Archive for the 'Learning to Grieve' Category

Learning to Grieve (part 5) – Beauty for Ashes

SONY DSC                     Isaiah 61:3 has been an especially meaningful passage to me this last week, “[He will] give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…”  For the Christian there is always the promise of hope in the midst of grief, there is always the expectation that God will give beauty for ashes and will restore the years of famine.

The fact that Christians are able to grieve as those who have hope is one of the principle things that distinguishes us from the world.  As Amy and I sat through our recent IEP, I couldn’t help but be struck by the sense of hopelessness in the room.  There was no appeal to the greater plan of God, no thought given to the mercy of God in blessing us with a child who has some special needs, no mention of God whatsoever.  I certainly don’t begrudge the school system for their approach to an IEP, but one can’t help but notice the fact that life under the sun is full of grief and full of tragedies and without a Christian world view, we ultimately have to chalk all of the suffering in life up to nothing more than chance.  But life lived under the Son and His Father’s rule is full of hope, even in the midst of tears.

One final thing that I’ve learned through this process is the fact that grief is not a destination, it is a journey.  In our case this journey will almost certainly come with recurring reminders of the path that we are on.  Those reminders will come in the form of IEP evaluations, difficult questions about Micah’s future, his career, and a hundred other things we probably haven’t even thought about yet.  There’s no doubt that this will be a difficult journey for us as a family, but I believe that this path is actually a gift of grace.  This is a path that I have never been down before and because of my unfamiliarity with the terrain, I will need to stay especially close to my Guide who has already experienced the deepest form of grief and yet rose from the dead to offer hope to those who grieve.

November 04 2010 | Devotional and Learning to Grieve | 4 Comments »

Learning to Grieve (part 4) – Listening is the Essence of Wisdom

Come_Listen_To_Me_WSFaIt can be very difficult to know how to help someone who is grieving.  One of the things that Amy and I consistently run up against is how few people have experience with this kind of difficulty.  At first we got lots of suggestions from different people. We even had someone ask, “Well, do you talk to Micah?”, thinking that perhaps that would solve the problem Smile.  Of course we really appreciate everyone’s concern, and we know that our friends and family are really just trying to help, but the truth of the matter is that the most helpful thing that anyone has done for us through this process is simply to listen and to grieve alongside of us.

2 Corinthians 1:3-6 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. “  The idea Paul is expressing there is that as we enter into other people’s suffering, God comforts us as we experience their loss so that we can turn around and comfort them as we “patiently endure the same sufferings.”

What those in grief need more than anything else is wisdom and the essence of wisdom is the ability to listen well.  I have found far more help from those who were willing to simply listen and sit with me (Job 3:11-13), than from any of the “great ideas” that others have had for Micah’s situation.  It’s the wisdom to keep silence that gives friends and family the permission to speak when the time comes.

November 03 2010 | Devotional and Learning to Grieve | Comments Off on Learning to Grieve (part 4) – Listening is the Essence of Wisdom

Learning to Grieve (part 3) – What Will Others Think?

Angel_of_Grief_by_BitterSweetTears__xGrief is terribly self-terminating.  What I mean by that is that in the experience of grief we usually look to no one higher than ourselves, that is why grief has a tendency to be self-referential.  We feel as if no one has ever experienced this degree of suffering or loss before, which means that no one has ever been as alone as we are right now.

For Amy and I, one of the great difficulties of Micah’s disability is the fear of what other people will think of him.  He truly does love to be around other children, yet our hearts just break when they can’t understand him or when it’s obvious that he really doesn’t get what they’re saying.  Children are one thing and yet adults are something all together different.  Why isn’t he like the other children?  What’s he saying?  Why is it so hard to get him to do what I’m tell him to do?  Micah’s disability of such a nature that he is extremely high functioning, but there’s just something that’s not quite up to par with other children.  It’s certainly not that other adults are judging us, or looking down on us at all.  We live in a wonderful community, minister at a wonderful church where everyone really does love Micah.  I guess more than anything it’s the fear of the unknown, especially when it comes to his education and what others will think of him and how they will treat him.

As I said earlier, grief is inherently self-referential, that is until you find a reference far greater than yourself.  As I was crying out to God the other day about Micah and what the future will hold for him, I was specifically reminded of the fact that God too is a Father and that he also had a Son who others thought poorly of.  Isaiah 53 speaks of the Father’s Son when Isaiah writes, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him…He was despised and rejected by men…”  Now the point is definitely not that Micah is Jesus (far from it to be sure), but as I think about my own experience of grief over what others will think of Micah, I find great comfort in knowing that my Father has had the same experience with His Son who was despised and rejected by men.  I guess the point is that grief needs to go somewhere, it needs a reference greater than itself in order to find purpose and healing.  That greater reference is always going to be God and His own experience of suffering and grief in the incarnation and especially at the cross.

November 02 2010 | Devotional and Learning to Grieve | 2 Comments »

Learning to Grieve (part 2) – A Different Destination

The best description that I’ve found of what raising a child with a disability feels like is from Emily Kingsley.  Kingsley writes:

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

947511170_dea998692fAs Amy and I sat through Micah’s IEP meeting and listened to the progress that he’s made in the last year, there was certainly a lot for us to rejoice over.  God has been so gracious to our little boy in bringing about more speech and greater understanding, it really is beautiful to see how much progress Micah has made.

At the same time our joy is different from other parents joys.  We rejoice that Micah is using more words than he was, we rejoice that he is able to follow basic commands.  It’s not that where we are with Micah is a bad place, it’s just different from other people’s experience and in that is where we learn to grieve.  To use Kingsley’s analogy, we thought we were going to Italy and somehow ended up in Holland.  It’s not that things are worse, it’s just that there was a change of destination and that change requires a season to grieve the loss of what you thought would be.

November 01 2010 | Devotional and Learning to Grieve | Comments Off on Learning to Grieve (part 2) – A Different Destination

Learning to Grieve (part 1) – Loss

Grief_post_fGrief is kind of a funny word for me to be talking about at this point in my life.  I have three healthy young boys, a beautiful wife, and a loving church that cares deeply for me and for my family; yet in many ways I find this word inescapable.  As I’ve engaged in counseling with various individuals, couples, etc. it seems that grief is almost always present to a degree and as I’ve thought deeply about my oldest son and some of his disabilities, grief has been a close companion to me.  David Wiersbe said, “Nobody has a predictable journey through grief,” and I have found this to be true.  It seems that grief takes many different shapes and sizes over the course of one’s life and yet as sure as the reality of death and loss, grief will always be present in this fallen world.

Grief has been defined as a “multi-faceted response to loss.”  That loss could be a loved one, a physical possession, or (as in my case) an expectation or a dream.  For me the dream / expectation was that of a normal childhood and normal development for my oldest son Micah.  Just the other day Amy and I had a meeting with the school to discuss Micah’s needs and after an hour and a half of discussion, evaluations, a little bit of wrangling one thing is absolutely certain in my mind, we have both suffered the loss of a dream / expectation for Micah.  Micah’s IEP lists him as having severe difficulties in speech, and several other areas so much so that we are still trying to figure out how we can best help him.

In the first few years of my experience with Micah’s disability God was hard at work teaching me the discipline of waiting, which I wrote extensively about here.  It seems that as I enter into a new chapter of Micah’s life it is time for another lesson, it seems that it is time for me to learn how to grieve.  As I said earlier grief is a multi-faceted thing and no two people’s journeys are exactly alike, so this series of posts won’t be about “How to grieve” but rather it will be about what I have learned about my own grief with the hope that some of these lessons will speak to others in grief as well.

One of the most important lessons that God has reaffirmed to me through this process is the fact that whatever darkness I may face in life, Jesus has already gone before me and experienced the fullness of that grief for me.  In other words Jesus will always meet me in the depths of my grief.  Steven Curtis Chapman wrote about this through his grief over the loss of his daughter when he said, “When you realize the dreams you’ve had for your child won’t come true, When the phone rings in the middle of the night with tragic news, Whatever valley you must walk through, Jesus will meet you there.”  The presence of Christ in the midst of grief is what allows us “grieve as those who have hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

October 31 2010 | Devotional and Learning to Grieve | Comments Off on Learning to Grieve (part 1) – Loss