It may be that you, personally, do not need to read this post. If you are someone who already feels, in your soul, that you are loved – even in spite of circumstances, or your feelings – then it’s OK to skip this one. Plus, TBH: it’s kind of long. Sorry.
I am writing it because I recently recognized a kind of human crisis, one not limited to those who grieve. I was on a faith-based Facebook page and was completely surprised at how many of those commenting there (these are religious people!) said they do not feel loved or loveable; they are more likely to feel condemnation and judgment instead of grace and forgiveness. That God would feel delight, joy about them, His creation? Pffft. Nope.
Why? Isn’t it hard enough for us to live, in our messy, gritty reality, in our humanity, without feeling there is a divine scorekeeper also watching…and finding us lacking? Why is it that the whole “God so loved the world…” thing has gotten lost?
As I’ve mentioned before, the author Tom Zuba makes a very important point in his book, “Permission to Mourn.” He says what we believe is the most powerful thing there is. What you think and say about your child’s death, about yourself, about God, about what happens after you die — those ARE your reality. Those thoughts frame not just this experience of death, but your whole life’s journey. Belief is what determines how you see what happens now and next. Beliefs can carry you into peace or away from it.
....Last things last
By the grace of the fire and the flames
You're the face of the future, the blood in my veins, oh ooh
The blood in my veins, oh ooh
But they never did, ever lived, ebbing and flowing
'Til it broke up and it rained down
It rained down, like
You made me a, you made me a believer, believer (Pain, pain)
You break me down, you built me up, believer, believer (Pain)
I let the bullets fly, oh let them rain
My life, my love, my drive, it came from (Pain)
You made me a, you made me a believer, believer
Imagine Dragons, 2017*
I recently joined a rather large – more than 1200 members – closed Facebook group for bereaved parents.
We made it. (I don’t consider New Years – coming up this weekend – much of a holiday, as we didn’t really woohoo that one up as a family.)
It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t easy. In fact, large chunks of it were just a flat-out Festival of Suckery (sorry Mom and Dad; we all know my vocabulary is better, but this is just apt). I either thought of Mark “too much” – letting the grim and terrible reality of his death, his physical absence really sink into my marrow – or I got so busy that I almost forgot to think about him, and then I felt like an Awful Mom. But there were tiny glimmers here and there.
As October 8th approached again, I appreciated one particular thing: I no longer felt like I/we “had to” do something big – like last year’s Movie Night at our church – ON that day. It was OK if we moved it later in the month. It wouldn’t take away a thing from his memory. And we could only bear so much. So for the 8th, we decided to invite just a few people along – relatives, close friends of Mark’s, of our family as a whole – as we went down to our beloved lake to do a memorial of sorts.
About a year ago, in late November 2016, Steve went to visit one of our clients in North Carolina. It’s a long drive — too much for one day.
Before he left, we were talking about Mark, and grief, and processing, and how we differ. I had been concerned that Steve, still operating under his usual habit of putting BIG EMOTIONAL THINGS in tightly-lidded boxes and stowing them on a shelf in his mental closet, was going to discover – far down the road – that grief only gets bigger and scarier, the longer you put it off and refuse to face it. I kept telling him: “Talk to God. Talk to Mark.”
1. There will be people who are INCREDIBLY wonderful, well-intentioned human beings (just like me, just like you) who will unwittingly drag you down as you grieve. For me, it’s those who are trying so hard (really, I am not being snarky) to empathize and to care for your heart, but who still manage to inject sadness into your every day life right when you were actually having a kind of decent, semi-normal day.
This happened last year, in August, while Steve and I were on vacation. We were having…fun. And it was also closing on the 8th of the month (the 10th month, in this case). I was aware of this, but had put it on the back burner of my brain. I even posted a few pictures on Facebook (of us, having fun), and there it went…in one of the comments, this wonderful person said something like this: “I am amazed that you can enjoy yourself when your heart is so broken.”
After enormous (and mostly age-appropriate!) fun with long-time friends in Lexington, Kentucky in the middle of this past month, Steve and I took a side trip, as we began the drive home, to visit Camp Shawnee – about 2 hours east of Lexington, in Floyd County. It was here, we had recently learned, that a beautiful outdoor chapel was dedicated – on Mark’s (future) birth date, in 1955, no less – to the memory of my grandfather, John T. Parker, who we did not have the privilege of knowing (he died of leukemia when my dad was just 22).
That ^^^ was probably our deepest fear when Steve and I decided to attend a Bereaved Parents USA (BPUSA) national conference last month.
In the nearly two years since Mark’s death, we had sought out this kind of gathering just once. We went to a “Compassionate Friends” (the other national organization for parents grieving the loss of a child) chapter meeting in late 2016 or early 2017 where, in all honesty…I was kind of a jerk.
Well over a year ago, when I was in a period of deep doubt about everything I was experiencing that was beyond logical explanation (i.e., I would argue with myself endlessly about whether those were signs or just coincidence, happenstance), my sister said she would “talk to Mark about sending something so radical I would KNOW it was from him, like not just dimes, but mercury dimes.”