How I Grieved…

I remember after coming home from the hospital where my sons died that I was frantic for instruction on “what to do.”  I had been through death before, but nothing like that.  I asked lots of people what was I supposed to do, but no single answer came about – just reminders of God’s love and care.  And, that is EXACTLY what I was needing to hear.

Still, I needed to fill my days with something, give my grief a place to go, so I did develop a bit of a grieving routine.  I know everybody grieves in different ways, and perhaps this wouldn’t be as helpful to me in different circumstances.  For me, Satan was attacking and lies were flying around about God not caring or my sons’ deaths being my fault.  I knew those weren’t true, but they were taking root in my heart.  So, my grief process also became a defending and equipping time of fighting off Satan’s lies and grasping onto God’s goodness and holiness and love and care even amidst trial.

Anyhow, I want to share what I did in case it may help you find your way:

  • Woke up early each day – set my alarm – in order to meet the sun coming up.  I’d sit outside or in a window in my comfy robe and slippers with a puppy or two and just be quiet and look at the beauty God had created.
  • Made a cup of hot chocolate and moved to my favorite corner of the sofa, journal, Bible, and The Blessings of Brokenness in hand.  I also had a journal with specific prompts for grieving mothers that was helpful for a few days.  Oh, and Kleenex – the whole box – of course.
  • I’d start with a journal jot to the Lord – how I was feeling, what I had thought watching His garden that morning, how horrible “sleeping” was the night before, etc.  I’d move to fill in one entry in the grieving mother’s journal – it gave me something good and concrete to look at.
  • I’d stop writing in order to cry and sob and lose it for a bit.
  • Nap time
  • After nap time, I might watch a bit of a design show or traipse around the backyard with my pups.
  • Back to work.  Back on my sofa corner, I’d read my Bible.  I’d pray.  I was specifically looking for reassurances of why and how God was good even in the midst of trial.  As I’ve mentioned previously, 1 Peter & The Pentatauch captured my heart.  I’d also look at various Psalms and personalize them – saying them out loud, crying through them.  Isaiah also had some key chapters I meditated on.
  • As I looked at Scripture, I’d write in my journal – write thoughts I had on the verses, write responses to God, write how it was true for my sons.  I’d talk a lot to the Lord and cry and tell Him how I felt and ask Him to please rescue me.
  • After another sob storm, it’d be time for a shower or a bath – something to just take care of my body.
  • Each bath brought an opportunity for another set of comfy pjs – no getting dressed for me!  Then, I’d eat and eat and eat.  We were blessed with so much food from our church that we actually had to ask people to stop bringing it because we ran out of room!  It was so good to have all those foods and be able to just heat them up and sit down to let food take care of me for a bit.
  • After lunch or brunch or whatever it was, I’d read a little bit of The Blessings of Brokenness.  I’d read one page or one section over and over and over.  I’d summarize it in my journal.  I’d respond to it and talk to the Lord about my thoughts and feelings on it.  And I’d cry.
  • Sobfest #3 – and, yes, all these crying times were good and planned!
  • Nap time!
  • After this, I’d spend time with my pups or maybe looking at magazines or watching décor shows – just something to give myself a break from the hard work.
  • My husband would then come home and I’d set my journal out for him.  He would make me hot chocolate and then read what I’d written that day and talk to me about it.  This would be my biggest crying time yet, but it was so good.  He would cry with me and we would get on our knees and pray together.  These times were incredibly hard, but so so precious.  The foxhole – that’s where marriages are made.  And we treasure our time in the foxhole.
  • After that, we would maybe go for a drive or take the pups for a walk – yes, still in pajamas.  It was helpful that the season was late November/early December and nothing outside was lush.  The crispness of the air always offered a comforting mirror to our hearts.  I’m sure, though, that God can use His creation to comfort in any season.
  • We would come home and do something silly then.  Maybe watch a funny movie or tv show or play cards.  This didn’t come easily, but our hearts just needed a break from work and seriousness, so we made ourselves do it.
  • Then, we’d climb into bed, read a few lines of Scripture, and pray.  We’d talk and have another sobfest, but eventually, he would fall asleep.  Then, I’d get up and take another bath just because I could and I liked to.  I’d read more of God’s word and talk more to the Lord.
  • Eventually, I would fall into a restless sleep, maybe wake and watch a bit of Law & Order, and then fall back asleep.

I did this routine for a couple weeks only.  Quickly, I felt called to go back to work, so I had to modify my set aside grieving times.  But, it was good.  It was God moving me forward.  Scattered throughout my grieving work were also coffee dates with close hearts, sneaking into school for lunch with my best coworkers, trips to the local botanical gardens, etc.  Of course, I also had to go to the doctor several times and that was good for me, too…broke up the routine and forced me to get dressed.

Oh, somewhere in there I also read some of the Yada Yada Prayer Group books (Neta Jackson) and the Home at Mitford series (Jan Karon).  They were perfect.  Funny, warm, God-centered, and easy.  Exactly what I needed.

Eventually, there were other resources that helped – support groups, Facebook forums, diving into medical research, etc.  But, there was nothing better than my sweet time with the Lord during those first few weeks when He carried me from one minute into the next.

Here are some resources that you may find helpful:

Books

  • 1 Peter & The Pentatauch – shows us God’s purpose for our suffering, how He can refine us, and gives an intimate picture of who He is and how He loves us.
  • The Blessings of Brokenness by Charles F. Stanley – offers an eternal perspective on suffering that helps train your eyes to be peeled for God’s hand
  • I Will Carry You by Angie Smith – the journey of Todd & Angie Smith carrying their little girl Audrey who they were told would die immediately at birth.  They had two blessed hours with her before she passed and a lifetime of wisdom and encouragement to share with others.
  • Grieving the Child I Never Knew by Kathe Wunnenberg – a devotional/journal highlighting specific encounters with grief that help pull out and process the hidden pain and hand it off to the Lord
  • Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: Surviving the Death of Your Baby by Deborah L. Davis – mostly helpful in a medical sense and a comfort of other women’s actual statements concerning neonatal loss.  There is addressing of grief, but as it is not a wholly Christian perspective, we found that part to be of a somewhat limited use for us.
  • Strong and Tender: A Guide for the Father Whose Baby Has Died by Pat Schwiebert – validates the forgotten father and offers insights into men dealing with grief while still wanting to be the strong husband.
  • How to Listen to God by Charles F. Stanley – illustrates how to draw close to the Lord, removing obstacles and increasing intimacy.

Websites

  • We found many online support groups for grieving parents.  The ones on Facebook seem to be the most active.

Support Groups

Having a group of people who completely understand what you’re going through.  You don’t have to apologize for your feelings or explain them as you do to people who haven’t lost a child.

  • www.mend.org is a wonderful place to start.
  • Contact your local hospital and ask if they have a support group for neonatal death.
  • Many churches in the area also host support group meetings – usually the larger ones.

Counseling

Counseling can be paramount to your grieving process.  Not everybody requires it, but it can be very helpful.  Grief counseling, marriage counseling, counseling to support your partner – these are all very normal.

There seem to be two schools of thought right now on counseling:

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT): helps you to cope with your feelings.  I’ve seen this be very helpful in many women getting back into their normal life and looking forward to the future.
  • Christian Counseling: helps you to explore your grief and offer it up to the Lord in a way that lets Him use it and change your heart completely.  Though we did not seek counseling after losing our sons, letting the Lord have our sorrow over and over again miraculously transformed us.  When you hear of people talk about joy in suffering or the blessings of tragedy, this is what they’re talking about.  Most large area churches offer free Christian counseling or can direct you to somebody.

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