Blessed Are Those Who Mourn: My Story of Child Loss and Faith

This is a hard one for me to post. It feels more vulnerable. It’s one thing to try and write what you’re feeling and thinking for people to read. Especially when you can hide behind the security of the internet. It’s quite another to say it out loud, in public. But even then there is a level of security with that because you can walk away and it’s over. But when your talk has been recorded and you decide to post it on the internet, where anyone can see it and nothing ever goes away, it’s a very scary thing.

This is my story. It’s personal. It’s hard. It’s emotional. But I share it because I believe I have something to say that can help others.

Last year I had the opportunity to share my story at my uncle’s church.

My Dad’s side of the family was gathering for a family reunion in Iowa where he grew up. My uncle seized the opportunity and asked me to speak at his church. I quickly discovered it’s more nerve wracking to speak in front of family than it is to speak in front of strangers. I woke up that morning full of nerves, I remember saying to my cousin “What made me think this would be a good idea.”

My Uncle Chuck is the one who introduces me in this video. When he asks anyone who’s related to me to stand up, 3/4 of the small town church stood up. (Most were in town for the reunion). You’ll notice my reaction . . . ya, I freak out a bit.

I’m sorry the sound quality isn’t the best. We had some trouble getting the video copied. You should be able to hear it if you turn up the volume, just watch out for the crying baby who’ll blow out your speakers. 😉

I’ve heard from some people that they cannot hear the video. So I’m posting the content below:

I would like to begin today by introducing you to my boys. Dawson, my oldest is one of the smartest people I know. When he was 4 years old I bought him non-toddler Transformer toys. They were rated for ages 8 and up. Dawson eagerly opened the directions and sat down to figure out his new toy. I will say Dawson is the only male I know who willingly reads directions. After a while he brought me the Transformer and the directions. He was having trouble and needed help. It turns out 8 and up does not include adults. It was well beyond my skill level and I was unable to help Dawson. I apologized to my 4 year old, and he sat back down with his directions. It wasn’t long before he came to me with his Transformer completely transformed. As he grew his engineering mind had him building things out anything he could find. He even built himself a Transformer costume. To this day when I need something put together or figured out Dawson is always the one I think of. Shy, sensitive and stubborn, Dawson is entirely to much like me.

Devin, my youngest was born with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. As a toddler if the house was quite, I knew he was into something he shouldn’t be. When he was 3 years old, my grandparents came for a visit. All the adults were in the living room talking. Devin walked into the living room, marched right up to my mom and said “Grandma, give me a dollar”. My mom, a bit taken back said, “Why should I give you a dollar”. Devin very sweetly replied, “Give me a dollar and I’ll give you a drink”. “But Devin, I’m not thirsty”, my mom replied. Devin just repeated his offer. The two went back and forth for a little bit, until my mom finally said reaching for her water bottle, “Devin I’m not thirsty, and if I was, . . . she reached for her water bottle and it was gone! The little imp and snuck in stolen her water bottle and was trying to sell it back to her for a dollar. In that moment I knew I was in trouble. One afternoon Devin proudly told me his 4th grade class voted him class clown . . . twice.

January 22, 2011 was a beautiful and chilly Saturday morning. I was headed out for a photo shoot. The boys and their dad were going out on an adventure. The morning was hectic and chaotic as we were all trying to get ready and out the door. I was rushing around trying to make sure everyone ate breakfast, while also trying to get ready for my shoot. I rushed up the stairs while Dawson answered the front door. I saw the back of his head as he talked to his uncle. As I was doing my hair Devin came up behind me and pet the underside of my arms while smiling his sweet smile at me in the mirror. Eventually we were all out the door.

My client ended up not showing up for the photo shoot, so I headed home much earlier than planned. As a result I was home when the call came in. With that one phone call my world came crashing down. My family was in a fatal car accident. From the moment I got the call time stopped. A day that began full of the promise of family fun became a day of trauma that altered the course of my life.

At the time the doctor told me my boys had not survived the accident I basically shut down. I really don’t know how long it took for my brain to begin functioning again. What I do know was the first few thoughts that crossed my mind became defining moments for me.

The first conscious thought I remember having was the realization that God knew when they were born, my boys lives would be short. In that moment the thought brought me a small measure of peace, because I knew God was in control and I would not turn my back on him.

The second defining thought was a fragment of Romans 8:28. It went through my mind like a flash of lightening. The thought that God would make something good come from all this. From that moment, I have clung to that promise with a death grip. It has been this promise that enables me to continue putting one foot in front of the other. Someday I will see something good come from this pain.

The third defining moment for me was actually a decision I made. Standing, next to my dad, in the hallway of the hospital, I decided I was going to be real with my pain. My thought process behind this decision was that I did not want to hide behind the “God is good, so life is good” attitude I had seen growing up in the church. I wanted to show people that God and pain could co-exist in life.

I don’t know where this idea that the Christian life is easy and free from pain comes from. When people are struggling they are often met with comments like “you just need to pray more, have more fain, maybe you did something wrong”. These comments, this attitude communicate that pain in life equals you’re not Christian enough, you don’t love God. If you just had more faith life would be great. This is such an unbiblical attitude and it makes me mad. God NEVER promised us a life without pain. What he did promise us was that he would be with us in our pain. This is what I wanted people to see through me as I grieved the loss of my boys.

In 2013 I wrote a blog post I want to share with you.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted ~ Matthew 5:4

       I never understood this verse. How can you call someone who is mourning blessed? I think someone mourning would think they were anything but blessed.

       Then I found out what it really means to mourn. I know what it feels like to be so deep in grief you forget to breath. I know what its like to feel the crushing weight of grief so heavy that you can’t breathe. I certainly didn’t feel blessed. And I still didn’t really understand this verse.

       Yet, it was in some of those moments of grief, that I felt God’s presence and heard his voice. It’s hard to describe what it felt like one day to have this overwhelming peace spread through me. To know that it was from God and to hear him tell me he had everything under control. It was a “peace that passes all understanding”(Philippians 4:7) that only God can give.

       But I still didn’t understand. I’d lost everything that mattered.

Then the other night I was thinking about all the times God came along beside me in my grief, all the people he sent to pray for me and support me and then it dawned on me . . . . I’m not blessed because I mourn, I’m blessed because in my grief God made his presence known and comforted me.

       It’s in the word “comforted” the blessing lies, not in the mourning. It is an amazing blessing to feel God’s presence, especially when he’s all you have left.”

 There are so many ways God was with me during the most painful part of my journey. Those first few years were excruciating. The pain was so intense any physical movement required an enormous amount of effort. Breathing became a chore. One afternoon I was driving home. I stopped at a stop sign next to a small country school where Devin had played a basketball game. As I sat there at the stop sign, I realized I wasn’t breathing. I wasn’t holding my breath. I had just stopped breathing. I was so scared to take that next breath, to start breathing again. Because I knew as I inhaled I would not only be breathing in air, but pain as well.

So much of my grieving was done in prayer. Initially I was afraid to sit and pray. I didn’t pray for weeks, maybe even months. Somehow I knew to sit and talk with God was going to unleash a torrent of pain and tears that I wouldn’t be able to control. But once I was able to pray, and that intense pain of grief washed over me, I found the easiest way to deal with it was in the presence of God. I would wander into the boy’s bedroom, kneel over Dawson’s bed to pray and end up curled in the fetal position on the floor crying out to God for help. Every time. For months and years. Even today this occasionally happens. And every time after my tears are exhausted and I can hardly breathe from the ugly cry that just happened, I feel better, lighter and ready to handle the next step.

In those desperate moments on the floor of my boy’s bedroom and in so many other ways I learned how God draws close to the broken hearted.

One afternoon I was sitting in my living room. I don’t remember anything about what was going on, or what I was doing. All I remember was sitting there on the ottoman, leaned over with my arms on my knees. I must have been talking with God. Suddenly this feeling started deep within and spread throughout my entire body. It was a feeling of warmth and peace. I wish I had words to describe what it felt like. It was amazing and I knew it was from God. For the first time in my life I truly understood what the phrase “a peace that surpasses all understanding” really means. In that moment I understood how Horatio Spafford could write words like “when sorrows like sea billows roll, it is well with my soul” only days after all his children were lost at sea. I never understood his song of peace in the midst of tragedy until that moment.

It’s interesting, when you turn to God in your deepest pain, he is there in ways you cannot even imagine. I would be standing in the balcony at church, singing worship songs with tears streaming down my cheeks. Singing songs of praise to God, while feeling the most intense emotional pain I’ve ever know, was such a spiritual experience for me. It was like he was pulling all the pain out of me, leaving comfort in its place. I have no words to describe what it was like, or how close God felt. All I can say is when you take your pain to God, he does not disappoint.

It wasn’t just through these intensely emotional experiences God provided comfort for me. It was through the people around me as well. When we left the hospital the social worker who’d been working with us pulled me aside. She said to me “You have the largest support system I’ve ever seen”. She saw only a fraction of the support that has surrounded me these past 5 ½ years.

Both of my parents come from large families. Growing up I loved having so many uncles, aunts and cousins. But I have never been so thankful to come from a large family as I have since the accident. My mom’s family descended upon us, flying in from all over the country. The chaos of my Greeley relatives was exactly what I needed. They held me up that first week. My dad’s family is a bit quieter, but their support as time has stretched on has sustained me too. I have an amazing family! My large extended family has been a built in support system.

In addition to my family, I have an online family of friends. Several years ago I joined an online photography club. We shared pictures, critiqued each other’s images and grew together as photographers and friends. We laughed and joked with each other. Even though we’d never met, we became family. The support I received from this group of online friends was so evident my family could see how close we were. Shortly after the accident a few members decided we needed to meet. A trip to Las Vegas was planned. Suddenly in the midst of my pain, I not only had something to look forward to, I had something to get excited about. For 3 days we bounced around the desert taking photos. We laughed, picked on each other and had fun. I had a break from the constant pain. For the first time since the accident I felt carefree and the trip was the highlight of my year. I firmly believe God brought this group of photographers into my life when he did, because he KNEW I was going to need them.

Then there was the support I received through friends on Facebook. Yes, social media can be a good thing! Friends from college, high school and even grade school offered me words of support. One afternoon I was having one of my more desperate “help me God” prayers. Crying on the floor of my boy’s room, all I could do was cry out “help me” over and over again. Later that day I received 3 messages from people, all from different parts of my life. Each message told me they’d been praying for me. I began to cherish every single “I’m praying for you” I received. Whenever someone would ask how they could help, I’d ask for prayer. Through various contacts there were people praying for me all around the world. Everyday I would hear of someone else, usually someone I didn’t know, who’d heard about the accident and was praying for me.

The church my family belonged to at the time showed us an amazing amount of support that first week. They supported us in many ways, but one thing has always stood out. Every night for a week at 6pm they had dinner for us at the church. So many members of my extended family came into town that my mom had worried how we would feed everyone. But the church had that all taken care of. In addition to feeding us, those nightly meals gave us an anchor in the storm of that first week.

Another church in town opened up their building to us for the memorial service. We were expecting so many people; our church was not big enough. Over 600 people came to the service. I’m still in awe of the number of people who came to mourn with us.

One of my favorite shows of support was organized by a lovely woman I hardly know. She organized a group of women to leave gifts on my doorstep from December 1st through January 22nd. This is the hardest time of the year for me. Dawson’s birthday, Christmas and the accident day all in close succession are followed by Devin’s birthday in February. This particular year, I felt spoiled and actually looked forward to coming home from work everyday. It made the holidays easier and this difficult time of year more bearable.

I don’t know why God graced me with such a wonderful support system. Especially when I’ve met so many grieving parents who are deserted by family and friends. But through this experience I feel like I’ve gotten a glimpse of what God intended the church to be, a place where people come together and support each other through the painful events in their lives.

I work in a community mental health clinic. The other day one of my clients mentioned that he had learned not to mention his mental illness in church. It broke my heart to hear that. The church should be a place for people who are hurting to find love, encouragement and support. But instead we are too busy living under the God is good, so life is good attitude to be real about our pain, or honestly listen to someone else. I sincerely believe if the Christian community would be more honest in our pain and struggles there would be less of it, because we would share the burden together instead of dealing with it alone. We are to help each other carry our burdens.

There is a scene at the end of the Lord of the Rings movies that I love. Frodo and Sam are trying to get to Mt. Doom so Frodo can destroy the ring of evil. No one but Frodo can carry the ring and at this point in the movie the weight of the ring is too much for him. Frodo collapses and cannot go on. Sam his trusted friend, in a climatic moment in the movie says to Frodo, “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you”. This is what the church should be and this is how I’ve felt these last 5 years. No one can ever carry or take away my pain, but I have been carried through the pain by the love and support of those God sent to comfort me.

One night, nearly 2 years after the accident, I was feeling very sorry for myself. I was working through a Beth Moore bible study on James. This particular evening the word “cherished” kept jumping off the workbook page. In my self-pity I was crying out to God about how much I just wanted to feel cherished. I started thinking about all people who’ve been my support. Then I heard God say to me “see all these people I’ve sent, this is how I’ve cherished you”. Let me tell you that was an experience. I cried for a full 20 minutes. I didn’t stop shaking for an hour! Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be COMFORTED.

Through all this I came to understand Jesus sacrifice on the cross in a whole new way. I grew up in the church. I’ve heard all the bible stories and I know all the songs. I can probably still remember the motions to the songs we sang in Sunday school when I was a kid. But in some ways I never fully understood the sacrifice God made. One evening it dawned on me, God knows what it’s like to lose a child. Worse, he knows what it’s like to watch his son be tortured and beaten, hung on a cross and die. Matthew 27 tells us about God’s reaction. Verse 45: “Now from the 6th hour there was darkness over all the land until the 9th hour.” The footnotes in my bible tell me that’s from noon to 3pm. Right in the middle of the day, and it was dark. If I could have turned the sky dark that day I would have. I’d probably have left the sky dark for weeks. I felt betrayed by the sun when spring came around and the weather started turning warm. Around 3pm Jesus breathed his last and this is what happened verse 51:“And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom”. That’s a very familiar part of the story because it symbolizes the separation between us and God being removed and this is usually where we focus. But it goes on to say “And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.” The first time I really read that after the accident, I read the actions of a Father who was grieving the death of his son. And I could so relate. My world shook to its core. I wanted to scream. If I could have caused an earthquake to outwardly express what was going on internally I would have. Suddenly it all made sense. There are not multiple paths to God, there is only one! And that path is paved with the blood of Jesus. Though intellectually I knew that before. Now living through child loss, it made sense to me in a way it never had before. I understand why God will reject people who reject his son. It’s not because God doesn’t love them, it’s because they reject his son. And his son DIED for them.

Part of being real with my pain isn’t just telling you about all the wonderful things God did for me. It’s also explaining what happened when I allowed my pain to take my focus off God.      The last 2 years or so, I have struggled with trusting God. I’ve been through several opportunities to trust God with my future these past couple years. Each time I failed miserly.

The crazy part of me decided it would be a good idea to go to graduate school and get my counseling degree only 2 years into my grief journey. When it came time to find an internship or do a case presentation that would determine if I could graduate I did not put my trust in God. Instead I looked toward the future and saw everything that could go wrong. After all, if God allowed the accident into my life, how could I be sure he would look out for me now?

I let anxiety into my life. I couldn’t sleep or function well. Things got worse as graduation loomed closer and I would have to leave the safety of school and find a job.

I started questioning God’s character. I questioned his motives, his intention and his caring. I would say things like “If I believe in the sovereignty of God then that means he knew the accident was going to happen and he did nothing to stop it. If he’s willing to let something that awful happen to me, then how can I trust he won’t let more bad stuff happen?” I would pull up stories from the Old Testament to show how “scary” God can be. I wanted answers. “How can I trust a God who allowed my children to die?” I wanted answers to this question not only for me but also for all the grieving mom’s who ask “How can a loving God take my child from me?” I asked so many people my questions. I was desperate for an answer. Sometimes I took my questions to God.

Sometimes I need to write my prayers out. I thought I’d share a few from last year with you.

       May 9, 2015

Lord, I am struggling to trust you. I want to fully and completely trust you. Yet I am afraid. I’m afraid of more pain and disappointment in my future. I’m afraid to trust because my life has already fallen apart once. I don’t want to go through that again. I’m afraid you will bring me more pain. I’m struggling to believe in your goodness.

I want to see your divine creativity play out in my life. I want to again be excited about what you have planned for my future. I want the peace that comes from fully trusting you. God please help me with my lack of trust.

       May 11, 2015

Lord, my heart is troubled and afraid. I am afraid you will not continue providing for me or that my future holds more intense pain. I’m afraid you have more painful lessons to teach me.

God please remove these fears and doubt from my heart. Replace them with your peace. Show me what I need to do to let go and fully trust you again.

       June 9, 2015

I’m beginning to see now that in allowing anxiety and fear into my life I abandoned your love for me. In my anxiety and fear the devil taught me to fear you! I have been afraid of you God. Afraid of what you can do in my life. In that fear I gave the devil a stronghold in my life. Lord I pray that you will drive all the anxiety and far from my life! Fill me instead with your perfect love.

    September 28, 2015

Am I confident in God? Not fully. I want to be. I know in my head that God loves us and will do anything for us. But there is a seed of doubt. Why? Because I know God does not always step in when we want him to. He doesn’t stop bad things from happening to us. Why? I don’t know. The bible tells us that God is sovereign and everything is under his control. How do you reconcile that to a God who loves you when something horrible happens in your life. Does that mean God wanted it to happen? Does that mean God allowed it to happen? Does that mean it was part of Gods will? Or is it just part of this broken world we live in? I want to have confidence in God! But I don’t know how to deal with the doubt in my mind. The doubt that says bad things happen and God doesn’t always step in. But then God didn’t’ step in and save his own son from a gruesome death. Because there was a bigger picture. The difference between what God knows about our life and what we know is huge. God can see the whole picture. He can see why I ‘ve had to endure the last 5 years alone. Why I don’t get to see my boys grow up. I wish I could see the bigger picture. Maybe that would make it easier to endure. Maybe it would make it easier to understand my purpose in life.

       November 27, 2015

Lord, I’m trying to trust in you. I want to trust in you because I know in my head that you care for me. But it’s hard, hard to believe in my heart when I think about the accident. If you care for me so much why did you let that happen? I’m scared my life will always be like this. Are you taking care of me? I want to believe you are. I want so badly to trust you and not carry these burdens. But I don’t know how. I don’t know what to do. How do I let go and trust you. My kids are gone and I am alone. I hate this. God please help me. Help me understand. Give me wisdom. I want to trust you with my whole heart. But it’s broken. Not just broken God, it’s shattered. I don’t know how to put the pieces back together.

And earlier this year . . . .

       March 11, 2016

Lord, give me wisdom to understand your role in the accident. Was it your will? Why didn’t you stop it? How do I trust you when you allowed something so devastating to happen to me? But did you allow it? Was it just part of living in a sinful world? How does your sovereignty play into all this? Lord, I just want to understand. If I’m not meant to understand then please replace my questioning with your peace.

Can you see the pattern? I’m afraid of what’s coming, I’m afraid of what’s coming. I took my eyes off God and looked instead to the future.

I started a devotional on Job last month. I was nearly in tears before I finished the introduction. The author made this statement: “The person of faith is one who like Job, knows what it is to be torn apart by the enormity of God”. Wow! That’s how I felt for over 2 years. Torn apart because my God is huge, he’s in control of all things, and he didn’t save me from this pain. How do you reconcile that?

In my years of questioning, and searching for an answer I came up with only one. You don’t. You don’t reconcile that God loves us and yet bad and painful things happen. I wish I could give you answers. I wish I could answer these questions myself.

There are many standard answers I could give. We live in an evil world. God gave us free will. Bad things happen. But none of these soothe the pain in my heart. None of them help me understand why God allowed this pain into my life. I don’t think there are answers that will satisfy my broken human heart. But then if I had answers I wouldn’t need faith.

You see, I don’t think we are meant to get the answers to these kinds of questions. If we had the answers it wouldn’t be faith. Knowledge yes, but not faith. It’s easy to trust things we know and understand. It requires no effort, no faith. Faith is trusting God in spite of the questions and in spite of the doubts. I think God wants us to lean on him even in the uncertainty and doubt. That is true faith.

Recently I’ve begun to realize all my questions were more about me than about God. When I took my eyes off God and looked toward the future, all I saw was fear. I was afraid of more pain and more suffering. When I allowed anxiety into my life instead of trusting God, I allowed a spirit of fear to gain a stronghold over me. In that anxiety and fear I quit spending time with God. Which only made the anxiety and far worse.

I also realized my questions were about my pride. What has happened in my life isn’t fair and I wanted answers. I deserved answers. At one point I even told God he owed me an amazing future. I mean really, how prideful can you be to tell God he OWEs you something. But since I didn’t trust God, I tried taking control of my life so I didn’t have to struggle anymore. In reality my struggle was made worse because I wasn’t willing to let go of my control. There’s a level of humility required to say to God “I trust you no matter what”. You have to be willing to put yourself aside and give God control. That requires submission to his will.

As a result of all my questioning I would beat myself up. I felt like such a horrible person. After all the wonderful things he did for me after the accident, here I was questioning his goodness and love. But I now know, the questioning isn’t wrong it’s human. In the multitude of people I talked to there was one pastor I spoke with who tied my questioning to my grief process. It had not occurred to me that my questions were coming from grief. In that one statement she helped me normalize what I was going through. It’s normal to ask these deep and confusing questions. It’s part of growing and maturing in our faith. It’s part of dealing with the hurt and pain in life. It doesn’t mean I’m turning my back on God or that I have a lack of faith. Like the author in my Job study says, “such feelings are not incompatible with faith”.

For the past 2-3 years I have been trying to be strong on my own. I’ve focused on the future and what could go wrong. I’ve been trying to control the outcome so I don’t have to experience more pain. This has led me to more anxiety and depression than I have ever known. My life has been more difficult and less peaceful as a result. Grief and child loss are hard enough on their own. But I compounded it by walking away from the peace God gave me.

Even in my doubt and questioning, everything God has done to comfort me is still there. My support system hasn’t deserted me after all these years. God is still providing for me. And he’s still there waiting for me to come back and rest in him. Just a few days ago I was finally able to let go of all my questions. I still don’t have answers. But I have my peace back, and that is far better than any answer. My most recent prayer has been: I would rather have the peace that comes from trusting you than answers to my anxiety fear filled questions.

I was recently reminded why that afternoon, when God filled me with his peace, I understood how Horatio Spafford could write the words “It is Well, With my Soul”. It was because his peace came from knowing he would spend eternity with God. The feeling of peace, that afternoon, was more than just God comforting me. The peace came in knowing that I belong to God. That my eternal future is set. That was not something I was sure of before the accident. Not because I hadn’t given my life over to God, but because I didn’t believe God loved me back. But in those first few years after the accident I felt God presence in such a strong and comforting way, I knew without a doubt he loved me and I would spend eternity with him.

Our hope is in heaven. Peace comes from knowing this hope will be realized.

Our lives are bigger than here and now. Bigger than the problems we face today, tomorrow or in the next 10 years. When I focus on the future all I see is what can go wrong. Like Peter walking on the water and taking his eyes off Jesus and only seeing the waves that can sweep him away. When I focus on God I have peace, because even though life is filled with struggle and pain, I know God loves me and I will spend eternity with him. That is where the true comfort is.

I’ve had so many people tell me how strong I am. But I’m not. I cry, I despair, I question, I get bitter and angry. Left to my own devices I would not be standing here today. It’s God who gives me strength. It is through his promises for my future, those he sent to support and comfort me and his hope that I will one day see my boys again I have strength.

How I Survived Child Loss: Part 3 – Faith

God gives us his strength in our weakness, so “that everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and not our own”. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:7

“You are so strong.” I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this statement over the past 6 years. While a part of me loves to hear it and part of me feels strong, I know I could not have done any of this on my own. The strength I have does not come from me; it comes from within me, from God living in me.

A few months ago I watched a video with my favorite radio show host. He was interviewing a Christian musician. I don’t remember most of the interview, but I the one thing I do remember really hit home. He said, in the wake of a personal trauma, his grief over the situation, kept crashing up against something solid inside him – his faith in God. When I heard that, I knew exactly what he meant. I’d felt the same thing in my own life.

Every time the intense pain of grief washed over me, I turned to God. I’d cry out “help me”. They were the only words I could utter. I’d ugly cry in God’s presence because I couldn’t do it alone. Through this process a strange thing happened, I realized when my grief was at its strongest I felt closer to God than at any other point in my life.

When I turned to God in the middle of my pain, he was there for me. Every. Single. Time. Sometimes I could hear him talk to me. Others I just knew he was there.

One afternoon, I was on the floor of my boy’s bedroom crying out to God my desperate “help me” plea. I was feeling very alone that particular day. Later that afternoon I received messages from 3 different people who didn’t know each other but knew me. Each message was a variation of “I’m thinking of you and praying for you”. I was overwhelmed and in that moment I knew God had heard my prayer of tears and was letting me know he was with me.

Through this journey I have learned when you reach into your deepest pain, you’ll find God there holding you.

Sunday mornings became a time of meeting God on a whole new level. I would go to church and hide in the balcony. I would sing the worship songs and cry through the whole thing. One of the most spiritual experiences in my life was praising God while in the greatest emotional pain I’d ever known. I wish I could accurately describe what it was like. It’s the closest I’ve ever felt to God. I could almost see him. I felt like he was reaching down and gently pulling my pain to himself. Pain, relief, praise and comfort it was such an interesting mix of emotions. But it gave me the strength I needed to face the day.

There are so many ways God has given me strength to travel this journey. My first thoughts after the accident were of God (you can read about it here). He provided me an amazing support system that has prayed for me and carried me through (read here). He’s been there in my pain and held me when I cried. All my tears of grief have been spent in God’s presence.

I don’t know how people travel through this cruel world without God. And I don’t know how people get through child loss without Him to lean on. I would not be here today, if not for the hope and strength God has given me. I could not have made it this far without God. Left to my own devices I would have curled up in a ball and stayed there. The strength God has given me is the only thing that has kept me going. I could not have done this alone.


An Open Letter to Newly Bereaved Parents


If you are reading this because you have lost a child, I am so very sorry. I know the pain you feel, because I have felt it too. I know the depth of suffering that comes from losing a child. I wish no one had to experience this, but sadly there are too many of us.

My purpose in writing this letter is to outline a few of the things I have learned in my grief. Maybe in doing so, your journey will seem a little less scary. It’s so easy to feel alone and grief is so unscripted you may think you are going crazy. I want you to know you are not alone and what you are experiencing is normal, for the circumstances you find yourself in.

There is No Order

Shortly after losing my 2 boys in a car accident someone said something to me that I have always appreciated. I have no idea who it was, or exactly the words they used, but their comment helped me navigate that first year. This person told me there are no stages to grief. You may have heard about the “Stages of Grief” but, after 6 years, I am here to tell you there is no such thing. Stages imply order. Once you complete the first stage you move onto the next and so on. As you get through all the steps, viola, you are done grieving. Oh, how I wish it were that easy!

Grief is unpredictable and it can take you by surprise. It’s more like a rollercoaster where you can’t see the dips and turns. I’ve also described grief like ocean waves that sneak up on you when you’re not ready. You may take weeks to go through the different emotions, or you my go through them all in a 30 second whirlwind. Grief cycles and turns so much you may feel like you are going crazy.

You Are Not Going Crazy

I believe child loss is the most agonizing emotional pain there is. Our bodies simply don’t know how to handle the intensity. One minute you may be fine and even able to smile. The next you collapse into tears. Or maybe you are laughing at something and your laughter dissolves into sobs. The smallest or strangest things can set off the tears. I’ve been triggered by an aisle full of kitchen mixers at the store, an innocuous comment by a friend and even a Taylor Swift song (the reason behind this one seems so silly).

As exhausting as the mood swings are, they are normal. I’ve melted down in the grocery store, the bathroom at work, my car, in front of family, and even in the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC and other equally embarrassing places. Sometimes your emotions will make sense and be easier to control. Other times the power of your grief will be so overwhelming you will break down despite your best intentions. Both are ok. Both are good. It’s normal you are not crazy.

The Intensity of the Pain will subside

I was astonished at the intensity of the emotional pain I was in. It was so painful I could feel it physically. My heart hurt, I couldn’t breathe, and any movement I made took an enormous amount of effort.

Writing this letter 6 years later, the pain is now a dull sadness. Every now and then the intensity returns, but it’s not an everyday occurrence anymore. Thankfully so, I’m not sure I could have survived 6 years of that kind of intensity. I’m not sure when it started to subside, but it did. It was a slow and gradual process over the course of time.

You’ve probably heard the expression “Time heals all wounds”. (I hope no one has said this to you in the face of your loss). I disagree with this statement. I think there are some wounds that the passage of time can heal, but not all. Time itself doesn’t heal anything just by continuing to march forward. All time really does is put distance between us, and the day of our loss. It’s what we do with that time that determines if we “heal” or remain stuck.

The only way to “heal” from grief is to go through it. I know it hurts and I know it’s hard, but you have to feel it. You have to let it in, because that is the only way through. It may seem easier to run from or hide from your grief. But remember this, GRIEF WILL NOT BE DENIED. It will always come out. The more you run from it, the more likely it will come out in a way you have no control over. Facing your grief head on is the hardest and easiest way through this journey.

There is Hope

I still remember the first Compassionate Friends meting I went to. (CF is a national support group for bereaved parents/siblings/and grandparents.) It was only a few weeks after the accident and I couldn’t imagine life without the intense pain that had become my constant companion. The leader of the group was 10 years into her child loss journey. I remember listening to her talk and realizing there was hope. She was able to function and live a life. I listened to her story and knew I wouldn’t always be in this place of powerful pain. Attending the local Compassionate Friends chapters has helped me in many ways. I realize I’m not alone on this journey. And in seeing others farther along in their journey, I knew what to expect as the weeks, months and years marched past. I knew there was hope.

Hope can also come from faith. I don’t know what your spiritual beliefs are and I know in the face of losing a child talk about God can feel trite. I hope you will continue reading what I have to say. I’m not going to tell you things like “God won’t give you more than you can handle” or “God needed another angel”. (Please excuse me while I throw up over those statements). No, what I want you to know is God is here for you, if you’ll let him in. He can offer you comfort and peace. I know there are a lot of hard questions about God and painful circumstances like ours. But that is a conversation for another day.

I found when the pain hurt the most and the tears wouldn’t stop, God was there for me when I cried out for help. He gave me peace and surrounded me with support. He makes this burden we carry lighter. I know he will do the same for you; all you have to do is ask.

There is so much more I want to say, but I’ve already written more than I planned. If you have any questions or would like prayer, feel free to comment, send me an email or message me on Facebook.

I am so sorry you’ve joined this awful club, but know you are not alone.

The Game Changer

Friday evening I had an amazing opportunity that became a game changer for me. I was attending a trauma workshop conducted by Dr. David Burns, a psychologist who has written many books on depression and anxiety. In the workshop, Dr. Burns was teaching us how to use his methods to treat trauma. He stated there would be a live demonstration of these techniques at the end of the first day, if anyone would be willing to volunteer. I thought about volunteering, but that’s as far as it went. A couple of my co-workers attending the conference with me suggested I volunteer. Well in reality, they were a bit pushy. 😉 On our first break, with the support of a friend, I went and talked with Dr. Burns. I gave him a brief description of my trauma, of losing the boys, along with the depression and anxiety I’ve dealt with since. (You can read about some of it here). He thought I’d be a great subject and asked me to fill out a mood log.

I did not hear much of the next segment of the workshop because my nerves went crazy. My stomach was fluttering and my hands were shaking. I managed to fill out the mood log (I hate filling out those things). On our lunch break I showed Dr. Burns my log and he asked me to sign a release because they were going to videotape the session.

10 minutes before we were to begin the live demonstration, I started getting nervous again. I said a quick prayer, for courage.

The demonstration got off to a rocky start. Since I’ve shared my story publicly a few times, I had a bit of trouble shifting out of presentation mode. I had to remind myself this is supposed to be a counseling session, not a presentation. Dr. Burns and I had trouble connecting in a way that would make any therapy possible. He brought up the disconnection and we managed to work through it enough that I was able to let my guard down. Once that happened, all the pain I keep at bay to survive, bubbled to the surface.

What followed was one of the most intense experiences I’ve had since the accident. It was so that intense at one point I doubled over because I was crying so hard.

Together we walked through my mood log. I had listed several of my negative thoughts I have when my depression and anxiety are at their worst.

“I’ll be alone forever”

“My life will always be like this”

“I’ll never be successful or financially stable”

“I’m a fraud at work”

“Life sucks, life is hard”

We added to the list too. When the subject of my faith came up, I was a bit reluctant to talk about it because I didn’t know what everyone in the room believed. As we processed my reluctance to be bold about my faith, I realized I sometimes edit my story because of my fear of being ridiculed or disregarded. The thoughts we added to my list were “David may be judging me” and “They’ll think I believe in fairytales”.

We moved on to identifying the distortions of these thoughts. Black and white thinking, Overgeneralizing, Discounting the positives, Emotional reasoning . . . the list goes on. As a trained counselor, I know the next step is to look for the evidence that these are true or false, and find the positive thoughts to combat the negative thoughts.

It was then that Dr. Burns did something completely unexpected. He basically said, “What do these negative thoughts and feelings reveal about you that is beautiful”

Ummmm . . . . . what??

We then made a new list. This list looked at all my negative thoughts and emotions and discovered the positive attributes of myself. It was hard to do at first, but once we got the ball rolling, I couldn’t write them down fast enough.

“These feelings show how much I love my boys”

“Shows I’ve been through something significant and awful”

“Shows my high standards, my concern for my clients, and wanting to help”

“Honesty, Humility”


“Protecting my beautiful faith”

“Protect myself from being hurt and un-respected”

“I want to have people in my life to love”

“I want meaningful relationships”

“Protecting myself from future heartbreak”

“Being realistic and not denying reality”

“My anger is justified”

“My worry protects me by keeping me vigilant and alert.”

For me, this list changed everything. Once we were done with the list I felt lighter, like a 50-pound bag of bricks had been lifted from my shoulders. I felt Happy.

There are good reasons I think these negative thoughts and I’m not just beating up on myself. Because these messages are given in a negative way, I sink deeper into depression or anxiety. And the cycle perpetuates itself.

Now when I have a negative thought, I try to identify the good part of me that brings that thought into existence. For example: the next morning I woke up feeling really foolish. As I was getting ready for Day 2 of the workshop and having to confront all those people who had witnessed me breaking down and hearing how I talk to myself in my dark times, I felt really foolish. But, instead of letting that thought linger and grow, I searched for the meaning behind it. I realized I felt foolish because I had opened up. I had been vulnerable in front of a large roomful of strangers. They had seen some of my deepest pain. The vulnerability which connected me to every person in that room the night before, was now making me feel very silly. So I said to myself “No you were not foolish last night, you were vulnerable. And vulnerability is something you want in your life, even though it feels uncomfortable”.

Carefully guard your

After identifying the beautiful parts of me that led to the negative thoughts, Dr. Burns asked if I was ready to attack the negative thoughts. After I agreed, he began role-playing my inner voice and would speak one of my negative thoughts to me. I would then have to refute the thought. If I didn’t win, we’d change places and he’d be the one defeating the thought. We kept going back and fourth until I had defeated all my negative thoughts in a huge way. Through the role-playing, I learned to not only defeat the negative thoughts, but to obliterate them! Below are some of the ways he helped me to stop thought thoughts in their tracks:

Negative thought: “I’ll be alone forever”

Response now: “I might be alone right now, but I don’t know the future. Anything can happen. Besides I am not alone right now. I have amazing friends and family. I could probably let my walls down with them a bit more so I don’t feel so alone. But I am not alone now”

Negative thought: “My life will always be like this”

Response now: “My life has changed so much in the last 5 years. What on earth makes me think it will stay the same now!!”

Negative thought: “I’ll never be successful or financially stable”

Response now: “I completed graduate school in the midst of the worst kind of grief. I didn’t curl up in the corner and bemoan the terribleness of my life. I set out to do something about it. That same determination will keep me moving forward”

Negative thought: “I’m a fraud at work”

Response now: “I’m inexperienced. Good grief! I got out of graduate school less than a year ago. Of course I don’t understand everything about how to help my clients. But I have client’s that are improving and making progress. And some of them even like me.”

Negative thought: “Life sucks, life is hard”

Response now: “Yes, my life sucks. But there are good things about my life too. I have friends who love me and pray for me. I have family who would do anything for me. I can get out and take pictures and share the beauty I see around me with others. Yes, life is hard. No one ever said it would be easy. But I have help. I have lots of help. I don’t have to do it alone.”

Negative thought: “David (Dr. Burns) may be judging me”

Response now: “Yes he may. But that’s his problem. My faith is what has brought me through this hell, and it’s what keeps me going. My faith has helped me survive. My faith is what’s given me hope. If he cannot appreciate that about me, then he doesn’t need to be part of my life.”

Negative thought: “They’ll think I believe in fairytales”

Response now: “They might think that. But that’s because they’ve never experience the peace of God. They’ve never understood the power that peace can have over their lives. They’ve never known what it’s like to be held in God’s hands. And that thought makes me sad for them.”

This process gave me a profound sense of relief. The negative thoughts have always communicated, in some way, a message of self-hate. After walking through these exercises, the connection between the negative thought and the message it conveys has been severed. That made all the difference and for a moment I felt carefree.

Though this experience was intense, I learned something. I learned the depression and anxiety I’ve experienced the last few years are not things I need to fight against. They honor my loss and the pain I’ve gone through, though that doesn’t mean I have to live with the messages the depression and anxiety speak into my life. I now have the tools to obliterate my negative thoughts and replace them with the truth.

Depression and Anxiety


My Lesson in Anxiety

Anxiety: Overestimating the negative future possibilities and under estimating your ability to deal with it. ~ Teresa’s Counselor

I woke up in the middle of the night. Something wasn’t right. Panic. I could feel it spreading through my body. I knew if I gave myself over to it, I would have a panic attack. I tried the deep breathing techniques I’d been practicing. But I couldn’t breathe in deep enough. So I waited. Eventually the feeling subsided.

When I thought back on that night I got mad at myself. A panic attack, really? I’ve never had a panic attack and here I almost had one over ORALS!

I first began hearing about orals my first year of graduate school. The professors started dropping hints about how difficult orals were in the first few classes. No one ever actually explained what orals were so it took me awhile to figure out what everyone was so worked up about. The oral exam is a pass/fail exam all the Masters in Counseling students have to take in order to graduate. You write a paper about a client, submit a video of you working with the client. Then defend your paper and video to a panel of teachers. It sounded hard but not undoable. So I didn’t worry about it.

But then we had our oral exam orientation in October. Yup! There was an orientation to explain what was required to pass our orals. It is that big of a deal. It was around this time my confidence evaporated and anxiety set in.

Somehow I’d talked myself into believing I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t write a giant paper. I didn’t understand theory well enough. I didn’t know how to use theory with my clients. I didn’t know where to put my client in Erickson’s Stages of Development. I didn’t have a good video. I could go on. My negative self-talk was so bad, the anxiety increased with every passing day. I allowed the anxiety to take control and for the first time in my life I got stuck. They gave us 4 months to work on our orals paper. I watched month after month slip past and I still had not written 1 word.


Shortly after my middle of the night almost panic attack, I started thinking about all the anxiety I was experiencing. I couldn’t remember ever going through something like this before. I started looking at the anxiety and wondering where it came from. Was I always this way? I didn’t think so.

I finally asked my mom if I was an anxious person before the accident. She confirmed that I wasn’t. She even pointed out that I was more of a deal with it and move on kind of person. So I assumed the accident had created anxiousness in me. But then my mom said something that surprised me. She said that even after the accident I wasn’t an anxious person. According to my mom the anxiety centered on school. She figured I had so much anxiety about school because I had so much riding on school.

Anyone who goes to college, especially graduate school, has a lot riding on school. So why was I so different? Because, I have EVERYTHING riding on school. Financial stability, employability, a new life purpose, a new identity as a professional and the idea that some day, through helping others, I will be happy. The entire process of rebuilding my life was riding on being able to graduate.

And my oral exam was in the way of that new life.

I was explaining this all to my counselor when she made a statement that stopped me in my tracks.

“It sounds like you have some resentment that you have to be doing this.”

Talk about hitting the nail on the head!

Yes I have some resentment!! I am a stay-at-home-mom with no kids to take care of. All I have ever wanted to be was a mom. And I loved being a mom. But that dream was ripped from me and I watched my entire life crumble around me. Hell yes, I’m resentful. Everything. I lost everything. I am rebuilding my life from the ground up. And I don’t want to have to do this. This is not the life I chose.

I also realized I have some resentment toward God for allowing all this to happen. That is a hard one to admit and will take some time to work through.

Sadly all this realization didn’t make the anxiety go away. The day for my oral board finally came. A bundle of nerves, I sat down in front of a panel of 3 professors. I explained my client and answered their questions. Turns out I enjoyed the mental challenge of the process. And in the end it was like having a conversation about my client.

By the time I got home that day I was mentally and physically drained. (I was even having trouble putting together coherent sentences).

It took me a week and half to emotionally recover from orals. Once I did I realized something. I had let the anxiety completely take over my life. As a result I had wandered away from my relationship with God. Even the daily running conversation I had with God was gone.

In my fear I had tried so hard to control everything around me, I had lost sight of who really is in control. I had lost sight of where my strength comes from. I had lost sight of who I am.

Today for the first time in 5 months I feel like myself again. And now begins the hard work of rebuilding my relationship with God and removing the anxiety from my life.

Now when I feel the anxiety beginning, I stop it before it can build. I say to myself “No! You are not going to do that again.” I remind myself how awful and exhausting it is to live like that. As time goes on I’ll be able to confidently turn to God instead.

I want to leave you with one final thought. Earlier this month a friend posted this on Facebook

“Fear Paralyzes. Faith Mobilizes”

It was fear of failing that had me so stuck I almost didn’t pass orals. It was faith that led me to graduate school and the idea that I can help others. It is faith that keeps me moving forward and dreaming of a better life.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

Me the day I finished my orals paper
Me the day I finished my orals paper

It’s Been 4 Years . . . .

Miss boys 2“You might be but one drop in a bigger ocean, but even that drop causes ripples which affect every other drop. ~ Sue Krebs

Today marks the 4-year anniversary of the accident that took the lives of my children and changed my life forever. Anniversary . . . . . . it really does not seem like the right word to use. To me an anniversary indicates a happy event, an event worth celebrating. Today is not about celebrating, it is about remembering.

It has been 4 years since I have seen my children. There are so many things I have missed in those 4 years.

I have missed having mountains of laundry to do.

I have missed breaking up fights.

I have missed navigating the messy bedroom just to tuck them in and say goodnight.

I have missed stepping on Legos. Yes . . . I do miss this!

I have missed the incessant questions.

I have missed repeating myself because they were not listening the first 40 times.

I have missed the bickering.

I have missed the back talk.

I have missed the “can’t keep it clean” house.

I have missed the creativity.

I have missed watching kid movies and tv shows.

I have missed reading stories at bedtime.

I have missed the laughter.

I have missed the joking and goofiness.

I have missed the craziness that having boys brings into your life.

I have missed their hugs.

I have missed touching them and having them touch me.

I have missed my boys.

The other day a friend asked, “If you could ask God one question what would it be?”

My answer to that question is simple. I would ask God to allow me to see the far reaching effect my life has had on other people. I want to know that what I am going through has meaning. I want to know that someone is living a better life because of what I have been asked to deal with.

I have friends tell me how their friends have been affected by my story. These are people I don’t know. I love hearing these stories, but I want to know more. I want to see the whole story of my life, the part that only God can see. I would love to see the part of my life that God can see, that kept him from stopping the accident from happening. I want to know and understand why I have to live the rest of my life without my boys. I want to see what God can see . . . . the ripple effect.

I know I will probably never be privy to this information this side of Heaven. But I sure hope that God allows me to see the ripple effect of my life when I get Home.


Did Mary Grieve?

I had planned on posting a New Year type post this week. But alas life has gotten in the way.

As many of you know I am currently in graduate school working toward a Masters in Counseling. My hope is upon completing school I will be able to help others like me, who’ve watched their life fall apart. As part of my school’s program I have to pass an oral exam to graduate. I have to present a client case study to a panel of professors, and then defend my case study. This is a very involved process, and my deadline is rapidly approaching. As a result, throughout the month of January and most of February, I will be consumed with preparing my case study and doing the appropriate research. I would appreciate your prayers during this time.

To help relieve some of my stress and anxiety, I won’t be posting on the blog as much as I had intended during this time. As soon as my oral exam is over, I have many plans for this blog. So stick around because exciting things are coming.

So instead of writing the New Years post I’d planned on, I thought I would share something I posted on my photography blog in January of 2013. If you are interested in my photography you can check it out here.

Without further ado, I’d like to share a side of Mary, the mother of Jesus, that I’ve wondered about.

Originally posted January 2, 2013 on Teresa Hunt Photography

A few weeks ago I was listening to one of my favorite Christmas CD’s. A song titled “Still Her Little Child” came on. As I listened to the song I realized something . . . Mary, like myself and so many mothers I know, was a grieving mother. She watched her oldest son be tortured and put to death in the most horrific fashion. She had to bury her baby boy. For 3 horrible days she knew the unimaginable grief of loosing a child.

But Mary received a gift all grieving mothers can only dream of . . . . she got to see her son again. A mere 3 days after being buried, Jesus came back from the dead. What overwhelming joy and relief Mary must have felt.

However, several days later Mary lost her son again when he ascended into Heaven. And here is where I’d like to pose a question for your contemplation. Did Mary still grieve the loss of her son after he ascended to heaven? I think she might have. For even though she was able to see her son again, he was still gone. Even though she was able to see Jesus in his full glory, he was still gone. Never again in her earthly life would she be able to talk to, touch, hug or hear her son’s voice. In the end that’s all we grieving mothers want to do. We want to hold our children, to talk to them, to hear their voice, to smell their presence, to touch them and to have them touch us. We don’t cry and grieve for our children. We cry and grieve for the LOSS of our children . . . for what we no longer have. And that is why I think Mary grieved for her son until she joined him.

My thoughts on Mary, the mother of Jesus, being a grieving mother.

Finding the Good, No Matter How Bad Things Are

2014 is almost over. There are only a few days left, and I have to say, I am so happy this year is over. It’s been a very hard year for me. It’s been a year full of grief and stress, and I’ve never been so happy to see a year come to an end.

You can read about why this year has been so difficult here.

But as this difficult year draws to a close, I am reminded of the attitude I had at the end of the hardest year of my life.

At the end of 2011, I sent out my annual Christmas cards and letter. I wanted to say thank you to all the friends and family who had been so supportive throughout the year. But I also wanted to end the year with hope.

The following is an excerpt from that letter:

“Without a doubt this has been the hardest year of my life. I’ve lost everything that gave me purpose and made me who I was. Everything I knew and understood about my life is gone. I’m left with only these 3 things: my photography, family/friends and my faith in God. I have faith that God has been with me through everything and faith that he has brighter plans for me in the future.

A few years ago I asked the boys a question each night as I tucked them into bed. I asked them “What was your favorite part of today?” My goal was to get them thinking of the positive things even if they’d had a bad day. Of course this practice only lasted a week or so. But I’ve been thinking of that question a lot these past few weeks. Only the question has changed to “What was your favorite part of this year?” Believe it or not I can answer that question. With everything I’ve lost and gone through this year I can still find positive things. I think the boys would be proud of that.”

I reread my Christmas letter and was amazed at the faith and positive attitude I had that year. Though my faith in God has never wavered, my trust in God has. I know that seems like a contradiction. Having faith in God with my grief is easy, it’s the only way I can survive this. But it’s the trust in the little things of life that is harder. God has been teaching me to trust him in the little things this year. It’s a hard lesson I am still learning.

It is so strange that in the year 2011 I could easily find things that were good. I had experienced the worst thing a parent can imagine, I was still reeling from the tragedy. Yet I was still able to find something good from that year.

But this year it’s harder for me to find something good. When I look back on the year all I can see is anxiety, stress and grief. Yet because it’s been such a hard year, I’m feeling the need to ask myself this question again, to find something good out of this year.

Three things come to mind when I try and find something good from this year: my photography club, my first speaking engagement and school.

Though school has been where all of my stress has originated this year, it is also the only thing keeping me moving forward. Going to school has given me a sense of purpose and when I am done, hopefully I will be qualified to help others like me who’ve lost everything.

Beyond a sense of purpose, school has also given me new friends. The program I’m in is a cohort style program. This means that I go so class every Thursday night with the same people. My cohort has been together for 2 years now. We’ve been through a lot together as a class and have had a lot of fun. I hope once school is over and that weekly connection is gone, we will find a way to stay connected and remain friends.

The last day of November I had the opportunity to tell my story in church. This is something I have been wanting to do for a couple of years. But I was never sure I really had anything worthwhile to say. To be given the opportunity to share my story was not only an amazing opportunity, it was a healing experience as well.

If you missed the video you can see it here.

My photography club has been such a huge part of my support system in many ways. So it’s no surprise to me that they made my list of good things from this year again. This summer my photography club came to Oregon and I was able to show off some of my favorite places. We had so much fun photographing Oregon’s countryside and laughing with each other. I can’t wait for our trip next year.

Besides having a ton of fun with good friends, I learned a lot about myself from that trip. I learned that I am capable of so much more than I thought. I learned that I have some leadership skills and with practice, I could handle doing similar things on a grander scale. As a result, after the group left, I began thinking of another life goal that I hope to implement someday.

All this to say, that even during the worst day, month or year, if you look hard enough you can find something good that happened.

So “What was your favorite part of this year?”

Find something good

How You Can Help Someone Who Is Grieving

Last week I had an opportunity to share my story in church. It was an amazing experience. I was able to talk about topics I have become very passionate about in front of a large number of people. After telling my story I was able to share how God has comforted and supported me through the people around me. I had the opportunity to describe a little of what grief feels like. And I was also able to talk about how to respond to others who are grieving.

Checkout the complete video

At the end of the video I suggest asking 2 questions before saying something to a newly bereaved person. These questions “Am I saying this so I don’t feel uncomfortable?” and “Am I saying this to make them feel better, or remove their pain?” are to help someone examine why they want to say something. Often times the words we say, though meant to help, can actually cause more pain.

I’ve been thinking about these questions I mentioned in the video, and I realized I left off with an attitude of what not to say. So I’d like to pose another question for you to ask yourself. “How can I show this person I care, or that I love them?”

This is what it comes down to. As grieving parents we need to know that you care. Support doesn’t come in the form of magic words that make it all better. Support comes in the form of people expressing their concern and love. Some of my favorite expressions of support, love and caring were the little things people did.

I loved it when people would come over and clean my house. I was totally incapable of doing small things. Getting out of bed was a major accomplishment. Having people take care of the normal life tasks that were to hard for me made me feel cared for.

My sister used her knowledge of the car insurance industry and took care of all the insurance stuff that needed to be handled. By offering to help in this way, she took a huge burden off my shoulders.

For 3 months cards and gifts poured in. But it wasn’t the gifts that mattered, it was the recognition that we were hurting and needed support.

For a year my cousin sent me handmade cards. She recognized that support was needed long after most of the crowd had gone back to their normal lives. I looked forward to the cards every month and they decorated my table for a long time.

My photography club showed their support in many unique ways. One of my favorites was on the first year anniversary of the accident. They posted pictures on the club page for me and talked about what I meant to them. That expression of caring made me feel so special.

So many members of my extended family flew out right after the accident. It was amazing. They carried me through that first week more than they know. But it didn’t stop there. Other family members came to visit throughout the year. It was so nice to have people coming at various intervals during that first year. It gave me something to look forward to.

My best friend flew me out to visit her in South Dakota. I spent a week with her family being spoiled. She took such good care of me; I didn’t want to go home.

I have an uncle whose story is somewhat similar to mine. He has shared a bit of his story with me and allowed me to ask questions. He has been a wonderful source of wisdom.

One of the most amazing expressions of support came from a wonderful young woman. She organized a gift-giving brigade for my second holiday season without the boys. I didn’t realize what was going on at first. I happened to catch her leaving a gift on my doorstep. She’s such a sweet person; I didn’t think anything of it. The next day I came home from work to find another gift on my doorstep. But it wasn’t until the 3rd day I realized what was going on. From December 1st thru January 22nd, a group of women left gifts on my doorstep. It was so amazing! During the hardest time of my year I had something to look forward to when I went home. I didn’t have to go home to an empty house, which once was alive with my kid’s energy. I was able to go home and feel cared for by the random gifts left on my doorstep. I still distinctly remember the night my favorite gift arrived. I was chatting with my sister on my Bluetooth as I pulled into my driveway. That’s when I saw several paper snowflakes hanging in front of my door. I’m pretty sure I squealed. It was so beautiful and thoughtful. I haven’t decorated my home for Christmas since the accident. But that year I had snowflakes decorating the outside of my house. I left them up for as long as I possibly could, and when I took them down, I saved as many of them as I could.

A few of the gifts that showed up on my doorstep during my second holiday season without my children
A few of the gifts that showed up on my doorstep during my second holiday season without my children

Each person who has offered me support has done so in unique ways. Many people offered support through prayer. Others supported me by their presence or act of service. Some used their talents or abilities to help me with life tasks or to brighten my day in some way.

Everyone is different. Everyone who grieves does so in their own way. Everyone who offers support does so in their own way. No offer of love or support goes unnoticed or unappreciated. Even if those of us who are grieving don’t express our gratitude, I can promise you we are extremely grateful to those people who show us love, support and caring.

So let me ask you, what can you do to SHOW someone who is hurting that you care?

How you can help someone grieve

The Creation Of Hope

Last week I received a message from my pastor asking if he could use my story as part of his sermon. I asked if he just wanted to mention my story or if he’d like me to come share it personally. He became very excited at the opportunity to have me speak in-person, so I agreed.

I spent all of last week cycling between being excited and nervous. I even had a moment of sheer panic on Saturday night. .

Yesterday I shared my story and my journey of clinging to hope in church.

I have wanted to share my story for a long time. I am very passionate about grief, how to grieve and how to treat those who are grieving. It was a wonderful opportunity to share my story and my passion in a public forum.

After much prayer, I feel led to help others beyond just one-on-one counseling. I believe my story and my journey can benefit others. With a leap of faith and the support of my friends and family, I have decided to open myself up to speak to groups, churches, and support organizations.

The posted video is my first step down this path. Your prayers and your support is appreciated.