My Journey Through Grief

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The year was 1990. It was the 12th of June and our 27 year old son, Brian, had just passed away. For 2 years he had fought, and finally lost, a courageous battle against brain cancer. Up until the moment he died I had prayed and believed he would be healed. I wouldn't let myself think otherwise. And now he was gone. It was like a nightmare. But one from which I knew I would never wake up.

We had been at the hospital all night. By the time we got home we were emotionally and physically exhausted. I tried to rest, but sleep wouldn't come. All I could do was lie there and think. All the events of the last few hours kept invading my mind. From the moment I realized something was wrong, and Brian might really die. To the last moment when his breathing began to slow to "normal". And with that came hope that he was going to live after all. But instead, his breathing gradually slowed until it ceased altogether and he was gone.

Memories of the last few hours flooded my mind. Images of those who came to visit. The looks of sorrow and disbelief that covered their faces. "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound...," the faint words of a hymn we sang to Brian rang inside my head. "I'll not be defeated..." another hymn, Brian's favorite, trailed in my mind. The way he looked, his body lifeless as if in a coma. Except for his breathing which was deep and labored. I wanted to stop the memories but couldn't. I wanted to scream, but wouldn't. And yet I felt the peace of God wrap around me like a baby being wrapped in a soft, warm blanket.

In the days that followed, I would often seek the comfort I needed by reading the Bible. Especially the Psalms. "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy" Ps.126:5. And my favorite: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints" Ps. 116:15 would comfort me. With the overwhelming peace of God, surrounding me. I felt the arms of God upholding me. I felt comforted and I wanted to share that comfort with others. Yes I grieved but I didn't allow my grief to go too deep. I began to feel strong and proud of the fact that I was doing so well. I realized later that I wasn't allowing myself to grieve. If I had, it would have hurt too much. I wouldn't have been able to keep up the facade of being the strong one of the family.

One day as I was reading scripture. I opened the Bible to 2 Corinthians 1:4, and the words "Comfort others with the same comfort you have been given" jumped out at me. I felt the overwhelming presence of God. It was as though He was speaking that scripture right to me. It was so awesome that I started crying. I felt it was confirmation from God that He wanted me to minister to others who were grieving. The desire to minister became so strong I was certain I
could start ministering to others immediately. I was sure God would fill my mouth with just the right words to say to those who were needing comfort. But in my zeal to minister, I would try to do it in under my own power and wouldn't know what to say. I began to doubt God wanted me to minister at all.

After several months of praying and crying out to God "please give me guidance and direction and show me how you want me to minister", I found God had other plans for me. He wanted to teach me a few things before trusting me with His ministry.

I discovered He knew me better than I knew myself. I started grieving, gut wrenching, agonizing, deep grieving. For a year and a half, a day wouldn't go by without tears flowing almost every time I thought about Brian. I couldn't understand why I was grieving so hard and no longer felt Gods comforting arms around me. I cried out to God, "Where are you?", "Why am I grieving so much?", and, "How can I testify and minister to others when I am grieving like this?" I began sharing with various friends & family members but never seemed to get the answers I so desperately needed. I thought a grief recovery support group might be what I needed but I was afraid to go alone. "Besides", I told myself, "I don't want to attend one where I'm not sure that God is included in the therapy". So I didn't go at all.

I also felt deep pain for my daughter-in-law and four young grandsons who were having a worse time than I was, coping with the loss of their husband & father. She and Brian had given their hearts to the Lord during his illness but after his death she had walked away from God and church. I wondered if she would have "fallen through the cracks" if there had been a ministry in our church which would reach out to the widowed. I had so many questions and no answers, just more pain and grief.

Then one day as I was waiting on God and crying out to him again, He answered me. It was a very humbling and uncomfortable answer. He told me He had lifted His comfort from me because I was taking the credit for being strong, and that my strength was and always had been in Him. Without Him I was weak. Then He showed me that, in order to minister to others who were grieving I must experience the same pain and grief they were going through. And, everyone has to go through the process of grieving before they can begin to heal. I was no exception.

From that point on, I began the healing process. I read all I could about grieving and I sought the fellowship of others who had been through similar experiences. I no longer tried to do it all on my own. God used others to minister to me before He used me to minister to others.

I was ready to listen, and God showed me what He wanted me to do and how He wanted me to minister to others. I learned one of the best ways to begin the healing process in my own life was to minister to others who were hurting. Out of that experience was birthed a grief recovery support group in our church, and involvement in furthering the existing ministry for the widows. It hasn't always been easy to minister, but I have learned when God is in control "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me".