Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday's Faith - A Day in the Life of Grief

Friday's Faith

A Day in the Life of Grief


Whoever said,

"God's in His Heaven; all's right with the world"?

I'm depressed today... I don't know why.

The day is pretty, no cloud in the sky.

Toad frog squats patiently, so still on th' rail.

Gnatcatchers zoom by; how quickly they sail.

Flowers are blooming... Racoon's in the yard!

I am still breathing... Why is grief so hard?

My dog is playful. My husband is sweet.

Tearing up, I feel lost and incomplete.

"God's in His Heaven. All's right with the world?"

If this is so, where is my baby girl?

...She smiles and says, "I'm right here, Mommy!"

My tears fall. I get a hug from Tommy.

I hug him back. I smile at her, wipe tears...

Again God's soothing faithfully appears.

When my depression begins to shift...

I feel God's comfort, and my sadness lift.

Such is a day in the life of grief:

You think you will die. Then God sends relief.

God, bless all mommies and daddies in our grief!

Now Tommy calls out, "The hawk chased the dove!"

Life...then death... Nature plays it out above...

Paradox of Nature: Death mixed in with Life...

till God returns from Heaven, t' end all darkness rife

when He commands:

"Death, be destroyed by Life!"


(Now th' raccoon eats from our dog's feeder:

Th' raccoon posing as a dog, what a sight!

Th' brazenness of broad daylight!)


In solitary silence we listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls us the beloved. God speaks to the deepest strata of our souls, into our self-hatred and shame, our narcissism, and takes us through the night into the daylight of His truth:

"Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name, you are Mine. You are precious in My eyes, because you are honored and I love you . . . the mountains may depart, the hills be shaken, but My love for you will never leave you and My covenant of peace with you will never be shaken" (Isaiah 43:1,4; 54:10).

~Brennan Manning, Abba's Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging

"God's in His heaven" quote, Robert Browning (1812-1889)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thusday's Therapy Violent Death: Restorative Re-Telling Part Two

Thusday's Therapy

Violent Death: Restorative Re-Telling

Part Two

My story of her dying began with a wailing protest. In those early moments, I could not allow her dying to be happening.

~Edward K. Rynearson

How do you process the unacceptable? How do you process the death of your child? Accept the unacceptable? Live within Death? Accept the Death of the one to whom you gave Life? How can that be done? And yet it is "healthy" to "accept" the death of your child? Well, then how do you "accept" the unacceptable? We will look at some of the process...

Let's back up a minute....

We have talked about the neurophysiological aspects of grief's trauma being lodged in, or stuck in. our brain's cerebellum, and how the brain basically has to be "re-wired" to help complicated grief's trauma travel into the other parts of the brain to be effectively reprocessed.

We have talked about how right-brain activities help to reach that trauma through a "back-door" to the traumatized brain as the "front door" has been bolted shut. For example,

Journaling what happened just after Merry Katherine was killed was not working for me. I was too traumatized, and such writing was too graphic, so just writing the horrid facts was actually re-traumatizing me.
So the Lord laid it on my heart to write poetry, which, (looking back on it) was essentially an endeavor that uses both the left brain AND the right brain...which we now know is an essential factor for healing trauma...

And we have talked about the importance of learning to "float" amidst death's "riptide" that abruptly devastates our lives. Continually "fighting" the riptide becomes unproductive and thus an ineffective way to survive trauma. "Floating" is a way to allow oneself to have reprieves from grief when necessary to process more effectively the violent horror that has been thrown into our lives.

So how do we begin the grief process of the "Restorative Retelling" of the violent death of our child...

Giving Myself a Voice Amidst Her Death

To keep death from defining you and therefore staying "stuck" in the trauma of your child's death, you must reprocess the death in a way that defines who you are in relationship to the death.

When I had to first speak Merry Katherine's death to loved ones who did not yet know of her death, that moment was when her death first became real to me.

Before that, her death was conceptI could not conceive of her not being hereyet speaking, telling my sister for the first time, made it "real" to me, and at that point all of the sorrow began to flow...

I was not a part of Merry Katherine's actual dying, yet her death "happened" to me--therefore, I am now a part of the story, so her story will become my story in that it will be told from my perspective.

So I must formulate "my" story, or I will stay stuck in the trauma of death's horrid ending to her precious life.

Similar to Rynearson's "wailing protest" in the early moments of being told of his wife's death as he "could not allow her dying to be happening," early on I too "heard" myself talking to Merry Katherine with protests soon after I was told of her death:

"I knew this would happen!"

"I couldn't get through to you!"

"Why couldn't you hear me?!"

~almost a still begging of her to listen to my warnings so that her death wouldn't have had to happen, and if she could just hear me, she could be alive, and all would be okay again.

I remember when God led me to journal within the first month after her death, I wrote, in effect,

I do not want to write this because I do not want it to be "real."

Yet telling the story of her death is what began to make it real for me so that I could begin to process through it. Like-it-or-not, it was here and it was real, so I had to feel it, and walk it through with God's help, one-minute-at-a-time.

How does Rynearson approach a restorative direction in telling and retelling his story?

I cannot change the ending of her story. The best I can hope for is that I change myself as I retell it. The realization that I need to find a role for myself in her dying story has been the key to restoring myself.

That insight changes my perspective from helpless witness to include who I was before--a husband and friend who did all I could do to help her. This is not the sort of change that magically erases or reverses what happened. The terror and incoherence of Julie's dying isn't dispelled. I will always feel that.

It is in this realignment of myself, from "her dying" to "our living," that allows a restorative direction to my retelling.

So how does my telling and retelling the story become restorative for me?

Continuing to tell the story ultimately helps me to process it and weave it into the fabric of my current life.

And as I tell and retell the story, I begin to conceive what this "new" life will be like not living without herbut living with her as she is now, in spirit, made new, made whole.

Excerpts are from the book, Retelling Violent Death by Dr. Edward K. Rynerson, pp. xii - xiv

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wednesday's Woe - Would'st Thou Take My Grief Away?

Wednesday's Woe

Would'st Thou Take My Grief Away?

quote-open.jpgGrief fills the room up of my absent child,
lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words.quote-close.jpg

~William Shakespeare


Shakespeare: Grief fills the room up of my absent child

Constance fears that her son Prince Arthur, heir to the thone of England, will be murdered at the order of his uncle, King John. He does indeed die while trying to escape from his murderers.


I will instruct my sorrows to be proud;
To me and to the state of my great grief
Let kings assemble; for my grief's so great
That no supporter but the huge firm earth
Can hold it up: here I and sorrows sit;
Here is my throne, bid kings come bow to it.

Seats herself on the ground

[In a later scene]

No, I defy all counsel, all redress,
But that which ends all counsel, true redress,
Death, death; O amiable lovely death!

Lady, you utter madness, and not sorrow.

I am not mad: this hair I tear is mine;
My name is Constance; I was Geffrey's wife;
Young Arthur is my son, and he is lost:
I am not mad: I would to heaven I were!
For then, 'tis like I should forget myself:
O, if I could, what grief should I forget!
Preach some philosophy to make me mad,
And thou shalt be canonized, cardinal;
For being not mad but sensible of grief,
My reasonable part produces reason
How I may be deliver'd of these woes,
And teaches me to kill or hang myself:
If I were mad, I should forget my son,
Or madly think a babe of clouts were he:
I am not mad; too well, too well I feel
The different plague of each calamity....

And, father cardinal, I have heard you say
That we shall see and know our friends in heaven:
If that be true, I shall see my boy again;
For since the birth of Cain, the first male child,
To him that did but yesterday suspire,
There was not such a gracious creature born.
But now will canker-sorrow eat my bud
And chase the native beauty from his cheek
And he will look as hollow as a ghost,
As dim and meagre as an ague's fit,
And so he'll die; and, rising so again,
When I shall meet him in the court of heaven
I shall not know him: therefore never, never
Must I behold my pretty Arthur more.

You hold too heinous a respect of grief.

He talks to me that never had a son.

You are as fond of grief as of your child.

Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form:
Then have I reason to be fond of grief?

Fare you well: had you such a loss as I,
I could give better comfort than you do...
O Lord! my boy, my Arthur, my fair son!
My life, my joy, my food, my all the world!
My widow-comfort, and my sorrows' cure!

--Shakespeare (1564-1616), King John, Act III


And to Shakespeare's poignant words, I add my verse:

Grief fills the heart up of my absent child,

In my minds eye, appears and talks with me,

True to her nature, personality...

Upbeat, laughter, e'er encouraging smile,

E'er reminding me she IS here, alive,

Yet with spirit-whole, in rapt purity!

Then have I reason to be fond of grief...

'Tis my Father's gift, brings me sweet relief!

Fare you well you who bidst me not to grieve,

Disdainers, from my presence now, must leave!

Oh Lord! My child! My Merry Katherine!

My life! My joy! My baby girl! My world!

My sorrow's cure: your sweet smile, my baby girl!



Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesday's Trust - How do I trust, left quaking in my boots?

Tuesday's Trust

How do I trust, left quaking in my boots?

This week, a precious grieving mother reached out to me on the internet, baring her broken heart and soul to cry out for help to a fellow-grieving-mother. I dare-say she shares much of our own dilemma in needing to cry out to God when our understanding of Him has been thrown to an all-time low... Here I share her cry anonymously and my letter back to her that God put on my heart.


I found you last week when I was looking up the word Grieving on the Internet. (Your) story was very touching and I hurt for you too.

I recently was 5 months pregnant and lost my baby boy. I never knew we as mothers could experience so much pain. I struggle with constantly asking God why, why why. I am a believer as well and it just tears me apart wondering why God would hurt us this way.

Anyways I know that I have some kind of strength and peace because of the people praying for me. I have really (distanced) myself from God, even though I talk to Him just not as much anymore. I want to just pull my hair out at times.

Could you please give me some encouraging words. I don't know how you pulled through.

Thank you

Dearest (Grieving Mother),

I am so glad you found me through the internet!

My heart breaks for you in losing your baby boy.

My heart breaks for you in hearing your agonizing struggle with God.

My heart breaks for you in recognition of that vulnerable spiritual struggle.

Yes, Grief can throw us into what my husband and I call a

"Spiritual Train-Wreck": right when we most need God, all our basic foundation in Him is shaken, if not shattered.

The One who knows us to the core and loves us without fail, the death of our child leaves us questioning, confused, even recoiling from. His very love for us has seemingly been contradicted and disavowed when we needed it most.

His reputation as

that Rock of protection,

that Beacon of diligent watching out for us and our little ones,

that Fighter of our Enemy,

seems impugned if not completely shattered.

All of our "Assumptive Beliefs" in Him are challenged if not shot-through,
leaving us confused as to who He is now,
leaving us feeling betrayed,
leaving us feeling abandoned,
on-our-own against an Enemy
we had no strength to fight,
not enough foresight to circumvent,
not enough armor to destroy before he could destroy our own.

And then, we are expected to bow to our knees to call on this God at a time we feel the most abandoned, let down, and/or betrayed by Him?

So, we unwittingly find ourselves distancing from Him, knowing we are probably being deceived by the Enemy, yet unable to overcome our confusion to again trustingly bare our hearts and souls before Him who gave up all for us.

What a conundrum! What a dilemma! Needing the One who loves us the most, yet fearful of and feeling betrayed by Him in the loss of our most sacred treasure on this earth, our child who has fallen right in front of His very eyes...

We have spent our lives watching out for our little ones, throwing pillows down every time they are about to fall, or picking them up quickly after they do fall. And then, when they need a pillow much bigger than the one we could lift, we discover their Heavenly Father did NOT throw it down in time for them to be saved? When He could see what we could not see coming at them, HE did not intervene, HE did not SAVE? It does not compute with our finite minds. It does not register in our hearts as a God of Love, of Protection, of Saving-from-the-Enemy.

So we become estranged, confused; we pull away. We have no strength to do battle with Him with our questions, our confusions, our feelings of being betrayed. So we retreat. We shut down. We back away. At our weakest, we are seemingly left alone to walk through the "Valley of the Shadow of Death" that the psalmist declared he could walk through without fear "because Thou art with me."

And to whom do we turn?

The civilians who have never tangled with this War of the Soul in the Valley of the Shadow of Death have NO CLUE with what we are struggling; indeed, we had no clue when we were on the other side.

But now, here we are, under the rock and rubble of devastation of all that is most dear to us, with no fight in ourselves, and with no understanding of our Lord-our-Risen-One who could rescue us from Evil, who could restore our hearts and souls, who could pick us up and hold us close to His heart when we most need Him as our Heavenly Daddy, our Abba-Father.

So we turn to the literature of other Sojourners of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and we find very little there that truly addresses the spiritual disillusionment with which we struggle. It seems we find little more there than trite, superficial inquest of their Living Lord. It appears they are walking out of the Battle's Emergency Room settling for little more than mere superficial band-aids over their war-torn hearts that needed massive critical-care intervention to sustain Life.

So we turn away from pat answers of civilians and superficial answers of victims who have gone before us.

Yet we are left among the rubbles with no skin on, needing help but afraid to ask for it.

We find ourselves quaking before our Lord, much in need of His healing but afraid to bare our wounds to Him for treatment with His soothing ointment that could penetrate to the deepest core of our being with His healing Love because we don't "know" Him like we thought we did.

We not only feel blasted to smithereens by the Enemy, but when we look behind us to our Savior, we cannot find Him, and it feels as if some of the fiery blast was allowed to pass through Him straight to us, or even worse to our own vulnerable child.

Indeed some of us fear the fiery blast of death may have been of HIS own orchestration if we are to believe what is spoken to us: "God wanted your child to be His beautiful angel in Heaven."

So we recoil from Him, from His otherwise saving presence.

We are left in a sinking, war-torn ship without a Captain,

in a losing battle without a General,

in a Death-devastated Home with no Daddy to fight for us, to save us.

Disillusioned, beaten down, weak and powerless, we find ourselves like the disillusioned disciples who cry out,

"Whom have we in Heaven but Thee? And where else do we go? You alone hold out the words of Life."

My heart and prayers are with you, dear sister in grief.

Much love to you as you seek to find your way through the shattered remains of Death's battlefield,


Picture: Thank you to Eva Soulu for more of her amazing art...