It was not the first time someone told me this and I suspect it won't be the last.
Talk about bittersweet.
I suppose I should explain. I'm talking about when people hear that your child died and immediately----I mean without even pausing to take in a breath----say, "You will see him again in Heaven."
Is that supposed to make it all okay?
Tell me, what exactly do these kind folks mean when they toss out that line?
If I were to watch a mother or father crying over the loss of an infant that only breathed for a few moments or a son or daughter who lived to be forty, I would never say that line.
It's a cheap shot. My opinion. To me, it makes it seem as though there is no reason for tears. Or makes it seem that if I had real faith, I wouldn't be sad.
Don't get all ruffled up now. It's not that I don't believe. You see, I do believe in Heaven. I wish more was written about it in The Bible. On many days I wish for just a glimpse. When I'm at the ocean and the breeze blows and the waves dance against the shore, I feel I'm closer to Heaven. Or when I go for a walk and the scents and sights of spring fill my vision, I think, "Ah, this is heavenly."
I believe when people die they go to Heaven. The criminal on the cross next to Jesus was promised he would be with Jesus in paradise. Love is perfect there because the Creator of love, God the Father, lives in Heaven. There is no sin, no sorrow, no tears and no human frailty in this place of eternity.
Yet sometimes I wonder if those who tell me not to worry, that I'll be with my son again in Heaven, are not using their God-given mind to think, to ponder.
Do you really think I am going to be serving animal crackers and reading bedtime stories to my Daniel in Heaven?
There will be reunions, yes. But I will never be Daniel's mama on earth again. Gone is the dream every mother holds and that is to watch her little baby grow up. That ended for me with Daniel's death at age four. When he died, so did my need to buy Cocoa Puffs for him.
I was thirty-six then. I'm fifty-two now. That's been a lot of time for me to wonder and pray and think, and oh, yes, bite my tongue. Especially when well-meaning folk try to cast off my pain by quipping, "We'll just think, you'll see him again in Heaven."
"If Heaven is going to be just like earth where I have to take out the trash, worry about paying bills, and discipline my kids, I don't want it," a mother said to me.
Some seem to think Heaven is an extension of earth. That Heaven to many will be a repeat, only without mosquitoes and a place where consuming a pound of milk chocolate won't make one fat. Many act like it's going to be where I can see my Daniel again as he was on earth. Folks, that little body that took a beating to cancer is gone. It is no more. The Bible promises we'll get new bodies, and I imagine that they won't age. In fact we probably will all look the same age----young and flawless, like the women in all those Oil of Olay commercials.
So before you tell a mother who is sorrowful over the death of her dreams, who is questioning who she is now without her son or daughter, who dreads Christmas because it means one less stocking to fill, who has seen her family diminish in size, and who has a hard time putting one foot in front of the other on most days---even years later----THINK!
There are so many healthy and nurturing ways in which we can comfort each other. Consider them. Instead of giving a pat, "Well, you'll see your child in Heaven," why not sit down, hold a grieving mother's hand, and listen?
You just might cry when you hear her aching heart. Don't you think Jesus would be weeping if He were seated next to her, too?
She knows she'll see her child again in Heaven. Right now she needs more than that reassurance. She has to learn how to live the rest of her life without him. She has to conquer sleepless nights and inappropriate comments, criticism, and push herself to believe that she will get a day free of tears.
Let her know that she is going through the hardest journey a mother ever goes through.
Let love coupled with understanding be how you bring comfort.
~ Alice is the author of five inspirational novels and the new devotional on grief and loss, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache. Read the reviews and order a copy here.
[This post was first posted at Alice's Patchwork Quilt Blog]
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Writing produces clarity and freedom. It's wonderful therapy. When we feel stressed, sorrowful or disappointed, putting our thoughts onto paper releases the tension.
Consider one of my upcoming writing workshops.
1) Writing the Heartache starts July 29th and can be completed in the comfort of your own home via your computer. I email you the lessons and you complete them and send them back to me. Sign up here.
2) Journey through Life's Losses is an all-day workshop on July 27th at the Hampton Inn in Raleigh, NC (near the PNC). Sign up today.
3) Broken Psalms is an all-day workshop on August 17th in Forest City, NC at the Carolina Conference Center. Set in the western part of the lovely state of North Carolina, a great place to retreat. Sign up by clicking here.
Monday, June 24, 2013
Shortly after Daniel died, a co-worker of my husband's gave us a book. The book was accounts of local parents who had lost children in various ways. One of the women shared how she lost a son 40 years ago to neuroblastoma, the same cancer Daniel had. According to her bio, she lived in nearby Raleigh. I looked her up in the phone book and called her. I'll never forget the feeling of calling a stranger to tell her about the death of my son. Would she think I was crazy? Too forward? I didn't care; I needed to connect with someone who had had a child die. Plus, her story was touching and from her written words, she seemed kind.
When she answered the phone, I told her what had happened to me. We were both excited that we'd found each other through a book. "Thank you for calling me," she said at the end of our conversation. She invited me to her house for lunch. We got together many times after that and became friends. She listened to my questions. Not only was she kind, she was living proof that life could go on for me.
I share this to say that I feel any time after the death of a child is an okay time to send a book or a gift. When the idea was birthed to send donated copies of my new devotional, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning , to the families affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, people asked, "When is the best time to send your books? Should we wait a few weeks? Months?"
I say, go for it now. The bereaved parent may be like I was and delve right into the book (I tended to gravitate toward books written by other bereaved parents as opposed to those written by the theologians, although I was gifted with both). Or the particular parent may not be able to read or want to read anything for a while. Every parent is different. But there is no harm in sending a book right away.
Perhaps it would help if we recognized a couple of things about grief. When a child first dies, it is devastating beyond words. Months later, it is still devastating. Sometimes the later months are even worse than the onset of the moment when the news is delivered that he has died. Reality kicks in---he is not coming back. He is not backpacking in the Appalachian mountains, he is not away at camp. He is not at college. He is not napping in his crib. He is not, he is not, he is not, is not, is not . . .
He is dead.
The truth is, friends, this parental bereavement journey continues for the rest of the parent's life. Yes, that's thirty, forty or even seventy years. It is not going away.
So when to send a book? Any time. Let your message be: "I care for you. I want to do something." If you send my book, send it with a note sort of like this: "Here is a book my friend wrote after the death of her four-year-old son. I wanted you to have it."
Unfortunately no book will "fix" a bereaved parent. But books can help. Books can become comforting companions. "We read to know that we are not alone," wrote C.S. Lewis.
The hosts of the recent radio show I was on (one a bereaved mother and one a bereaved sibling) said many books written about the death of a child are either all about the situation (acknowledging emotions, etc.) and nothing about God or all about God and little about the situation. The hosts commented that Getting Out of Bed in the Morning is a mixture of both emotions faced when a child dies and God. I feel that books that gloss over the overwhelming emotions and get right to "how God has a better plan" provide a disservice to grief and loss. Grief needs to be brought to the surface, as ugly and uncomfortable as it might make us feel.
No one knows why children die. No one should pretend to have the answers. God of Mystery is a chapter in my book that deals with the not knowing why. In spite of not knowing, I do know faith is trusting even when the path is bleak and the winds knock you down. Faith is not easy. Trite responses and Band-aids do not give me comfort. But I do know that I need God on this journey and I need to trust that Daniel resides in Heaven with Him.
If you'd like to order a copy of Getting Out of Bed in the Morning, please head over to Amazon.
Autographed copies can be ordered from my Rivers of Life Gift Shop.
Monday, April 29, 2013
I will be facilitating three workshops this spring/summer on writing.
Write to Create will be held in Raleigh, NC at the Comfort Inn near
Crabtree Mall on June 15 and is for all writers who want to learn the nuts and bolts of not just the craft, but of the industry. We will be spending time talking about writing query letters that sell and proposals for non-fiction books as well as how to obtain an agent. If you are interested in self-publishing a book, we will learn the steps needed to take to do that. Read more here.
Writing to a Healthier You! will be held at the Hampton Inn in Norcross, GA on June 22. Fellow bereaved mom, author and counselor, Mary Jane Cronin, will be teaching this workshop on grief-writing with me. We'll share how effective writing can be and exercises to make your writing time beneficial. Register here.
Journey through Life's Losses will be on July 27 at the Hampton Inn in Raleigh, NC and will focus on writing through many of life's losses. We'll dive into the emotions that expand from grief and talk about how instrumental writing is for health, hope and healing as we create many works of prose and poetry.
Sign up today.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Is there sorrow in your life? Grief due to loss? There is much heartache in life. Discover how writing helps to heal and even brings health.
The next five-week online writing course, Writing the Heartache, starts April 15th. Hope you can join us for a time of writing for healing, hope and health. Register by going to the link here.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
"People wait for inspiration to hit them. Don't wait for it; sit down and absorb it by doing. Write! Create! Act now! Writing produces more writing. Soon you are Living Inspiration!"
Friday, March 8, 2013
Fellow writers, today my guest is Dianna Benson. Read her post and feel free to leave a comment below.
For me, heartache has been something of a thread throughout my life; I learned at a young age to turn it into good by bettering my soul. I grew-up with a mentally ill mother; life with her was uncertain, violent, and chaotic. When I was a junior in high school, my dad was killed in a bicycle accident (he was a tri-athlete). Starting when I was four-years-old, he showed me a life of adventure in skiing, climbing, scuba diving, etc. I called him Big Guy; he called me Middle-Sized Guy. We were buddies.
That June day, he was cycling in the mountains when his bicycle malfunctioned and he was thrown over the handle bars. The mountain hospital was unable to treat his trauma wounds, especially his open head trauma. As he was flown in a flight-for-life helicopter to a metropolitan hospital, he was brain dead but the medical crew still performed heart massage on the fit man who was only forty-nine-years old. When my mother and I received the call about his accident, I had to drive us to the hospital since she was too distraught. I hadn’t had my driver’s license long and had never been to the hospital across town, so during the drive I turned to God for the first time and depended on Him to carry me through, which He did, and His arms are still wrapped around me today. I still remember the exact location on that highway where this occurred; it was a beautiful thing, and somehow I found myself driving right to the hospital as if I knew the way.
Only a few days after my dad’s funeral, my mother and I visited the people in the mountains who tried to save his life—firefighters, EMS, physicians, etc. It was a long day filled with details better left unknown to a teenager, so I focused on how amazing EMTs are; I thought: “Wow, I would love to do that job when I grow up.”
I didn’t have much of a chance to mourn my dad’s death since I was too occupied with taking care of my mother who struggled to take care of herself. Only six weeks after my dad died, my mother took off to escape her overwhelming grief. I was on my own until I married my amazing husband. We’ve been married twenty-three years.
All of the above prepared me for the medical nightmare my family endured starting when I was thirty-nine, my husband was forty-one, and we had three young children. In 2009, my husband was diagnosed with head and neck cancer. He endured two surgeries and radiation treatments. I told our kids how my dad survived cancer when I was eight-years-old. They said, “Yeah, but then he died a few years later.” I reminded them the bicycle accident had nothing to do with cancer. As my husband fought cancer, our son suffered a severe concussion from trauma in a hockey game, then battled Lyme disease (first thought to be cancer), and our oldest daughter endured scoliosis surgery (thirteen-inch spinal incision). All during this time, I couldn’t write fiction; the writing just wouldn’t come. But, I wrote from my heart, spilled my thoughts and feelings on the page, just like I had as a child; it was therapeutic and kept me strong.
My attitude during the medical war my family recently fought, was calling the five of us: “As the Benson’s Turn.” The five of us leaned on laughter, our faith and each other. Smooth sailing in life doesn’t develop a compassionate, strong, resilient, etc. soul; plus, the bad in life makes the good even better. In The Hidden Son (and in all my books), I want readers to be inspired by how my characters don’t try the impossible: “Get over” the difficult stuff in life and move on; instead, they accept the pain difficult events in their lives cause, and they move forward with a renewed sense of understanding in themselves, in life, and in God.
My God bless you with a life filled with both joys and trials!
Dianna T. Benson is a 2011 Genesis Winner, a 2011 Genesis double Semi-Finalist, a 2010 Daphne de Maurier Finalist, and a 2007 Golden Palm Finalist. In 2012, she signed a nine-book contract with Ellechor Publishing House. Her first book, The Hidden Son, released in print world-wide March 1, 2013.
After majoring in communications and a ten-year career as a travel agent, Dianna left the travel industry to earn her EMS degree. An EMT and a Haz-Mat and FEMA Operative since 2005, she loves the adrenaline rush of responding to medical emergencies and helping people in need. Her suspense novels about adventurous characters thrown into tremendous circumstances provide readers with a similar kind of rush.
Dianna lives in North Carolina with her husband and their three athletic children.
Read more at her website.