- Have you taken time to be honest before God about how you feel? Are you feeling any anger toward God? Have you told Him that?
- Do you feel like you are moving forward or are you stuck in your grief?
- Would you be willing to read some of the Psalms and the Book of Job to see how often God’s Word resonates with people in agonizing circumstances?
- Do you find yourself filling your life with activity to the point that you are never alone with your thoughts?
- Everyone in the family grieves differently. How do you feel like your children are processing their grief? Who is a safe and available person who may be able come alongside to help?
- Have you made a list of all the things you can thank God for, even now?
- Do you feel like you as a family are grieving together?
- During this time others may look to you for comfort in their own grief. Are you taking time to take care of yourself or are you helping everyone else?
- Are you seeking the help of your pastor or other church leadership or a good Christian counselor? Are you seeking out a grief support group?
- Are you making sure your close friends and church family know of specific ways they can pray for you and your family?
- Who can you ask to help you sort out ways for other people to help when you yourself may not know what to ask or who to ask?
- Grief is very complex and there are many layers of grief. Tell me where you are in your journey at this point.
- How can the church help? Is there a friend in church that can be a point person to coordinate meals or rides for the kids?
- What has been one of the loneliest places for you? Tell me where or when you feel the loneliest.
- Holidays may look different, especially that first year. If you need to change things during this “year of firsts” that’s OK.
- The first year is hard. Don’t feel like you need to make any major decisions or changes you feel uncomfortable with (i.e. get rid of possessions, move, change jobs, etc.)
Contributed by Cherissa Roebuck
The day before yesterday we received the hard news that my mom’s cancer is growing and spreading at a rapid rate. Without miraculous intervention, she may not have many good days left. It’s a reality that our family has been living with for the past two years, but each report brings even more clarity to that reality: My mother is dying.
It’s sad. But not tragic.
The distinction between the sad and the tragic has been one of the most tangible and valuable gifts I brought home with me from my visit to India.
My sweet mother is 55 years old. She’s been fighting terminal lung cancer for more than two years now, and the fight has not been easy. At various points on this journey she’s been poked, prodded, drilled, radiated, poisoned, medicated, sleepless, exhausted, uncomfortable, in pain and SICK. And after all of this, aside from God’s direct and supernatural intervention, she will still die of cancer. It is sad. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be.
But it’s not tragic. Tragic is what I saw in India: the 2-year-old child drugged and stuffed under a bed while his mother sells her body day after day. Tragic is the woman with acid burns scarring her arms, too terrified to flee her abuser—worse than what most of us could imagine. Tragic is the shriveled, dying man, lying utterly alone in the dust and filth of a Kolkata street. And the greatest tragedy of all: these people and millions more are living in real despair, without the hope of Jesus Christ. That is true tragedy.
My mom’s life is not tragic. Her life is 55 years—stuffed-to-the-brim—full of hope, love, faith, joy, happiness, peace and trust. She has loved and been loved. Her life is also an eternity stretching out in front of her—an eternity that’s far more amazing than anything our little human minds could conjure up.
I‘m not sure what the next few weeks or months will look like for my mom. God has done so many miraculous things with her life already that I don’t really have any reason to believe that He won’t continue to do so. But worthless speculation aside, I do know that the days ordained for my mom were set long ago, so there’s really no good to be found in trying to figure out how many days that’s going to be. If she lives three more weeks or 30 more years, it’s all pretty short in light of eternity.
I think it’s okay to be sad about this process of saying “goodbye” or rather, “see you later!” I certainly hope it’s okay, because I’ve experienced a lot of sad days in the last two years. But the amazing gift of perspective God gave me in India has really helped me to see my mom’s life in a new light.
If our all-knowing, all-powerful, utterly good and wise God allows my mom to die of cancer sometime in the near future, it will be sad. It will be hard. But life will go on. Both for her and for me! For her, she’s going to be checking into a new home in heaven that is overflowing with treasures she’s been sending that way since long before I was born.
For me, there’s life after cancer. There’s a husband to love, children to nurture, a Church to serve and a world in need of the Gospel. And I’m forever thankful that I’ve had such a beautiful example of just how to go about doing all of those things and more by faith.
Contributed by Faith Jackson
A friend of mine recently lost her mother. It made me realize all over again how much I miss my own mother. She passed away 28 years ago when I had just turned 26 years old and I still miss her every single day. She never met my husband or held any of my three children. Every Mother’s Day, I wish I could do something for her like I used to do. On the first day of spring, I miss sending her a floral arrangement, which had been my way of welcoming the season with her.
I learned so much from my mom, not just from her life, but also from her death. I learned how to let go and what it means to grieve deeply. Unfortunately, I also learned that my brothers and sisters in Christ could seem unsympathetic or uncaring. Even though Romans 12:15 tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn,” I experienced just the opposite during some of the most difficult days of my young life.
When I wanted someone to cry with me, I often got the steely words, “Oh, she’s in a better place,” thrown at me instead. Instead of tears acknowledging my suffering, I heard words intended to help me acknowledge the theological truth of the situation: “God allowed her to die.” I knew that, but I didn’t necessarily need to hear that at that time. “This isn’t a funeral; it’s a celebration of her life.” Yes, I Thessalonians 4:13 is true, “we do not want you to grieve like those who have no hope.” But, at the same time, I did need to grieve.
In our efforts to be godly and theologically accurate, I’ve found it’s just as important to be sensitive and to cry with those who need to cry. And sometimes it’s better just to sit with someone than to say anything at all. There are no words that can really help a young woman get past a loss as big as that of her mother, a young couple through a miscarriage, or any number of losses that people go through. Sometimes, people who are mourning often just need us to be there—to be still—and to weep tears with them.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4 NIV
Contributed by Peggy
Every parent and grandparent knows the importance of a band-aid and a kiss to a child in pain and how it always makes everything better. For a scrape on the arm, a skinned knee or a bruise, it is like a miracle drug.
Four years ago I lost both of my parents. On March 12th my father died of heart failure. Then on October 12th my mother lost her battle with cancer. Realizing that I would have to depend on the memories I had with my parents and would not be experiencing new ones was an adjustment. The funeral service for both of my parents was officiated by my son and one of my nephews. They did a wonderful job reminding us of the great legacy we had been given by the lives my parents had lived. The responsibility to carry on that legacy was now in my future.
As I sat quietly remembering all those special moments in my life with my family, tears trickled down my cheek. At that very moment I felt a gentle touch on my shoulder and a note slid into my lap. Then I noticed the precious first-grade writing on the torn paper and began to read, “Dear Mimi, I am sorry you are so sad. I love you.” It was signed by my granddaughter: “Love, Grace.”
At that moment I knew the feeling every child has when someone lovingly places a band-aid on a hurt and gives a kiss to ease the pain. It really does make everything better. It’s amazing that grandchildren can give such treasured “band-aids for the heart.”
I’ll always remember this one.
By Glenda Lesher
“God, you’ve made a mistake!” “You’ve given me more than I can bear!” Those were my angry thoughts when my mother was diagnosed with incurable lung cancer. She never smoked a day in her life and God had used her to influence others for Christ. I felt cheated, wishing I could have more time with her. The doctor gave her six months to live, but she only lived six weeks. It didn’t seem fair. I prayed for healing, but the answer never came – at least not in the way I wanted it
Thankfully, my perspective changed. Though the grief is still fresh today, I surrendered my anger to God who revealed His grace over and over during that difficult time. During the last nine days of her life, she was in hospice care surrounded by our family. She rallied to have some quality time with us and we were thankful. On the day before her death, her frail arms reached toward us for hugs. I’ll never forget that even though she hadn’t talked for two days, she spoke the name of her oldest grandson as he held her: Steven. That night, our pastor joined us in encircling her with prayer, hand in hand. It was a sacred moment, even though we knew the end of her life was near.
I can finally see that God was being merciful in shortening the time of her suffering. Her last breath on earth was taken in the presence of her family, and in the next instant she was with Jesus, healed.
The day of her funeral I woke up at peace and (gulp) joyful that the service was going to be a celebration of her extraordinary life. Even the weather cooperated. The previous day had been typical of a cold and rainy January, but that day the sun came out and it warmed up – almost like Mother’s favorite season, spring.
Of course I will always miss my mother terribly, but as the Scripture reminds us, we don’t grieve as those who have no hope. First Thessalonians 4:13-18 comforts us with the promise of the resurrection and of meeting the Lord and our loved ones again. Regardless of the crisis in our lives, if we look beyond the grief we can see God’s grace always actively working, ever present and never passive. Through my grief, God revealed the abundance of His grace and I know I’m going to be all right. Why? Because it’s clearer than ever to me that our lives are in His hands and He doesn’t make mistakes.