One of those women who…

On the day you become ‘one of those women who..’ nothing seems out of the ordinary, except maybe for a feeling in your gut that something isn’t quite right. But even that might not be there. You go to work, or stay at home; go to church, or on a day trip. You do what you have come to know as your normal. There is nothing about your day that warns you that this is the last time you will ever feel this kind of normal ever again.

How can such a drastic change come without warning? Without the notification that says, ‘Get ready! Your life is about to change!’? How is it that we can be doing the most normal things to us just prior to the moment when we are brutally moved from one subset of women to another?

I’ve been thinking about this recently as I’ve watched a few people’s lives change in an instant. Their experiences have taken me back to the moments that changed my life in an instant: that moment that happens and no matter how much you wish it, you can’t ever go back to how you were, who you were, ever again. It is a dividing line, marking you as ‘one of those women who…’

In my case the first one was that I lost a son. So much of my life looked normal on the outside after that day, but I was forever changed. Even now, twenty five years later, when so many other good things and quite a handful of bad things have happened to me, that day stands out for me because it marked the day I became a real human being. The intensity of the pain of the loss handed me my humanity in the form of empty arms. I am very sure that I am who I am today because I became one of those women who knows what it’s like to lose a son.

Whatever the case may be, all of a sudden, either because of someone else’s actions and choices, or just because that’s the way life is, you are jolted from your normal into that horrible place of ‘a new normal’, where the pain is insane, and makes you feel like you could quite possibly go crazy. I look at women who are walking that through right now and my heart breaks for them. I want to tell them, ‘You will be alright. You will make it.’, and for some women I know that’s true, but for some it isn’t. I have seen a few women lose their battle with this transition. It isn’t pretty.

I want to tell them that the God they serve knew this would happen to them long before they gave Him their allegiance and chose to follow Him. When things were great between them and when they weren’t so good, He knew this was coming on their path. He tried to prepare them in different ways, and now here it is; a new journey has begun.

I also want to tell them that the road before them is long and difficult but do they want to hear that? For me, one woman who had been through what I was about to embark on whispered in my ears that the day would come when my boy wasn’t going to be the first thing I thought about on waking up. At the time it almost sounded like blasphemy, but it gave me a ray of hope to hold onto, and I never let go of that hope. The day did come and I didn’t notice it right away, but when I did, the feeling was bittersweet.

As I write this I’m afraid to sound like I am offering mere platitudes to women who are hanging on for dear life right now. Maybe these truths come too soon for them to grasp, or maybe in the depths of the darkness they now live in, these words might come as comfort. Yes, the road ahead is long and sometimes ugly, but God knew it was coming and He will walk you through it. This process will carve you into a different person, but it doesn’t have to kill you or make you crazy. He knew it was coming even as you lived in what used to be your normal; and He will be there with you every single step of the way.

Living in a state of loss

There is something about losing a child that stays with you. I have been working through this loss for twenty-five years, and know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I am healed completely from it. Still, it is the one pain that never goes away. It doesn’t control me anymore, but it doesn’t leave either.

There is something about losing a child that is severely humbling because it makes you recognize your humanness. You realize that you couldn’t keep this terrible thing from happening to you. Your need for the presence of others in your life is multiplied. This is an experience you cannot walk through alone.

But you can’t lean totally on others, either. It is a balance only you can figure out. You have to walk through the pain, the questions, the anger. You have to go through the nights when you can’t sleep, where you wander aimlessly through the possibilities of what you could have done differently. The crippling pain that feels like it won’t leave your heart and your stomach is yours to deal with.

This is an area, for me, where the verses, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God, (2 Cor 1:3-4), are the most real. I can give advice from all my other life experiences, but in this area, all I can do is give of the comfort I have received myself. There is nothing I can say or offer, apart from praying for comfort for the parent, and for their peace and the ability to sleep, because I know the road ahead of them is so rough and so long.

Part of that comfort is the knowledge that God the Father lost His own son to death.  He knows what the pain of losing a child feels like, and it is vital for us to talk to Him through this process. Speak to Him of your anger, your pain, your inability to cope. Speak to Him about all of it. Receive His comfort because that is what will help you get through the years ahead. I wasn’t a Christian at the time I lost my son, but I talked to God through the process. I leaned on Him heavily.

After a child’s death you still have to move on in life as if it didn’t happen. You have to decide how to get through Christmases, birthdays, outings, anniversaries, and something as simple as table settings. Then you have to grow to accommodate not having that person there. You don’t know if you should tell people or not that you’re missing a child here. If you do, they’ll pity you and the mood will change; if you don’t, you’re alone in your misery.

Losing a child, no matter their age, places you in the subset of those living in a state of loss. You may learn to cope with it eventually, and hopefully even live full and happy lives, but you will never forget that child. You will never forget what that loss feels like. And it can take the tiniest thing to tap into that place; because as healed as you might be, that loss will always remain one of the realest things about you.

If I speak or write about my son now it is only in passing. I don’t dwell on losing him, and sometimes I go days without thinking about him; but watching another mother go through what I went through always breaks my heart. Their hurt and their tears are my hurt and my tears. It is a familiarity and recognition that is extremely painful.

Yes, losing a child makes us live in a state of loss, and no, we won’t know this side of heaven why it had to happen. It’s one of those things that makes no sense to us, in the category of , ‘How does God justify the presence of mosquitos in His creation? Or, the appendix in the body?’ I gave up a long time ago trying to answer the ‘why’ did my son have to die; instead I chose to live as full a life as I could, even though my loss felt so great.

My ramblings on this matter may seem empty and meaningless for the parent who has only just entered this state, but I say these words anyway because I know firsthand how powerful and encouraging words of comfort can be. It was within week one of me living here, that a long time resident whispered in my ear: One day you will realize that your boy wasn’t the first thought in your mind when you woke up. He might be the second thought, but he wasn’t the first; and that will bring you hope. Look forward for that day. The possibility that those words could be true became my lifeline.

Even though the pain may never fully leave you, there will come a day when it will no longer control you. Let the knowledge that that day is coming be a source of hope for you. Until then, do everything you have to do to survive in this land. Lean on others. Cry. Be honest with what you’re feeling. Pray. Find the balance between what others can do for you, and what you have to do for yourself.

And above all, cling to the God of comfort, even if you’re angry at Him or hate Him for allowing this to happen to you. If you can walk through this and claim your healing, you can become a source of comfort to the others, (and there will be others!) who will join you in this land. They dont know it yet, but they are depending on you.

 

©Debbie Mendoza, June 2017. Debbie Mendoza is the author of Exodus: A Journey Through Divorce and JoyHope. For speaking engagements: (011) 501-610-4375

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