“Help me, Lord, to overcome.”
Romans 5:3-5, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Psalm 31:1-3, “O Lord, I have come to you for protection; don’t let me be disgraced. Save me, for you do what is right. Turn your ear to listen to me: rescue me quickly. Be my rock of protection, a fortress where I will be safe. You are my rock and my fortress. For the honor of your name, lead me out of this danger.”
1 Peter 5:10, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.”
Help me, Lord, to overcome.
To remember with a smile,
Instead of memories with tears.
When I think back over the days, weeks, and even months that followed Mike’s death there are so many moments I cannot recall, that I cannot remember. The grief process is a mysterious thing. It is so different for each person, for each death! No one knows how they are going to react to the death of a loved one, and no one knows how long it will take a person to go through the process if they ever do in its entirety. I remember reading and studying about the stages of grief in one of my classes in college, and at the time I had never lost a loved one, so it was hard for me to relate. Yet, here I was at age 30 going through the steps of grief and having a much more difficult time that I ever thought I would experience. Nothing can prepare you for the pain of that grief, and I soon learned that my faith in God would be the strength that helped me through the process, through the days, weeks, months, and even years to come.
So, we moved on. Patrick and I moved to Greenville, SC to be close to family. We moved in with my parents, and a new normal started. The days were filled with concentrating on Patrick, keeping him busy with no time to think about how our lives had changed or why they had changed. Then in the evening, after Patrick was in bed, my nights were spent between silently crying, being angry, journal writing, or just totally exhausted from the emotions and stress. I started a journal shortly after Mike’s death, it was filled with the hurt, anger, and sadness I was feeling. Questions, so many questions! Guilt, lots of guilt because I was still here, and Mike was not. Guilt for being the one that caused Mr. and Mrs. McGinnis so much pain with a simple phone call. Guilt because I was moving on and trying to be happy.
On one difficult night, I wrote the following, “Dear God, I don’t think I am strong enough to make it through all of this on my own. I have asked God for help, but I do not think he has given me any answers yet. In my mind is a tumble of thoughts and questions that continually go round and round. Even in my sleep, when it comes, my thoughts and dreams are so troubled by thoughts of your last moments. Were you afraid, what were you thinking in those last moments? I see your face, and I see fear etched in every feature. When will these dreams end? Will I forever be troubled by anger and pain at your death? When will I know how all these events fit into God’s plan for Patrick and me? ‘Out of every loss, there comes a gain.’ I know the loss; I have felt it with every fiber of my being. Why then, can I not feel the gain as clearly and as strong? Where is the gain in losing someone that is so much a part of your life that you feel like only a part of a whole without him? ‘The Lord giveth and he taketh away.’ Why would the Lord give so much, and make him become so meshed into my life, and then take him away so suddenly? It seems like he could have at least given us a chance to say goodbye. Some advance warning of what was in our future, that all our lives were going to change so drastically. What was the purpose in an ending so abrupt and so incomplete? So unfinished! With the death of Jesus, and his resurrection, God said, ‘It is finished.’ His plan had been completed. In Mike’s death, my life with him was incomplete, it was unfinished. We had so many dreams and goals! Our life together started many years ago and grew strong through hard work, sacrifices, and struggling; it does not seem fair that it ended in such a short period of time and so abruptly. The tears always come late at night. I have not let many people see me cry. My grief, such as it is, seems so private. Yet, maybe it should be shared. It seems to be too much for one to bear alone. Yet, if I cry like I really want to cry, with my loved ones, they will hurt again, and I cannot stand for those around me to hurt anymore.”
Grief is a difficult process, even for those who know God and have Him in their hearts. I cannot imagine having gone through this experience and the long difficult grief process without God as my rock and my fortress. God does not promise us an easy road to travel, but he does promise to give us strength, to walk beside us, and even at times carry us through the most difficult moments. During those late-night moments of feeling so sad and so angry, I could always feel God there beside me. He never left my side, yet I know now he was waiting for me to take his hand and let him help me through. It took several years, and the strength and love of another God placed in my life to help me see how God worked in our lives through all those moments.
I cannot tell you how long the grief process lasted, or even if I ever actually worked all the way the through the process, but I do know this; “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.” Romans 5:3-5 speaks of suffering, “knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame.” Through my suffering, through my grief, I began to understand this verse so much more. I began to see that with God’s strength and wisdom, I could endure the pain that night brought, and through the endurance my character and my testimony for God grew and strengthened, and with this new testimony a hope was born that Patrick and I would get through this time in our lives. God’s plan was not finished yet!