Loss-child

All We Need is Love

Ricky. Arturo. Maria. Rob. Howie. John. Real people that I have met on the streets this year. Real people dealing with pain.

I now visit the city of Austin monthly. If you spend any time downtown, you will see the many homeless tents. Today they were surrounding the City Hall in protest as I walked into a salon to get a manicure. Ironic. The juxtaposition of wealth and poverty. Seemingly two different worlds.

Jesus says, “‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

A long time ago, I decided to lean into this love Jesus calls us to. I was in college. Buying a sandwich for a man in the grocery store; buying groceries for a woman on the corner; buying a burger and fries for a man at the convenient store. I never give out cash, but I do buy a meal or groceries. 

Since I have lost my son, I have been bolder to share my story and to ask about their story. I have realized that I have pain and that they likely have pain too; I deal with shame and maybe they do too. We both likely want to feel better and to have a sense of dignity as a human being. Commonalities-no matter race, ethnicity, social status, economic status, education, etc, etc.

So, if we are walking to get a meal, I ask them to share their life story. John was a Coast Guard boat operator with three kids. Ricky was a 22-year old who got kicked out of his house and had four siblings. Maria, a mother from Honduras, with five children to feed. Each person has a story and so do I. 

I ask them to pray for me and tell them that I will pray for them. I mean it and we usually shed a few tears together. Maria sobbed for me. I am grateful for these conversations. I tell them about Jesus and that He is helping me through my crazy pain and that He cares for me and for them. I want them to have HOPE and PURPOSE.

How I wish I could solve the problem of homelessness. I have visions of counselors on every corner, going to the library to ask for access to the computers for job searches, and all kinds of ideas. I read that there is a wonderful truck ministry that brings meals to many locations throughout downtown. But, all I really need to do is love people, engage, and be bold as I go, one person at a time.

Contributor-L. Vincent

Photo-L. Vincent

Loss-child

Stay Out of the Pit

When grieving, it is easy to fall into a pit. The whole thing is a big, huge process. But, here are some ways to try to stay out. First, look at your views.

When grieving, we may have a tainted view of God.

“I could have come up with a better plan than this.”

“It does not seem fair.”

“God is not helping me.”

As a result, we experience unsteadiness, anxiety, and anger at God.

However, we can choose to believe the truth about God:

  1. He is growing His children (James 1:2-4).
  2. God will be a strength and refuge (Psalm 46:1).
  3. He is still faithful and good (Psalm 119:75).
  4. His ways are right and just, though I may not understand or see (2 Cor. 4:8/Heb. 11:1).

The more we choose to believe the truth about God, the results are:

  1. Hope (Romans 5:3-4).
  2. Willingness to wait on God (Psalm 130: 5-6).
  3. Strength in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

We can also bring wrong thinking about ourselves into grief:

I deserve better than this. I should not have to suffer. It is not fair.

It is more important for me to be happy than holy (Jer. 2:11-13).

I thought I would have an easy life and I look to those circumstances as my source of peace, hope, joy.

Hardship in life equals bad for me.

I will never get out of this pain. This will last forever.

It doesn’t seem like I am growing. I am getting worse.

Since this is so painful and hard, I can’t do anything.

Something is wrong with me. I am embarrassed.

I am afraid of rejection. 

I am unlikeable.

I feel abandoned. I feel alone/lonely and like no one else is dealing with this.

I am not sure if I can ever be happy again.

We can also choose right thoughts about ourselves:

  1. I am one with Christ (John 17:21).
  2. Christ died to save me and to give me a purpose to display Him in the midst of the hardest times (Rom. 8:28-30/Is. 43:7).
  3. I am willing to suffer for His name to be made known (Phil. 3:8-10).
  4. Christ was made perfect through suffering (Heb. 2:10). I will grow through suffering.
  5. There are things I will never understand (Deut. 29:29).
  6. I am the created, He is the Creator. I will humble under God and believe His ways and thoughts are higher than mine (Is. 55:8-9).
  7. Even if the hard things last my whole life, it is a small time compared to eternity (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
  8. I can keep following Jesus in His strength for His glory today (John 14:15).

In grief, wrong thinking about others crops up:

  1. People do not understand me.
  2. How dare such and such treat me that way.
  3. That person is damaging my self-esteem.

We can choose right thinking about others:

  1. What truth do others need to hear or see from me today? How will I accomplish that? (2 Cor. 1:4). TobyMac says he is on the edge of his seat expectant for what God will do each day.
  2. Others are better than myself (Phil. 2:3-4).
  3. How can I love others? (Matt. 22:37-39).
  4. How can I display Christ to someone who has wronged me today? (1 Pet. 2:21-23).

Lastly, we can choose right actions:

  1. Trust God (1 Thess. 5:16-18).
  2. Ask others to pray for you.
  3. Seek fellowship with believers, sing praises, hear messages (Heb. 10:25).
  4. Reach out to others in service (Matt. 20:28).
  5. Ask God what you are responsible for in a given situation (communicate, deal with anger or anxiety).
  6. Get out of bed with an alarm.
  7. Make a list of duties and carry them out. Ask a friend to hold you accountable (Gal. 6:5).

David echoes this: “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (Psalm 40:2). This is a battle and a daily fight and is not easy. It may be two steps forward, one step back. But, it is worth seeking this freedom with the Lord’s help.

Contributor-L. Vincent

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

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

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

Loss-child · loss-suicide

Shame-Part I

“How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore

And a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot

In the Caribbean by providence impoverished

In squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?”

The opening words of the play Hamilton. Loaded with possible shame.

In grief, shame can come in the strangest of ways. It can be in knowing or unknowing individuals making fun of that which you are going through, comments made to separate oneself from that type of situation or avoidance of speaking to someone in difficult circumstances.

When you have lost someone, sometimes people struggle with knowing what to say. I made a commitment not to judge others for this. I would have been the same way. In fact, I remember a time with a friend who lost a dear one and I did not know what to say and I did the same thing: I avoided, because I thought I would say the wrong thing. It was easier.

This has not been the bulk of my experience. The vast majority of my experience has been people who embrace and initiate. I have been extremely rich in this way. My community has embraced our family. But, when shame strikes: I have a verse that I think about to get me through the grief-filled moment. 

Hebrews 12:1-2 encourages, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and 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, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

When it says that Jesus despised shame, I thought, yes, I can despise shame too!!!! I don’t have to receive shame. I can hate it and reject it. And, the anger that juxtaposes it. So, when I feel judged by myself or others, I think to myself, Jesus despised shame, I can too

He looked to the joy set before Him as the verse says. He knew why He was on earth and the purpose and actions that He must take. I, too, know that I have a purpose on the earth and I know that the Lord has things for me to do. I do not need to get bogged down in mud of shame. The enemy tries to hold my head in the filthy, muddy water of shame, plunging my head in, making me suffocate and gasp for air. Trying to make me dirtier than I already am. Wasting time. Whispering lies.

But, Jesus gives me this very, very practical example. He knew that He would endure the shame of His own disciples running away for a time, ashamed of Him. The shame of being flogged, tortured, mocked, questioned, spit at, yelled at, and complete exposure on the cross. Feeling abandoned by God and people. But, He went through the suffering anyway and fulfilled the job that the Lord had for Him on the earth.

Contributor-L. Vincent

Loss-child · loss-suicide

Guilt

Grief consists of a tangled ball of emotions: sadness, anger, guilt, blame, rage, abandonment, trauma. It is not necessarily a neat predictable ordering of emotions. Each person can experience different emotions. Suicide grief has conflicting emotions and an intensity of emotions. Abandonment and rage, yet love and sorrow are felt.

I distinctly remember what I thought was a strong English writing assignment for Romeo and Juliet as a high school teacher. The assignment was called: “Who’s To Blame?” The essay prompt was asking who was to blame for the death of two teenagers who died by suicide. Was it Friar Lawrence and the Nurse who allowed them to marry? Was it the Capulets who had insisted that Juliet marry Paris? Was it the circumstances–including the killing of Mercutio? Was it fate? Was it timing? In none of these situations was abuse involved. Many movies are the same. The parents, antagonists, or others are typically to blame. The focus is on who is to blame instead of signs or suicide awareness or mental health awareness or the grief of the families/friends/communities afterward. 

Blaming others or self does not take away the piercing pain, it creates more pain: more anger, more bitterness, more hatred. Blame/guilt has been the hardest part of grief. Every action of parenting or relationship is analyzed. Maybe I tried too hard, maybe I didn’t do enough. The deepest sense of failure is felt.

But, this is the truth: you are not responsible for your loved one’s death in any way. Why do suicide survivors blame themselves: “Psychiatrists theorize that human nature…resists the idea that we cannot control all the events of our lives” so strongly that people would rather blame themselves than “accept the inability to prevent it” (SOS). The closer you are to the person, the more harshly you might blame, “I should have known or seen the signs.” However, we are human. We are not perfect people. We do not foresee perfectly. We do not have perfect discernment. Think of all of the things that you DID do to help your lost loved one. 

As I was reading the Gospels during the Covid shutdown, I read about the disciples not being able to cast out demons when they went out on their own in Matthew 17. They were human and not God. They were imperfect people, and even with Jesus right there, they did not have perfect discernment and power!

So, who is responsible? Notice, I said responsible. Responsible simply means an acknowledgement of fact. Blame is accusatory. This is the tricky part of grieving a suicide: many times (90%) clinical depression or mental illness is involved. Therefore, one is suffering in a black, treacherous pit of despair. Never did I know how powerful depression could be: a power unto itself. Likely, the forces of evil assaulted more than intensely, a frenzy of attack and ambush. However, on some level, “there was a conscious choice made…even if made with a clouded mind” (SOS). This is tough to swallow and survivors find it easier to blame themselves many times. Acknowledging this does not mean that you do not love them or that this defines their eternity. Just as I should not blame people for my actions, I should not blame myself for others’ actions. Free yourself from guilt.

(SOS Handbook) For those who have lost someone to suicide: suicidology.org/resources/suicide-loss-survivors/

Contributor-L. Vincent