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choosing to live after a loved one dies June 7, 2007

Posted by guinever in christianity, grief, healing, loss.
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I heard Elaine Stillwell, author of The Death of a Child: Reflections for Grieving Parents, speak last week at a conference. She related a story about an elderly woman going to live in a new apartment. As the young man pushed her wheelchair, he told her about the lacy curtains and other things that he thought she would like. She squealed with delight and said that she loved it. He replied that she hadn’t even seen her new room yet, how could she love it? The woman’s response was that she had already chosen to love it. It didn’t matter whether she liked it or not. She had made the choice to love her new surroundings and be content even before she had seen them.

After Elaine told this story, she said that we all have choices in life. We can choose to live after the death of our child/children or we can choose to be depressed or be defined by our loss.

Elaine’s words reminded me of the day that my daughter Abby died and the choices that I made that day. I sat on my couch all afternoon and into the evening and I contemplated life. How on earth could I go on? At one point, it suddenly dawned on me that we had a funeral to plan.

Oh my God, I thought, we have a funeral to plan.

I went to the kitchen and leaned on my husband and said, “Funeral?” He said not to worry about it. His dad, a pastor, would help us take care of all those details. I went back and sat in the living room. I thought and thought. What would I do? I was still a mother. I had three living children. I had to mother my living children. That was the choice I made that day. I had to get up every morning and take care of my young children. They needed me. Some days it is much easier than others. Daily, I need to make the choice to master this grief rather than let it master me. And I find myself failing some days.

Another choice I made the day that Abby died was not be angry at God or blame Him for allowing her to die. Instead of demanding answers from God or asking Him why, I chose to rest in Him and find my comfort in Him. I did not understand, still don’t understand this Providence for our family. In the early days, I found comfort in reading the Psalms and I found myself “hiding in the shadows of His wings.” When I wrestle with my thoughts, I have to remind myself to go back to the resting, back to the Psalms.

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me,
for in you my soul takes refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
until the disaster has passed. Psalm 57:1

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Comments»

1. Martha Mihaly - June 8, 2007

Guinever,
The speaker made such an excellent point. Thanks you for sharing that with us. I believe that you are both right. We are defined by the choices we make (or don’t make) in life as much as were defined by the kind of ideas and morals we hold.

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2. Ha Tikvah - June 8, 2007

Although almost a decade has passed now since my husband died, I still vividly remember the shock of that day, and the depths of despair it plunged me into. However, while prior to Stephen’s death (he was a beautiful, warm, caring, loving but alcoholic husband!) my faith had been very low purely through my own disability at the time, and coping with Stephen being so ill for the 2 years prior to his death. Yet from that day onwards, God truly lifted me up out of the miry clay and set my feet upon His Rock where I’ve stayed ever since in a much stronger relationship with Him than ever before. I learnt more through that loss than I maybe could have ever done otherwise, and at last can be grateful to Him for His mercy to my soulmate who sadly was a tortured soul and for whom death was no doubt a merciful release. Before and since though, I’ve learnt that the worst situations in life truly can bring about the best outcomes – you can just never, ever see it at the time. And thus I’ve learnt to trust God much more now than before in everything that happens in my life. He’s blessed me with a decade of bright mountains, but I know the dark valleys lie just up ahead – the difference this time, is that I will be better prepared to allow Him to lead me through them. Blessings, TKR. 🙂

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3. Bill Howdle - June 13, 2007

My heart goes out to you for your loss. My admiration goes out to you for the strength you are showing. You by sharing are a blessing and an inspiration to me and to many I am sure.
I hope you don’t mind if I add you to my blog roll
Bill – Dying Man’s Daily Journal

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4. The Estrogen Files - July 12, 2007

My heart is so saddened by your loss. My baby died a week ago, in utero, and I was looking for comfort. Thank you for sharing your story.

I’m so sorry that you lost your baby. May you find peace and comfort and strength for the days ahead. ~Guinever

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5. Rhonda Hooper - September 24, 2007

I recently lost my 16 month old baby girl on June 23rd 2007 and life has been down hill since then. I don’t have the will to live –it’s like my life is over, my body feels as though it is shutting down, and I no longer want to go on. My husband is gone on the road for weeks at a time and all my family and friends live so far away she was our only daughter (child) I go to counseling and a doctor but it just doesn’t seem to help. I don’t know what else to do anymore.

Dear Rhonda, I am so sorry to hear of your daughter’s death. It has been 3 months and I know from personal experience and talking to others in our situation, that this is one of the hardest times. Up to now, you might have been a little numb? I know it’s been terrible, and now when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. Is that what I’m hearing you say?

Rhonda, you’re isolated and I think you need to get on the phone and talk to someone or get out more often with people. Can you go stay with a friend or a relative while your husband is away? I think this is vital for your health and safety. If your counseling is not helping, then find another counselor. Do you go to church? Ask your pastor for a recommendation or maybe he can counsel you. Look for a grief group in your area. Grief share or Compassionate Friends, or something through hospice are possibilities. Something that helped me was reading books written by other parents who have lost children. It just helped to know that others have gone through this and that it does get easier with time. Time really does lessen the pain, makes it a bit gentler. Please note that I’m not saying the pain goes away or that “you’ll get over it.” What I’m saying is that you can take one day at a time, one moment at a time, and you can move through this grief and emerge on the other side a little healthier. Please don’t give up on life.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, read Scripture. Read the Psalms. Psalm 31 is a good one to start with. You can find peace and rest in the Lord. ~blessings, Guinever

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6. Tina - April 15, 2008

I am so sorry to hear of your lost. I recently lost my daughter’s father due to a car wreck. (Two weeks ago) I am battling with this on a daily basis but thanks to friends and loved ones, I am able to carry on with my daily routine. The bible itself and staying prayerful has given me so much strength because I know that GOD does not make ANY mistakes. As for Rhonda, I have never lost a child and I can only imagine what you are going through. I always tell my daughter that we may not be able to see da da( her father) but we can still talk to him. My daughter is 3 years old and this seems to bring comfort to her.

I’m so sorry for your loss. ~blessings, Guinever

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7. Michelle Z - June 12, 2008

A friend sent me to your blog recently, as we approached the one year anniversary, the anniversary of when our twins were born, and one was still.

I am so, so glad we have our three living children, or I don’t know how I would’ve made it through this past year.

Now, our oldest daughter is battling cancer – and it really freaks me out. Just because we lost one child, doesn’t guarantee we get to keep the rest with us.

Your site is painful, and raw, and just what I needed to read. Thank you.

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8. Patricia - June 15, 2008

I just recently lost my youngest daughter (33 years old) because of a drunk driver going the wrong way on the freeway. She was vivacious with a smile that would light up the room, a wonderful daughter, wife and mother. She leaves three young children, the youngest 2 years old. She was simply on her way to work and because of the irresponsible and wreckless act of another individual, she is no longer with us. It all seems so senseless. My family and I are still healing from this tragedy, and for me, putting my trust in the Lord is the only thing that has been a source of comfort to me. I give thanks to Him for this “Gift”,for had I never had the experience of knowing and loving my daughter, how less enriched my life would have been.

I’m so sorry that you lost your daughter, that your grandchildren lost their mother. ~peace, Guinever

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9. Jo Chandler - January 1, 2009

Guinever,

You sharing means so much to me, as do the comments that follow. My only child died a year and a half ago. Her father died early on, so we were on our own for many years. She was diagnosed with cancer at 35 and died at 37. I vascillate between despair and some semblance of normalcy. But my life’s purpose is gone. What I am beginning to realize is that I don’t feel free to be happy again. It feels like such a betrayal of my beautiful girl. How can I possibly enjoy life without her in it? I would love to hear how others have overcome this kind of guilt.

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