Loss-child

Coping

About six months after my son’s death, I started thinking about how I was coping and pain management in life. I made a list of the things that helped me. My list is long and not everything applies to everyone, but maybe there is one idea.

It is easy during intense grief/pain to turn to unhealthy grieving, but sometimes just identifying what you are doing to cope helps to stay in the healthy grieving lane. I had to make a choice for myself to walk through the very painful grief without substances to numb the pain. 

When stressors are high, coping skills must be high.

  1. God’s Word and His presence replace truth for lies. At the beginning, friends made verses to carry around with me, because I did not have the strength to find Scripture that comforted. Then, I just read a chapter with no expectation; I just let it wash over me. It is like eating ice chips when your body can’t handle water when you are sick. For many, it is hard to read God’s Word at all,  because of the immense hurt, questioning or anger at God, then some experience guilt. But, don’t give up-sometimes worship music/sermons/audio are easier (be gentle with yourself and give yourself time). Covid gave me time to read Scripture for long periods of time and sit and think and cry and talk to God (not fully understanding). It was healing.
  2. Exercise releases dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins that make you feel happy and release stress. I remember walking out of a cycling class after Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s…a very difficult two months last year and literally feeling the release of chemicals in my brain!
  3. Educate yourself by taking a grief class or read a book (learn about normal grieving). Again, reading can be a chore. In one group we learned from other grieving parents: They told us to picture our grief as a large hole. The leader explained that this will never go away, but he showed how in time, we would build more life around that hole, making our grief proportionally smaller. The truth that love/grief never fully leaves, but there is relief, was exactly what we needed to hear. Reading may be difficult, if so, sign up for daily emails about grieving (https://www.griefshare.org/dailyemails)-these are very short and to the point.
  4. Helping others gives you a sense of purpose and accomplishment that you can encourage others to persevere and get help in hard times. This helps me tremendously: talking one on one, taking meals to people, whatever fits your gifts and personality. Knowing that your pain may help others in life, is therapeutic.
  5. Distract yourself at first to preoccupy your brain and difficult emotions. I got a part-time job to stay busy. Not so much to ignore your grief, but enough to learn to live again.
  6. Cultivate new hobbies such as music, cooking, gardening. The newness can be refreshing.
  7. Listen to uplifting music with messages of hope. Create playlists for yourself. Share with others.
  8. Talk to others as much as it helps you. Sometimes too much can be draining, but not enough feels isolating.
  9. Pursue counseling or find mentors-talking to someone who is not bias can help you grow.
  10. Find humor-I intentionally found a show that made me laugh that we watched every night.
  11. Go to medical appointments and get check-ups. Medication for depression (if necessary, there is no shame). Get help of any kind when you need it.
  12. Make a to-do list-my memory is not always 100% as I grieve (I hear this is normal).
  13. Taking a bath and drinking tea/coffee to relax.
  14. Get outside/hike/walk/nature-take it in; be in the moment; look around; be sure to rest because grief is physically taxing.
  15. List things you are thankful for in a journal or just think about it. This is hard at first, but even one thing can move your mind and heart.
  16. Journaling/Blogging-writing down memories can relieve the pain as a way of processing.
  17. Take care of something. Get a pet or find others who have animals to pet-they may make you laugh. Cleaning the house or organizing can be a release.
  18. Work on managing time and/or online time.
  19. Stay away from triggering/depressing situations; work on healthy boundaries.
  20. Increase problem solving and communication skills intentionally.
  21. Work on emotional regulation-identify and think about your emotions.
  22. Think about your purpose, your strengths, speak gently to yourself like you would to a friend.
  23. Forgiving yourself or apologizing can bring freedom.

Watch out for unhealthy coping choices and get help if you find yourself moving in this direction.

  1. Drugs and alcohol
  2. Cutting/Suicidal ideation
  3. Pornography
  4. Sleeping too much (Depression)
  5. Overspending
  6. Anger at others
  7. Overeating/Undereating
  8. Unhealthy friendships-being around people who are engaged in unhealthy coping
  9. Isolating

Loss-pornography

Dark & Light

When I think about anger in my grief, yes, I have been angry at God, myself, my son…but as I work through it, my rage is ultimately at two things: Satan and the darkness in the world.

Here is one example.

There is a major battle raging that is causing major shame, major depression, major anxiety, and suicide rates to soar. It is sneaky and hidden.

Pornography. 

It is at the fingertips of most adolescents. 90% according to FighttheNewDrug.org.

Sixteen states have been brave enough to call it a “public health crisis.”

Pornography can become an addiction and can increase depression and anxiety.

According to Twenge research, depression and suicide risk factors and rates found a sudden increase in 2012. Five years after the iPhone’s release–massive increases in mental health issues. Teens who spend five or more hours on devices are 71% more likely to have one risk factor for suicide, regardless of the content consumed. Regardless of the content consumed. Not even considering pornography, phone usage is causing depression and suicidal rates/risks to develop. Just think of how depression skyrockets WITH porn.

Similarly, according to the new film Social Dilemma, rates of depression, self-harm, and suicide have increased significantly (60-70%) after 2010. Not coincidentally, Instagram started in 2010, Twitter in 2006, Facebook in 2004, Snapchat in 2011, TikTok in 2016. I am not writing to trash social media (it is here to stay), but rather to point to effects and ways to manage it. 

According to The Social Dilemma, the business model for Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, TikTok, and other social media venues, is: ENGAGEMENT. Engagement means keeping users on their phones. Design techniques and Artificial Intelligence to essentially make phone addicts: the photo tag, the ellipsis, the ding, the notifications–all aimed at changing behavior. 

All designed to change adolescent behavior. The AI knows what the individual likes and tries to keep the person on their site, so they dish up more of what is liked. What if a teen tries pornography? AI leads children to more of it in the name of engagement: more time on the device/social media. Forty percent of GenZers admit to being addicted to their phones. This same AI technology could be used to put safeguards in place for children/teens.

Porn usage is at an all-time high: in 2017, 81 million people visited porn sites per day. In 2019, 115 million per day. And, this is increasing during the COVID pandemic by 11.6% in March 2020 and up to 24% from February to March. Where it is free, there were increases of up to 61% (Pornhub, 2020). In 2018, Porn Hub boasted 33.5 billion video views per year. In 2006, world pornography revenue was 97 billion dollars, more than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple, and Netflix combined. In 2014, the proposed DSM-IV proposed a new diagnosis called Hypersexual Disorder which includes compulsive pornography viewing.

Things to do for FREEDOM?

Here are a few possibilities:

  1. Tell someone.
  2. Think about what kind of accountability you want. Ultimately, no one is really immune from this.
  3. Get accountability software on ALL devices. Delete Google and add your accountability software as your browser. Get used to using this browser that sends daily emails showing any potentially hazardous screenshots to a trusted person of your choice. Covenant Eyes and Bark are strong ones. 
  4. Educate yourself regarding the effects of modern porn. Watch brainheartworld video: https://brainheartworld.org/?_ga=2.122162123.1700900426.1602764912-1219931294.1602764912
  5. Read articles on https://fightthenewdrug.org/overview/ and https://ibcd.org/topics/pornography/for ideas on how to stop or how to help others.
  6. If you find yourself or your child on porn, don’t freak, but do get immediate counseling help. It may be a habit/compulsion/struggle, but can become an addiction and can lead to major depression. No shame in getting help. 
  7. Limit time on screens. Now, there are settings on the iPhone—ask a friend/family member to help you limit your time. Let them set a password.
  8. Parents-Plug in all phones in the parent bedroom.
  9. Watch out for “burner phones”–hidden phones that use Wifi in the middle of the night to access the internet. Check Wifi usage. Name all devices. If you see one that is using your Wifi at strange times, there may be a “burner phone” in the home.
  10. Address the heart. Satan wants anyone dealing with pornography to live in shame and to hide. He condemns and uses massive guilt to destroy. What pain is the porn medicating and masking? What lies are you believing about yourself or God?
  11. Talk openly about it, building trust. Let each other come up with lifelong plans.
  12. Don’t shame those who need help-“There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). This is our HOPE. Jesus takes EVERY sin and can redeem!!! There is nothing too dirty for Him to cleanse.

#nopornovember

Contributor-Liana Vincent

Art-L. Ngo

Loss-child

Blessing

This year as I decorated for Thanksgiving, I purposefully put a blessed sign over a house. This is a reminder to me that my family is still blessed. I walk by it daily and it speaks truth. “Blessed” is a hard word to wrap my heart around during my grief. Sometimes I still pause. Is my family still blessed? With such a difficult loss, it is just so hard to accept sometimes. Suffering is a spiritual battle. How can I say that my family is blessed when we have lost a son and a brother?

One of my kids put the new worship song called “The Blessing” on in the car this summer as an encouragement, but instead, it made me cry. I realized that I wasn’t believing the words. I had cherished the Scripture that the song was based on, and now, I could not understand what felt like God not answering my prayers. 

You see, I had prayed for healing and that the chains of sin would be broken in our family, in our generation: addictions, divorce, relational strife, mental illness. I had pleaded with God to make my family different and honestly felt that this was happening. But, after the loss of my son, I was disillusioned by God. So, I researched the words to this song and found healing in my heart.

“The Lord bless you and keep you, make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace. Amen.” This is from Numbers 6:24-26. God instructed Moses to tell Aaron to give this blessing to the people of Israel: The Aaronic blessing. I remember the first time a pastor spoke this over a congregation I was in. It had always brought me so much peace, just hearing it. 

The Lord bless you. The word “bless” means “adore” in Hebrew. In fact, “to adore on bended knee.” To bring a gift to another while kneeling out of respect. To give something of value to another. GOD gives US something of value. Righteousness, Holiness, His Presence. What stands out is how personal this is.  The Lord (Yahweh) gives US something–so tender and gentle-the Creator of the Universe gives US something–that is crazy love in and of itself. He kneels…and adores,,,before US…with a gift.

And keep you. May His face shine upon you. To keep means to “guard or protect” in Hebrew. His Presence illuminates (brings order out of chaos by shining light into darkness). His light shines grace, mercy, love, salvation, giving restoration and help. His face shining on us is so intimate and loving-so warm and inviting. His Presence with us IS the blessing.

“And be gracious to you” means He is healing, helping, being a refuge, a strength, a rescue.

“The Lord lift up His countenance and give you peace.” God’s face is lifted up, like one giving a marriage proposal, on bended knee, with a free gift, to His love. The receiver is humbled and cherished and honored. Picture the love in His eyes looking at His beloved. He is not looking down on us. Think of that. We are a pleasure to Him. 

“May His favor be upon you for a thousand generations for your children and their children and their children. May His presence go before you, and behind you, and beside you, all around you, and within you. He is with you.”  His favor is His forever relationship with us, not a lack of suffering in life. His favor is not stuff or perfect circumstances. He goes before, behind, beside–this shows His omnipresence in addition to the Holy Spirit who resides inside believers. He is with us wherever we go.

“In the morning, in the evening, in your coming, in your going, in your weeping, and rejoicing, He is for you.” He is for us regardless of time of day, location, mode of transportation, circumstance. He is good and is on my side.

So, now when I hear the word “blessed”, I pause and remind myself: we have the intimate love of God and the promise of eternal life. That is everything. It really is EVERYTHING….Because we trust that the promises of God are true, that He is good, that salvation cannot be lost. Period. Our loss amplifies the NEED for salvation, the NEED to share who Jesus is and His sacrifice, the NEED for the PRESENCE OF GOD during the suffering. The awareness of the NEED, the SALVATION, and the COMPLETE LOVE OF GOD are the blessing and this is why my family can still be called “blessed” in the middle of the most horrendous and hurtful grief. We are broken, yet blessed.

Contributor-Liana Vincent

Psalms Devotional

Psalm 1:3b

He is like a tree

Planted near streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season

and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.

This tree is near streams of water, not just one stream, but many streams. Even if one stream fails, there is another. These are streams of grace, mercy, forgiveness: the Christ Stream and it will never fail.

In the driest of times, God can make fruit and vines grow. In the agony of pain and grief, there is a soaking in of the water of God Himself that can replenish like no other: His Presence.

The country of Israel is so dry. I grew up in Arizona, which is also so hot and dry. God’s Word is water to the weary in an extreme dry land (grief can be that dry land). But, He can make vines, palm groves, gardens, aloes, cedar trees, roots, all kinds of trees, and fruit flourish abundantly. 

The fruit comes forth in season. “Patience in the time of suffering, faith in the day of trial, joy in the day of prosperity,” says Spurgeon.

Ezekiel 47:12

And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.

The Lord even keeps our leaves from withering. Who cares about the leaf? God does. He cares about the tiny details. In fact, the fruit is for nourishment and the leaves are for HEALING

Whatever he does shall prosper. 

We know this promise, yet our trials and troubles “see the very reverse of the promise…But to the eye of faith this word is sure, and by it we perceive that our works are prospered, even when everything seems to go against us. It is not outward prosperity which the Christian most desires and values: it is soul prosperity which He longs for” (Spurgeon).

There are circles within circles. Within the circle of God’s greater good are ferocious losses, crosses, and sorrows: “The devil hates this leaf and the Word of God, so does he also those who teach and hear it and he persecutes such, aided by the powers of the world” (Martin Luther). There is opposition to this leaf prospering.

In Genesis 42:36, Jacob’s sons return from Egypt after talking to their long-lost brother Joseph (they do not know it is Joseph) and they tell their father that they have to take Benjamin back to Egypt. Jacob is terrified to lose another son. 

Jacob lamented, “‘You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.’” His human grieving heart hurt hard and cried out in consternation.

Yet, the larger purpose was revealed—-this excruciating, illogical, crazy circumstance kept the Israelites fed and alive during the drastic famine and a remnant was saved for later deliverance.

Contributor-Liana Vincent