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As I look back on my experience after some years, I see how faltering I was in walking through the trial in faith, yet I did the best I could in light of the stress and the depth of the grief. My losses caused me to press into God with greater honesty and depth. Through the experience I grew stronger in faith, in character and in the ability to extend compassion to others in sorrow. These are precious outcomes of my story of grief as I journeyed through loss.
As I grappled with my losses, my pain generated tough questions which I boldly sent to rattle the gates of heaven. I wrestled with my concept of God, my understanding of his care and concern for me, and my belief that he is intimately involved in our lives. I prayed while battling doubts about whether my prayers were heard or that they mattered. I sat in silence, asking the Holy Spirit to intercede for me because I had no words of my own. I turned to the Bible to find comfort and was moved to tears in my emptiness, unable to find words to sooth my wounded soul.
Yet through it all, I knew that God was the one to turn to, so I persevered in setting aside time to meet with him. It wasn't long before the silence was broken by hope-giving moments, where I was comforted by God's presence and strengthened by his promises. Gradually, there in his presence, my questions of 'Why?' no longer cried out for answers and my impulse to ask them was stilled. It became enough to experience the Lord's closeness and realness, to know that I am his and that he cares for me. The healing of my heart had begun.
One book, Gerald Sittser's A Grace Disguised, helped me immensely through my story of grief. The chapter titled "Sailing on a Sea of Nothingness" describes how the experience of loss creates 'a present of barren nothingness' where we are suspended between a past that we long for and a future we hope for. We long to be in one place or the other--anywhere but on this barren sea. But we need to choose to live in the present because it is the only reality that is alive for us at the moment. When we act upon that choice it's as if we dive beneath the barren surface to discover a world below that is teeming with life.
This became a vivid illustration for me. When all my joy had been swallowed up by pain, I took Gerald Sittser's challenge. I imagined myself sailing on the surface of the Red Sea or the Great Barrier Reef and missing the remarkable world below by neglecting to don some gear and dive in. Sittser helped me to determine to live for today, to embrace whatever gifts of grace it had to offer, and to respond to those gifts with gratitude. As I did that, hope and joy once again began to be birthed in my soul.
Grappling with any loss is lonely. Much of the necessary soul work needs to be done alone, but others are so needed on the journey through grief. A welcome source of support for me was the online forum at Hannah's Prayer Ministries which is dedicated to women facing infertility, miscarriage or neonatal loss. An even more important source of support was a face-to-face listening presence, those who listened patiently and offered a wise and encouraging voice which imparted hope to my grieving heart. A spiritual director, a vocation which I pursued in the years following my loss, offers a supportive, hope-giving presence as you travel through your own story of grief.
Deal with grief
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Listening creates a holy silence. When you listen generously to people they can hear the truth in themselves, often for the first time. And when you listen deeply, you can know yourself in everyone.