In the midst of tragedy, it can be hard to see how anything about your dark situation could be good.
A little over a year ago, I lost my only sibling, Tony, suddenly, unexpectedly, and tragically. My whole world seemed to fall apart in an instant. I wondered how I was supposed to carry on. How would I make it through this week? This month? Til the end of the year? It all seemed so daunting and impossible.
I walked around numb and in a daze for several months. I couldn’t concentrate. My husband would be talking to me, and I had to ask him to repeat himself because I couldn’t focus on what he was saying. I nearly missed my baby’s first steps because I had zoned out. For that first year, I felt like a shadow of myself. Going through the motions but struggling to be present in the moments with those I loved.
At the same time, my emotions and grief were intense. They seemingly hit me out of no where like a semi. Yet the waves were nearly predictable. “It’s been a week,” I would think to myself, “I must be about due for a good cry.” I would let myself feel and work through my grief with Jesus (I’m so glad now that I did! Release of emotion is crucial to healing!), but it was exhausting.
Anxiety flooded over me. I was terrified to ride in a car whether I drove or someone else did. God didn’t protect Tony in his vehicle when he hit the tree, so why would He protect me? I didn’t let this stop me from riding in cars, but I had near anxiety attacks just riding in them.
I had night terrors and would wake up screaming out and hyper ventilating. I would wake up to myself screaming and my husband trying to comfort me, but at first, I didn’t know who he was. It usually took several minutes for my fight or flight response to subside. Again, I would basically be having an anxiety attack. My daughter is a very sound sleeper, so she usually would sleep through the commotion, but when I would wake her up, I felt terrible because I knew she didn’t understand why Mommy was screaming.
In the middle of all this madness, I knew I needed help. About three or four months after Tony’s death, I sought out a Christian counselor. I’m so glad I did! She helped walk me through my grief, my anxiety, and my night mares. Jesus helped me in the day to day.
Despite all this healing, I was angry with God. I cried out to Him, brutally honest. Where had He been when Tony hit the tree and passed from this life? Why in the world was he allowing my family and me to suffer so?
Here’s the crazy amazing part. My anger didn’t scare God away. He was steadfast. He never left my side.
It gets better. I still miss Tony and have moments of grief. I don’t think that goes away on this side of eternity. However, by the time the first anniversary of his death passed, the consistent waves of grief had subsided, and I started to feel human again.
The blinding pain gave way, and when the fog lifted, I was left with a stronger faith in God than I had ever had. What the devil wanted to use to throw me off course, God had used for good. I was more in love with Jesus than ever before. I was more confident in my eternal security than ever before. I had more trust in Jesus than ever before. I had no desire to do this life without Him because I had no clue how I would have made it if He hadn’t stuck beside me.
He showed me that He took Tony home because He loved both Tony and me. This didn’t make sense, but I trusted.
He showed me that He is ALWAYS protecting me, but He is also SOVEREIGN. If He allows something to physically harm me, He will help me through it and use it for my good. This doesn’t mean He caused the harm, but He will walk with me through it. And when He allows my body to shut down for good, it will be so He can usher me into eternal glory with Him. My fear of cars gave way.
Counseling revealed that my nightmares were not incurable. Praise, Jesus, after treatment, I am no longer having them!
Someone once said, “God can take your biggest set-back and make it into your biggest come-back.” They were right. God promises us this: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Another promise we can cling to: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61:1-3
This is exactly what God did for me! He took seemingly insurmountable pain and used it to draw me closer to Him, to strengthen my faith, and to help make me into the woman I am today. I will always bear a scar, but God and I walked toward healing together, and I came out stronger on the other side! I realized the year that could have destroyed me, instead, grew me by leaps and bounds. I grew quicker and deeper than I would have if it had been an easy year. And although, I still miss my brother, I am standing taller and stronger than I ever have.
Maybe you are in the midst of your own battle with darkness. Whether it is a light rain in the day or a down pour in the middle of the night, know this, if you know Jesus, He promises to use even this for your good. He can take your darkest moment and give you a new dawn. He wants to give you “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” He wants to trade your pain for healing and growth. This doesn’t make it easy. You will still have to walk through your trials, but He promises to go with you. And He promises to use ALL THINGS for your good.
I will leave you with the words of David: “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.” Psalms 30:11-12
Sharing one’s story can be very difficult. It can be painful. It makes a person feel vulnerable. The beautiful exchange comes though when God is glorified and others are edified. Pain is the universal language of the human race. It is inevitable to our life experience, and we all have it. “When it rains, it pours”, they say. My story is no different. I haven’t shared the story of my last year yet because it has been too painful. I will share a small facet of it here, with the hope that in the future, I will be able to share more. I hope it encourages you, and if you find yourself in a similar place, I hope you know that you are not alone in your struggle.
About a year ago, my grandfather passed away on Black Friday. My husband, 6 month old baby, and I were celebrating Thanksgiving 1200 miles away when we got the news. A whirlwind of planning and packing ensued, and we rushed off to be with my family within a couple days of his passing. I sat between my husband and my brother at Grandpa’s memorial service, and then a couple days later we laid him to rest. I introduced my baby girl to my grandfather by his casket and said my goodbyes. He never got to meet her. There was one positive part of this trip though that will always stick with me. My six month old finally met her uncle (my younger brother). He held her awkwardly, and I taught him to feed her a bottle. My heart swelled with pride and joy. We said our goodbyes to my brother at the airport, we embraced, and he walked away. What my mom, husband, and I didn’t know was that we would never see him again on this side of heaven. Four months later, 1200 miles away again, I got a call. I fell to my knees as my strength waned, and I cried out. Tony was gone, safe in the arms of Jesus. Another whirlwind trip. Another memorial service. I sat in the same church and the same chair as before, but this time Tony wasn’t in the chair next to mine. It lay vacant until my grieving father sat down. Another burial. Another laying to rest. Another whirlwind week, and then I was home. Left to pick up the pieces.
Grief has been my constant companion for the past year. I don’t always show it, but it is there. This coupled with caring for my now 18 month old, and other responsibilities and difficulties and trials, (I won’t mention here), and I am constantly exhausted, constantly grieving, constantly leaning on my Jesus. Just taking it a day at a time. Fighting for the next step, the next moment, and finding Jesus there. This has been, by far, the hardest, darkest year of my life, but I just keep going with Jesus, and somehow, we keep making it. I’m not sharing this sad story for sympathy. I’m sharing it with the hope that someone else can benefit from it. Whether you believe in God or not, I think we can agree that this culture has forgotten how to grieve. We are so focused on being happy and successful that no one really knows how to react when the bottom inevitably falls out. The church is no different. I would like to think I know a thing or two about grieving now, and I would like to share what I have found. There are healthy ways to grieve and unhealthy. Whenever I have tried to distract myself from my pain, I have just ended up worse off later when I finally allowed my emotions to surface. Numbing the pain, distracting myself from the pain, all “No No’s”. I found the best way through the pain is to dive right into it. To allow myself to sit in the grief, feel it, and process it. This doesn’t mean that I do this ALL the time. There are days when I purposely divert my attention away from memories and reminders of my brother. That is okay. I am mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. I need a break. What always ends up backfiring is when I feel another wave of emotion hit me out of the blue, and I refuse to let myself feel. I refuse to let myself mourn. Hours or days later, when that pain finally surfaces, I am ten times more upset than I would have been if I had let myself cry in the first place. Not to mention the fact that I have felt miserable all the hours and days that I held it in. Release of emotion is just that, release. I can breathe. The other HUGE part that has helped me is my relationship with Jesus. He is the reason I have any strength or courage to dive into the pain. Why? Because I know He is with me, and He sustains me. Also, you need friends. The majority of my family lives far away, and my parents and I can only help each other through this so much. The three of us have our own heavy burdens of grief to bear, so we don’t have the strength to carry each other. That’s okay. We need other people to help carry us along from outside our family who are not deep in the depths of the same grief we are. Find your friend tribe. This is what the church is for, we mourn with each other and lift each other up. I don’t do this part perfectly, but even as I write this, I am reminded of its importance. Also. Jesus. He carries me. Always.
I wrote a poem this week about my grieving process. I had to get the mess in my heart out into words. I hope it ministers to you today.
Hi, my name is Holly. I started blogging several years ago through blogspot on my blog, “His Kingdom Reign”. After a long hiatus, I felt God leading me to share in a blog setting again.
Some things about me:
Jesus is the most important part of my life. I am a pastor’s wife, mom, and an aspiring pastor. I love spending time outside. I enjoy singing. I also love to play volleyball, but I am a bit rusty. I hate the cold and love Italian food.
Since Jesus is the most important part of my life, all of my blog posts will be Jesus centered. If they don’t explicitly mention Him, just know the post was written with Him in mind. I hope you enjoy my blog!