Where I live in Middle Tennessee, we endured a terrible wind storm recently that caused widespread loss of electricity and property damage from fallen trees. Ahead of the storm, precautions such as cancelling school for the day and bringing in outdoor items were made but after all was said and done, the wind that came through was far worse than originally predicted. When we know a storm is coming, we prepare for it the best we can but when the storms of life intrude uninvited, we’re often caught off guard and feel ill-equipped to navigate the changes. The unpredicted storm that upended my life came out of nowhere and in its wake, left me with one less child to hold, a broken heart and an unknown future.
Hope In The Darkness
“God, are you here?” I’ve whispered, screamed and cried this question many times since leaving my son at his earthly resting place after his funeral. Darkness, pain and confusion swallowed me whole in the days that followed because I was suddenly a person I never imagined I’d be…a bereaved mother. I was thrust into a world I didn’t know how to live in, and have spent every day since clinging to hope and God’s promises to help me navigate my way through it. I was reminded that the Word hidden in my heart has prepared me for the pain I will face in this life, I needed only to keep trusting in it. Trusting in it…to trust I had to have faith. To have faith I have to believe. To believe that I could trust in the same God, who didn’t intervene and save my son, is where hope comes in. Hope is one facet that has been a steady guiding light since my whole world crumbled. Hope in the darkness looks like:
Going to church – We still attend the same church we went to with Caleb. It was nearly impossible to even get through the doors for a long time, but I knew it would help me and pushed through the pain. A lot of times I feel as if I’m standing there all alone and no-one gets me. We sit where Caleb and his friends used to sit and it’s hard. Every Sunday I picture him there. I miss seeing the back of his head, his curly hair and watching him mess around with is friends during service. We go to church because it’s where we can gather with a group of people who want to sing songs of praise and worship, pray, feel less alone and help one another. Church is where broken people go when they don’t know how to live in a life they didn’t choose or ask for. I go because I need direction and guidance for my everyday life. It’s where we learn how to live like Jesus in a way that we can bring good into our home, community and world. I take notes from the sermons with intentions of applying what I’m hearing to my life. Going to church once a week allows me to shift my gaze from the monotony of life and refill my heavy heart with hope while being surrounded by people who care deeply for our family and support us in our grief journey.
Music – I have a Playlist titled “Possible.” It’s full of Christian songs that lift my head, soften my brow and help me exhale. If you’re on Apple Music, check it out https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/possible/pl.u-8aAVZ6eSaNPjk3. “Same God” and “You Keep Hope Alive” have been on repeat for me lately. The lyrics speak straight to my heart and express exactly how I feel.
Befriending Grieving Mothers – This has been the most helpful thing I could have done for myself. If an alcoholic goes to an AA meeting and befriends someone who’s been sober longer than they have, it gives them hope that living with sobriety is possible. When I meet and get to know a fellow bereaved mother, it gives me indescribable hope and comfort to see that healing and being full of joy again, is possible. I’ve also met some bereaved mothers who are stuck in the day their child died and have not processed their grief at all. Meeting them helps in a different way. When I meet these mothers, I’m reminded that I do have hope, joy, happiness and peace in my heart, and that a lot of healing has taken place since the day Caleb died.
Hope is simple and subtle, yet significant. Hope is knowing that the Advocate, the Comforter, the Counselor and Friend is with me. It’s knowing that I need Jesus, not answers to my relentless questions about why Caleb died. Hope is knowing that I’m never alone and that I’m held by the One who walks with me through the valley of shadow of death. It’s allowing God to reveal himself to me through his Word, music and other mothers who have had to bury their child. It’s seeing God fulfill his promises and reminding me of His presence in the middle of my hurting through a whisper, a person or a hug from Heaven. Hope is trusting in God’s character when I don’t understand my circumstances. Hope is knowing that I can wrestle with God and embrace him in the same breath. Hope displays itself through courage. Courage to trust, have faith and believe. Courage to put my feet on the floor in the morning and show up in my day. Courage to live in a life that I didn’t think I could.
Even though God did not intervene and save my son from dying by suicide, I trust him. Faith is my confidence in the character of God and knowing I will get through this, even when I don’t understand his ways. I believe that God is still good because, since the first second after hearing my only son was gone I felt – and still feel – Him with me. Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? What led my son to take his life and put me on this devastating grief journey is beyond my understanding, so I put my hope in the only One I know who has never failed me. I take God at his word, trust he’s in control, keep going and keep relying on him to be my hope in darkness. Dreadful seconds have turned into days of promise, and even a future full of happiness and joy. I’m not strong but I’ve come to understand what my strength is, and what I’m capable of when I carry trust, faith, belief and hope through the darkness.
I miss my son and surviving his death is indescribably difficult. My trust, faith and hope is anchored in the One who holds us both, and that makes healing possible.