Hope

Our pastor preached on hope this past Sunday. I like our pastor. He’s funny. He gets his message across without condemning. He’s real. He’s also a bereaved parent, and that carries some weight with me.

But, it got me to thinking about hope. It’s what all of us, especially as bereaved parents, want. We want the “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow” that old hymn talks about.

There are many things I believe and know. I believe in God. I believe in heaven. I believe that Jesus was born, died, and was raised again so that I could have eternal life. I know that Jason was a Christian and that I will see him again. I know that all of my questions will be answered when I see God. I know that, although I see through a dark glass now, someday I will understand. Someday all my tears will be wiped away.

Here on earth, though, sometimes I struggle. I have had a long struggle with my faith since Jason died. Research has shown that many bereaved parents question and examine their spiritual beliefs following the death of a child. I didn’t understand why God didn’t protect Jason after I had prayed and prayed for our kids, their lives, and their protection. I don’t know why we’ve had to walk this long, lonely, difficult path. I have had a long struggle believing the validity of fellow Christians actually being the hands and feet of God on this earth and getting into the trenches to help those who deeply grieve. I have questioned the concept of the church as a hospital for the wounded. I didn’t go to church for a while. It was just too hard. It’s taken me a long time to allow myself to “hope” again.

I can’t deny what we have experienced or what we have seen with our own eyes. It’s been a rough journey; that’s a fact. I would have to acknowledge that, for the most part, fellow Christians and the church failed us miserably after Jason died. On my part, I was extremely hurt and reacted by pulling even farther away. I built up a protective wall around my heart and hunkered down behind it.

Was that the right thing to do? I don’t know. In retrospect, probably not. There are many things I would do differently if I had to do them again. I did what I knew how to do  and what I had the energy to do at the time. That’s all any of us can do.

But, I don’t want to convey a hopelessness to others who may be early on in their grief. My experiences are not be the same as yours. There is so much more information available for helping those who deeply grieve. You are not alone. You will make it through. You are stronger than you know. Reach out to others. You may be surprised who reaches back. Others have walked a similar path before you. Those who have suffered a great loss generally have a deeper, more empathetic outlook on life. They survived; you will, too.

More than anything, though, I want to encourage those surrounding grievers to be proactive. Do something! You can make a difference! I want to encourage those in the church to look outside of their own group of friends or acquaintances to see if there is someone new or someone who is hurting. Someone may need more than your shaking their hand “good morning.” You can give hope by small acts of kindness…but you have to be involved with them beyond a perfunctory smile to do that.

It’s easy to stay within our comfort zones. We are creatures of habit. We like to sit in the same place at church or hang out with the same friends. We like to be around people we know. We go to lunch with the same people, go to the same Bible studies, attend the same social events. But maybe there is someone new who needs a friend or just a kind word. Maybe there is someone right in front of you who needs some hope. Are you unintentionally excluding someone who may need a glimmer of hope?

My dad used to joke about people who would pray, “God bless me, my wife, my son John and his wife. Us four, no more. Amen.” He wanted to encourage others (and especially “us kids”) to realize that there are more people that God wants to bless besides those within our own little circles…and he may want to use you to do it.

I have long contemplated how I can best help those who grieve. I have a “helper” personality and am strongly empathetic. How can I best help? I’m still trying to figure that out. Maybe this blog is one of my attempts to do just that.

I realize friendships and relationships take a while to grow. It takes time to connect. But there has to be a reciprocal desire by both parties. I may have a need to reach out to you and I may make the effort to do that; but if you don’t see me reaching out and reach back, there’s no chance for a connection. There’s no chance for a relationship. There’s no chance to encourage or give hope to someone who may need it.

Does that make sense?

There may be people around us reaching out for friendship, for hope, for encouragement. Do we see them? Do we take the time to notice? Do we take time to share some hope?

I subscribe to GriefShare and receive “A Season of Grief” daily emails from them. The last few have encouraged those who grieve to find support in a local church. Are we, as a church, prepared to do that? There are people, in their deep grief, looking to us for hope. Are we ready to show them hope – “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow”? Are we, by our actions, ready to show them the God of all hope?

“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” (James 2:14-18)

© 2011 Rebecca R. Carney

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17 thoughts on “Hope

  1. Rebecca,

    I appreciate your blog so much and am grateful that the Lord has blessed you with the skill of “writing your emotions on paper”. Thank you for being a willing vessel to those of us who are new on this grieving journey. Thank you for your help through this process. And, thank you for the hope you give through your blog.

    Blessings to you and your family,

    Brenda

  2. I agree with Brenda! It’s good for others to see what we all have gone through and you were present enough to write a journal that you can now reflect back upon and share with us. There is so much that I’ve forgotten already, and it’s important for others to hear. Most importantly than that is for others to see that you’re still here. Maybe not the same person, maybe having learned some very difficult life lessons, but you can get up in the morning, go to church, function when those who are at the initial stages feel like their tomorrows are uncertain.

  3. Hope was one of the things I’ve struggled with. How can a believer struggle with hope when hope is an outcome of our faith? If you have faith, you have hope – right? So my thoughts went round and round when I failed to attain it, when hope was more shadowy than a rock solid foundation. I sensed that God was waiting for me though, telling me that my story wasn’t finished yet. Hope is God’s hand held onto mine. Even when I couldn’t hold onto him.

    Thank you for this post, the honesty. It has given me much to think on. How can I reach out to those who are struggling to hold onto hope? I’ll be looking for the nudgings and the oppertunities.

  4. Thank you so much for your blog. I feel so fortunate you found me & commented on my blog because I’ve been searching for more information on coping with grief. Your words are helping me learn and heal, and I have no doubt it means the same to others who land here. Thank you thank you thank you! ~Kristina

  5. I stumbled upon this post looking for something else and its like God directed me here. I am reaching out, but not exactly.. I need something, but I’m not sure what. I’ve been getting deeper into depression. I believe it may be because I’m trying to find my way back to God and read the Bible.. an attack of sorts. But, I’ve always been depressed.. I was looking for a post from a girl I started following so I could try to contact her because she battles depression, too.. and I need to talk. I just thought I would suggest a song to you.. Ginny Owens “If You Want Me To”.. God bless.

  6. I especially like your comment – “Reach out to others. You may be surprised who reaches back.” I am consistently surprised by how the exact answers seem to appear in the most unlikely of circumstances when you decide to reach out with transparency. It’s not easy, especially if you are the kind of person that is naturally private, or prefers to stay away from others when experiencing pain – but we all universally share the same emotions, and answers can sometimes be questions.
    I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts, thank you for sharing your experiences.

  7. WOW!! It was divine intervention that I blogged yesterday about losing my son and you posted a comment or I would have NEVER found your blog. Thank you for pouring your heart out to the rest of us. I am also thankful for you posting the link to Griefshare. I am clicking there next… I am not the best at blogging, nor have I been consistent but I admit that journaling of sorts will probably make me feel better. We are in this life together, and I believe that we can all help one another. Keep up the great work!

  8. The loss of my wife brought me to my knees emotionally and spiritually. I too have questioned God’s love and even his existance. But I hope – and that’s what keeps me going. The hope that He is here, the hope that I’ll see my wife again. And with some of the things that have happened in my life since she passed, I almost have to believe. You’ll be in my thoughts.

  9. It takes a while to want to reach out to others, right now I am busy licking my wounds. Thankfully some have written, like you to encourage me to write, and some through my own blog say what I write helps them. It helps me for now, and for now that is enough. One of my friends who lost a daughter12 years ago in a single car accident was thrown back into some of her darker grief when our son died. She loved my son too, and it was so hard for her to make herself reach out to me. She has been calling me again lately, and I am proud of her efforts. There are no good answers here in this world. My son rejected organized religion because of what he perceived as their illogical view of many things and what can be a very exclusive attitude. He was however a loving spiritual man. And since God is Love I trust Him and His grace with my son. I appreciate your words.

  10. Ah, Rebecca. This is the problem of the church–at least the modern, western church. It is a problem I have long lamented in myself and in the church in general. Not just in the serious depths of grief, but in other griefs as well. Where is the church when your kid is acting out, when you don’t know what to do, when platitudes do not help and you are worn out, weary and desperate? I think it may be a cultural thing, but I’m not sure. In the west, we have a tendency to believe that we can fix or avoid all calamity through our own good choices and hard work. When a child dies, we struggle with the why’s and what, and what if? When a child has behavioral problems we blame the parents, when a child dies, we must know ‘why?’ so we can prevent this for ourselves or to understand how the blame for that death is placed on some decision the parents, the child or the doctors did or didn’t do. If we can point to the reason why something happened, we can assure ourselves that we will not suffer as another does. To maintain that illusion of self-procured safety, we avoid the suffering because it messes with that delusion. We dislike random. We dislike those moments, those times, those events that make us think that we are not in control. We don’t know how to be in the trenches together. We have insulated ourselves from pain, from harm, from distress, to the point of being useless. Is it because we are physically distant from each other? We live (often) in cities and we CHOOSE our community. We drive twenty, thirty, even forty minutes (in my case) to our faith communities. We commute to work. We may not know our neighbors (or want to.) It is a distressingly singular life many of us live. How then are we “there” for someone else?

    I ask myself these questions. I continue to have these questions. I have a friend going through breast cancer. I live 23 hours away. How do I help? My niece recently died. They are even further away. How do I be there for them? I ask because I just don’t know.

    • I know that “being there” is not an easy thing to do, whether in close proximity or not. You are right. We are a mobile society. We live long distances from family, from places of worship, from work. Distance is a hard thing, that’s for sure. Sometimes it makes it impossible to “be there” as we would wish. We had no family in close physical proximity when Jason died. We lived in Washington State and most family lived in the Midwest. I know that my sister was frustrated by the distance, especially knowing how alone we actually were when most everyone disappeared. She called us all the time, called the church, called people we knew trying to encourage people to step forward and be there for us. You are also right that we don’t know how to be in the trenches with one who deeply grieves any more. We’ve forgotten how to grieve with those who grieve.

      Have you ever been going somewhere – either walking or driving – so concentrated on getting to that destination or so lost in thought that you almost miss a beautiful rainbow or something noteworthy/interesting? We all do it. We miss the moments. I guess I just wanted to encourage (via my blog entry) those who have the opportunity to be open and available to those who may be in need. How can we help unless we are aware? How can we be aware unless we actually take the time to notice and then do something about it? My blog was an encouragement for those within the church to raise their level of awareness and to have the courage to be the one to step forward and help. We live in a no fault/not my responsibility society. If it’s not our responsibility and everyone has the same attitude, then whose responsibility is it?

      My heart is to be an advocate for bereaved parents. If I can raise awareness so that even one bereaved parent feels more supported than abandoned, I will have succeeded. If I can encourage people surrounding a griever stop and think, “What can I do?” instead of ignoring it and hoping it will go away, I will have succeeded.

      As far as your friend and niece – have you read Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages“? It’s written for couples, but the principles apply to anyone. The gist of the book is that everyone shows love in a particular manner (gifts, touch, words, etc.). The way they most appreciate being SHOWN love in return is the way that they show love to others. Even though you live a great distance apart, there must be some way that you were shown love by your friend and niece’s family. For me, I like photography and writing, so I craved photos and vignettes about Jason from other people. I wished everyone would have sent me pictures they may have had of Jason or written a note to me starting with, “I remember the time Jason and I….” I appreciated it when someone remembered and sent notes on Jason’s birthday and on the date of his death. Just telling them that you want to do something but don’t know what to do might be the way to go. Ask. If they say, “Nothing. I’m fine,” tell them you really mean it or ask again another time. If anyone would have asked, I would have made some suggestions if I felt they really meant it. Most of all, remember. Never forget.

  11. Pingback: A Few Things I’ve Learned in the 10 Years Since Jason Died | Grief: One Woman's Perspective

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