I am reading an excellent book by Jerry Sittser called “A Grace Disguised”. It is all about how the soul grows through loss. It takes the exact perspective Jason and I are working towards in this season of loss.
At the time of Mikail’s funeral it was very important to us that the funeral would not be a ‘woe is us’ time. Mikail was far from perfect. No one is, and we didn’t want to paint him as a saint. He was a normal 4 ½ year old whom we loved deeply and whose loss we grieve deeply. What we did want was to celebrate the life he lived so fully. We wanted to praise God in this devastating storm of loss. We wanted to thank God for the 4 ½ years we were given with our bravewarriorboy. We wanted to share the love Mikail had for Jesus. We wanted to celebrate him.
I am so glad that we took that approach. We are into our second month without Mikail in our lives and the grief is deep. It seems to get more difficult as time goes on. The anger we had hoped would stay at bay, is there. There’s no hiding from it. The despair and the anguish is paralyzing. The pit of depression is in view and we fight it off. At the same time, through this all, we experience deep times of joy. We find strength we didn’t know we had and we are filled with peace and love we thought were impossible after this tragedy. Jerry Sittser puts into words my feelings exactly:
“The soul is elastic, like a balloon. It can grow larger through suffering. Loss can enlarge its capacity for anger, depression, despair, and anguish, all natural and legitimate emotions whenever we experience loss. Once enlarged, the soul is also capable of experiencing greater joy, strength, peace, and love....The soul has the capacity to experience these opposites, even at the same time.” –Jerry Sittser
I hear people say words like ‘You’ll never get over something like this.’ or ‘I can’t even imagine.’ or ‘This is the stuff of my nightmares as a Mom’. These words fill me with sadness because THIS is our reality. After one of these times of well-meant words shared, I read these words:
“...though I experienced death, I also experienced life in ways that I never thought possible before—not after the darkness, as we might suppose, but IN the darkness. I did not go through pain and come out the other side; instead, I lived in it and found within that pain the grace to survive and eventually grow. I did not get over the loss of my loved ones; rather, I absorbed the loss into my life, like soil receives decaying matter, until it became a part of who I am. Sorrow took up permanent residence in my soul and enlarged it. I learned gradually that the deeper we plunge into suffering, the deeper we can enter into a new, and different life—a life no worse than before and sometimes better. A willingness to face the loss and to enter into the darkness is the first step we must take. Like all first steps, it is probably the most difficult and takes the most time.”—Jerry Sittser
The words well-meaning people have shared with us are true. We will never get over this. We also can’t imagine this. And yes, this is the stuff of my nightmares too. And it is into that darkness that we plunge and hope to face this loss and enter the darkness so that we can get through it. No, not over it, but through it.
This is all a choice. A difficult choice. A choice we have to make each day. Some days we fail, but we get up and make that choice again the next day.
“Choice is therefore the key. We can run from the darkness, or we can enter into the darkness and face the pain of loss. We can indulge ourselves in self-pity, or we can empathize with others and embrace their pain as our own. We can run away from sorrow and drown in addictions, or we can learn to live with sorrow. We can nurse wounds of having been cheated in life, or we can be grateful and joyful, even though there seems to be little reason for it.” –Jerry Sittser
We are trying to face our sorrow. Embrace the pain and live with this sorrow. Find reasons to be grateful and joyful and there are many. I pray that although the sorrow will most likely not disappear, it will weave its way into our lives in a healthy way.
“...the sorrow I feel remains, but i have tried to create a landscape around the loss so that what was once ugly is now an integral part of a larger, lovely whole.” –Jerry Sittser
This is my prayer for us. For anyone who is on the journey of grief, whether it be the loss of a loved one, the loss of a relationship, loss of marriage, the loss of a job...these losses are all different, but the choice in each remains the same: to make that difficult choice not only for the benefit of the self, but for the benefit of family and friends.