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.

 

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Suffering Quotes

“If life has any meaning, then suffering must have meaning…”
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“Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart
until, in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
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“Above all, may I unite my sufferings to that of Jesus on the cross, and carry my crosses not in shame but in faith, love and patience as He did. The Church teaches that suffering thus carried and united to His, is never in vain, but a powerful, redemptive prayer. May I always believe it, so my life will always have meaning.”
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September 7, 2017

Beginning the novena of Our Lady of Sorrows today, ending on Clark’s 2nd birthday. Pray with me for healing and life in heaven for all!
💔💔💔💔💔💔💔
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“God must consider suffering to be a great good since He gave so much suffering to His Son, Whom He loved so much. And since, after His Son, God loved the Holy Virgin more than any other creature, He also wanted to give her suffering as the richest of all presents. In the solemnity of this feast, we principally remember Mary on Calvary where she suffered the supreme sorrow of all sorrows that filled her life… To understand the extent and suffering of Our Lady, one must know the extent of her love for Jesus. Her love as Mother of God only augmented her suffering. In fact, nature and grace came together to produce profound impressions on the heart of Mary. Nothing is stronger and more pressing than the love that nature gives a mother for her son or that grace gives for God. These considerations help us understand the role of suffering in our lives. We see we are not alone in our suffering.”
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Loss, trials, silence and so many other sufferings prove normal in this vale of tears, perhaps even a communication of His love. Therefore we ask that the sufferings pass but when they persist, we must bless God and Our Lady, still – our constant companions.
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Blessed & Sorrowful

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Parenting with a Stitched Heart

There are thousands of blogs out there on how to parent and how not to parent, and every point of the spectrum seems to be touched-on when it comes to what ‘type’ of parenting style you should choose. This post, by no means, is a ‘how to’ sentiment.

In my opinion, parenting is love put into action. It can’t be much of anything else because so much action and so much love is demanded and necessary for the job. It’s non-stop work on the soul with lots of play in between so that’s why parents are tired all the time! Love put into action can take on many forms, and parenting is full of different stages and purposes so for that reason I will not even bother painting an image of what parenting should look and feel like because I’m not sure of it myself, but recently my husband and I have felt called to share our perspective on parenting after loss. In opening up about our parenthood with a new awareness of life’s fragility, our hope is to let you know that you are not alone in these thoughts and worries, that you do in fact encounter a strange kind of bereaved-parenting, and that hope can be pulled from the scars.


Laying in the dark, listening for noise, leaping out of bed to check once again that your child is breathing… Bracing yourself always, for the worst.

Flashing back, flashing forward, immediately worrying that silence or a phone call means death. 

Fearing the worst when your living children complain of anything out of the ordinary.

Saying no to anything too far out of your control for fear that you may be saying goodbye to your loved one for the last time.

Absolutely cringing when you witness people doing anything dangerous or taking their children’s lives for granted.


 

This list could go on for quite awhile but you get the point. The main commonality my husband and I have noticed when listening to other bereaved parents is the appreciation for every day/moment we are given and the anxiety of knowing that life is so very fragile and can be gone in a second.

Living with these fears can cripple a parent and their relationship with their God, spouse, children and peers. I remember listening to one mom describing her struggle with OCD and another couple who couldn’t bring themselves to have children again since losing their child in utero. It is hard, hard work to keep the fear in check. I, for one, have struggled with an anxiety that can effect me physically, so know that I do not pretend to have figured any of this out.

This new place we find ourselves in as parents means realizing new things about ourselves, about this life, and about death (which obviously has been around forever, but is different when it takes a child). I recently read an article from a Grieving Mom to a NON-Grieving Mom that put into words what our hearts were already experiencing. It might shed some light on how learning to live with this ‘anguish’ would affect everything about you, including your parenting.

 

Have you ever been in a store, at a park, in a crowded area filled with strangers and turned around to suddenly realize that your child has disappeared? Do you know the feeling of panic that ensues? Are you familiar with that terror? That ‘aloneness’? That horror? The utter confusion that envelops you? The trepidation that is felt in every fiber of your body? That momentary feeling that your heart simply forgot its next beat? The initial denial that is suddenly transformed into terrifying anguish?

. . .

If you can relate to this, then imagine it continuing on for hours, days, weeks, months, years…. Imagine being forever lost in this endless torment of crying out with every fiber of your being for your child that has disappeared. If you are able to relate to this for even a moment, you have for this moment, tried on my shoes.”

 

Much of the pain we encounter in our parenting with stitched hearts is this crying out for a child who is no longer here. It is love, wanting to be put into action for that specific child, but with nowhere to go, so it often manifests itself in a fear of some other impending death or a struggle to have joy because the void cannot be filled – the ‘crying out’ will not be silenced. It is a battle to stay present, to refocus over and over again on what IS and to leave the rest to God’s power and will. What is God’s will in all of this anyway? This place where our family feels broken but is also continuing on? I know that evil would like to rob us of any good, but God has much to give through our parenting children on earth and in heaven.

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.”

-Ecclesiastes 3:12-14 

For example, when we watch our living children play, we soak in the moment like none other because this moment is a gift from God. We snuggle extra long, we kiss our babies EVERY night, we don’t hesitate to say something kind, deep or sometimes challenging to others because NOW is the time to say it. We let the small stuff slide – life is too short to avoid not getting dirty, staying up late, and experiencing hard but good things. Life is too fleeting to put God aside for a more convenient time. Heaven is real in our house – our children’s brother lives there so we talk about him and his joy as if we were talking about the neighbor friend going to summer camp. We wonder about what he’s done ‘today’ and we send him love notes in our prayers every night.

Speaking of prayers, parenting with stitched hearts means praying A LOT. Asking God for help, for the ability to trust, to love like him, to teach our living kids well and to help us all to heaven. Like all parents we worry if we’re doing it right and with the added fear and “down days” when your heart is so broken, it’s easy to fail in one way or many. We have found that praying from the heart as a family brings about the closest thing to healing and it allows us to reflect on our day, to be thankful, and to ask God and our saintly brother for guidance.

Fear is most definitely NOT the answer, nor the parenting style or lifestyle my husband and I wish to use. It is a symptom of the scars, it can be valid, but it should not be the inspiration. On our good days we remember to question what it is that we fear and why. If death is what we’re fearing, with faith that fear should be consoled. Death is not the end, only a spiritual death is worthy of being feared. Ecclesiastes 3:11 is so profound… “He has set eternity in the human heart;” Hasn’t death been stitched into our hearts? Pierced by the pain of realizing that life is fragile and fleeting? That we will never get to kiss our children again? On some days none of it seems to have a purpose, just so. much. pain. Rather than death, we must realize that eternity is what we are being made aware of, it’s absolutely brutal, but good, so good that “…no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

God has set heaven on our hearts as bereaved parents and our lucky children get to be there sooner than we do. Soak this thought in, and let that love wash over you Mom and Dad, let it inspire every day of your life here, every encounter with others, every act of love for your children. Living with this fear and struggle is in no way easy, but it can be good too. We pray for you!

Love, The Edmans

 

 

St. Zélie Martin and Overcoming Grief in Hope by MICHELE CHRONISTER – Article

“You know that the only hope of reunion is heaven, and with a renewed sense of purpose, you journey to heaven as a family. Your family life becomes divided, with one foot on Earth, and one in heaven.

Heaven can no longer be dismissed as “someday” if it is the present reality of a member of the family.”

http://catholicexchange.com/st-zelie-martin-overcoming-grief-hope

May 7, 2017

Today is International Bereaved Mother’s Day. I share it with far too many women, far too many friends. I wish there was no such thing, no need for this kind of pain, but I’m grateful to know the names of so many saints/children of God, my sweet Clark Job being one of them. I loved the time we had and will always ache for more. I admire his tenacity and life in the womb. I remember kissing his cheek like it was yesterday and have yet to feel anything softer than his perfect, newborn skin. His life is FOREVER imprinted on this mama’s heart and in memory of all the children who’ve passed before their parents, I will pray and praise God for our hope and life together in heaven. May God hold your bereaved hearts extra close today 💙 #ClarkJob #lifeloveloss#hopeinheaven #motherhood #lovebeyondthisworld

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