Holding Our Angel

Loving After Loss

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At least, But, However

Are words/phrases that need to be banned from all languages.

I was with a friend last night who is going through a hard time, and she was telling me some of the things people have said in an effort to “comfort” her.

I think it speaks to my optimism that despite all the crappy things people have said to me, I was still surprised at what has been said to my friend.

I realize the vast majority of people reading this are those who have lost a child or are a family/friend of mine, which means in both cases these people already know not to say a sentence with at least/but/however in it. But (see what I did there?) just in case…

If someone you know is struggling (not just with child loss, but with anything), do not say the words at least/but/however. Period.

Stop your sentence (or don’t even start it!) before you get to the offending word. There is no “I’m so sorry, but…”. Leave it at “I’m so sorry”. Throw in an “I’ll be thinking of/praying for you” if it’s genuine. Remember that actions speak louder than words. Offering to run an errand or drop off a dinner or help them with something around the house means so much more than a cliche.

No good comes from saying the words at least/but/however. For me, I started to withdraw from people. There are certain people I keep at arm’s length now because it is just easier to deal with than to have my feelings and experiences invalidated. I don’t like pretending everything is ok when it’s not, but it got to the point where pretending to be ok is a thousand times easier than opening myself up to someone only to be cut deeper.

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Faith and joy in hard times

There’s been something I’ve been struggling related to my faith, and this article explains it very well. Specifically these paragraphs:

Feeling guilty about admitting struggles or asking for help is not from God. That guilt comes from our own sin. It’s prideful to think we can do life alone, handling all our problems without the help of others. We need community to walk alongside us in tough times, but more importantly, we need a Savior. Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Rather than pretending to have it together, sometimes the best way to show how God is working in us is to be transparent about our desperate dependence on Him. Doing so puts our inadequacies on display, which can be terribly humbling. But it also shows that we’re human, and that our power to persevere doesn’t come from us, but Christ in us.

This is why it drives me absolutely nuts when Christians say things like “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”. Or when they brush aside what you are going through and just tell you to “have joy!”.

I am not strong enough to handle my son’s death. No one is. Burying your own child is horrific, and it takes more than anyone can handle. I’m not a big sports person, but my favorite metaphor for God is baseball related. God is not the pitcher in life, He is not determining what trials and joys you experience. God is the coach, there to guide us through life and help us get through it. There is so much about life that is out of our control and more than we can handle. Good and bad things happen, to both good and bad people. It isn’t fair, it is life. And God is there to help us deal with it all.

I still believe in God, and I always will. But Theo’s death impacted every part of my life and shook my faith to the core. The anger and bitterness toward God has come and gone in waves. My anger toward God is less now than it used to be, but it is still there. I’ve gone back and forth on questioning God “why did Theo have to die?”–sometimes I want an answer, sometimes I don’t. I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, so I don’t believe there was a purpose to Theo’s death, but I find myself still wanting to know why he had to die sometimes. I believe God had the power to save Theo but didn’t, and that has brought forth a lot of complicated emotions.

This wrestling with God has brought me closer to Him though. He’s the only one who listened to me unconditionally, and loved me despite all of the names I’ve called Him. He’s been there for every moment, in a way no one else can be. And most importantly, despite the fact that I’m angry with Him for not saving Theo, I take comfort in knowing Theo is in Heaven being watched over by God. I picture God playing with Theo until Kenny or myself is able to play with him. My trust in God, while not perfect, has grown as I’ve turned to Him for help and with everything I am feeling.

Will I ever be at peace with God over Theo’s death? I have no idea, I really don’t. Maybe a few months or years from now I will, maybe it will come and go and it will be something I always have to work on. One is not better than the other, and I’m open to wherever my heart and faith lead me.

Our church talked a few months ago on the importance of joy. The idea is happiness is based on our circumstances (such as a promotion, etc.), but joy is based in our faith in God. You can be going through a difficult time, but still have joy. I guess joy can be described as your overall attitude, but it’s not quite the same. I am trying to figure out what it means to have joy in times of hardship because admitting your problems/struggles is not the same as not having joy. While it seems impossible to feel contradicting emotions at once, it’s not. I have peace in the knowledge that Theo is in Heaven, but the fact that Theo is in Heaven also brings me a lot of heartache. I see the joy and the good in our lives, but I still feel the deep sadness every day too. I think figuring this out is especially difficult considering I will be grieving Theo for the rest of my life.

It’s easy to say that having joy while you are struggling is important, but so much harder to live out. If you are honest about the “bad” emotions you are feeling, you are being too negative. If you keep it to yourself, you’re just pretending to be ok. It’s like you can’t win. Though the comments that I’m still too sad, etc. still sting, I’m learning to tune them out more and more. I’m being authentic in my faith and grief, and figuring this all out the best I can. And the moments (however long or brief they are) of sadness/anger/etc. are not my whole journey: they are one messy part. I realize that currently, this part is what I talk about most so I don’t fault people for not being able to read my mind, but it’s something to remember no matter who you are dealing with. Just because I’m talking a lot about these aspects doesn’t mean it’s all I feel. And there is still so much that is too raw and personal for me to talk about with anyone except Kenny or my therapist.

Like the article touched on, when Christians say “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” they are minimizing who God is and overestimating our own abilities. No one is perfect, we all have strengths and weaknesses. But none of us are God, and admitting our shortcomings is ok. Saying you are struggling is to see yourself as you are: an imperfect person who, while doing the best they can, needs God. God is greater than us, He can handle everything and when we aren’t honest about what we are going through we are minimizing God. I believe God will take care of me if I turn to Him for help. I wish so, so much that Kenny and I weren’t going through this, but we are, so I’m trying to lean on God more than I ever have.