Tag Archives: grief

Unending Grief

countingjoyblogI am mindful today of friends and church family who are experiencing the early days of their grief. I know this is true – there is no magic zap to take away the pain of grief, but there is hope and comfort.

Resource: through a season of grief : devotions for your journey from mourning to joy  by Bill Dunn and Kathy Leonard

So thankful today for the psalms of lament in God’s Word. 

JoyMartell

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Finding HAVEN

Refuge.2What is a haven?

Dictionary definition: any place of shelter and safety; refuge; asylum
Five-Minute-Friday.1

Joining the Five Minute Friday community with a one word prompt. We write for five minutes (I confess, I’m not so good at the time limit), post it, and then link up over at Kate’s blog.

This week my church family reached out to provide refuge and shelter for one of our families. They lost their 17 year old son. Every death of a child is traumatic, but this one was a result of suicide, a death that leaves family and friends reeling with questions, guilt, and despair.

Teenagers from our church have spent time with the family; their loss, their questions need a place of refuge. Wednesday night Bible study found the teens gathered in their classroom surrounded by our ministers, elders, and counselors. Adults don’t have any simple answers to their pain, but they provide refuge, a place to cry, to question, to remember.

Fourteen years ago when we suddenly lost our daughter in a hiking accident we were surrounded by family- family by blood and family washed in His blood. They wrapped us in their arms, held us close, and gave us a haven.

How do we survive trauma without support? How do we survive without the refuge God provides? Even when my questions to God seemed unanswered and I stopped praying, I knew in my heart and soul that He was just waiting for me to reach out.

Gulf Coast, a place I can find a haven with God

Gulf Coast, a place I can find a haven with God

Even after fourteen years the death of another young person can put me right back into those familiar emotions of grief, sadness, and depression. This morning when I awoke, I felt it. The lump in my throat, the pressure on my chest, the lack of joy. I ache for the parents and siblings of  this young man. I know the days and weeks ahead will be difficult.

A place of haven: quiet moments in meditation

A place of haven: quiet moments in meditation

This one thing I know. My haven is in the tight circle of my family, in the circle of my church family, and in the arms of Jesus.

I thank God for the family of God who weep with those who mourn.

I thank God that He sent His Son to bind up the wounds of the brokenhearted.

JoyMartell

I found some wonderful prayers from Emily P. Freeman for those who are grieving. Sometimes I need the words of others to express my pain.

What Does TIME Do for a Broken Heart?

Five-Minute-Friday.1Joining the Five Minute Friday community of bloggers today with a one word prompt. With a one word prompt we write for five minutes, unedited.

What does time do for a broken heart?

What does time do for a journey of grief?

Since I’m in the midst of writing a book about my journey, my journals remind me of the changes that occurred in my heart over the last 13 years.

This is what I’ve learned about time.

  • The rawness of pain fades slowly.
  • The passage of time does not diminish memories or missing her.
  • It took years for my heart to heal.
  • Healing does not mean my heart returned to same state as before April 13, 2002.
  • Healing from grief is not a gradual improvement; it’s two steps forward, then one step back.
  • Or it’s 20 steps back, and I’m flat on my back on the couch.
  • It takes more than the passage of time to heal.

For me, it took a network of supportive friends and family, research and locating helpful tools, the practice of quiet moments for Bible study, prayer, and communion with the Father.Books

  • Healing required me to learn and accept my limitations. I was a slow learner in this area because just when I thought I could move ahead, I was reminded that everything had changed.
  • I am not the same person.
  • Time helped the rawness of pain, but I had much to learn in my journey of grief.

In time I learned to be  thankful for even the hard things in my life.

Today I am thankful for

  • the people who supported me through all the years of healing
  • the lessons I learned about God’s glorious grace and love
  • the ability to look back and reflect — to see God’s hand through 13 years of my journey

JoyMartell

 

 

 

 

REFLECT

Five-Minute-Friday.1Joining the Five Minute Friday community of bloggers today with a one word prompt. With a one word prompt we write for five minutes, unedited.

Holidays can be landmines, or they can be joyful.

If your memories of a holiday are painful or sad, you may want to avoid all the trappings. I avoided Christmas for several years because my grief just overwhelmed me.Babypic

Every memory of Jennifer at Christmas can be difficult, so reflection on the state of my heart and mind are essential. If I don’t consider the impact of memories, I am a target for an ambush of grief.

I try to do a heart-check during this season of the year. Will Jennifer’s paper plate angel bring on waves of sadness? Will ornaments we bought just for her be painful reminders of our loss?

Victoria

Her Daddy wore red suspenders when he did Souder and Friends segments for TV.

trainSanta Reflection can be tricky. Too much dwelling on sad memories will not be helpful for me. Finding a balance is essential. I expect some sadness during the holidays, but I also know that grief may show up after the holidays as well. (See my post on “An Uninvited Guest”.)

Finding a “one-size-fits all” answer to navigate painful memories is impossible. Staying busy might be the best for some people, while others find giving, serving, and helping keep the focus away from self.

I’ve learned I do best if I’m not stressed about deadlines or feel pressured to attend every program, party, or event.

The best reflections any time of the year are those that lead me to a quiet space of communion with the Father where I reflect on the greatest gift He gave me, His Son.

May your season of remembering be filled with joy.

Today I am thankful for the season in which we reflect on

  •  the coming of an infant who saved the world
  • an infant’s birth in the humble stable
  • a birth promised through the ages: years of slavery and wanderings, decades of kings and prophets, hundreds of years of conquering and exile 
  • the day when God became man and lived among us

JoyMartell

 

 

 

 

TOMORROW

Five-Minute-Friday.1Joining the Five Minute Friday community of bloggers today with a one word prompt. With a one word prompt we write for five minutes, unedited.

The sun’ll come out  TOMORROW

I cannot think about this word without remembering my Jennifer as a five year old singing this song at her kindergarten graduation. Dressed in her frilliest pink dress, long white socks, and pink hairbows, she fearlessly walked out on the stage and began the song as her teacher played the first notes.Pinkdress

The Annie soundtrack was the soundtrack of our little duplex in her first years of school. Any friend who came over joined in playing It’s A Hard Knock Life up and down the stairs to the attic. Jennifer and best friend, Brooke knew every word to every song of the movie.

Tomorrow is a word of hope to me, not to say that I’ve spent some sleepless nights worrying about “tomorrow’s problems”. But the optimist in me usually wins out and I’ve learned to put away those problems until tomorrow.Celebrate

The worst thing about the deep grief I experienced after Jennifer’s death was looking at all the “tomorrows” without her. Looking at her room, her treasures from childhood, her baby quilts and toys — those were for her to keep if she chose, to give to her children. Even my collections of hand-made quilts and afghans from grandmothers, aunts, my mother, I looked at them and thought, “Who am I saving these for?” I learned that depression makes tomorrow look hopeless.

I thank God that with medication and time, depression seldom settles into its place in my heart.

Annie’s famous song of “Tomorrow” provides bookends to Jennifer’s life. Thirteen years ago she stood on top of Starr Mountain and looked over those rolling blue-green foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. She sang this song (“Tomorrow”) for her fiancé, Josh, and then ran down the trail. Minutes later she found a new tomorrow when she knocked on heaven’s door. Starr Mountain

Today I thank God for

  • His loving mercy through my dark valleys
  • the hope of tomorrow
  • for the 21 years Jennifer filled our lives with her smile and joy.

JoyMartell

 

 

 

 

Bittersweet Memory

HEART LESSON

HEART LESSON

This weekend has been one of those perfect Middle Tennessee springs. Clear blue skies, brilliant sunshine, and just-right temperatures.

The dogwood and redbud trees are blooming.spring.Dogwood

spring.REdbudTulips nod gently in the breeze.spring.Yellowtulips

SpringflowersLawnmowers disrupt the neighborhood quiet to trim the deep green of new growth.

Just perfect —- unless you are allergic to trees! Pollen count is very high right now, but the weather pulls me outside.

It was just such an April weekend 13 years Larry and I waited at a nearby restaurant for Jennifer and Josh, her fiance. They called to say they were on the way, had been lost and ended up taking the long way back.

When they arrived, they were so full of joy, sunshine, and love for each other! They had spent the day looking at outdoor wedding venues. They planned to marry in a year – Jennifer had one more year at Tennessee Tech before graduation.

This was such a unique experience to share with them – anticipation, planning, considering options. We ate and talked and then headed to our house. They spent Saturday night with us, worshiped Sunday morning with us and returned to Cookeville Sunday afternoon.

It was the last time we saw Jennifer. It’s a memory that I pull out every so often and treasure. Happy times with the promise of a future together, finding their path in service to God.

I spoke to Jennifer for the last time on the following Wednesday night when she called just to talk. On Saturday she and Josh climbed Star Mountain in the Cherokee National Forest. Josh called us early that evening to tell us she had fallen, never regained consciousness, and died.

JenniferBeachHeadToday is the anniversary of her death.

Sunday I found myself feeling a little melancholy, unmotivated to tackle the projects on my list of to-dos. Sometimes this day of trauma sneaks up on me. Sometimes I’m not aware of the date; even Sunday morning in Bible class I asked someone the date. It didn’t register with me that Monday would be April 13, the day Jennifer died.

So I give myself permission to feel sad, to feel at loose ends. Sometimes I plan a specific activity in her memory, but other times I don’t even want to talk about these tentacles of grief that tug at my heart and my memory.

Thank you for reading this blog, for encouraging, for understanding. Your mercy ministers to my soul.

Thanks be to God that

  • the searing pain of trauma has faded.
  • my memories of Jennifer’s last visit are so full of joy.
  • I have found comfort in this walk of grief from a God who never leaves me, a Savior who knew grief, and a Spirit who intercedes for me with wordless groans.

JoyMartell

For more of my story, use the category Heart Lessons to read archives of my walk in grief.

OPEN

Five-Minute-Friday.1Joining the Five Minute Friday community of bloggers today with a one word prompt. With a one word prompt we write for five minutes, unedited.

We’re finishing a week of snow and ice in Nashville. Many roads are still covered in ice and temperatures have not crept above the twenties all week. This evening we had more snow and freezing rain.Iced branchesBirdhouses

BackyardCold weather like this makes me want to stay closed up in a warm house with homemade soup, steamy cornbread, and a good book. I’ll admit to being quite content this week to stay inside.

There is comfort in staying home. I ran a few errands but was happy to return to the cocoon. I’ve practice drawing, did some water color painting, finished a sewing project for Healing Hands, put together the first big block of a crocheted baby blanket, and watched too much TV.

I’m reminded of those weeks and months after Jennifer died. I wanted to stay home – even in the summer. It felt safe; my heart was protected.

Then I learned how to guard my heart, to keep it closed.

Sometimes I would forget and share my story before I was ready. That’s when I opened my heart, became vulnerable. My emotions rolled up into my throat and the cement block pressed on my chest. Those times were exhausting.

But I slowly learned to put my pain in a box that I opened when I was ready to share. The raw edge of my grief eventually softened, and I could talk about Jennifer’s story without that raw pain.

Today I thank God for

  • by His grace I’m able to be open and not swamped in grief. 
  • our daughter’s life and the story we can share with others.

JoyMartell