It was a couple of years ago on a Sunday evening. I had run out to the grocery store to grab a couple of things in order to survive the week ahead.
The store was notably empty. I guess most people are more organized than I am:). As I made my way up the last aisle I was suddenly facing a mom from school.
She was not a stranger to me. We had spent many minutes waiting together, chatting at the kindergarten door, as I waited for my twins and she for her daycare kids. We knew each other. She knew I had lost a daughter. She had shared some of her story with me. It wasn’t pretty, but whose is? I hadn’t seen her in a while. I no longer had kindergarteners and she had moved to a different door for her afternoon vigil. Life is like that. The doors we stand outside are always changing.
Her countenance that day was different. Instead of her usual understated smile she seemed to have shrouded herself with a mantle of sorrow that I had never seen on her before. As I decided if I should address her or simply slip away unnoticed, she looked up and saw me.
She quickly confessed to hoping that she wouldn’t bump into anyone she knew. Who goes to the grocery store on a Sunday evening? I gently asked her if she was okay.
A story of loss, of unbelievable suffering, of incomprehensible pain seemed to spill out of her, along with a torrent of tears. Her precious, healthy young niece had died, suddenly, a month before. It was one of the most heartbreaking tragedies I have ever heard. Every assault that I had suffered in the moments, days and weeks after my daughter’s death could not even compare to horror she described to me. And every time that I thought the story couldn’t get worse, it did.
I was overcome by a sense of helplessness. All I could do was offer a listening ear, the name of a grieving parents group and a shoulder to cry on. I couldn’t begin to say that I had gone through anything nearly as heartbreaking as this woman had.
I left the grocery story that night and sobbed all the way home.
I strongly believe that God placed me in the grocery store that night at the time that a grieving aunt tried to sneak in unnoticed. I believe that I needed to hear her story as much as she needed to tell it. I never did get a chance to talk to that little girl’s grieving mom. I don’t know if I ever connected with her aunt again. And that’s okay.
That heartbroken aunt taught me that I don’t hold the monopoly on pain.
It doesn’t take much effort to find someone whose story can trump mine.
Hers did, hands down.
I am very selfish. I can think no one has it as bad as I have. Grief likes to do that. It encourages me to keep my eyes so focused on myself that I can’t see anyone around me. Not my husband. Not my kids. Not my friends. Not my daughter’s friends.
The most surprising thing that I have learned in the past year is how much Arlynne’s death has affected the young people around her and it continues to. That realization has hit close to home. My 17-year-old son has decided that he hates our dog because loving someone and then losing them hurts too much. My 9-year-old asked me how God could take Arlynne away when she and her brother were too young to remember her. Friends of hers have suffered with depression. They have turned to cutting. They have thought about ending it all.
And the pain goes on…
I found this quote tonight when I finally sat down to write after a very long hiatus. I don’t know who deserves the credit for it. It isn’t me. I don’t believe that I can find it in my Bible. However, I know that it is true.
The best way to heal a broken heart is to give God all the pieces.
I know that I couldn’t go on without God. Only God can start to restore what I believe is beyond repair. Only God can take my sorrow and pain and turn it into something good. God has healed my heart. Sometimes it still hurts. I have a scar but it is no longer a wound. God has guided me gently to Himself, the Great Physician, who can make my pain hurt a little less every day. I still have my days. I never want to stop missing my daughter but I don’t have to be afraid to embrace the healing that God wants to bring me. I can remember her with joy.
Someone read Romans 8:28 at my daughter’s funeral, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” I didn’t like hearing it then. Some days I still have trouble believing it but I don’t know how God works. I don’t understand all His purposes. He is God and I am not. Faith means trusting God in spite of what I see. God has proven that He is trustworthy in the past so I will chose to trust Him with this.
We have a woman who comes to a grieving group that we lead who says that God allowed her husband to pass away so that she would come back to Him. She is a living, breathing testament of the way that God can transform our pain into something good. This beautiful woman, who I am proud to call my friend, personifies the reason that I can go on when missing Arlynne hurts more than I can bear. It is all about bringing glory to my God who knows my pain. My God who endured much greater pain than I can imagine when His own Son died for me, a despicable sinner.
This week will mark the 22nd anniversary of Arlynne’s birth and her sixth year in Heaven. I want to shout it out. I want people to notice. I want to mourn again (or still) the loss that seems so wrong. So hard. So painful.
Instead I choose to give it to the God who was promised that He will never leave me. This morning at Bible study one of the lovely women shared Psalm 91. She felt that God had given it to her at a time when He asked her to truly trust Him.
The Protection of the Most High
1 The one who lives under the protection of the Most High
dwells in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”…
14 Because he is lovingly devoted to Me,
I will deliver him;
I will protect him because he knows My name.
15 When he calls out to Me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble.
I will rescue him and give him honor.
16 I will satisfy him with a long life
and show him My salvation.
I needed to hear this today. I have a God who hears me and delivers me. Sometimes that deliverance looks different that I think it should. I don’t know the big picture. My God does.
I am also thankful for women around me that can encourage me when life seems unbearable. I long to hide when I am hurting. I don’t want to reach out, to see anyone, to talk. They are the “Jesus with skin on” in my life who are willing to walk with me and hug when I need it. They have also been known to give me a figurative kick when necessary. I can’t do life well without them.
We all have pain. Yours might not look the same as mine but it doesn’t mean it hurts you any less. I pray that you will call out to God in the midst of your pain. He might not change your circumstance but He will walk with you through it.