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Letter to a Grieving Parent

Oh my friend. My heart breaks that you find yourself here, where I have walked and wept. Every hour I lift you and your family in prayer, pleading with God to pour out grace and strength and rest over you.

I was so encouraged by the outpouring of support for you and your family at your child’s visitation and funeral. I well remember how exhausting that was, but how much the presence of friends both old and new holds you up in those initial days after. I pray that you drew strength from that love poured from so many who love you and loved your child.

Please consider me a willing listening ear to hear whatever you need to say, or to just sit in silence when the words won’t come. I’ve walked this dark road and would be delighted to walk alongside you as long as you wish.

Even now, 21 months later, some of life’s moments still seem surreal. It’s like I step out of life and look at it in disbelief. Can this really be the life I’m living?

The day Ellie died I felt myself split in two. I remember riding in the ambulance with her and yet looking at the scene and thinking, “Is this really IT? Look at the way they are working on her. I think she is gone. Is this really happening? Is this really the way it’s going to end?” And that numb detached feeling persisted through the funeral planning, the visitation, and the services. Whenever I’d step back into my life, I was saturated with sadness. I remember thinking that I had to figure out how to stop crying because it hurt too bad. My sinuses and eyes were swollen, throbbing, aching. Grief is a physical pain. So I would step back out when it got to be too much.

Ever so slowly, the crying slowed, though it will never stop completely.

Ever so slowly, I could move through a day a little more.

Grief is exhausting. I had no idea. I needed help with food preparation, clean-up, housework, laundry… for weeks. Every task took everything I had. Things I had done before without a thought took every ounce of concentration so that I didn’t leave water running or the stove on or milk on the counter.

At the same time, all those days I couldn’t figure out what was taking so much time and effort. Without Ellie and her needs, the days gaped empty. Again, another surreal element of that time. Those days finding your way through is so awkward. You feel the yawning emptiness in your family: Folding laundry and folding your child’s things for the last time, and then having one less pile of clothes. Their empty bed. Their silent equipment. I constantly looked for what I was forgetting, constantly counted heads because I wasn’t confident I could keep track of everyone anymore.

It took at least a month for my energy to return.

If I may offer a bit of advice? Many will say, “If there’s anything I can do…” Take them up on it. Mention the lawn that needs to be mowed, the dirty dishes, the vacuuming, the leaf-raking, the snow-shoveling, watching the kids so you can sleep, writing thank-you notes (I personally think that a grieving parent should never be expected to send thank-you notes.), doing laundry. It will give you rest and they will love to be of some small help to you.

And in the midst of crying your own tears and asking your own questions, your other children have fears and questions. They are worried for their parents. They make valiant efforts to understand death and funerals and where their brother or sister is versus where their body is.

I write in hope that knowing others have walked through this gives you hope. I hope that you can feel my arm around you as I weep with you.

Most of all, I look forward with you for that day when we rejoin our children in the presence of God, when Jesus wipes away our tears.

Hoping with you,
Joy

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Comments

  1. Veronica says:

    God has given you a great gift….

  2. Wow. What powerful, sweet words. Sorry for the loss in your life. It's so beautiful that you are reaching out and sharing your experiences with others to help them.

  3. Wow, just putting this all down had to be hard for you. If I were your friend, this would be something I would read and re-read over time, because I know it would help a lot.

    You have had an incredibly hard journey; now you are helping her on hers.

  4. Suburban Correspondent says:

    Beautiful…

  5. Stephanie M says:

    I am sure this meant a lot to Kendra. My thoughts and prayers are with you both. You are truly a blessing to others in sharing your heart so beautifully, thank you for your selflessness Joy.

  6. Julie @ Joy's Hope says:

    Impossibly, achingly, beautiful. You dug up the perfect words when there are no perfect words. Thank you for this.

  7. You are comforting in the best way possible having walked this road before. I am grateful for a wise and caring daughter.

    Love,
    Dad

  8. You reveal the grace of God. His strength; I can see so beautifully as you write so eloquently. I grabbed a hold of my daughter who is 10 and just held onto her and hugged her and kissed her; listening to her heartbeat. She took it all in; no questions asked; and loved every moment of it. I'm already a 'huggy touchy' momma; but today, I realized there is always room for improvement…thank you for your story and God's testimony through it.

  9. Such powerful, moving words. God is using you and your experience to bring comfort to others. You bring glory to His name and are truly a light in this dark world.

  10. Mommyfriend Lori says:

    Oh my gosh, I honestly cannot stop crying. Joy, you are an amazing writer. I felt every. single. word. God bless you Joy, you are remarkable.

  11. That was lovely, Joy. Thank you for being willing to be used to minister to others.

  12. Cassandra Frear says:

    My brother and his wife went through this when their 2 year old died suddenly while napping next to her Daddy.

    It's an incredible experience and a long journey. Amazing that we survive it.

    Thanks for your heartfelt sharing. It's sure to encourage someone on this path.

  13. ~Brenda says:

    While I'm sorry for your loss, I'm so glad you're writing about it. I think it's great advice to say that grieving people should take folks up on their offers to help.

    Too bad you don't live close. I would love to meet you in person. :)

  14. Adrienne says:

    Wow, what a beautiful, heartfelt and honest letter. I can't imagine the loss of a child, but there are so many that have endured that loss. You are truly making beauty from ashes with this blog. I stopped by from the Lady Bloggers Tea Party.

  15. Adrienne says:

    And, of course, I'm so sorry for the loss of your daugther.

  16. Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs says:

    Incredible words of comfort. You are an angel to many.

    Here from LBS Tea Party.

  17. Michelle says:

    I read your "About Me" page so I would understand this letter and then read it. Very moving words about such a profound lost. It will make me hug my babies a little tighter today.

    Very powerful.

    I'm visiting from the Tea Party.

    Michelle
    http://pietrosmomma.blogspot.com/

  18. Myrna R. says:

    Lovely thoughts. You're processing your grief in a marvelous way. Thank you for being so open. Many blessings.

    Here from LBS tea party.

  19. Very powerful and beautiful. I pray for both you and your friend that you will find comfort through a time of unimaginable grief. Thank you for sharing your letter.

  20. Thank you for sharing this; I will show it to my daughter who lost her 17 year old son 22 months ago.

    I'm sorry for you pain, and will pray for you and your friend.

  21. Anonymous says:

    There is another kind of grief. That is when your child becomes a prodigal and rejects the family. I have been grieving over the loss of my son having not seen or talked with him since Mother's Day two years ago. Watching your child rebel against God is the deepest pain there is. It does not go away. As one writer put it, “The parent must learn to live with open wounds on a day-to-day basis and to come to terms with the rejection and hurt he is feeling. This is no easy task.” This is how I feel each day. Daily I must go to God for comfort. I find strength in Him and encouragement in the Resurrection. It is a daily process. The hurt is there constantly. Comfort and strength come only from the Lord Jesus and from those who encourage me to walk with Him. I understand better how it is only the sin of rejection and unbelief that causes one to be damned eternally. I would welcome my son home in an instant even though he has done some horrible, hurtful things. It is only his refusal that keeps that from happening. How many do the same to our Savior with His offer of eternal life? Thank you for sharing with us! Your blog is encouraging.

  22. amy glover says:

    Joy,

    Thank you for articulating this and putting it “out there” for others, for us who share this seat of sorrow. It has been eight years since our five year old son, Caleb, left us for heaven. Eight years. I often express, to those who ask, similar thoughts about those first months and years. I still get blindsided. Far less and in truth, now I thank the Lord even when I’m undone, grateful that we are made to never forget. The tears are welcome and I know that they’ll subside. Anyways, Thank you again. May the Lord keep you.

    Amy