Archive for the “grieving” Category

The father of a friend died last week and we went to the funeral service yesterday. It’s my third funeral in six months. But it was the first of the three in which I didn’t have a role and I wasn’t overwhelmed with grief. I was able to participate in the service without being consumed by the content of it. It gave me an opportunity to hear some “new” things from God. (Granted, these may not be new to you, but they are new for me.)

On Heaven
The service began with worship because the man had loved God and loved to worship. The church was arranged with two sections of pews and a center aisle. As the crowd began to clap, I had a vision of those clapping around the finish line of a marathon, cheering the runner on to victory and to completion. What a different way to view our entrance into heaven! I had always thought of it as being met by Jesus or an angel or perhaps one or two family members who have gone before me. It was a “slow, gentle” welcome. But this “new” pattern is more exciting to me. Not because I’m looking for adulation, but because of the joy that it holds — the “welcome home, hero!” kind of feel it has to it. It’s a celebration at the finish line with friends and family who have gathered to share my joy and cheer me on as you make my final steps. And everyone in heaven is my family and friend, even those I don’t know yet. We are kin in the Spirit.

Of course, the difference between this finish line and the finish line of the marathon is that as you approach the finish line of this life, you are restored with each step. No longer pulled down by the things of earth, you are stronger, lighter, healthier, happier. You are whole in every sense of the word. Can you see the scene in your mind’s eye?

I want to hold this new perspective on entering heaven in my mind. It is much more encouraging to me than the quiet, gentle leading by a loved one talking softly to me as we enter the Gates of Heaven. You may prefer the soft, gentle entry into heaven and that’s fine. But I’m looking forward to the celebration! Fortunately, Our God is not a one-size-fits-all kind of God. He is unique and creative in every way. I’m sure He’s arranging the entrance into heaven that is beyond best for each of us, just as He is creating mansions unique to each of us, and just as He creates a life — and purpose in life — that is unique to each of us.

On Hell
As the funeral service progressed and the father of the deceased spoke, I remembered the very difficult days after my dad died. What struck me the hardest at that time was the absolute separation. How very strange it seemed to me that the separation should be so painful when in a way separation from my dad was normal — we lived 50 miles apart, so we were only “together” about once a week. But it “felt” different. This was an “absolute separation.”

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is some kind of spiritual connection among the living and when someone dies that connection is broken. When Phil’s mom died, he came up with this analogy: when a computer network is turned on, the system is always sending out impulses to other computers, checking to see if they are still connected. This is called “pinging” and it’s a continuous process. Without us being aware of it, it seems that our spirits “ping” for the spirits of those we love constantly and we receive an unconscious knowing that they are there. When someone dies, that ping goes out from us but is not returned. At an unconsious level there is a brokenness, a void, a missing connection that pushes itself into our consciousness and alerts our brain that “something is very wrong here.” Our brain then transmits that information to our emotions.

That missing connection creates a kind of darkness (a void, a black hole), of internal pain that doesn’t go away quickly or easily. It’s a very strange pain because it really hurts, but there is no physical attribute to it. In other words, you can’t say “my arm hurts” or “my head hurts.” I guess saying “my heart hurts” would be the closest, but even that misses the mark because I’m sure it’s not like the physical pain of a heart attack.

As I thought about this during the funeral, I had a greater insight into hell than I’ve ever had. Hell is eternal separation from God. I’ve known that for years. But now I have a greater understanding of the pain of it. Hell is that absolute separation from the Giver of Life for all of eternity. It is the constant pinging that is never responded to. It is the darkest of darkness, the largest of black holes. And as time passes, it doesn’t lighten or soften as the pain of separation from a loved one who has died. Instead, it deepens, it grows because there is never hope of escaping it. There is never a lessening of it.

On Hope
I’m reminded of two passages of Scripture:

Romans 7:24-25 (NLT)
“Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

1 Corinthians 15:51-58 (NLT)
51But let me tell you a wonderful secret God has revealed to us. Not all of us will die, but we will all be transformed…. 53For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die.
54When this happens—when our perishable earthly bodies have been transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die—then at last the Scriptures will come true:
“Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory?O death, where is your sting?”
56For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57How we thank God, who gives us victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord!
58So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

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I woke up very tired this morning…too short a night that followed a week of very long days and short nights. Perfect prescription for crankiness. But God is greater and I am thankful.

I woke up with a lightness in my heart this morning. I am singing to the Lord and finding nuggets of wonder in His Word. I haven’t felt this lightness of heart in a long, long time.

So my mind wants to know “what changed?” “what did I do that made the difference?” Was it our study in Philippians (the “book of joy”)? We made a hard decision last night, but was it having the decision behind us that brought a certainty (in the midst of uncertainty) that lightened my heart? Was it a major new project that I’ve committed to that has given me joyful energy this morning?

I think the most accurate answer to the question “What did I do that made the difference?” is that I did very, very little. God is sovereign and in His sovereignty, He said “now.” He said “enough” to the heaviness and “now” to the joy. Yes, I obediently and to the best of my limited ability put myself in a place where He could bless me — I continued to read, pray, join with other believers, worship, journal and study — but I have been doing those things all along with seemingly little impact or result. But God.

In that last paragraph is one of the biggest lies the enemy feeds us — “with seemingly little impact or result.” Last week as Phil & I talked about this decision we needed to make I said (clearly speaking through the Holy Spirit because my heart was discouraged at the time) “We are fools if we don’t believe in our hearts that God is working behind the scenes in this and has or is preparing a perfect answer for us.” Those little actions that seemingly have no impact have impact in the spiritual world — impact that we can’t always see or know. But they have impact! It just takes God’s timing for us to see the result.

Yep, I know this is motherhood, but it’ motherhood that I need to be reminded of over and over again. That God is moving on my (and your) behalf and that my prayers and my obedience have impact even when when I don’t see it.

Because one day I woke up with a lightness of heart. Will it stay light or will the first three phone calls snuff it out? I don’t know, but I do know that it’s lighter than it’s been and I trust that it’ll be lighter still as I continue “keeping on” in Christ.

Grace and peace! Coming to a heart near you…

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Losing a parent is like joining a club you’ve never wanted to join. It is an experience unlike any other (not that I’ve had all “other” experiences, of course). And it so totally changes you forever. One thing this process has taught me is that there is a whole lot more to the spiritual realm than we understand. Why is it that there is an “emptiness” or a “nothing-ness” where that person once existed? My brother, for example, lives in S. Carolina. He saw dad seldom. He didn’t talk to him very often. Yet he senses the “nothing-ness” of dad that wasn’t there before. I sense it too, of course, but I’m local. It is very strange.

Anyway, that’s not what this blog is about! (Sure seems like it, doesn’t it?)

This blog is about “the club” that no one wants to join. The club for people who have lost a parent. Everyone who is in the club understands what you’re going through. Everyone not in the club doesn’t begin to understand. I don’t say this to denigrate those who aren’t in the club. It’s just that I’ve been fascinated at how people in the club treat me differently from people outside the club.

It’s been 2.5 months since my dad died. People who are in the club still have a strong compassion in their voice when they ask me how I’m doing. It’s just never “Hi! How are you?” in that “it’s the common way to greet people” tone of voice. The voice, the look, the hug all convey “I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I know how hard it is and if I can do anything to help, please call me.” Even if I say in an upbeat voice “I’m doing well.” They look at me a second time to confirm that my words ring true with my behavior and appearance. (Yes, folks, that’s love in action.)

People who aren’t in the club yet have pretty much forgotten that I had a life-altering experience a couple of months ago. They’re surprised that I might still be dealing with any part of it. That’s OK. I’m surprised I’m still dealing with it, too. Within about 2 weeks people who aren’t in the club went back to the “Hi! How are you?” greeting. These people don’t in any lack love, they’re just not in the club yet so they don’t understand what’s happened.

I watched Phil grieve when his mom died. I did what I could. But I wasn’t in the club yet. And as my dad was dying, sometimes I’d say something and Phil would look at me with very sad eyes that kindly conveyed “you don’t understand what’s about to happen.” He was in the club. I wasn’t. I guess I was in training for the club, though.

I’m not writing this to evoke sympathy. I really am doing pretty well most of the time these days. I freak out a little easier than the “normal” Sandy does, but most of the time I’m good. It has just fascinated me that I feel like I’ve joined the club that no one wants to be a part of.

Comment from dansdesk
100% agree! Sometimes, I desperately want people to feel some sympathy for how I am feeling but then I get mad at myself for feeling sorry for myself. You said it well. Those who haven’t experienced it don’t understand it as well as those who haven’t. That certainly applies to many other situations in life — single parenting, loss of a child, loss of a job, serious illness, etc. Thanks for being so articulate!
Friday June 15, 2007 – 12:27pm (EDT)

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I guess I should warn you. I’m still grieving the death of my dad. I say still, but it’s only been two and a half months. Experts say it’ll take lots longer.

Anyway, the upshot is that I’m somewhat emotionally unstable right now. That’s normal I understand, but it sure is unpleasant. I can be “dancing” one minute and desperately trying not to be pulled down in the undertow of a wave of grief the next.

Most of the time I’m doing pretty well. But I feel like Father’s Day is this huge dark monster that is barreling toward me wanting to smother me.

There’s been one task I just can’t bring myself to do. We had an online guest book for Dad and I downloaded all the entries and have formatted them into an attractive book. For the life of me I haven’t been able to walk into Staples and get it copied. Just can’t do it.

So Phil did it for me today. It looks great. I put two copies in envelopes to my sister and brother. Then I actually looked at it. It’s missing the first entry — the one I wrote to my dad. I thought they had made a printing error, so I went into my PDF file. My PDF was wrong. So I assumed that I had replaced a page incorrectly or something. No, my original document is wrong. And I no longer have any other resource to find what I had written. I lost it (not the paper, my emotional control). (I can’t believe how important this is to me.)

Then I remembered that I had thrown away a printout from the online guest book. Months ago. Would it still be in my throw-away paper box? I started going through it, page by page, not expecting to find anything. I hadn’t sifted through 20 pages before I found it! Trust me, it should not have been there. I threw it away about May 1st and I throw away LOTS of paper every day. For it to be at the top of the box is nothing but the grace of God. Thank You, Lord.
So I will ask Phil to go back to Staples and make new copies. It’s worth the additional $18. It’s worth the hassle. We had no memorial service. This is the only “tribute” I have.

Having written this, I know there are several “lies” in it. Not lies I am telling, lies the enemy is telling me. Of course it’s not my only “tribute” to Dad. The best tribute to him is a life well lived. Scripture teaches us to honor our father and mother, that we may have a long life. Honoring one’s parents doesn’t end when their earthly life ends.

And of course, the dark monster of Father’s Day grief isn’t going to smother me. In fact, if my limited experience in this teaches me anything, the anticipation of it will be worse than the actual day. (OK, so stop anticipating it, right?) At most, the monster will cloud out the sun for a day and then go back into hiding.

Grief come in waves and they’re waves that are best succumbed to for a time. Not wallowed in, but not resisted either. Both are unhealthy. Neither promotes emotional healing. I wish there was a magic pill that brought instant healing. Because this is no fun. But I’m reminded of a line in worship song that is one of my favorites — “When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say — Blessed be the Name of the Lord, blessed be the Name. Blessed be the Name of the Lord, Blessed be Your Glorious Name.”

I thank God for His grace toward me and toward my Dad. And I thank Him for healing, because I am so much better today, June 8th, than I was on April 8th or May 8th.

I hate the narcistic nature of this blog, but perhaps it will minister to someone. God remains good and He remains faithful. All the time.

Comment by dansdesk…
I don’t think I’ve handled my mom’s death near as well as you have your dads. I’ve been mulling over some similar blogs related to my grieving process. We should continue to compare “notes” because I’m certainly not healing as quickly as I would have liked. Dan Ghramm
Wednesday June 13, 2007 – 03:38pm (EDT)

Response by Sandyhov
The thing I have found to be most helpful have been:
(1) Reading about grieving — it assures me that I’m not losing my mind and that everything I’m going through is normal.
(2) Listening a teaching by a strong Christian teacher — it assured me that it’s OK to be this messed up even as a Christian.(
3) Cutting myself lots of slack. In the Jewish culture, the sit Shiva (sp?) for a month after a death…then they resume normal life activity. I think there’s lots of wisdom in that. I know I’m easily overwhelmed (less so all the time, but still more so than the “normal” Sandy) so I build more downtime into my schedule — even if it means not participating in things that other people expect me to participate in.
(4) Of course lots of praying friends. This has got me thinking…I think I’ll blog about the “club” aspect of losing a parent…later tonight or tomorrow. Peace to you my friend.
Thursday June 14, 2007 – 08:21pm (EDT)

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