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Posts Tagged ‘Porcupines of grief’

When our daughter died, the children moved in with my husband and me for six months while our son-in-law completed required Army schooling and relocated to his next duty assignment.

After that I relocated with the children to the new Post to help establish their household. My husband, the children’s Papa, stayed behind in Dallas to keep our home fires burning. Yet another loss for me.

My list of secondary losses grew day by day. Only I didn’t know what they were or even that they were. I just knew I hurt and everything in my life spun out-of-control. But there were more important issues to address—children who had lost their mom, and a father who had lost his wife. So I put my grief aside.

I thought.

Papa came for weekend visits once or twice a month. During one visit I gave him a box of vintage Madame Alexander dolls to take back home for safe-keeping until our granddaughter was old enough to care for them. Some were her mom’s dolls and some were my mine. Treasures. Waiting to be passed to this child of my child.

Papa rented a car for his trip and when he returned it to the rental company, he forgot the dolls were in the trunk. Half-way home he remembered and backtracked, but the dolls were nowhere to be found. Like so many other things that had vanished during the past six months, they were gone forever.

The emotional rip-tide of tears eroded deeper trenches in my aching heart.

He apologized, over and over again. But I could do nothing but weep, snarl at him, and pile this new heartache onto the mounting stack of losses. I had no idea, nor did I care how he felt.

I’ve come to understand that during the grief process husbands and wives are total  strangers. Unlike a woman, the worst thing a man ever has to face are his emotions. Now Papa had to deal with his emotions as well as a wife drowning in her raging ocean of grief. He was clueless. And I did nothing to ease his guilt.

We are all like porcupines during this anguish.  If threatened or aggravated, our quills extend, aim, and fire at the first shift in the landscape. We are so self-absorbed, we don’t recognize that other family members are also grieving. We focus on ourselves. On our pain. On our loss. Unable to comprehend that our hemorrhaging hearts need a transfusion.

But the old saying—the bumps are what you climb on—holds true. And eventually these losses are rocks we must climb and conquer. Some are not too bad, but others are jagged boulders that feel like we’re scaling Mt. Everest.

So how do we begin managing these troublesome after-the-fact losses?

One profound fact is, Hurt people hurt people.

That’s true among family members where death has intruded.  Understanding this doesn’t take the sting out of hateful words or actions we’ve received or inflicted, but it encourages us to think about why and then choose to forgive whoever caused the pain and anguish. Just like Jesus forgives us when we cause Him pain and anguish.

A few weeks after the lost dolls, I was reading the Word and crying out to God when I heard that still, small voice inside me ask, Would I withhold anything from you that you needed?

I had to answer, “No Lord. But her dolls? Lord, why?”

My mind flew back to the verse that had become my life-ring, The secret things belong to the Lord. The things revealed belong to you and your children forever…”(Deuteronomy 29:29). This would be another one of those secret things.

Again, another question.  Do you trust Me?

My pathetic voice, saturated with fear and very little faith said, “Yes, Lord. I trust You, even with those dolls.”

And for the moment His peace reigned in my heart.

That’s what the grief journey is about—a rollercoaster ride through heights of His peace interrupted by heart-stopping plunges into the abyss of the next secondary loss.

This pain and confusion you’re going through will not last forever, but it lasts longer than you ever imagined. The goal is to accept the fact you are mourning the loss of someone you loved and you must let tears come when they may. Jesus wept over Lazarus, even as He knew in the next moments He would issue the command and Lazarus would walk out of that tomb—Alive.

Over the years, I’ve wondered if perhaps some father or grandfather who worked at the rental company saw those dolls and his little girl had no dolls. Could those dolls have brought joy where there was none? I choose to believe God allowed those dolls to be held and loved by a little girl He knew needed them. And I thank Him. I’ve also come to understand that God never wastes anything. But we’ll talk about that next week. That’s right. God never wastes anything—even your grief.

Prescription #2:   Be still and quiet before the Lord God and read and listen to His Word.  Then make a commitment to compose a Loss History. Take a sheet of paper and list every loss you can remember experiencing. At the edge of the paper make two columns Historical and Current.

As you list each loss, evaluate whether you’re still grieving. Even if it was fifty years ago. If you are, mark Current. If there is no churning or anger, mark Historical. Every loss must be individually dealt with.

Every grief is unique. You can choose to forgive, even when your heart and mind want to raise a ruckus. Cast your pain on God and leave it there. Refuse to hurt people because you’re hurting.

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