When The Sky Goes Dark And The Earth Shakes
I often describe grief as an unexpected beast that can rear its ugly head at any moment. I remember one of my deepest moments of grief; overwhelmed and incapacitated by my emotions. For me, I could literally feel my heart break into countless pieces. Time stood still and lost meaning, or maybe I just wasn’t able to track it. The voices around me faded into the background, and I suddenly was made aware that somebody was screaming out.
That scream was mine.
It was pure despair. It was the sound of unimaginable loss. It was my heart. My sky was dark, and the earth around me was shaking.
At some point, I remember being aware of my body again. And then I slowly realized that there were people around me. Somebody was holding me.
Two weeks later I was sitting in our family room, surrounded by loved ones and playing a board game. We were finding a way to laugh. And for the first time in two weeks, it didn’t feel forced. I suppose you could even call it “normal,” though honestly, I hated that word.
The knock at the door was from a family who was dropping off a meal.
As soon as they saw us they were overcome with their own grief.
This was the first time that I realized that the aftershock of grief could happen suddenly and unexpectedly. That grief could be triggered by those with the best of intentions. Kind-hearted and loving people who in their attempt to support me, didn’t realize that the tables had turned and that in fact, I was the one supporting them. It wouldn’t be the last time this happened. And still now, three years later it can happen unexpectedly.
I’ve been told that losing a child is like being a part of a club that you never wanted to be part of. Others who have experienced this same loss whether it is through a miscarriage, the sudden loss of a young child or teenager, or who have been dealing with a medical condition all know this pain. Losing an adult child is no easier.
Since my daughter passed, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my relationship with God. I’ve thought of heaven and being reunited with my daughter. I’ve thought about what heaven must look like. How perfect it is as a place without sin, or fear or pain.
And then I started thinking about God himself. His character, and what He’s actually like. As the creator of everything, it led me to a sudden realization that God actually knows all emotions, because He created them.
And, it may sound odd to hear this, but God knows what it is like to lose a child.
The author and creator of the universe? Our Heavenly Father? God? Does he know loss?
Don’t believe me. . . take a look at Luke, chapter 23, starting in verse 44 and ask yourself if this sounds like a grieving parent:
“By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last.”
Sound familiar? I know it does for me.
For three hours God muted all light (I was blinded by my tears and unaware of my surroundings). God’s pain shook the foundations of our earth (my sobbing violently shook my body, uncontrollably).
In his grief, he tore down something special to him. Why? I think because just like you and me, He hurt.
Upon the death of His child, Jesus, the world stopped. Can you relate? The sun did not shine. Doesn’t it feel that way?
It hurt so bad. He shook and grieved and broke something. He shut his eyes and paused just to be present in that moment of pain.
You know what I’m talking about, right? When it feels like you are overcome with emotion. Unable to move. Unaware of the passage of time. When you just want to cry out, heartbroken, and hurt.
Yes, just like you, even God hurt.
And here is where I met God in my grief, or I guess more accurately He met me. At the edge of myself, I found that I could relate to God in a different way. I found that I had a shared experience with Him.
God understands our pain.
Through my loss, I have come to find that in our grief and despair, we don’t have to “go it alone.” We don’t have to "pick ourselves up by our bootstraps" or "tough it out." We don’t have to figure out self-help or "grin and bear it" or countless other cliches that we've undoubtedly been told by others who are ill-equipped or inexperienced with our grief.
I heard a sermon recently from a great friend of mine. He pointed out that in our effort to feel like we are in control of something we hold onto things tightly. We build up walls of emotions to keep people (and God) out. And as we hold on tight, and build walls, we bury ourselves in a burden of emotion, weariness, and heaviness. Soon our entire lives are permeated with this weight. Soon we find ourselves walking around frazzled and frayed. This is where God can do the most work. Here at the edge, God gives us the grace that we need to unburden ourselves. His love shines brightest during these times.
My journey to seek deeper meaning from my daughter’s life is far from over. And my journey to understand God’s character is a pursuit and not a destination. On this journey, one of the characteristics of God that I’ve come to admire is His love. It says in 1 John 4:9-10:
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love - not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
God’s love has paved a way for us to spend eternity with Him. God’s love has made sure that my daughter spends eternity with Him.
And in this way, I can grieve.
But my grief isn't hopeless. I can grieve with hope.