Personal Reflections About the Journey Through Loss
Though off topic in terms of my usual subject matter, this day demands it. The wife of my youth, Nancy, would have turned 67 today had the Lord granted her length of days.
Anniversaries present their own peculiar challenges to the grief process. Her birthday marks the second of these for me. My birthday last month was the first. The next? What would have been our 42nd wedding anniversary this December 21. One at a time.
The content for this post actually crystallized for me on a prayer walk beside Lake Michigan during my bereavement leave. While I don’t consider myself an expert on this subject by any means, losing a son and a bride within the span of three years time tutors one in a way like little else can do.
Perhaps this post may help others navigating what C. S. Lewis likened to the amputation of a limb. I would prefer “limbs.”
My penchant for acrostics carried the day for these five reflections. What can I say? I love this format for remembering content.
G—guard your heart from resentment. Prov. 4:23 warns, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” That’s hard enough to do on the mountain top let alone walking through the valley of the shadow. “The heart knows its own bitterness” (Prov. 14:10).
Few things poison one’s inner being worse than resentment lodged in the heart. I’ve prayed often on the battleground of suffering, “Lord, please protect me from resentment’s assault.”
R—relish the memories of the past. This has helped guard my heart. I’ve determined to focus on the gift of nearly 42 years with a rock-star woman rather than what years we won’t ever enjoy together. I didn’t deserve one day of those we shared anyway.
Normally Nan and I would have spent her birthday on the deck of our Idaho home overlooking the Clearwater Valley. Few things gave me more pleasure than hearing her voice, talking together, wiling away the chill of the night with the fire pit aflame before us.
Psalm 77:11 has sweetly charted my way through these five months–“I will remember the deeds of the Lord . . . your wonders of old.”
I—invite your friends into the process. This has been huge! How grateful I am for brothers and sisters who have wept with me in my weeping (Prov. 12:15).
Withdrawal from others in lament has its place. I’ve needed alone time to process. But isolation presents a slippery slope potentially robbing one of wisely chosen community with those skilled in drawing out the heart (Prov. 20:5).
E—engage your emotions in the present. What a roller coaster! Though honestly grief proved more challenging with Josh’s lost than with Nan’s. Our son passed with no warning; Nancy traveled the valley for months and it happened right before my very eyes. Hospice calls it anticipatory grief.
Still, one never knows when sadness will hijack the feelings. I took a personal day today just so I would have some latitude for dealing with this prospect without the demands of my everyday ministry responsibilities. And how grateful I am for the elders at OGC and her people for granting me twelve weeks bereavement leave for doing the same last summer.
F–faith your way into the future. By God’s grace, I’ve never dropped my shield of faith in my fight with this formidable foe, grief (Eph. 6:16). Perhaps no promise ever means more for leaving the past behind and pressing on into what God has for me in the days ahead than Rom. 8:32. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
God has already done the harder thing. Jesus died for me making me His own. How can I conceivably entertain the prospect that He won’t graciously give me absolutely everything I need for the future, even though in His wise and always good providence it no longer includes the once delight of my eyes?