This time of year is particularly difficult for my family and I. The changing weather that used to bring excitement for the new school year, our annual Harvest Party that included a giant bonfire shared with friends and family, trick-or-treating on Halloween, then the holidays following all that, now brings a heaviness that is difficult for onlookers to understand, and a sadness that cannot be overcome with “happy thoughts” or busy distractions.
One of my precious children, the brother and friend of my living children, died this time of year 4 years ago. I can’t wish or will these feelings away; I can only endure them. I have learned to enjoy and appreciate the moments that are not filled with heaviness, sorrow and tears, and go with the flow in the moments that are.
Shortly after our middle son passed away I began to notice people tossing phrases, words, and platitudes like “new normal”, “healing” and “The Serenity Prayer” my way, expecting, I suppose, that they would help a newly grieving mother who just lost a piece of her soul.
I don’t know about anyone else, but the words “healing”, “new” and “serenity” all have incredibly positive connotations to me. So, naturally I assumed they meant something positive was headed my way.
It is impossible to describe the pain of losing a beloved child, especially in those first many months, and carrying over into those first 2 years. The pain is so deep and so excruciating that any glimmer of relief is latched upon like a leach in muddy water. So those “positive” words made me think I might someday, and I foolishly believed it would be someday soon, no longer feel this intense pain, and I would enter into that glorious “new normal” where I would be “healed” and find complete “serenity”.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Do you know what my “new normal” is? It is a giant crater in my heart caused by a person I brought into this world, nurtured, raised, educated, prayed for, had hopes and dreams for, never. coming. home. again. Ever. If the Lord deems it so, I may live for a number of years without one of my children. That is my “new normal”.
And what has “healing” come to mean to me? This massive hole in my chest that can never be filled again has ceased oozing blood and the edges of it have hardened over. But the hole is still there. It still aches with unfulfilled longing. I intentionally use the word “hardened” because quite often that is how I feel – like the only way I can get through a day, a month, a year, the holidays, his birthday, that wretched anniversary, is to harden my heart to this “new normal”.
One person, who shall remain nameless, quoted The Serenity Prayer to me in a phone conversation, then emailed it to me twice a few short months after my son died, making me feel like I had to force myself to learn to “accept the things I cannot change”. Though this angered me enough to call this person a very disrespectful name, it is actually the easiest one to swallow, because I researched it, after I spent far too much energy trying to get this person to at least try to be more aware of how his words affected this brokenhearted mom, and what I found meant so much more to me than just the first few lines we are all familiar with.
I may not be able to “accept the things I cannot change” anytime soon. But I can live one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time. I can take this sinful world as it is, not as I want it to be; and I can trust in God and surrender to His will. I may not be happy about it, or able to accept it, but I can surrender to it.
Why can I do that?
Because I’ve known of Him and loved Him my entire life. I know His character. I know Him to be good. I know Him to be love – not just that He is loving, but He IS love. I know Him to be kind, patient, forbearing, long-suffering, forgiving, restoring, gentle and ever-present.
I know His ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts; His are far wiser than mine.
He wounds, but He also heals.
He disciplines, but that is exactly what a loving Father does. Why should we expect otherwise?
My “new normal”? I hate what brought it about. But I can live with what God has chosen to allow in my life because I know He loves me and mine, and I know He is good.
“Should we accept only good from God and not adversity? Job 2:10