Three years ago I read a passage in a devotional that struck me as something I might want to write about at some point, so I kept a note of it.
“Rick Warren writes, ‘God loves to turn crucifixions into resurrections. The things you wish were most removed from your life are often the very things that God is using to shape you and make you into the believer he wants you to be. He wants to use that problem for good in your life. There’s something more important than your pain. It’s what you’re learning from that pain.’”
It’s a hard lesson when the pain is grief, isn’t it? Especially the grief from losing a child. But what’s the alternative? Not learning anything? Being both sad and bitter?
Three years ago that’s as far as I got with my notes and my questions. Yes, it had been two years since Rachel died, but I was still grappling with “why” and “it’s not fair.” I wrote in my introduction to this blog site – my Why I’m Here – about some of the lessons I’ve learned in my five-years-and-counting of being a bereaved parent. What I know now but hadn’t yet realized in 2019 is losing a child changes you fundamentally. Three years ago I was still struggling to get back to normal.
Something many grieving parents will tell you is the second year after losing your child is harder in many ways than the first. During the first year you vacillate between searing raw pain and numbness. By the second year, the numbness is mostly gone so you’re more aware of the world outside your own isolating mourning. You’re able to function in your job, family life, and activities in a way that appears to others like you are back to your old self. But, it’s a façade. You’re still a walking nerve. You have to constantly be on guard for some random comment, song, or scent that reminds you of your child and causes you to have to leave the room or hang up the phone. When will this end? How can I live like this? Who am I?
If you’re a praying person, most of your prayers those first couple of years will be some form of “HELP ME.” It’s hard to imagine there’s anything to be thankful for. It’s hard to believe anything good can come from your pain.
What you eventually come to understand is your life is different now. You are different now. Your life changed when your child came into this world and it changed again when she left it. Child loss is now part of who you are. It’s not ALL of who you are, but it reshapes you. God does not put painful things into our lives, but He can re-mold us into someone who takes that pain and turns it into grace towards others who are struggling, compassion for people who are hurting, softness towards those who have hardened their heart. And, an example of belief in His divine mercy.
And, when you become aware of who you are now, you will thank God for bringing you out of the ashes. For shaping you into the believer you are. You still won’t be thankful for losing your child. But, you’ll be thankful in knowing without a doubt there is a life after this painful one. And, that maybe, just maybe you can share some of your hard-found wisdom while you’re here.
It’s a hard lesson to learn.