Sunday, January 05, 2014

Beautiful Grief


I saw him today. 

His picture, that is. 

I went to my husband's computer to find a picture of a dear friend who just passed away, and there it was. I tried not to see it ever again, but I did. At first I thought it was Jackson or Annabeth in a hospital bassinet, but when I looked closer it was a baby with olive skin and black eyes wearing a white hat. I had put the Baby Gap hat in my purse to take home from the hospital and wash and then I never got to go back. It sits in a drawer in the stripped-bare nursery. 

Half a second later I was crying. Most of the time when I cry, it comes on slowly. But now it comes in a blink. 

Last night I visited a precious friend I've known for as long as I can remember. Her name is Vicky. She and her husband Louie were part of the core team of our church plant. They were one of a handful of older couples who showed us great mercy by joining our team. Their daughters are my friends and are close to my age. Louie passed away suddenly on Friday. He was sweet and hilarious and an adoring husband, daddy and grandpa. He loved Jesus. The quiet of his absence will be very loud for this family. 

While I was visiting with Vicky I thought about the demand our culture puts on us to be okay. I wondered if she was already feeling it. I wanted to stand between her and the Lie and slay it. I wanted to yell, "This is the worst thing she's ever gone through! There's no way she could be okay right now. This is terribly sad!" 

I wanted to fight for her. 

But a few days ago I wanted to fight myself. 

I was drying my hair in front of a mirror. I was having a sad day. A mad day. The expression I saw in my eyes was one of self-hatred.  

I hated myself because I could not control my emotions. 

I hated myself because I was rejected. 

I hated myself because I'm supposed to sing "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord" with my hands lifted to heaven and smile through my tears. I'm supposed to say how sweet and intimate my fellowship with God has been since I was crushed on October 14, 2013. 

It's not going down like that. I'm glad it does for some people. Those people have been given very special grace. There have been some moments like that, but largely this has been ugly and brutal. 

Perhaps I witnessed someone having a Beautiful Grief Day and I thought that's how it's always done. I read the amazing testimony she wrote and thought that's normal for every day. Why would I expect less from myself? I'm in ministry, after all. This Beautiful Grief should be natural for me. 

Um, no. 

This is not how I wanted to grieve, God. I wanted to be good at this. I didn't want to be mad at You. I didn't want to lash out at my husband and kids. I didn't want to use words that would shock people and let them know how rotten I felt. I didn't want to be cynical. 

The bright spot in this season is that I am really, really in touch with God's grace. I'm freshly aware that my relationship with God depends on His Son's perfection and not my own. This was something I came to know when I was a college student trying to get my very sinful life turned around. Now I'm a 34-year-old pastor's wife, just as relieved to be given grace as I was then. She who has been forgiven much loves much. Thank You, God. Help that love outweigh my questions and confusion in infinite measure. 

63 comments:

Sarah said...

You are beautifully brave, Amanda. Thank you for writing such real words. Real words of truth. Praying for you.

Anne Marie Trowbridge said...

Thank for being brave enough to admit this. Don't for a second think that this isn't as much of a testimony as someone who grieves righteously. He knows how hard it is he lost a son, he will never expect it to be easy remember that.

Brandi said...

Thank you for sharing your feelings not just how we're "supposed" to feel. Praying for you.

Lissa Bennett said...

I read this with tears streaming down my face. thank you for being brave enough to write this.

Tara G. said...

I have a friend who lost a newborn daughter after a few days. Not long ago, as she marked an anniversary, she put up a quote that (my paraphrase) said mothers seek to protect and when a child has been lost, a mother will still seek to protect the memory of that child...my friend's baby died 16+ years ago. I share that because you're a great mom- not only to your two at home, but to this one that was/is in your heart. May God continue to bind your wounds. Much love to you.

Dena said...

This is exactly how I experience myself in grief too. My last big loss occurred on 8-14-13, and I am just now seeing some of the beauty rising. Thank you for sharing this!

Jules said...

Your honesty and transparency help all of us who grieve and struggle with these same emotions. Some days it is is hard to be brave. xoxo

Kelsey said...

Yes.. Thank you. You are not alone! We beat ourselves up in this area. You're not the only one who hasn't been able to smile through the grief. Thankful for grace even when we're mad at him...

Holly said...

Sigh. Why is it that my phone acts up after a long comment? Drat!

I only wrote how sorry I was and how I am lifting a cup in your honor right now in prayer...that it is very cold outside and I wish we could share a cup together. That we could look out on this cold day and weep and sip. That I pray God will do a glorious thing for you...and I wish His joy to encompass you, Amanda. Well the comment was sort if like that...written with love, Holly

Stephanie said...

Amanda, I read your blog often and your openness in sharing your adoption loss is very encouraging. My husband and I have an adopted son who is 8. Almost 2 years ago his birth mother contacted us because she was pregnant again and wanted us to adopt the new baby. We agreed and for a couple of months it looked like things would go forward. That baby boy was born May 2, 2012 and she decided to parent him. We never even got to meet him. As someone who has been where you are, I just want you to know that the pain is very real and will catch you off guard, but God does bring healing and he will bring good from this situation. I'm not all the way on the other side yet - there are still days it catches me off guard - but I know that God is doing great things in my life because of this situation. Praying for you and your family!

Stephanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ganise C. said...

Such beautiful honesty. Believe me, I can relate to what you said. God has been clearly showing me that I allow my feelings to control me. I saw wish it wasn't so. My word for this year is ''rest''. I want to trust God and rest in His faithfulness. To allow Him to work in me. It's an incredibly humbling experience because I'm realizing how rotten I am on the inside. I wish I were better, I wish it didn't have to be this way and I struggle with rejecting lies from the enemy. It's painfully difficult - especially when you believe you're unworthy. It's a relief to know that I'm not alone. Almost brought tears to my eyes. Didn't plan on writing a long comment but I'm praying God works through and in you. May these struggles bring us closer to Him. Blessings, friend.

CrysHouse said...

I don't know if you actually read these comments, Amanda, but I didn't feel like I could keep this to myself.

I've been reading Michael Card's A Sacred Sorrow and it has detailed much of the grief and wondering I've been through (and much of what you're describing). I don't know if it would help, but I thought I'd offer it.

Grief is multifaceted. I hate that because it leaves us so unprepared to anticipate and "deal with" its arrival. But what you said about living in a "Be OK" culture is also true, and I think that makes navigating the grief that much harder.

Anyway...I didn't want to go on a tangent...just offer something that is gradually changing my perception of grief and crying out to God.

boomama said...

This hurting world needs your words. You are strong and brave and beautiful. Love you.

Dionna Sanchez said...

I'm sending you a gentle, full-of-love hug. I'm so sorry for your pain.

Melissa said...

I love this. Sometimes its ok not to be ok. What a precious reminder in a hurting world.

thenewbec said...

Just yesterday I found myself telling a friend that God is big enough to handle her yelling at him... and I just might join her. (That's ok for a PW to say, isn't it?)
Still, I've never felt the true-ness of His love more. May we never stop believing that, especially when we aren't okay. *Hugs*

HeHoHasMommy said...

Beautiful Grace!

Beautiful post. You have a way with words that's a Gift. Some can't put this into words. You touch our souls when we don't have the words to express what's deep within.

So relatable. Though my path & experience may differ, somehow you speak the words that say what I have walked with other experiences. I tell myself though I have much compassion in my heart for you that I can't know exactly how you feel, yet some how (tears) you know how I have felt during a lot of deep hard times. I hope that there are many who give Grace & understanding. Christ walks with us deeply in put pain even when it doesn't feel like it sometimes and it is Beautiful in its own deep, yet different way.

I saw something the other day I wished I would have known long ago because it would have helped me know I was ok when I though I wasn't or when I thought others would think I wasn't. It helped me know that it's normal. It said:

"Grief attacks"

"When grieving we can be going along and everything seems to be ok. Then out of nowhere grief hits full force. These are not set backs, they are part of the grieving experience."



I have learned this though:
Grief is a hard, normal part of life that isn't fun that must be gone through and we must have room for it. It's healthy even though it doesn't seem it is at times. It's real!

Deb said...

thank-you so much...for sharing your heart... I can relate...in so many ways...praying much peace and blessings over you :)

AllisonB said...

I am so proud of you for sharing your story and your true emotions. I don't know if you've followed Will Gray's story, but his widow wrote an answer to the question, "How are you feeling?" on their blog. So raw, so powerful - and, much like you, she is not "okay" - it was very freeing to read for anyone who has ever suffered intense grief and who has struggled with not being "okay" when the world expects them to be so. Here's the link to the blog.
http://goteamgray.com/2013/11/03/how-im-doing-written-by-angie/

Ruth H said...

Thank you for sharing your heart, Amanda. Your honesty and walk of faith is an encouragement to so many you don't even know. My husband passed away on Christmas Eve, and I must say this grief thing is a strange animal. One minute I can be somewhat ok when I don't want to be ok, and my stomach is in knots as I feel worse than when I'm crying. Then out of the blue I can be inconsolable over some small thing. I had the hardest time finally making it to the grocery store for the first time to not be buying anything for him, and it was just excruciating to pass by any of his favorite things. People tell me it will get easier day by day, but I don't really think it works that way. It is back and forth moment by moment, and I really think reality is just now starting to sink in. Every person grieves differently, and not always even in the way we would think we would. Thank you for giving us a glimpse of your heart and reminding us of the extravagant grace we have in Christ. With prayers for you as well...

Ashley Scott said...

Amanda…your words resonate deep in my soul. For us it was October 22, not October 14. For us it was birth country, not birth mother. But I know that look in the mirror.

I am truly sorry you are going through this valley. I would not wish it on anyone.

But I do know and I have learned even more these months…Jesus is always sovereign. Jesus is always good. Jesus loves us dearly. And we can trust Him.

Love and blessings sweet sister in Christ, Ashley

Big Boo said...

Thanks for sharing because my grief too is not beautiful. It's real but it's not beautiful. I am a person of deep caring and strong emotion and that plays out in the good and the bad. Being that God created me that way, I hope He understands when it shows itself in grief. Prayers for you and thank you for being transparent. In times of great struggle and sadness as I'm in now, it helps to know I'm not the only God-loving woman whose grief is not beautiful.

WisGalinOkee said...

Miss Jones - Amanda - bless you , thank you for writing again -- THIS spoke volumes to me and your transparency was - healing.

God will heal that heart -- and HE is teaching you how to grieve -- with HIM, as HE will use you as a Pastor's wife in this ministry again for another.

Words move mountains....God's word through you - moved me. Thank you. - michelle Pritchard, Okeechobee, Florida.

This Is The Day said...

What a beautiful post for those hearts that have experienced these same feelings. Thank you for being so open and honest about not always feeling the "right" emotions. It looks like God is already using this tragedy to reach others with His love. Knowing you are not alone is immensely powerful.

Byron and Kelly said...

"She who has been forgiven much loves much" So well said!

Kate Shapiro said...

That's how I felt after my miscarriage. Wanting to control my emotions and be strong and give all the glory to God and be one of those people that had joy in the midst of heart ache. Yeah, maybe sometimes I had those moments where I really felt God was holding me together, but many times, mostly when I was on my own, I would just sit and be angry and full of despair and think, "God why my baby? Just give me my baby back. Just give me my baby back." I don't think it's normal-- or maybe I mean human-- to have that those moments of beautiful grief all the time. I think we see that in people when they are around people, maybe because they feel surrounded by people and a little encouraged and distracted. But I think everyone, when on their own, has the same emotions as you, or even me. That's just the nature of grief. And thankfully God understands us and gives us plenty of grace to get through it. The loss of the child is the absolute worst <3 <3

Kathleen said...

Amanda, your transparency and humility will touch so many hearts. I am closer to your mom's age, but have followed your blog for awhile, I am so glad to see you writing again.

My husband and I work with young married couples in our church, one being our pastor and his wife. Sharing your brokenness and disappointment while clinging to Jesus and moving on Grace alone will help so many who will face difficult trials. Thanks for being so brave. I am praying for your heart tonight, for hope in what is unseen, for the ability to rest in the unknowing, for the Grace that is disguised to carry you.

Hang in there dear one. You are loved!

His Jules said...

Your words are so raw, so real.Thank you for being brave enough to share. Sometimes it's so hard to keep up the mask of expectation when all we want to do is rant, cry, and ask why. Thank you for giving this a voice. I'm glad you are writing again.

Lynette Hallock said...

Thank you for sharing your heart and story. I encourage you to read Psalm 43:17-18. Cry out to Him!!

Talley Family said...

There is no " right" way to do grief! Believe me God will craft something beautiful not to the worlds eye but just something between you and Him! That no one can touch! I used to want people to get it then thankfully in Hos kindness and mercy I realized I did have someone who got it and loved me in my brokenness and He loved me even more! I never knew the depths of pain would create such a beautiful relationship with Him! the grief never leaves but neither does He! Much love and prayers

Katrinna Durbin said...

Amanda, thank you for your words. I have been there. Everything resonates. I'm praying for you.

Amy Beth Gardner said...

Sent you an email. Love you.

Church Lady said...

Amanda, you are not alone in your pain and grief. Every adoption story has it's own unique and painful twist and turns. We have 2 couples in our church that are in the process of international adoption. One is adopting 2 little boys from the Democratic Republic of The Congo. About the same time that you suffered your loss they were traveling to DRC to get one of their sons. After getting there the government shut down. They stayed as long as their visas allowed. They spent their days trying to get the government to let them bring their son home but to no avail. They spent 6 weeks with both of their precious sons then had to return back to the US without them. Now the government is closed indefinitely. Their pain is unconceivable. They are not able to have children themselves and their hearts are broken and aching for the sons that they are having to watch grow up via face time and photos.
The other couple in our church is adopting from Ethiopia. They were give their reference also about the same time you suffered your loss. After falling in love with this precious child they found out, that by mistake or on purpose, that he was referred as a healthy child but actually he had special needs and that they would not be able to adopt him. They were broken and crushed.
From all that I have seen and learned, adoption is a heart wrenching process that more than often leaves those involved suffering grief and unbelievable pain. But the reward is unbelievable blessing. I tell you these stories not to minimize your pain and grief but to let you know that your not alone and that you are being lifted up in prayer and that it's alright to grieve. God will bind up our broken hearts.

Chase and Laura Bowers said...

Amanda,
I'm a pastor's wife. We matched with a birth mom in early October and welcomed a beautiful daughter on October 25th of this year. Signing was set for 10 am on Sunday Oct.27th. And then the phone call came at 10pm Saturday night. She changed her mind. I know your anger, your pain, your grief. I know the incessant "whys" that swirl. I have never known such grief- that makes me want to scream and curse and throw myself on the floor. It's as if we had a still born child. You are not alone. Praying with you that He would be hope enough for us.

Sammy said...

Thank you for being so honest. Thank you for showing us that it's ok to be "not ok" while being in ministry. You are awesome x
I am so sorry again for your loss xx

Mary Gegare said...

Dear Amanda,
I'm sure it is safe to say no one around you is judging you for your grief. Only yourself...there is no right way or wrong way. After I lost my best friend in a mass shooting I remember how raw I felt inside for such a long time. I thought those days of bursting into tears would never cease.I still have those moments,just not as often. I pray the arms of Jesus would hold you so tightly as you make your way thru such a difficult time. Maybe in those moments you could ask Jesus, give that precious boy a hug from me..I'm sure He would be happy to oblige..
Love to you dear sister.

Amy Dellinger said...

I am so sorry for the loss that you've experienced...

I relate to what you wrote. My family has experienced much loss over the last four years and as much as I try to smile and act like I am handling it all well, my heart is weary. My immediate family sees my struggle and I feel guilty that they don't get the pretty, happy version of me that others do. I have never understood the verse "Hope deferred makes the heart sick" more than now. Thank you for your transparency.

Stacy said...

We just went through a painfully similar situation on January 1st. I UNDERSTAND your grief and pain, it is fresh in my soul. God is good, He will give us the amount of grace we each need to press on. He has great blessing planned for you and for me! Don't let the enemy keep you down so that you miss the glory of God in His plans for your life. Hugs and prayers to you my sister �� Our God is faithful! You will be in my prayers Amanda.

Stacy said...

And as I should have started my first comment, I'm so so sorry for your loss.

Paige said...

You are writing the words of my heart...after losing my mom & best friend 2 years & 2 weeks ago to an aggressive brain tumor- I feel like I have to put on a happy face...especially as a church staffer...God will make all things beautiful- I do believe that. But right now, I'm still just angry that my 51 year old Godly mother is gone and that I have to explain why Jesus let her go on to heaven to my 3 kids....Our pain will have a purpose....Be blessed.

Angela Carson said...

Through different circumstances my heart can hark back to a time in the not so distance past when I felt so much of what you currently feel...Amber Burger can confirm, as text emoted often during that season. I am praying that you will hold on by faith to what you KNOW to be true until one day when you FEEL it again. Love you friend.

Amanda said...

Stacy, I left you a message on your blog.

Ruth H said...

Amanda, thank you so much for the sweet comment you wrote on my blog. I can't even tell you how much it touched my heart that you would take the time to do that. Much of the day today I had been thinking about your post and about the pressure we have to be okay so soon. Today marks just two weeks since my husband's passing, and there were several instances this afternoon when I really started to notice that pressure already. It is crazy. I know this will be a long road, but I know God will be there with His grace at each step, too. Thank you again. I will continue to pray for you in this season as well. . .

Georgia Fulenwider said...

Your transparency is a beautiful thing. Grief is HARD work, do not be too hard on yourself! Our precious 15 year old girl went home to be with the Lord almost 6 years ago and the grief journey continues. Most days are good but I do still have some doozies. Culture tells us that the grief journey is unhealthy if it lasts longer than 2 years. The problem with that is... it is a journey a life long journey with HIM. Thank you for your beautiful words and your transparency, I needed the reminder. Blessings and prayers to you and yours!

k and c's mom said...

How glad I am to see you being honest about your feelings. When my husband died five years ago, I tried to keep it all bottled in. I'd wake up sometimes in the middle of the night to find my face covered with hot tears: my body was crying without me. Those emotions will find a place to go if you don't honestly release them. Grace, mercy and peace upon you as your journey continues, Amanda.

Stacy said...

Thank you so much for sharing. About a year ago we had something happen that has plain left me crushed, bruised and feeling abandoned. As we come up on a year I am going through emotions that make me feel like I'm in the same place. I'm mad at God for what has happened and the loss we have had. I ask myself how can I be a good wife and momma when I feel so raw and broken I don't even know how to get out of bed each day, yet I do, but somedays that's all I do because it hurts so bad and I'm mad and I am a 'mature' Christian. I'm 42 for goodness sake and this bare pit I'm in is not where I think or thought I should/would be. Thank you for writing words that let me know I'm not alone in grief and that someone else knows how it feels.

Kristi said...

I'm so very sorry for your loss, Amanda. My sister in law has experienced both heartache and joy through the adoption process. Her only two children were received into our family through adoption. I would like to very gently say that you do not owe people what they expect of you. Grief IS hard; possibly the hardest of all emotions because it slays us relentlessly at the most unexpected times. With so much love and many prayers for you, Kristi

Lisa said...

My grief was not beautiful either. I remember telling someone that they could be absolutely sure Jesus was real because otherwise without Him I would not be able to take the next breath. I felt the pressure to be "ok" too soon, especially as others in my circle were going through things.....it almost felt like "my turn" to grieve was over.....LONG before it should have been.

Thank you for being brave and for writing what needs to be heard. I am praying for you, although we have never met, but we surely share the same Father.

Patty said...

I wanted to agree with Sophie. "This hurting world needs your words." Praying for you and love you.

Tara Craver said...

Amanda! I'm so thankful you are writing again! I have missed your blogs. I'm praying for you and know that The Lord is near. You are a voice this generation needs. One that is real and raw and shows that The Lord works in the good and the hard. Hugs! What a sweet family you have. May His mercies be new Every.Single.Morning....

Barbara Head said...

I never for a moment in the real world thought that a 34 year old would be teaching a hard lesson to a 70 year old. That, my darling Amanda, is what has happened through this blog. If I may just say, through my blinding tears, that you are a blessing to me as my pastor's wife and as a mighty woman of God. Thank you for being real in an unreal world.

leapingintolearning said...

Grief is physically painful.

Embrace it. And endure it. And God will carry you through it.

I do want to say though you can never "move on" if adoption has grabbed a hold of your heart.

Believe me when I say I want to. I even spout off things like "that was a season and now it is over."

Thing is though, God is all about adoption. It is I believe about as close to His heart as we can come.

My husband and I have six children, and four of them were born in our hearts and came home to us through adoption.

PLEASE take all the time you need to grieve for this precious baby. I KNOW that grief is VERY REAL.

From the moment God planted the seed to begin the process for each of our children, before we even knew who they were, my heart was taken for each of those children. No one but an adoptive Mom can understand that love. So I know it is real. I know it personally.

You don't need to grieve a certain way. You just have to grieve.

As others have said, many need to read your transparent words here.

Thank you for sharing your loss and your grief so that others might be touched by His overflowing mercies upon us.

Since November 20, which will go down as one of the darkest days of my life, I have physically felt the power of God's promise that His mercies are new every morning.

Praying for your family through this loss.

Heather said...

Oh, how all of our grieving looks different! We certainly don't all respond the same way or in the same timing. I'm thankful for your honesty. I'm sure it comforts people to know a pastor's wife has these emotions. The Lord WILL do the work of heart-healing though! I know you know that. Praying for you tonight.

Pamela Payne said...

Wow. Powerful. Beautiful truth.

Elisabeth said...

THANK YOU. Just.......Thank you.
More than stupid impersonal words typed on a stupidly impersonal computer could ever express. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
For walking through every ugly step.
For being so bravely open about it.
For wrestling this entire thing out.
For being you. Fully and completely you.
Who you are-right now, mess and all-is actually what makes me want YOU as my Pastor's Wife.
Because It's gorgeous.

RPGilliam said...

I read this post when it was originally posted, but a few weeks later, I suffered a miscarriage at 8 weeks pregnant. Afterwards, I kept coming back to your words about the lie that the world tells us about not grieving. It is OK to grieve for my baby, even if it was "just" 8 weeks, even if I already have one beautiful, healthy baby. Thank you for sharing. It really made a difference.

Nichole said...

Grief is messy, ugly, scary and most of all unpredictable. The things you think will set you off, barely cause you to blink and the things you think are ok leave you in a heap on the floor. We recently went through a miscarriage and I am going through so much of this too. I am thankful for a God who asks us to come as we are, even when as we are is hurt, confused, angry and broken.

Erica said...

As I am walking this journey with two very dear friends, I am grateful for the beautiful Truth you spoke. Life has been messy for me, too. And, a friend last night reminded me how easily it is for me to have grace for others and not for myself. Thank you for sharing, friend.

Carrie Stobbe said...

don't stop writing... it's real, and it's beautiful... and it matters...your truth matters.... don't give up...

Penny said...

Amanda, Please know that you are still on my heart and in my prayers. Please keep writing, if not for us, then at least for yourself. There is something so healing about spilling your heart through your words unto the blank page. February is a big birthday month in our house, too. I hope yours were so fun.

Lynn said...

I needed to read this today. I haven't ( sadly ) visited your blog lately but today the words "beautiful grief" drew me in. Grief has actually been drawing me in for the last 10 years. I haven't wanted it or thought I deserved it, but I have walked about as close to that valley of the shadow that I possibly could without walking across myself. I have held the hands of sweet little twin grandsons, born too early, and let them go. I have tried to hold my beautiful parents back and finally let them go 3 years apart into God's arms. Then, 8 weeks ago, my sweet childhood sweetheart husband crossed over into death without me. Yes. I know this beautiful grief that you speak of. I am struggling with the beautiful word but I know that in time God, my Father, will bring me sunshine. For that time, I am waiting, oh so not, patiently.

Deb Robinson said...

I miss your blog posts... I hope you write soon...Blessings and Prayers to you...Deb