This is a page of the posts that I wrote on my old blog that were just remembering what others did to come along side me and carry my sorrow. I hope it helps you love your precious one who might be hurting.
Journey of Grief Part 1:
Goodness, how can time just go by like that. I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I know my last post was pretty sad, and I still am sad and cry often. Crying I’m convinced is so healthy during this time. When I don’t have times of outward tears I can tell my body holds it in and manifests it otherways like tension, and irritability, racing thoughts, and just overall tiredness. So crying is a good thing for me, even though that in a of itself is exhausting. Dan is always so good to just allow me to grief and be honest and to talk through my random often muddled thought process. I know he is grieving as well and he is really good at letting me know when he is missing our son which helps me know I’m grieving with my best friend and love, differently at times yes, but still grieving!
I wanted to take a little bit of this post and the next few posts and just explain what I’m going through that might help you minister or understand someone else if and when a tragedy or loss happens. It’s also helpful for me to journal these days so that I don’t forget and always remember what this journey looked like and felt like.
Grief is mind muddling. And at first I didn’t know what to do with that and at first it was helpful almost. But now, 6 months later. I hate that I still have a brain that doesn’t work near as well as it used to and at times I can’t believe the things I forget or just can’t process or handle.
For example, how this is effecting me spiritually is that the bible just is overwhelming if I sit to read it, conversations about deep things of God give me anxiety because I can’t process it well, general talking about how everyday battles and fighting sin in those can really be so discouraging and lead to despair. Verses that people so often give me, email me, quote to me, read to me… they can be just words that seem cold and without meaning. (and I know that’s not the intention of the heart and I know those words contain life!) I’ve explained to someone lately that I feel as though I need the milk of the word right now… simple, explained out and related for me to my pain, used in another’s situation or used in a story in history.
I’m doing a Beth Moore Study on the Life of Jesus and I’m so thankful for it. Because it is simple and she takes each verse apart and helps to paint a picture for my mind and encourages you to apply it to the most basic areas of your life. To be honest, as a past seminary student there was a time where I might have maybe looked down on those types of studies. I’m just being honest. And yes, I think there is a time for those studies and there is a time to dig deep on your own. But right now I’m so grateful for it, because it’s feeding me truth and scripture in a way that my brain can process during this time of muddled mess.
Journey of Grief Part 2:
Here are some links to some posts/articles on what is helpful to say and do when you have a friend who is in the grieving process. I fully desire to write more on the issue later when I know that I am able to more fully process these issues and when it’s not so up close and personal. But these links that I visited I found myself saying, “exactly!” so I think they say it a lot better then I could right now, though I did comment a little on each of them.
scatterbrained….this is so true! Yesterday I spent ALL day thinking it was wednesday even getting to the school to pick up Dan at the wrong time. There are so many times in almost every conversation thatI can’t think of a specific word that I’m thinking of or use the wrong one….. it’s so frustrating. But I know I just have to be patient with myself. I like what she says… “Just like tiredness consumes the body, grief overpowers the mind, making it what I like to call “scrambled eggs.”
Asking specific questions Due to the above situation at times it’s hard to come up with deep answers to general questions. I like to talk and most times if you’re around me long enough I”ll talk about what my heart is feeling and going through lately. I love hearing about YOU! I love hearing stories how Asher has impacted others I may not know about. I love hearing what God is doing in your own life. We don’t always have to talk about me, sometimes I find myself start to shut down emotionally when i feel like the focus is on me because it’s very painful and deep to remember at times and even the focus at times feels like it’s spotlighting that I’m the one that’s dealing with a great loss.
Weep with those who weep I love this post and feel it really brings a man’s perspective on it. So Dan’s friends please read this and know that he still needs to talk and process. He’s the deep thinker… even before Asher’s birth I felt like God was just taking him much deeper in his walk and grounding his faith like never before. I saw it and have been so blessed by having a husband that often has been my rock and able to wash me with the Word. At times though I think Dan is left to his deep thoughts with only me as his outlet. And sometimes, I think he desires the Iron sharpening aspect that other men bring to his thought processes. So, know that yes, Dan wants/needs to talk about Asher and all that has happened in our lives, but also talking through, analyzing and even challenging all the many varied topics that God’s been laying on his heart is helpful as well. We’ve found that often God has been using theology issues and cultural topics that seemingly have nothing to do with the loss of a child, to greatly encourage us while we grieve.
Bearing one anothers burdens I love the picture she paints of sharing other’s pain during a time like this.
Journey of Grief Part 3:
ways you can spiritually help a friend who is grieving the loss of a baby:
- just pray for them. you don’t even have to tell them you are… they will feel the power of effectual prayers impacting their lives. trust me. Or when you do tell them you are praying for them tell them what you are praying for and maybe even include a part of your prayer.
- how not to give someone verses: avoid giving lot of verses or just random verses that deal with sorrow. avoid emailing just references to verses. (many people don’t keep their bible open at the computer)
- interact scripture with what the person is saying. don’t just think of a verse and quote it. And personally I have needed very direct interaction… big overarching truths, I know they are true and they are often familiar enough to be insulting when given to me. I know that God is better than anything else. I know that the gospel is all I need. But really thought out and explained personal application.. now that’s been helpful.
- taking even a word and taking it apart for a suffering heart might be just the right bite of meat they need to just help bring coherence to a verse and what they are going through.
for an actual example of truth well spoken in a time of hurt A friend recently wrote to me this:
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)” Jesus is offering you mercy. He is saying to you – I’m giving you a break – I’m giving you mercy to be a mess. He is not expecting you to untangle all your wires and be back to normal. He just wants your heart and all of it.
- feel open to talk about how scripture is helping YOUR life. you’ll be surprised how often what is helping you go through your trial or suffering or fight, will and can minister to their life.
- repeat what the person is saying to you in your response to them. It helps because often I am talking but even my own words aren’t making full sense to me until I hear them back and then it sounds less crazy and more concrete making me understand this process more.
- Share the truths of Gods word and your experiences with your struggles. I’ve had several mommies say, I know what you mean about the brain not working up to par… welcome to motherhood! Thats helpful to me because yes, I think grief plays a part in all the struggles I have right now, but then so does the rest of my happenings in life. I think grief muddles and motherhood tires so the combo is not so great if I have really high expectations of what I should be like right now. Other’s experiences are very helpful to keep me humble, grace-giving to myself and child, and growing in knowledge as a mother. for example a friend of mine wrote: “my baby is 9 months old now and just the other day I sat down to read Scripture and for the first time since my oldest was born I really understood what was going on in the passage. It was like I was reading it for the first time. God’s Word will be fresh and new to your soul again as He restores your body and strength. I think there are seasons of life where we have to lean on the Holy Spirit to bring to our hearts the things that we have learned in the past.”
- They need concrete ways to serve, study, love, etc.. Tasks are good for me to do right now, because if I know something has to be done I can totally throw my mind into it and do it. It helps bring clarity to service and my walk with God. Tasks that involve a lot of decisions and deep interaction with others I’m not so hot at right now. It’s like my brain goes into shut down mode and my wall goes up when things get dramatic or too personal. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to serve my church or love my friends and family. I just need the clarity to know what to do and either do it on my own timing or right then. Don’t be afraid to ask a grieving friend to do something, just give them the freedom to say yes or no or be able to modify it to fit their needs at this time.
I must admit that this journey has tested a lot of my friendships. It’s not a testing I want to be there and it’s something that honestly involves a lot of compassion and mercy on my friends part and involves patience and understanding on mine. Because often what we want friends to give us is the very thing that only God can give, complete understanding and consistent mercy and strength to withstand every thought, emotion, fear and sorrow I may have and return those with healing and peace.
But here are some ways I’ve written out that may help in just being there and letting God use you in a hurting situation even though you can’t do the actual healing. Be the balm that might soothe the pain.
Ways to socially help a grieving friend:
- Offer them concrete times when you can get together with them and concrete things you can do together. Getting together to just talkmight be just what ends up happening but the thought of going to do just that can be overwhelming for the hurting heart.
- I’ve had a few people who just happened to be at the right place at the right time and they were the “lucky ones” that I fell apart on. Those are moments I’ll treasure forever and I think they are often divinely planned from God. But just because someone needs you at a given time doesn’t mean they will in the future in that same way. In other words, you may bond during that one moment or crying spell or talk but that may just be your moment together and it may never happen again. Don’t think that you need to recreate moments or times together for continued bonding or grieving. Just be willing to be used of God when He plans those moments and remember them. Just like I have to thank Him for that unexpected person He put in my path and will be blessed because of that moment of loving care for my heart.
- As for you BFF’s out there, Let them turn you down or tell you no many times. Don’t give up on them. It may not be the right time but that time may come and you want to be there when it does. I had a close friend who called me and called me and left messages and emails and for weeks I didn’t respond because I didn’t have the strength to at first and she totally understood and said that each time she called. But when the time was right I was ready to spend time with her and it was so good knowing she was there waiting for me when I was ready!
- If a phone message doesn’t get returned, try email. That can be something a person can respond to when the time is right and she has something to say or has processed your email. And if the email doesn’t get returned don’t give up just email again and remind them… I don’t mind being reminded… seriously. Sometimes my phone or email inbox is completely overwhelming so it ends up paralyzing me and I don’t deal with the emails I need to write or phone calls I need to make and sometimes I just forget altogether. When I look at the way I’ve neglected some, then the thought of catching up seems too much… ughh.. it drives me crazy. I drive me crazy. maybe this will help you understand more.
- At first especially, be consistent. Don’t assume everyone is jumping in to be there at first or that you wouldn’t be needed even if everyone was. Those first days and weeks are essential to be a part of if you at all can. One friend came over every wednesday morning (which was her free morning of the week and I know it was such a sacrifice) and she was very faithful and then after a while she and I both knew she needed to do some things for her family during that time and I remember crying the first wednesday she couldn’t come. But she did call and for weeks did so every wednesday. But her consistency in the process helped me know one day from the other in the beginning… because at least I knew that was wednesday and she and I and a cinnabon roll would get time together. Thanks Becks!
- Send a card. It was so helpful to have actual notes of support and love waiting in our mailbox each day for weeks. But now, it’s back to bills and magazines. Now, that’s just life. I know that. But for example a few weeks ago I got a card from a good friend at church who had a baby near the time I did and she just shared how she felt as though she grieved with me from a distance and that she wanted me to know that she was there even though she wasn’t physically there. That meant the world to me. And it was still timely and nurturing. ***** now, I’m not writing all this to say everyone needs to write me or love me a certain way I’m just helping process this while some of it is really fresh so that we might love better and I will remember this for others who will come into my life hurting!
- Admit your awkwardness with the situation or admit your false guilt. some of the most precious moments came when new mothers would cry and tell me they feel guilty for having healthy babies or healthy grandbabies when I didn’t. We both knew that there was nothing either of us could do or not do to deserve healthy or not healthy babies but that it was in God’s hands. But just being that transparent was so good for the friendship and for the freedom to bring their babies around me knowing I knew what they were feeling.
- Know that certain gifts will mean so much even if you never know it. The gifts that were given to asher during his life that were ones given expecting him to live are so precious to me! The ones that were more memorbilia in nature are a little harder to love because they can scream death, even though I know they will grow precious to me over time. So, those of you who have friends will difficult pregnancies or have been given grim diagnosis… give them something that screams life and normalicy. Buy clothes the child may never wear. Buy stuffed animals the child may never hold. Make quilts that the child may never need the warmth of. Those are so precious to me to this day!
- It will be the strangest acts of kindness that mean the most. I remember a few close friends and family asking to see Asher in his homegoing box and that was such a strange request to me right then..(especially being my first experience with death and burial) but today those people are endeared in my heart SO much,! a fatherly kiss on the head, saying they love us. You will have moments with your hurting friend and you may not think it was much or that those moments need to keep happening but God used you in a flash of time to help them heal and provide comfort and love. sometimes that has to be enough for right now.
- As a blog writer…. Please don’t ever tell someone that their story or blog posts are just too sad for you and that because of that you can’t go there to read what they have written. I mean, seriously. My life… is too sad for YOU? I want to say “try being me”. I know it takes energy to be a part of someones life and even to look into a window of their pain and I of all people know that sometimes we don’t have the energy to handle a big cry-fest every day. But turn off the music if you have to. Read it just once a week. Or if you know you are going to be seeing them take a few minutes and read what they wrote most recently. Stay connected that way if they have put themselves out there. My closest friends are the ones who read my hearts cry on here week after week. Some strangely enough are women I’ve never even met.
- Try not to tell them or think you know what they can or can’t handle in their life right now. In some areas I am ready to take on the world and in a sense we did when we brought Zoe into our family. She’s been amazing for me and has given me something concrete to focus on and she gives so much back!! But as mentioned before other areas, which might seem like nothing compared to adopting a baby might prove too much to handle at this time. It’s strange. But hurting hearts are looking to survive and they will know what they can handle or not, or they will soon let you know if they can’t. Just be there for them as they welcome or buffer the things coming into their worlds.
Journey of Grief Part 5:
Thanks for all the feedback I’ve been getting from these posts. It’s hard to know sometimes what to say and to say it in such a way that’s encouraging and grateful but yet also in a way that truthfully conveys what does and doesn’t help best during a time of sorrow and change. And this has been MY experience, we are all so different and needs will vary with some people.
But here are some of my favorite ways practically that people have served and loved on me by doing!
- They Celebrated Life! This first one is for those who find a friend in a situation where they don’t know if they will be experiencing losing a child but have been presented with the possible reality of it. CELEBRATE LIFE!!!! So, those of you who have friends with difficult pregnancies or have been given grim diagnosis… give them something that screams life and normalicy. Buy clothes the child may never wear. Buy stuffed animals the child may never hold. Make quilts that the child may never need the warmth of. Those are so precious to me to this day! Have showers! Don’t ignore the difficulty and even include a time of prayer at that shower. I can’t tell you how blessed those times of prayer were and still I know are seeing God answer and fulfill even months later. If you don’t know what to say, that’s okay just be there. God will often have women who have experienced loss or who have the gift of encouragement there as well and let them say words that God wants the hurting mommy to be to hear. Friends have different gifts and just let God use your gifts where they fit best in this time of hardship.
- They came to the hospital. That was probably really hard for some because what do you say? what do you bring? there is no baby to see and awe over. It can even be downright awkward. But COME anyway! The first few days I don’t remember much. But I know there were friends there to talk and laugh with Dan and even relieve family members from having to stay all the time. Some might say not to stay long, but I say just play it by ear. If you’re needed and conversation is flowing stay! but if they seem tired and preoccupied and decisions are being made then love on them for just a bit.
- They prepared for my coming home. Oh, those dear friends who cleaned my house that week for me. We left in a tizzy when going to the hospital so I know it was a mess. But it was sparkling when I got home and the front entrance was decorated with bright yellow mums! I love mums in a special way now because I had a cheerful front door to go into those first few weeks!
- They brought meals. This was a little hard for me especially after having the recent experience of finding out what it’s like when there is a new baby in the home. But while it was such a blessing not to have to cook or figure out what to have for dinner, it was difficult because there was no baby to show off when people dropped by and sometimes I wanted to talk and sometimes I didn’t. Mostly I didn’t. Also, Dan and I had requested healthy meals as we were trying to eat better.. but we found out really fast we wanted comfort foods as well! It was nice to have a balance of casseroles that were so amazing and fresh foods that were great for us. Here is a MUST READ when it comes to bringing meals to friends!
- They got me out of doing dishes! One thing that a friend did was bring us paper goods. Paper plates, plastic cups, napkins. SO HELPFUL! because I did not want to be doing lots of dishes.
- They helped start my day off right! My mom made meals and froze them for us and we are still eating them. She also bought breakfast stuff for us. I had weeks where I had yogurt parfaits every morning (that I made in the plastic cups) yogurt, granola, and frozen berries, so easy and good for you. She kept those three items stocked for me for a few weeks. I never would have thought to make those or buy that stuff but she did and it was very helpful to start off my day right.
- They just came over! Okay, I know I just said I wanted to be left alone. But if you are a Best Friend of someone and feel like they can be honest with you about their needs, Then go over all the time!! Every night for a while three of my best friends (who just happen to live next door) came over… And often due to the generosity of the meal makers we were able to share dinner with them as well. The good thing about going over often is that you’ll be there in moments when they need to cry and fall apart and you’ll be there when they just want to talk or vent and you’ll be there when they laugh and need something to watch. (because this was a regular happening it wasn’t inappropriate when they wanted us to see a funny you-tube video they had seen that day. those moments were so needed!)
- They put Scripture before me! A few friends wrote out scripture verses out and made them decorative and gave them to me to put up around the house. Those are still verses I see daily and are still claiming their promises in my life.
- They did the little things that nobody thinks of. From returning videos to getting me stamps for letters to seeing if I needed anything at walmart, friends included all the little things that needed done into their daily errands! It was so helpful!!!
- They took care of my dog! Having a dog during this time was so healing because he was so sensitive and loyal to my side those weeks of being at home. He knew something was wrong but just stayed close to me. I had a friend send him a care package. (thanks sara) Yes, I know, maybe that’s over the top to some of you. but I hadn’t had the chance to get him something to play/chew on in some time. And then add to that friends who wanted to walk him and get him out of the house and give him attention. (kids coming over during that time was great for him) It was a blessing to have them care for a dog who was in a way caring for me
- They wrote thank you notes! this has never been my strong point and leave it to family to pick up where you lack. My family showed their gratefulness on my behalf to those who served us endlessly and without much notice by writing them cards. I often have wondered how I’m ever going to personally thank everyone who helped us during this time and please know that my heart has captured you in special places and I know some many of you deserve a hand written note from my heart and I hope that I have the opportunity in the months/years to come to tell each of you how much you mean to me. But if I don’t know that you are treasured in my heart. Know that!
- They remembered Asher. During special day or even just random days they would call or email and just in tears say they were missing him then. Oh beloved that meant the world to me… still does. Sometimes they sent/gave gifts that had his name on it or his birth information displayed for me to remember. Memorial gifts were so special. I have pieces of jewelry that whenever I wear I remember him and it’s strangely healing.
- They cared for my well being. Even though I had no baby to care for I still found it hard to get a shower and fix my hair. The last thing I was thinking about was getting a haircut or having my nails look nice. But ladies, it’s all connected! I was taken to get my nails done right before Asher’s service. what a blur but that was an element I didn’t have to think about. I was treated to a haircut and afterwards I wanted to fix my hair and at least try to look nice. It was helpful in the process of starting to feel a little more normal. I’ve had friends who have had miscarriages and this element is really important. Giving them a basket of body washes and beauty supplies I know blesses during this time of just bodily pain and discomfort and allows you to be a part of this very personal and often private pain and loss in their life.
- They loved my husband and let him grieve! I asked him the other day if he talks about asher much at work and he just really said how God has blessed him with co-workers who aren’t afraid to talk about Asher and his birth and death. He said that the people God has put in his life there have been so encouraging and just have been his friends through this. A lot of my best friends are some of his closest friends as well and they really loved him well and laughed with him! I think all the funny you-tube videos did him the most good. As a teacher, nothing makes him more proud than to see growth and God in his students. They have showed so much maturity through this and have gone the extra mile in taking care of their Mr.Chappell. Thanks guys! I know Dan is blessed to have you in his classes. Thanks NRCA parents, for letting your children go to the memorial service knowing that you might have difficult questions to answer afterwards.
- They took me away. At six weeks some of my closest friends decided I needed to get away and planned a trip to Washington D.C. and made it clear I was to go with them! I agreed to go and honestly up to about an hour before I was in constant flip flopping over if I was going to really go or not. I kept telling Dan I’m not going to go… but I should go… I just can’t… but I want to… ughh! But I did go. And I’m so glad I did. It was beautiful and it was an easy trip that didn’t overwork my body but still made me move and get out! Here is the slideshow from that trip! Thanks Girls!! I’ll never forget that weekend. Here is another post about that trip!
- They gave me books and movies! Movies and books were a great mental stimulus and getaway for me and I was given some great books that were great reads but also encouraging. many of them are in the side panel of the blog in book recommendations. And some gave us movie gift cards that let Dan and I get out of the house and escape into worlds of spies, romance, heroes, triumph and so many more. It was helpful for us both!
As you can see there are SO MANY ways to help and serve and love! These are just some of the countless ways that I have been blessed by those in my life.
Journey of Grief Part 6:
Ever since a friend of mine found out she lost a much hoped for pregnancy, I’ve been an emotional mess. I haven’t had much time to give into the emotions lately, but I know the flood is coming. I don’t know if part of it’s been that Zoe is getting so big and out of the baby baby stage, she’s crawling and becoming so curious about the world around her. But when I look at Asher’s photos I just ache like I haven’t ached in a long time.
I really wish I could be planning a birthday party for him. I wish he had a full head of dark hair and new teeth. But I know even those things as delightful as they are pale in comparison to the glories of a new body and a life that isn’t confined by birthdays. One song/scripture that has meant more to me since Asher was born and died, is Better is one day. “better is one day in your house than thousands elsewhere!” is how the song goes. I’ve sang it so many times before and it never impacted me as much as it has this past year. I wanted thousands of days for Asher here with us. But I know and Asher truly knows that heaven is better. He lived a better life on the day he was born then all the birthday parties in the world could offer him.
I have read a few things lately that I have really related to well, so I thought I’d just copy them here and give you a glimpse into my heart and how at times it’s really heavy and at times it’s really steady, and most of all when I’m taken back by the pain of grief though, it’s ready for eternity to begin where no more tears or fears will exist and all things will be made right and new.
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One of the gifts God gave me through this journey is my friend Molly, she has been blogging her journey of grief and so much of it has helped me process things. She uses the phrase “secondary losses.” I think that’s what this year has been—a whole bunch of secondary losses. The loss of innocence. The loss of happiness. The loss of youth.The loss of simplicity. And when you experience those secondary losses, you grieve.
from Molly’s blog: She’s referring to a photo she took of her and her husband before even knowing about the trial that would take her daughter from her unexpectedly.
I look at those two people and truly wonder if that is the same person I see in the mirror each day. I feel like I’ve aged something like 10 years since then.
Today, memories like this one make me cry—hard. We had no idea that we were a few weeks away from one of the worst tragedies we’ll ever face.
So if you’re a mom like me, living without one (or more) of your children, take heart that this is indeed one of the hardest things you will ever live through. But that also means that you lived.
The lines around your eyes will deepen. But that also means you’ve seen. You’ve seen the chaos of pain. Your eyes have and will shed tears for people in their pain that you could’ve never understood before. This is a blessed gift.
Hold on with me. We’re gonna make it. We might not be the happy-go-lucky gals we used to be, but our lives here will tell stories of indescribable loss and the love of a God who made us to be exactly who we are—every line, every gray hair. None of it is wasted.”
From Jenna’s blog: she lost her son Carter on the same day Asher was born last year. So our sons have the same birthday and arrived in Heaven just hours between each other.
I can hardly believe it has been 11 months since we welcomed Carter into this world and then quickly watched him leave to go home to the Lord. What a quick year it has been. Tough -absolutely the toughest of my life.
My best friend Jen asked me the other day, would I do it all over again. Without even thinking about it, I said OH YEAH!! Would I give birth to the most perfect looking baby I have ever seen. Oh course!! Would I take 22 1/2 weeks of life over none!! ABSOLUTELY!! Would I spend that 1 hour and 21 minutes with my child all over again. YUP!! And and hard as it is to admit, I would never give up everything the Lord has shown me over this past year.
I am a different person. Brent and I are different people. We see the world different. We feel different. We talk different. We act different. We love different. We still have not overcome it all. We still don’t have a day go by that we feel the loss of our son, our first born child. We still have days that we wish we could start all over again. But, at the end of the day, we can sit back and say…. God you are good, and you are enough!!!”
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Thank you friends for being faithful to write your journey down for others to learn from and cry with. I pray God continues to give me the words to display that the pain is deep and has changed me forever, and also give Glory to the God who is deeper still and one day will change me one last time forevermore.