Loss-child · Loss-pandemic

Questions-Part I

There are many emotions in the grieving process. I started with questioning. The very first day after I lost my son, in my fog, I wondered how God could have allowed the death of my child.  Why did He not stop it? I have long leaned on the sovereignty of God. Sovereignty meaning that He is in charge of everything. How was it possible that He could have permitted this to happen? These are hard truths–brace yourself.

I recalled how God allowed Joseph’s brothers to throw him in the pit and be sold into slavery, He allowed a famine, He allowed Joseph to be unjustly accused and sentenced (Genesis 37-50), He allowed the hardening of Pharoah’s heart (Exodus 4:21, Romans 9:17) and the Canaanite’s hearts (Joshua 11:20), He allowed an evil spirit to torment King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14), He allowed evil to rise up against David in his own house (2 Samuel 12:11-12), Jonah was thrown overboard. Job lost 10 children. Sinful men convicted, tortured, and crucified Christ. The Holocaust. Pandemics.

On the first morning, I read in Isaiah 46: “for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning  and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’” God was still in charge and He knew the beginning and the end. He doesn’t get surprised. He doesn’t stop being in charge, even for a second, an hour, a day.

I concluded: God allows people to make their own choices, allows demonic forces, allows evil for His purposes (Joseph/Job) or to discipline (Saul/David) or to lead unbelievers to repentance (Jonah/Jesus) or to bring judgment or deliverance (Canaanites/Pharoah). These things are not wrong on God’s part. God can govern the actions of sinful man. However, God is not evil and does not do evil. His goodness and mercy contrast starkly with unspeakable, dark evil.

I just reread little notes from my son’s friends who I met with and asked to write their questions. The number one question is: Why did God allow it? The why will never make complete sense to me on this earth, even if someone or God tried to explain it, nothing would justify his death. God doesn’t owe me an explanation. I told you, these are really raw truths, but this is genuine faith. I believe God and I trust that He is in control (Job 13:15a), He is good (1 John 4:10), and He understands (Psalm 147:5), even when I cannot see and even when it hurts.

Photo-Evan Dennis

Loss-child · Loss-pandemic · loss-suicide

A-Bomb

In the introduction to the book, 1984, a revolutionary book revealing the atrocities of Stalin’s regime and communism in Russia, which was released in 1945, it likens its release to the world with the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagaski at the end of World War II, saying that it would change the face of the earth. Indeed. The book did and these bombs would kill and wound over 200,000+ people. As a point of reference, 500,000+ have died at the time of writing from Coronavirus. Another type of bomb.

What were the effects: some vaporized instantly, others felt the effects for days, months, years. Some were close to the bombing and some were at a distance. Keloid scars from burns, A-bomb cataract, trauma, disfiguration, bleeding, diarrhea, leukemia, cancer, radiation injury penetrates deeply into human body and injures cells. Deep painful effects.

An atomic bomb. This is how I picture the effects of suicide. According to the World Health Organization, despite efforts toward suicide awareness, a suicide occurs every 40 seconds. So, an atomic bomb drops on a family and community every 40 seconds. I think about this silent bombing often. Sometimes I will count 1, 2, 3…and realize this is happening—sometimes secretly and sometimes we read it in the newspaper. I pray for the unseen families and for the families I know impacted by suicide. I pray Isaiah 60:18, “Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders; you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise.” That there will be NO MORE VIOLENCE IN THE LAND (within a family, within a school, within a community), but instead that the same people will find salvation and will praise God for His unexplainable mercy and grace and will seek help at all costs for themselves and others.

According to a 2016 study, it is estimated that 115 people are exposed to a single suicide. These people are called Suicide Survivors. Just as atomic bomb survivors must seek help, so must those who survive a suicide. Counseling, Bible studies, GriefShare texts, talking to friends/family, books, medication, listening to sermons or podcasts, helping others, educating oneself, problem solving, drawing near to the healer (Jesus)—healthy coping. There is help and depression can get better with help. Fight for life!! National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

Loss-child

Beggar

Last year I taught the Beatitudes and taught students to teach them. The first one is “blessed are the poor in spirit.” I remember describing it as being like a beggar on the filthy ground, teeth rotting, fingernails dirty, hair greasy, hands outstretched, hungry, thirsty, crying out desperately for help, in a place of serious need: “Help me!!!” Blessed means being satisfied/full. Blessed is the one who is super needy. The second one- “blessed are those who mourn.” Blessed is the one who is severely sad. In college, my pastor said these were the upside-down messages of Jesus. Paradoxes. The blessed are the lowly, the bottom of the heap of humanity. How can you be blessed and needy/sad at the same time?

I thought I understood the meaning. I did to the extent that I could. But, today I am truly “poor in spirit” as I mourn the loss of my son. I have been majorly humbled. As a child, I grew up in humble means. We did not have a lot of money, I did not wear the right clothes, drive the right car, wear the right shoes…but we worked hard. I was naturally poor in spirit, not having much to offer. But, as time has gone, with education and opportunity, pride has grown. It is easy to have haughty attitudes. Even when humbled by death, I can still choose pride over humility.


A friend challenged me that when we truly understand the Gospel of Grace, we will be gracious to others. This implies that I understand the sacrifice made for me and the enormity of my sin. I was immediately convicted of sin recently. Not seeing someone as FRAGILE, not being tender with someone’s feelings. When I understood the depth of my sin, I was humbled. I know this is where God wants me to reside, constantly reflecting on His mercy and goodness and gift of life, confessing MY sin. As I do this, through the Holy Spirit, I can change and be loving and patient. I can be TENDER and gentle with others: He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.

Isaiah 66:2 reads, “All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” as a beggar on the street. Understanding my need. Desperate for God. Satisfied in that. You are full and satisfied only when you understand your need for God.

Art credit-Lana Ngo

Loss-cancer · Loss-child · Loss-parent · loss-suicide

Breathing Time

Breathe. Just breathe. In and out. Sometimes when you experience the same activity done with your deceased child with a different person, you can have a physical reaction as you experience the emotions. When this happens, I immediately ask friends to please pray for me.  It happened this week. As I breathed through my grief, I decided to listen to music on an errand.

As I drove, the Holy Spirit prompted the thought-Matt Redman lost his father to suicide. I read his story a few months ago. As I relistened to his famous song, “10,000 Reasons”, I had a completely new view. I imagined his pain and how that pain must propel him to worship God and encourage others to do so. I recalled my daughter: a few years back, playing this song on the piano to a group of cancer patients at the Ballard House. She came home telling how her group had gently sang this song together with the residents; I was so moved that she and her friends could bring lasting truth and hope to the hurting, suffering. I thought how they (facing the possibility of death) must have sighed deeply as they vocalized, “And on that day, when my strength is failing, the end draws near, and my time has come, still my soul will sing your praise unending…” I teared up thinking about the sweetness of this moment for all involved.

Now, I listened to this song again, and I took a deep breath as I continued the tune, “ten thousand years and then forevermore, forevermore.” This is the part that I thought about for days. My son is gone. That is the reality. I cannot bring him back. It hit me that I will have 10,000 years and forevermore with him and the Lord. That is a such a wonderfully big number!!!! Infinite.

The sermon in my head started: I need to be present while on the earth. I want to have 50 more years on this earth (I just turned 50)…so that I can support my husband, my daughter, my son, their spouses, their children, and their children and to share the hope of this God who is “slow to anger” and whose “heart is kind.” Each day I wake up claiming the promise that a friend, Mary Kay, gave me on a frame, “His mercies are new every morning…great is thy faithfulness, oh God!” Each day is a new day of mercy…a “new day dawning, it’s time to sing your song again…whatever may pass and whatever lies before me”—we have no idea what will happen within each day, but we can still “be singing when the evening comes.” Our “life is a vapor” (James 4) and we “endure momentary light affliction” (2 Corinthians 4) compared to the eternity waiting for us. Doing our “drop in the ocean” (Mother Teresa).

Loss-child

War

“I feel like I’ve been in a war.” This is what I uttered out loud slowly to God one day as I drove in the car somewhat aimlessly and stopped in front of a local bookstore. I felt war-torn, beat up, traumatized, thrown to the ground, shredded to pieces, wounded, barely walking, barely able to get up, dazed, confused, disoriented. I pictured the scene from many war movies—of a hospital with beds lined up right next to one another. There we were like incapacitated soldiers: my husband, my daughter, my son, me-laying in the beds–our heads wrapped, our bodies wrapped—not able to get up—with one empty bed. We were severely wounded, grieving, and it would take time to heal.

At that moment, I looked up verses about fighting through this, asking God to help me continue in the battle. I found 1 Timothy 6:12-Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I discovered Ephesians 6:12-For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

I realized, yes, indeed, we had been in an intense struggle: a spiritual battle with a very serious enemy who comes to steal, kill, and destroy…and lie and confuse and twist and scare and guilt and shame. But, the ultimate victory for the war belonged to the Lord of hosts. Romans 8:37-No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. We would get up. We would heal. I also knew that after healing, we would need to get up and return to battle. I vowed that I would get up, not give up, and would continue sharing.

Yesterday I needed strength and a friend read this over me in Psalm 27-Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. I have to keep going, trusting God and His ways, seeking healing, and continuing to battle against lies, untruths, and attacks.

Art credit-Michael Huang

Loss-child · Loss-pandemic · loss-suicide

Loud and Quiet Pain

My journal reads…“I thought about the initial shock last night. The moment I knew (I had lost my son)…and the shudder, shock, horror that burst through my body. I immediately numbed and the tremors of crying and wailing, like nothing else. I fell to the ground, crying out for God’s help. I felt that I couldn’t handle the pain. You scream for the pain to be released, like a pressure cooker, but louder.” My pain was so loud. Contrast this with those whose pain is silent. Silent. Can you hear silence or do anything about silence? Look out for silence. Do some have so much pain inside, all bottled up inside, but they can’t cry out and scream for help. Oh, how I wished they would! Why is some people’s pain deadly quiet and mine was so loud? “I stepped out of my door and cried the loudest guttural cry of my life-from the depths of my soul—echoing down my street—“Help…me…God!” 

Today as I do laundry and clean, little pings of pain hit as memories mottle the mind. I whisper to the Lord, “Help me, Lord” and He does, because I know He hears and cares.

In the midst of this, a dear friend prayed for me that I would have endurance in the pain. Hebrews 12:1-2 reads “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to JESUS, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him ENDURED the cross…” When Jesus endured the cross, Matthew 27 explains that He too cried out in a LOUD voice. Isaiah 41:10 promises,”Fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I WILL HELP YOU, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Jesus is our salvation and our help right in the middle of the pain. 

Inevitably, we will have pain in life. Today I read about healthcare workers: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/16/health/coronavirus-ptsd-medical-workers.html?campaign_id=9&emc=edit_nn_20200517&instance_id=18563&nl=the-morning&regi_id=119103292&segment_id=28165&te=1&user_id=17b0d4d5df6a1e8b81955fd8a41cc5be

No one can fully take your pain, but they can help you endure it. Don’t be silent. Whether our pain is great or small, it is more than okay to cry out for HELP to GOD and to OTHERS in a loud or quiet voice. It is good, it is right, it is needed.

Art credit: Lana Ngo

Loss-child

Why Grief and Glory?

Today is May 11, 2020. Nine months ago, I lost my 15-year old son tragically. For the past months, I have been journeying through a treacherous grieving process. The hurt is deep. I have read tons of books, been to grieving small groups, countless hours of counseling, talked to myriads of friends and family, read my Bible for hours, listened to sermons, walked and exercised to try to grieve in a healthy manner. Gratefully, I have tons of support, but even with all of this, last week I wept and ached and hurt deeply–missing my son–and I talked with my husband for hours, recounting the depths of my heart: questions, regrets, sorrows. This this is part of the WHY on GRIEF.

What about GLORY? As I journey through these sorrows, there is HOPE. After losing my son, we sold our family home. Before it sold, I would go inside and pray for the next family who would live there. One day, while there, I received a letter from my son’s summer camp. He had written a note to himself and it came to our mail about six weeks later. As I read the note, the Lord answered a very specific prayer showing me his commitment to the Lord and I sobbed. I walked outside our home and laid on the ground with the noon day sun on my face. I could see the bright light through my eyelids and as the sun warmed my body; I prayed and told God that this sun reminded me of His glory–a bright light and presence. In that moment, He reassured me that my son was with Him in His glory and an overwhelming peace came over me. I thought of the promise of salvation and was overwhelmed by the idea of MERCY–we do not get what we deserve for our sin and this is truly amazing news.

So, this blog is dedicated to my son and is an effort to comfort those who have loss (there are many kinds of loss) and to encourage you along the journey to continue to have HOPE despite your pain and suffering.