“If you don’t want a broken heart, then give it to no one, wrap it around hobbies, avoid all entanglements, and lock it up in a coffin of selfishness. Then my heart will be unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable.” C.S. Lewis
How do you mend a broken heart? How do you heal from a life-changing tragedy? This quote from C. S. Lewis helped my healing because it speaks to my head. As you know from previous posts, I battled between the heart and head in my freshest grief.
Several books and Bible passages were extremely helpful to me in the first months after Jennifer’s death. Lament for a Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff spoke to me as no other author because his son died in a hiking accident also. Wolterstorff’s words are spare — cutting straight to the core of my pain. He decided to publish his thoughts more than twelve years after the death of his son in hopes that they might help others. As I look at my journals and his book now I realize need to visit this book again because it has been ten years since Jennifer died.
In some of the quotes from Wolterstorff’s book I’ve substituted Jennifer’s name in place of his son. “If Jennifer was worth loving, she is worth grieving over. Grief is existential testimony to the worth of the one loved. That worth abides. So I own my grief. I do not try to put it aside.” More than ever I understand this author’s words about losing a child. Her death belongs within my story, and my story is forever changed by her death, more than death of my father or my mother. In 2002 I had no idea how this would change me.
“There’s a hole in the world now. In the place where she was, there’s now just nothing. Never again will anyone inhabit the world the way she did. The world is emptier. My daughter is gone. Only a hole remains, a void, a gap, never to be filled.”
“Each death is unique, as each life, as is the solitude of suffering.” Perhaps this is the hardest thing for other people to understand. I was reminded again of the uniqueness of suffering when I went to my first grief support group this week to tell my story. We all shared in the loss of a loved one, but each story was different. Losing a spouse to cancer often includes weeks or months of physical pain and suffering. Death from old age is a different separation for a spouse who has been married 60 years. Suicide brings a pain that is beyond my grasp.
For some, it is comforting to believe that “it was her time” to go home. Not for me. I strongly believe that Jennifer is in Heaven but this statement from Walterstorff still speaks to me today:
“I cannot fit is all together by saying ‘God decided it was time for her to come home,’ but neither can I say, ‘There was nothing He could do about it.’ I cannot fit it all together. I can lonely, with Job, endure. I do not know why God did not prevent Jennifer’s death. To live without the answer is precarious. It’s hard to keep one’s footing.”
And that has been my conversation with God from the beginning. If I dwell on God’s apparent neglect in saving my child, then I quickly become angry with God. I find praying to be impossible in those times. Many time people said they were praying for me, and I thanked them sincerely. Sometimes I told them that I needed them to pray since I could not. This struggle in my head became clear when I read King David’s prayer in Psalm 42, especially after I read Wolterstorff’s explanation in his book.
I found Psalm 42 in a song on a ZOE CD, ”Deep Calls to Deep”. Randy Gill wrote this song in 2001, and according to the ZOE website, it is no longer available. The words of David speak to me in that back and forth of lament and trust. My Bible is highlighted, underlined, and filled with notes at Psalm 42. Look at David’s words:
He begins with a statement of faith:
“As a deer thirsts for streams of water,
So I thirst for you, God.
I thirst for the living God.”
Then he laments:
“When can I go to meet with him?
Day and night, my tears have been my food,
People are always saying,
“Where is your God?”
But then David remembers his trust in God:
“When I remember these things,
I speak with a broken heart.
I used to walk with the crowd
and lead them to God’s Temple
with songs of praise.”
Grief returns, and he laments:
“Why am I so sad?
Why am I so upset?
I should put my hope in God
and keep praising him,
My Savior and my God.”
If you are suffering in grief or pain, read the rest of this psalm. I find it comforting to know that the man who had the heart of God, could still feel the same pain that I felt. This is the pain that our Father felt when His only Son was crucified.
My sorrow and suffering are not as sharp today; I don’t feel the rawness of her absences. But in those first few months and years, sometimes I grasped at any piece of understanding or semblance of reason. I wrote an email to a friend trying to describe my feelings sometime in that first year. “I feel like I’m held together with fine thread, so close to breaking at any moment.”
“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers have swept over me.”
Perhaps your grief is too raw, and this passage does not comfort you. But some day you may discover these words are fresh and soothe your wounded soul. Mark your Bible, so you can find it when your heart is broken and needs soothing.
For more insight on the process of grieving, please check out my brother’s blog, “When Am I Going to Get Over This?”
Counting joy for Jennifer’s life and the lives she touched.