naught of Earth shall harm me, For I'm sheltered safe in the arms of God.

Then Bill Gaither had his folks sing my daddy's favorite hymn, "I Come to the Garden Alone" after Dottie Rambo's song:

And He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own, And the joys we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known!

I could just picture her sheltered in God's loving arms, and walking and talking with Him as He loves and comforts her. God is so sweet, so gentle, ever reminding us she's now safely carried in His arms.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Parents Losing a Teenager to Death - A Glimpse of Grief After Two and a Half Years

“I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.” C. S. Lewis ...

My husband and I have been grieving now for two and a half years. Grief is so painful! I have to continually get in touch (emotionally, mentally, and spiritually) with my grief to get it "exhumed" from the inside to come to the consciousness and be expressed out so that it doesn't just build up (to later come out when I least expect it or to get expressed inappropriately). [I have a counseling practice, so I have to keep my grief flowing for this reason as well, or any unresolved "counter-transference" might affect my clients negatively.]

Grief without rest doesn't mix well. Grieving is exhausting work--I'm facing the deepest loss possible--every parent's worst nightmare--so it is not easy to do; it therefore takes a toll on my body physically. But rest, eating well, taking vitamins, exercising (which I am now starting to do a little more of), and anti-depressants if necessary, are crucial to supporting my over-stressed system. Talking to a safe person about my grief is also critical; for me, my safe person is my husband--he is very tender, patient, and accepting plus he knows the grief as well; he is going through his own! We try to support one another which works fairly well (until our timing collides, and we're both down at the same times. Those are times when it's especially important to have a close relationship with our Heavenly Father!)

Which brings me to--what helps me THE most in processing my grief--is the continuous presence of my Heavenly Father who is carrying me through this grief on a daily, moment-by-moment basis. One tool He has given me as I walk through my grief is to continually write out my grief -- in prayers to Him, poetry, essays, etc. The pain is there, but it is poignant in the writing, and then God's Holy Spirit comes into the process to bring His perspective and His comfort -- and His challenging my faulty thinking when appropriate!-- and there is a relief after the intense outpouring of hurt, pain, questions, confusion, etc. Over time, you can see the heali
ng as you are writing, plus, the former writings continue to be a therapeutic tool to review and grieve through as necessary! I tell people, yes God is IN the grief; God is not an anesthetic to numb the grief--the pain is still there-- but He meets me IN the grief, and walks through it WITH me.
May God bless you in your grief, or in your concern for a beloved griever.