Posts Tagged ‘grieving’

Anticipation, Advent, Hope

What is it with fall? It’s been the roughest season for our family each year, and this one has been no different. An increase of fundraising events, conferences, school projects are the old bystanders, but even when I look around us, nearly everyone is strained.

Grief. We said goodbye to Pa Shattuck in late October. He lived by himself in the Syracuse, New York, area, and though the distance limited our socialization, he was dedicated to his grandkids and great-grandchildren. He attended every wedding and graduation and remembered every anniversary and birthday. He was a decorated veteran who served in Normandy at age 19. He was active in his parish and in the community. His death came unexpectedly, and it affected us more than we anticipated.

The anniversary of a friend’s death passed in September. And social media has opened up my heart to several families facing unfathomable loss of family members to tragic sickness and accidents. Some days it’s hard to breathe for how much I ache and mourn with people.

Fear. We have Muslim friends, gay friends, black friends, friends from other countries living in the United States – all of whom have expressed fear in so many words. So much hate, or worse, indifference, surrounds us, and it pains me. As a Christian and an empathetic person, I feel frozen, unsure how to bring comfort, peace or truth because I’m embarrassed at how members of the church as a whole are ignoring or misunderstanding our neighbors, environment and role in society. (But on a positive note, there’s hope. We’ve visited many churches in the Indianapolis area this year, and there is a movement for racial reconciliation and community outreach.)

At times, I’m afraid of referencing myself publicly as a Christian for fear of mockery. Sometimes I’m afraid to stand up for my faith, and I’m afraid to disagree with other Christians. I’m afraid I’ll say the wrong thing at the wrong time, and I’m fearful that I’m making a mistake for feeling this way. We don’t want to be hypocrites. We don’t want to be lazy or naive. Our family wants to DO SOMETHING to love our neighbors and take care of the earth God created in addition to prayer.

I fear the Lord, and I pray that he shines through the dirt and grime and mess.

Anger. Usually this follows fear. I’ve found myself lashing out at coworkers, Wesley and Steven. I try to keep a calm demeanor, but when I’ve been racked with grief and fear, it has been difficult. I’ve hung Psalm 19:14 near my computer so that I can be reminded to keep my words and thoughts positive and pure.

Exhaustion. My negative stress level has caused an increased number of migraines and near-fainting spells in the last few months. Do you remember my weird, complicated migraine when I was pregnant with Wesley? Those symptoms have returned on occasion – once while driving. I’m thankful that each time they’ve returned, I’ve been surrounded by understanding, caring people.

We’ve been attending a church regularly for several months – one that seems to desire Kingdom Work like we do. The congregation has slowly worked through Matthew. We just finished a series on the End Days – where Jesus gives a glimpse of what’s to come. After reflecting on the current season, I can’t help but think that these life events might just be part of the “labor pains” that he references in Matthew 24:6:

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

My friends who have lost loved ones to death, divorce or sickness; my coworkers who are fearful and upset by internal conflicts and national conflicts; those who are frustrated with the church, which can have some things backwards, hypocritical or off-focus; my son and his generation who are concerned about “bad people” leading this country; and their parents, who are trying to process and have open and honest conversations about respect — the only thing in which we have control is our response. In words, actions and thoughts, may it be a respectful, mindful and truthful response.

My response is learning to wait for Truth. Advent season seems like the best transition from fall’s cluster to get good at waiting. While the earth around me is groaning in labor pains, I am choosing to wait on the Lord, which is difficult to do. #trust

Wes and I are reading through the Jesus Storybook Bible for advent, and it might be speaking more to my heart than his. We’re starting at the beginning and seeing how Jesus’ arrival was anticipated throughout Old Testament people’s bad decisions and poor choices. The labor pains started at the fall of Adam and Eve and perhaps it’s just getting more pronounced today.

Maybe we’ll be the lucky generation to see his return, but just waiting for Christmas Day as a symbol of God’s promise of redemption is leaving us anxious enough. #hope

jesusstorybook

Posted: December 7th, 2016
Categories: Leah
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Healthy Mourning

candleI’m not sure how to write this post. I’ve attempted it several times and given up. I started with a letter format, and then I thought about creating lists and self-help guidance, and I kept getting it out all wrong.

I’ve been grieving. I’m mourning for a friend who buried a spouse, and it’s affecting me in ways I didn’t anticipate. I mourn for my friend who is now head the household and a single parent to a toddler. I know they are well supported by an amazing community and a small hometown full of family and friends, but my heart aches deeply for these sweet people who deserve the whole world.

I feel the need to protect the goodness from seeping out of my friend. A friend who is the first to volunteer, to give back, to organize – it’s not fair.

And then my thoughts instantly shift into feelings of guilt. I feel guilty for thinking that my friend needs overwhelming support, perhaps making the subconscious assumption that my friend cannot deal with grief – that the strength isn’t there. I mean, I know support is appreciated and likely needed from time to time, but we’re talking about one of the strongest and selfless people I know.

I feel guilty for “stealing the thunder;” like, the grief belongs to my friend and not to me, really. I shouldn’t blunder along and unintentionally make my own sorrow my friend’s problem, too.

Because of these feelings of guilt, I tried to overcome my grief by layering other thoughts on top of it, but it didn’t work so well. I couldn’t concentrate at work and found myself more irritable at Steven and Wes. I knew it was because I wasn’t properly addressing the grief nagging at me.

Everyone says you need to face it head-on, so remember the post about love languages? It came in handy again. I realized that acts of service was not only one of my love languages, but I knew it was also very strong on my friend’s list. Finding tangible ways to move this grief into something productive seemed to work. Wes wanted in on the action, because, well, he’s my little helper, and acts of service is one of HIS love languages, too. We worked together to make small things (like household chores and playing with our friend’s dogs) into big pieces of love.

And to top it off, our church sermon series called, “One Another,” concluded this weekend. Sunday’s scripture in particular moved me. “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” – 1 Peter 4:10. Though not a “love language,” I do think I have the gift of empathy. And yes, that’s a way that I love others. I love my friend, and my feelings of grief aren’t bad – they’re real, raw and full of empathy. Of which moves me into acts of service.

What I think many people forget is that, yes, life goes on, but support is still needed. At my office, I found several tips for friends of families living with Alzheimer’s disease surprisingly helpful and applicable. Though meant for a completely different audience, the tips resonated with me as a friend who desperately wants to be supportive. (And you know I have to work a list into a post somehow!)

  • Educate yourself.
    Learn about its effects and how to respond.
  • Stay in touch.
    A card, a call or a visit means a lot and shows you care.
  • Be patient.
    Adjusting is an ongoing process and each person reacts differently.
  • Offer a shoulder to lean on.
    Simply offering your support and friendship is helpful.
  • Offer assistance to help the family tackle its to-do list.
    Prepare a meal, run an errand or provide a ride.
  • Engage family members in activities.
    Invite them to go on a walk or participate in other activities.
  • Offer family members a reprieve.
    Spend time with dependents so family members can go out alone or visit with friends.
  • Be flexible.
    Don’t get frustrated if your offer for support is not accepted immediately. The family may need time to assess its needs.

It’s important for me to mourn in a healthy way – a balance of respect, empathy and encouragement. If you know of a friend or family member who has recently (or not so recently) endured a tragic experience, please reach out to them. He or she may need a reminder that you’re thinking of them, and it may also help you.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18

Posted: October 13th, 2015
Categories: Leah
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