The One Who Knows

If I could offer only one ‘tip’ for the long walk after losing a child it would be to cling to your spouse, and together, to cling to God. 

You’ll hear all kinds of other thoughts, words of encouragement or support from others during the time immediately following tragedy, but there is only one person who can truly get it. One person suffering for the same reason, the same person… Truly, in this journey of long-suffering there can only be one other person who knows and who won’t forget and that is your child’s parent.

“We wept together, despaired together, prayed together and we would always find refuge in the Lord. This has been our strength!” -Enrico Petrillo

We are told that “Husband and wife suffer differently” which is true, but dangerously close to misleading spouses to suffer differently, separately and silently. As quoted above by an exemplary example of suffering together in marriage, Enrico shares how he and his wife “cried together, despaired together, prayed together…” suffering together.

I’m grateful and humbled to say that the only reason why I know to cling to my husband is because he first wrapped his arms around me. I cannot take credit for opening myself up to his suffering or for allowing my heart to be spoken to or healed by his. He moved first and continues to, over and over again. The last few years have been an experiment of love as each day brings its own trials and joys. I cannot help but reflect on the details which show all too well what a necessity it is to hold onto one another even when it’s painful. Ironically I am here writing you, to urge you to act as my husband did, and if you’re in that cold, lonely place that I often find myself in, take this as a gentle beckoning to open your heart once again to the one who can come closest to your knowing.

Grieving alone…

Grieving alone can be so tempting. After all, grieving together takes work, a listening ear and a large amount of selflessness to include another broken person in your brokenness. The ugly side of grief can take us to a place where no-one-else is allowed to go. For example- “They can’t know my pain.” “He’ll try to fix what can’t possibly be fixed.” “She’ll just talk about her past while drowning out mine.” “They’ll say something to further hurt me.” “Not even God wants to be with me in this place.” Suffering alone can end up looking a lot like Hell: “A damned soul is nearly nothing: it is shrunk, shut up in itself … Their fists are clenched, their teeth are clenched, their eyes fast shut. First they will not, in the end they cannot, open their hands for gifts, or their mouths for food, or their eyes to see.” – C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce. It is a hellish torture indeed to hold onto grief as one’s private wrangling, where God and man are not allowed. On the other side of this hardened state is a very broken soul screaming out into the desert… “Somebody, anybody, know my pain. Heal me. Fix this! I don’t want to be alone.”

And who could blame the broken heart of a parent who finds him/herself in this place? We have to wake up every morning, facing life’s responsibilities, while over and over again, battling the temptation to see God as someone who allows children to die, families to suffer and the world to continue on in it’s arrogance, denial and indifference. It is a battle of the heart and mind to choose to let go of the blame and seek refuge in God. It takes a softening of the heart to reach out physically or emotionally to your spouse when you have so much pain to hold onto. But we must not go at it alone unless we truly want to be alone forever, in the emptiest sense. Our Good God wants so much more for our broken hearts.

Cling to what is Good…

Clenching onto the pain of the self goes nowhere fast. Grasping for professionals, friends or family to be there for you in all seasons can be a little unrealistic, often impossible. But the most practical thing you can do is grasp at the covenant that promised you a partner in all things, “In good times and bad.” Many nights I’ve cried, many times when we were close, the pain of creating and losing our sick child has been front and center on my heart when I think of “us.” This marriage thing is hardly easy for anyone, let alone the huge amount of brokenness within a relationship after burying a child. There is plenty of ugly to cling to – sometimes unforgiveness, sometimes the desire to abandon everything or each other in order to forget the pain and start new. All of these options lack one important thing… God’s love, God’s forgiveness, God’s commitment. Clinging to what is good means clinging to God; His mercy, His promises, His mystery of sacrificial love and a life that beats death. Clinging to these gifts of grace from Him means dying to self and clinging to the spouse He gave you and allowing the brokenness to shape into something good even when our humanly eyes would see that as impossible.

This is not a hopeless venture…

The walk we find ourselves in can all-too-often seem hopelessly heavy, and truly this cross does seem to have life-long effects, but I am wary of seeing mom-blogs that make the journey that much darker by allowing the bitterness to come through with nothing good to grasp onto. I say this from experience, feeding my heart with words that name my pain or anger can be relieving to an extent but can also lead me down a path away from God and less aware of my spouse’s heart, thoughts or dreams. Never, never let the words of others (who don’t know you, your spouse or your child) take priority over communicating with your spouse or your God. It can be an easy fix, a simple taste of refreshingly honest words about the realities of bereavement but it often, dangerously, lacks anything productive for the soul or for the marriage.

Ironically here I am, “mom-blogging” and sharing my own thoughts on grief – and that’s just it, they’re my own thoughts, take them or leave them! But don’t leave the broken heart of your husband or wife to fend for itself. The incredible thing is that this horrific pain can also bring about the strongest, most hope-filled relationships.

A beautiful friend of mine, who lost her precious daughter shortly after birth shared with me once “We’ll never fight about money or something shallow… that kind of stuff could never come between us… We survived losing a kid! We are strong enough to endure anything together thanks to her…” How beautiful is that? And so very true. With God’s inclusion, even the most broken parts of our lives can bring us to a place of strength, beauty and hope. The first step is allowing that hope to seep in, the second to allow the hope to shine in your view of your spouse and the third, to keep choosing to hold onto hope every day for the rest of your lives.

Choosing love and hope…

Just as choosing joy has to begin with each new day, so does love. I cannot claim to be the same person that I was a year ago and certainly not the same person 5 years ago. There have been plenty of times where I hardly recognize who I am anymore… What does this mean for my husband who fell in love with one person and is now married to another? It goes both ways, I am constantly learning and renewing the love I have for the person that my husband is today and we are learning who WE are as one, as a marriage and faith that has been changed very much by the death of our son.

Again, it can be so very tempting to just shut down… to grow old, weary and locked-up inside. Some days it takes a conscious choice to rise above and some days are chocked up as “down days.” The one ‘tip’ I can give is to take the time, to make the effort, to make it your priority in grief to hold onto one another, to be honest, to humble yourself enough to admit where you’re at and selfless enough to allow the other to be where he/she is at, and to move forward together no matter what. The bottom line is once we have entered into this marriage thing, even grief is not our own… it belongs to US. And thank God that’s the case! The times I’ve tried to battle this on my own leads me to a dark, dark path of loneliness and despair. Thank God I have someone holding my hand. Whether he’s broken too or leading me on, together we are that much stronger and together God can guide us to where we never thought we could go. Without my husband I wouldn’t have the ability to call myself out of the darkness, without his heart I wouldn’t have the reminder to think of others and not just myself. He knows so well the void that is our missing child. And while man and wife cannot and most likely will not suffer the same or be able to completely relate to one another, perhaps that complementarity is our hope in healing: While we may not suffer the same we can journey together to heaven, to our boy.

Talk, cry, pray, despair, hope, fear, dance, limp, love, endure, together.

 

Advertisements

September 15, 2017: Happy 2nd Birthday Clark!

Happy 2nd Birthday Clark Job Edman!
2 Years since we met for less than a moment…
9 Months of a hidden life…
But ALWAYS & forever a victorious one…

You have not left our hearts for a moment. These pictures are what we’ve done without you these 2 years. We’ve missed you and can’t help but think you have reminded us of your presence in the sun rays, in the waves, in our crosses and in our joys.

We are so thankful for your heavenly inspiration…

We are ALWAYS yours…
You are ALWAYS ours…
And we are ALWAYS His and for that reason we will rejoice through the tears.
Happy Birthday dear son,
Enjoy the banquet!
-Dad, Mom, Gabe & Laz

http://slide.ly/embed/912eba81340ba7412fc87c49400a1037/autoplay/1

Happy Birthday Clark Job Edman by Slidely

 

 

 

Seasons

It’s no surprise that nature’s seasons are often paralleled with seasons of life. Change occurs in nature, in life, in faith as we encounter birth, death, transformation, new challenges and old ones that come back again and again. Life seems to cycle and repeat itself while at the same time proving to be an ever-changing dance. Like the seasons themselves, the bereaved heart experiences changes and repeats, its icy times and times of melting and re-birth… It cycles, it doesn’t stop, it’s unpredictable often hitting us when you’d least expect it.


So what do we do when the weather changes? When the first snowflakes start to fall we begin to wonder where the shovel is, we change the tires on our cars, we prepare the flower beds and hunt down the snowsuits. We embrace the fact that winter is coming… There is some wisdom to these mundane acts as I realize how different I handle the changes that take place in my heart, as I begin to feel the icy pangs of my missing child again. Oftentimes, instead of recognizing the pain as reality and making necessary adjustments, I dig my heels in and say “No” to winter. I say “No” because it hurts, because my life doesn’t have time for me to feel this way, because I’m blessed in so many ways that I shouldn’t feel this dissatisfaction, because I think i’m a failure for having to go back to square one yet again.

I have to confess that I despise winter since we buried our son. As the first frost comes I get that motherly instinct telling me that his body is cold, that I need to hold him (another nice side-effect for the bereaved parent). It’s horrible and the ice begins to grow in my heart once again. I feel the hardness take over as I try to ignore it, I sense it in my faith as I begin to feel numb and lost.

It’s time to allow myself to embrace this season.

Ironically, seasons of the heart don’t necessarily correspond with seasons of life. I have caught myself crying for my child in heaven as I feed his younger brother, here, in my arms. It is such a tug and pull as I fall in love with our sweet rainbow baby (spring if there ever was one) while also surviving winter and what seems to be this life-long brokenness that comes and goes as it pleases. I want to forget the hard stuff and just remember how happy Clark is with God, but winter comes roaring in and it won’t be ignored. Finally I say hello to this old, un-friendly face of grief and I let myself mourn with my child in heaven, because I love him and miss him. I visit his grave, my husband and I talk about him, I talk to God about him and things begin to melt again. As each season changes, I learn and re-learn that it has to be moved through, embraced, realized, and appreciated in order to experience the Springs of this life.


Regardless of how inconvenient, each season is a reality, like the snow that needs to be plowed off the driveway. Sometimes grief can seem like a chore, sometimes like a mountain that cannot be moved, but i’m learning that to ignore it is to slowly freeze in that place making it harder and harder to move forward. We have to swallow the pain, take it when it comes… It will go away for awhile and life will bring new seasons and then this old friend winter will be back again and that is our humbling reality.

Winter is cold, the icy wind and snow can sting, but it is also breathtaking when we take a moment to stand back and look at the beauty of each snowflake and how it dances in the wind -The same can be found when we step back and embrace the cold, dark days of grief and the beautiful souls that inspire them. Each soul, like a snowflake, is unique and incredible to dwell on. Grief demands that we look deep into the beauty of the love we have for that person we’ve lost, even if it causes great pain – and through our tearful eyes we can feel a sense of healing.

With each new year, each repeat of seasons already visited, I realize that grief is never-ending but with that I also know that the love I have for my child is like the love God has for all of us… un-changing, never-ending, regardless of season, and I can rest in that.

 

Sirach 2:1-11

“My son, when you come to serve the LORD,
stand in justice and fear,
prepare yourself for trials.
Be sincere of heart and steadfast,
incline your ear and receive the word of understanding,
undisturbed in time of adversity.
Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not;
thus will you be wise in all your ways.
Accept whatever befalls you,
when sorrowful, be steadfast,
and in crushing misfortune be patient;
For in fire gold and silver are tested,
and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation.
Trust God and God will help you;
trust in him, and he will direct your way;
keep his fear and grow old therein.

You who fear the LORD, wait for his mercy,
turn not away lest you fall.
You who fear the LORD, trust him,
and your reward will not be lost.
You who fear the LORD, hope for good things,
for lasting joy and mercy.
You who fear the LORD, love him,
and your hearts will be enlightened.
Study the generations long past and understand;
has anyone hoped in the LORD and been disappointed?
Has anyone persevered in his commandments and been forsaken?
has anyone called upon him and been rebuffed?
Compassionate and merciful is the LORD;
he forgives sins, he saves in time of trouble
and he is a protector to all who seek him in truth.”

Sirach 2:1-11

Interview: Clark’s Story Parts I & 2

We recently had the opportunity to share Clark’s story with our dear friends Jake and Lindsay in southern Idaho on Salt and Light Radio, their show is called Where Faith Begins. If you’d like to hear Clark’s story from our lips feel free to click on the podcast below which features Parts 1 & 2 of Clark’s Story.

Being able to talk about our sweet son and all that he has done in our lives is such a gift and we hope it brings love and inspiration to the many out there who are suffering themselves. God is close to the brokenhearted. He is with us every step and asks that we reach out to hold His hand in trust. Praying for all of you and still passionately waiting to embrace God and our loved ones in heaven! Love you Clark Job

Part 1 of Clark’s Story:

https://secure-hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/d/5/7/d57cbf88715bc124/Where_Faith_Begins_Show_7_111016-PODCAST.mp3?c_id=13284680&expiration=1481681349&hwt=0436b1aab89a1922245dcc6a4c5e1c14

Part 2 of Clark’s Story:

http://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/b/1/8/b189e10c3619ae71/Where_Faith_Begins_Show_8_112416-PODCAST.mp3?c_id=13286658&expiration=1481681129&hwt=4d101b8809a23dcf91635d292f0e1d2c

Love Requires Death

Isn’t this a warm and fuzzy title?

Love requires death of self. Life in God requires death of self. Marriage most certainly requires death of self. But this is only the first part of the message of love.

Jesus’ response to death is life. And He formed marriage to be a beautiful kind of resurrection, where two die and become one in Christ. When we die to self, God can enter in along with a passionate love for our spouse. Recently at the Catholic Answers National Conference: Restoring Marriage Today my husband and I got to listen to a great line-up of speakers on fire for their faith, especially on the topic of strong marriages in Christ. I have to admit we were sent home with a lot of things to work on, which means our marriage can be even better! *wink*

So here’s a list of practical advice I took from the conference.

  • Treat your spouse better than you treat anyone else.
  • Always practice good manners
    • ex. say Please and Thank You.
  • Have mercy on your spouse and ask God for His mercy on your own faults.
    • Embrace the confessional
  • Forgive as God does, fully.
    • See the “Our Father”
  • Say “I love you” at the very least, daily.
  • Pray together
  • Help one another
  • Recognize that you are one, none of this “I’m right, you’re wrong” stuff
  • Unite often, spiritually and physically
  • And keep dying to self… over and over and over again.

A very common definition of love used by the Church is by Thomas Aquinas, who writes “Love is to will the good of the other.” I must use my will to think, act and want the good of my spouse. Notice there is no “What have you done for me?” in love. If Christ asked this of us, we would fall extremely short of deserving His love, instead He gives it freely. Like Christ, true love exudes, it is outpouring. Love is not concerned with how it feels, it’s only concern is the eternal happiness and goodness of the lover. So here’s to striving for selfless love, daily, over and over again – because it is so challenging for our fallen nature and so necessary for our salvation. Dying to self is how we live out our vows, how we grow in love and how we create strong, lasting marriages. Keep it up my friends, let’s root each other on. My husband and I are DYING to get to heaven! *another wink*