loss-abandonment · Loss-abuse · Loss-addictions · Loss-cancer · Loss-child · Loss-divorce · Loss-flood · Loss-pandemic · Loss-parent · Loss-pornography · Loss-spouse · loss-suicide

Not Abandoned

Today is Good Friday. Today, we remember Jesus, beaten and broken on a cross, in extreme pain, crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He felt alone and abandoned for a moment. 

This fulfilled and hearkened to the same cry that David had in Psalm 22.  

And that Job had. 

At one point, Job felt that God had torn, gnashed, broke, dashed, slashed, and hated him (17:4-14)-his words, not mine! 

In pain and grief, there are moments when you wonder if God has abandoned you.

Job felt totally abandoned and alone and in the middle of his battle, cried out for mercy two times! (19:21) It was at this climax, that he proclaimed that HE KNEW THAT HIS REDEEMER LIVES!!! At the point of his greatest despair, his faith was at the highest level.

Astoundingly, he knew that he was in need of a Redeemer (19:25). Job likely lived after the time of the Tower of Babel but before or during the time of Abraham. When ALL was taken and friends did not understand and even accused him, he knew he needed REDEMPTION and God would vindicate him. 

He knew that there would be a day of justice (“at the last He will stand upon the earth”) when he would SEE GOD with his own eyes. This is where he goes for COMFORT. 

For Jesus, He was experiencing the outpouring of divine wrath as He bore our sin. All three: Jesus, David, Job experienced reproach and ridicule. All three kept relying on God through it and experienced his rescue and mercy.

The truth is: God was always watching over Jesus, David, and Job. God never ditches His people. Hear this: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). And this: “For he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Hebrews 13:5b-6). And it goes on and on: “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ And God said, ‘I will be with you’ (Exodus 3:11-12). 

God does not leave us while we suffer. He has compassion for us and stays with us. He is the Father who stays!! He does not desert us and this is the greatest promise ever. He never dumps us but is right next to us as we cry and hurt. He never mocks our suffering or our faith. He wants us to reach out to Him and let Him comfort us. He wants us to talk honestly and openly. Jesus, because he felt forsaken, understands us completely. God does not hide His face from us, but rather is listening and hears every cry.

Psalm 22 ends with these words: he has done it. Jesus said, “It is finished.” We have a Redeemer who gets every ounce of our agony, affliction, and aching. Today we remember the darkness He went through to save us. He died for the broken. He was broken for the broken. He is with the broken. This is my body broken for ____. Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have MERCY on me, a sinner.

Contributor-L. Vincent

Photo-L. Vincent

Loss-child

Comfort

When friends are grieving, it is hard to know what to do or not to do. Even if you have grieved before.

Job lost almost everything. Eliphaz and Bildad (Job’s friends) wisely started by sitting silently with their friend for seven days. They gave Job credit for being wise and helping others before his losses hit his life.

However, they, then, resorted to accusing him of not fearing God (15:4), being prideful (15:9) and even mocked his pain and the sounds of his trauma (15:20-21). They did not let him be honest and real in his grief.

The most damaging part: They wrongly believed that all blessings were caused by obedience and tragedy was caused by sin. Thus, they failed to hear Job and lacked empathy. 

A third friend emerged and attacked Job on a new level. Zophar accused him of being guilty and unrepentant. He told Job that he should have had wisdom and to devote his heart to God, to pray for forgiveness, and to put sin far away. 

Interestingly, even though Zophar was wrong about Job, there was truth about sin in what he said: if there is sin, changing is the correct answer. Stop what we are doing, examine our hearts, go before God, identify and turn away from sin, and recognize patterns to try to grow.

In fact, Psalm 51 is a good guide for repentance. David had sinned with Bathsheba and we see his remorse. He appealed to God’s mercy (v. 1-2), he did not make excuses for his sinful behavior (v. 3-4), his desires changed and he wanted purity in thought and deed (v. 6), and lastly this led to praising God for the freedom he experienced after confessing (v. 14-17). When we confess, we can repent without regret, earnestly and eagerly clearing ourselves, hating the sin, longing for restoration and desiring justice (2 Cor. 7:9-11). Repentance is a good thing.

The problem was: Job’s problems were not due to sin. Job is the ultimate example of dramatic irony. The reader knows something that the characters do not and we know that Job’s sin did not cause his losses, but his friends did not know this. And, this is life. Sometimes tragedies are due to sin, sometimes not.

So, we need to be careful as friends, seeking much discernment: being “wise as serpents and innocent as doves”(Matt. 10:16). But, the insightful friend looks at 1 Thess. 5:14 (And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all) and asks: is a person dealing with sin or are they fainthearted and weak? If fainthearted and weak: comfort, help, encourage, be patient.

Humble people have shared their stories and failures and hardships to comfort and encourage me and have listened for hours on end. This vulnerability has brought tremendous help.

Contributor-L. Vincent

Photo-A. Tikhonova

Loss-child

Not the Same

“We are not the same people.”

“I know.”

I cannot count the number of times that my husband has whispered this to me.

On the outside, a grieving person looks like the same person. They walk around and seem like the same person. But, on the inside, something has changed.

If you have ever read 1984, in the last chapter, Julia and Winston meet after betraying one another. They have both been drastically tortured. Winston notices changes in Julia-her face is sallow, a scar, and that her waist is thick and stiff. Physically and emotionally there were changes. Now, when they see each other, they are numb: “Something was killed in your breast: burnt out, cauterized out.”

There may be hidden physical and emotional changes. The griever may have not slept for days, weeks, or even months through the night. They may have experienced PTSD-flashbacks to the events preceding their loved one’s death. Recurring thoughts about what they could have done differently. 

In the movie and true story, Born on the Fourth of July, in the midst of chaos, as a squad leader in Vietnam, Ron Kovic accidentally killed a fellow soldier, Billy Wilson, a 19-year old in his squadron. The guilt tore him up. He suffered with PTSD and the reality of paralysis. He broke down with his parents–unleashing the enormous anger inside. The anger at himself, anger at God, anger at anyone around him, anger at the government, anger at his circumstances. He looked for relief from the anger and guilt and shame in drugs, alcohol, sex, and a new place. 

But, one day, he decided to face Billy Wilson’s family and sought forgiveness and truth. After Ron explained how he believed that he was the one who killed Billy, Billy’s mom comforted, “We understand the pain you’ve been going through.” One sufferer comforting another sufferer. She lost her son: she understood pain. Ron suffered with guilt; she released him. 

Ron was not the same person coming back from Vietnam. Grievers are not the same people. They may look the same, but they have been through sometimes unspeakable journeys. They don’t want pity, but it’s good to try to understand the depth, even if you never talk about it. Sometimes it is just your presence.

They are asking: who am I now? It takes time to figure out new identity, but there are answers. There is hope. 


Meanwhile, “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort…comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Cor. 1:3-5).

Contributor-L. Vincent

Loss-child

Heal & Grow

Today I realize that I will be in a spiritual battle the rest of my life. If this seems like a negative thought, another way to think of it, is that I will be running a race of perseverance. That was always the case, the moment I believed in Christ, it’s just that since the loss of my son, I realize it even more. I am more dependent on God now for my daily thoughts. I must constantly seek truth and His Word to keep myself healthy.

Paul said this too: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).

GOOD NEWS: HEALING AND CHANGE ARE POSSIBLE

In the midst of suffering or grief, a person is vulnerable to attack. The person is weak. In our loss, we bring thoughts about God, ourselves, and others to the table. We also bring our desires and our motivations. These are not always aligned with truth. We fight to know the truth and believe it.

There are many theories that the world uses to try to help us in our suffering. Many tell us to change our thoughts and possibly our environment in order to see change in our lives. This is a good beginning, some of it works in the moment, but there can be many missing components: 

First, the Lord and need of a Savior. For the Christian, God is at work through the Holy Spirit in our lives. He can change us. His Presence can change us. 

Second, ourselves. Many theories treat us as the “victim”-that we are grieved, anxious, depressed and there is nothing we can do about it. But, Scripture says, we CAN grow and we CAN change and we CAN heal. Practically, we can get medication, counseling, learn to breathe, get exercise, manage our time. All those things are good. But, most importantly, we can seek God for long-term change. We are not victims. There is hope. This is a gradual and lifetime process, it takes time and effort and IS worth it. 

Lastly, God’s Word. God’s Word is truth and it can challenge the lies, the desires, the motivations. God has given us “everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him” (2 Peter 1:3)

HEART CHANGE

Another missing piece-changing our thoughts is not enough. Our hearts need change. What does that mean? That means our desires, motivations-what we long for, yearn for, crave and how we satisfy these. 

In our hearts, we may know what is right, but desire what is wrong. Eve knew what was right. Abraham knew what was right. David knew what was right. Yet, they chose to do wrong. James 4 explains that we can know what is right, yet do wrong. James 1 talks about how yearnings (even good desires for acceptance, security, identification, satisfaction, happiness, approval, comfort, escape, strength, pleasure, success) can turn into sin. James 4 asks, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions [my lust, my pride, my selfishness and more] are at war within you?” Am I willing to sin to get my desire? Am I willing to sin if I don’t get my desire?

The battle is in this. First, in the heart. To put off and confess old patterns and choices (identifying the desires/passions) and to put on the “new man”-renewed thinking, having a new pattern of truth. This is where change happens. Then, actions follow the change in thinking and motivations. Then, peace. Sounds nice and linear. It’s much more messy.

I will be trusting God with some really hard truths and some really hopeful promises the rest of my life. This is the major and most important part of my coping with my loss. The good news: healing and change are possible.

Contributor-L. Vincent

Loss-cancer · Loss-child · Loss-flood · Loss-pandemic · loss-suicide

Suffering

There is a core question that most grievers ask at some point: Why does suffering exist? Why do some suffer greatly and others do not?

In the past I would have answered: to help you grow (John 15), to grow your character (Heb. 12), to show you where you misplaced your hope (1 Peter 1:13-14), to make you stronger, more persevering (James 1). And, this can absolutely be true. But, now I realize that there is MORE to this answer–that there are some kinds of suffering that will never have answers. 

Sometimes suffering comes from our own sin or others’ choices to sin. Other times, we do not know why we are suffering. Sometimes it is a combination of the two.

John 9: 1-3-As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.  And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” So, when Jesus was asked if the blind man’s suffering was caused by sin, he answered that there was a greater purpose. 

Sometimes things happen in heaven that humans know nothing about and that can’t be explained. Sometimes very difficult things happen to faithful people. It is simplistic to think that sin is always the cause of suffering. 

In the book of Job, one day in heaven, the angels and Satan gathered. Satan accused Job of following God because of the protection and blessings. Job was described as blameless, upright, one who feared God. His family was close-knit. God, then, allowed Satan to test Job within certain limitations. The Lord allowed Satan to remove his blessings, but protected Job’s life.  God could have prevented the suffering, but He did not.

There were two tests: In the first test, Job lost his 10 children, servants, all possessions. 10 children.

In the second, he lost his health.

In the first test, he answered, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

In the second test, he answered, “Shall  we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Job’s answer was both humble and even grateful. He had been completely broken, yet he maintained faith. He understood that a faith-filled life did not guarantee a life free of pain and sorrow. If faith only mattered in good times, it did not matter at all.

Job also grieved: he fell to the ground, his heart was heavy (6:1), he felt punished and mocked (6:4-6, 23), he lost his appetite (6:7), he was in massive pain, with little hope (6:8), he had nights of misery and tossed in the night (7:4), he thought he would never see good again (7:7), he asked hard questions like why even try (6:29-30) and wondered if God was fair (6:22), yet, he appealed to God for mercy (6:15) and saw Him as holy, wise, strong (9:4-10). All of these are very normal in severe grief. Reading Job can be a relief to a griever–seeing a faithful person experience the same emotions, questions, and yet still have faith.

John Stuart Mill and others claim that God cannot be omnipotent AND good at the same time. However, in Job, it is seen that God is in control and is good. He also allows suffering for a purpose and has a relationship with Job through it. What is the good-this is not fully answered, but partly that Job would continue in his faith regardless of the most severe circumstances. But, Job knew nothing of the events and conversations in heaven. This is the humbling of man-he does not know everything or the reasons for everything.

Martin Luther King, Jr. explains that God’s goodness is a high and fixed purpose aiming at the supreme good of man, and that accomplishing His purpose reveals His true power. And, His ways are not our ways (Is. 55:8).

Job never knew about the scene in heaven. He never had answers for the reason for his losses. And, for some kinds of losses this is the case. The believer will have to learn how to keep living and have faith WITHOUT answers.

Job, also, could not make the connection of his own sin and the atrocities that happened. Yes, he was a sinner, and he confessed this, but the severity of the losses did not match the sins he committed. He understood that any bit of mercy from God was a gift, but this degree of suffering did not make sense.

In the case of suicide, it is true that the victim sinned (in great pain and darkness); but for the survivor, the question is-why did God allow this? The survivor will have to learn to live without the full answer and this is super hard, but doable.

God allows the suffering of His children. God is sovereign over all that we experience: our grief, our physical ailments, our humiliation. Our suffering does not take God by surprise (Hebrews 12:5-6; 1 Peter 1:6; John 15:2). God gives us grace in our suffering (2 Peter 1:3). In the middle of suffering, it is important for the believer to remember that God is at His core, good. In the end, what did Job cling to? He had his faith in God’s goodness and the hope of his salvation. 

Contributor-L. Vincent

Photo-L. Vincent

Loss-child · Loss-pandemic

How Long, O Lord

This is a New Year. Over the past year, I have listened to many sermons. Many focused on the disappointments of Covid. Changes, cancellations, job loss, death-all unexpected & unwelcome. 

We are not used to suffering. We are not used to death. Understandabily. It hurts.

In the middle of unforeseen tragedies, there is groaning deep inside: HOW LONG, O LORD? 

Maranatha means, “Come, Lord Jesus!” I whisper this more often these days when I hear news of another strand of the virus, or of a neighbor dying from Covid, or a friend’s friend losing their child to suicide. I wonder–how long, O Lord? How long until Covid is gone? How long until You come back?

It reminds me of the Israelites wandering in the desert for forty years asking the same question. But, I also think of how they persevered in great trouble. Generations of people in history have withstood massive suffering: the Roman Empire brutality, the Black Death, religious wars in Europe, the Crusades, slavery, potato famines, the Holocaust, the French Revolution, corrupt kings, the Russians under Stalin, the Italians under Mussolini, wars, wars, and more wars.

Paul David Tripp comforts that “Scripture never looks down on the sufferer, it never mocks his pain, it never turns a deaf ear to his cries, and it never condemns him for his struggle.”

Lam. 3:22-23 states “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease. For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.” Lovingkindness means loyal love, faithfulness based on a promise, not on performance. Since the death of my son, this verse has woken me up every morning. I awake and don’t plan to say it, but I do. I rely heavily on its promise.

How long? God’s answer: I am faithful. No time given. This year, take one day at a time. Each day with new mercy, focusing on God’s character. A challenge-choose to remember, think, speak, sing of God’s faithfulness and mercy.

We aren’t the only ones who have asked this question. This is David speaking in Ps. 13  likely during the time that his own son tried to stage a coup to overtake him:

How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?

How long will You hide Your face from me?

How long shall I take counsel in my soul,

Having sorrow in my heart all the day?

How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;

My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.

I will sing to the LORD,

Because He has dealt bountifully with me.

Contributor-L. Vincent

Loss-child

Mary & Joseph Believe

Matthew 1:18-25

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.  But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Each year at Christmas, I revisit the story of the birth of Christ and try to see a new aspect of something I hadn’t seen before. One day while listening to the song “Precious Promise” by Steven Curtis Chapman, I thought about the unforeseen circumstances of their story.

Mary’s condition would have surely caused her and others to shame and question. Pregnant? Not wed? Mary had done no wrong to bring about this particular result. Luke reminds that she had found favor with God. Questions and fears were likely for Mary. How was this happening? And, would Joseph believe? Yet, she rejoiced. Her faith was remarkable in the Magnificat. She saw God’s mercy toward her, even though this may have been difficult: “His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50).

Joseph’s faith was surely tested. Would he believe even when he didn’t understand the occurrences? At first, he considered divorce. But, God intervened supernaturally. Would he act on his faith and believe the angel, though his circumstances might be perceived as shameful? Would he worry about what others thought or continue to obey God? He chose to obey God.

Later, their son was crucified. Ouch and double ouch: The pain this couple endured. They were just ordinary people like us. Their marriage survived it. Hearing stories of others who face agonies, can inspire, embolden, and fortify.

This year I see something new in the Christmas story: humans and God together in the midst of confusing, unexpected events and facing shame, yet glorifying Him. Mary and Joseph both had to trust God and believe that God would do something bigger than their situation. They chose faith rather than fear. They must have believed that God was good.

In grief, this is essential too: to continue to believe despite plights and predicaments. It is hard and at times, hearts doubt, because suffering hurts so much. Your faith may feel like a tiny mustard seed some days, but that is okay. Maybe Joseph and Mary felt that way too at first. This story can strengthen and encourage perseverance through confusing hardship.

Contributor-L. Vincent

Loss-child

Cycling

In a Les Mills Sprint cycling class, speaking figuratively, my highly positive instructor pronounced she was going to put her mom on her indoor bike for the last high intensity Sprint interval. She revealed to us that she lost her mom a year ago. 

Of course, I then imagined my son, whom I had lost within that year, on my stationary bike with me. She did not know about my son. A sort-of “God moment” occurred that happens often.

I closed my eyes, as my legs pedaled swiftly, and imagined all the times of riding bikes together…he loved biking so much. We biked down the boulevard to the shaved ice place, we biked in San Francisco last Spring Break. When he was a baby, I would put him in my running stroller, while my two other children rode their bikes beside us. Sometimes as a young family we would all ride together down the bayou or around the big lake. He would ride to the donut place, and all around the neighborhood. The memories flooded. I would notice his face, his smile, his happiness and joy, especially when he rode his bike. 

I could see his joy as I rode my stationary bike in that Sprint class. I pictured him in heaven being free, fully oxygenated, his eyes lit up, wind blowing his hair, and full of joy. To this day, that same image comes to mind often.

I continued on my imaginary bike and my imaginary journey, the music blaring and trying to keep pace with the fellow Sprinters. The class is described as a place “to push your physical and mental limits.” I was tired, but I kept going, sweat rolling down my face. 

Though this was a static, imaginary journey, I was on a VERY REAL, moving journey. The workout time was a perfect metaphor for my grief. I would try to cycle fast, yet it seemed like I was up against a wall. It was arduous. I would picture myself cycling up a steep mountain. I pictured my grief as a steep mountain. I would step down hard on the pedals, imagining that I would do the same with my grief. I would remind myself: just like I am persevering one spin at a time, I can make it through grief one moment at a time. Sometimes the emotion of trying so hard to cycle fast would bring me to tears, because my body was so full of grief and emotion.

The wall in the Sprint class had words on it painted in red motivational font: “hills, endure, persevere, grit, strength…” I would choose a word for the day as I exercised and think about how it applied to my grief. 

I thought to myself. I must finish my “sprint” down here on earth: I am here for a reason. Life may be like my class: l will hurt and have pain and climb and push going through many hills and valleys, sometimes feeling like I have no energy, sometimes going slow, sometimes fast. But, I will get through it to share hope with others. 

My Australian instructor, traveling her own personal journey, encouraged and prodded the class emphatically, “You…can…do…it!!” 

Yes, I can. I breathed. With the Lord’s help.  Hebrews 12:1b,3-“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Contributor-L. Vincent

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

Contributor-L. Vincent

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-L. Vincent

Contributor-Liana Vincent