This weekend is my youngest son’s Heaven birthday. The day God took him to Heaven after an eight-month struggle with an inoperable brain tumor. That was fifteen years ago. Fifteen. Most days – probably more accurately most years, or at least, most seasons – I find much joy and even a peace (that often passes my comprehension). Yet, there are times when I am overwhelmed with the reality of fifteen years without my son. Today seems to be one of those days….and I am a bit surprised by it. I struggle to find the words to express what I want to convey this weekend. So I have chosen a post I wrote several years ago. A repost – with just a few tweaks here and there. It expresses my heart and, prayerfully, will be a help to someone else who is walking a dark valley. If that is not you today, I pray that my thoughts – and, in some small measure, Tyler’s life – will be a blessing to you today.
“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” I Peter 1:7
I claimed this verse during the early months of my grief and it has very often given me a small, but needed, answer to my heart’s cries of “why?” Even if I truly never understood all the why’s, this verse gave my mind a sense of purpose to which I could cling. And, if Christ is to be honored and glorified (which sincerely is my prayer), there are lessons to continually be learned. No matter how many years I have been living with grief. Most of the lessons mentioned here, I have learned at least once -if not several times – during these past years of grief. I found myself learning them again the last week or two – so, I thought they should be shared.
ONE – There is no rule book for grieving. How many times have I wished for a rule book? Not only am I a rule-follower but I am a rule-loving girl. Rules give me order. They establish boundaries, balance, and a sense of stability. If I follow the rules, my boat stays upright and can weather even the strongest storms. When grief completely overturned the boat that was my life, I was desperate for any type of stability. I was desperate for anyone who could just tell me the “ten steps to surviving grief.”
There was no rule book in those early days and there are no rules for handling grief or honoring a loved one years later. What was helpful and brought healing several years ago might not feel the same, or even be necessary, later. And that is okay. The first couple of years after Tyler died, we would go off for the day. Take a day trip. Mindlessly wander a small town and look through shops. The mindless part was good. It kept us just occupied enough but didn’t take thought. For two or three years in a row, we came across an unexpected treasure that seemed to help mark the years. In my mind, I made it a rule. Each August 1st, we will take a day trip. But the time came when it felt forced and more of a chore than any type of help. So we stopped – and that’s okay because there really are no rules.
TWO – Everyone grieves differently. (Perhaps because there are no rules.) This one was hard to learn in the beginning. Husbands, women, mothers, siblings, teenagers, grandparents, and friends. Everyone processes grief differently. Everyone expresses grief differently. And, after years of grief, every member of my family has a unique way to remember Tyler and to honor his memory. That can still be challenging. One of the hardest things about (self-imposed) rules is wanting to impose them on everyone around you. Not only does it not work, but it simply is not fair.
THREE – I cannot depend on others, or circumstances, to comfort me or to ease my grief. Something else that is unfair. It is unfair for me to expect family, friends – or anyone else! – to know exactly what my heart needs. Every year, God has used someone (or several someones) to say or do just what my heart needed. What I needed to be reminded just how very much God cares. Truly cares about my grief. But God does that. I cannot try to make that happen. If I will allow Him to work, and speak, and care so tenderly for me, I will never be disappointed. Sadly, I have forgotten that truth more than once over the years.