Several months back, I did a talk at my local MOPS (mother's of preschoolers) group on how to love those around us who are grieving. I know some of you were interested in listening to it, so I've posted it here for you.
Grief - Loving the Grieving Well
by Carrie Pendergrass
09 December 2011
It is an interesting path I am on. Looking back over all my journal entries after losing my son and now trying to make sense of them. Trying to think back to that time and all the emotions and thoughts and questions. Sometimes I will read an entry and sort of be reminded of the Psalms. Not that I am at ALL comparing my writing to the Psalms, but many of the Psalms seem to start with the author lamenting about their trials... about life and then as you read on, the author comes to the conclusion that still they will praise. There is something about being in the Word that keeps me praising God. In all of it. In the loneliness of it... in the pain of it... the Word lives. The Word keeps my eyes on Jesus. It's a great reminder even all these years later. When I find myself not turning to His Word on a daily basis, I lose focus. I lose perspective.
During this time I was struggling deeply with finding joy. With finding blessing in the blessings. Everything looked like a potential to suffer even more. But, one thing held true then and will continue to hold true for eternity and through all the sufferings I'm still being challenged with in this life... God is still God. God is who He says He is. His promises are still true for those who trust in Him. He sees the whole picture and guess what... He wins. We win. We will rejoice for all eternity. That alone will keep me praising Him even when it all just hurts so bad... and it does hurt. We shouldn't be surprised or dismayed by that. Remember even Jesus hurt deeply (Matthew 26:38 “Then he said to them, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death'")... why would it be any different for you? Or for me? It doesn't make you weak. It makes you human. It makes you alive.
So, I’ve been feeling pretty hopeless these days. Not finding joy in my blessings. I mean, what good is a great home without children to fill it? And I love my son so much. My husband too… but something could happen to them today. Another way for God to bring suffering to me. I mean he promises us suffering upon suffering until we go home. So where is the joy? I know God says who am I to question him, but where can I find joy in my blessings if they will follow with suffering?
John 16: 20, 22“I tell you the truth, you will weep and morn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy”
“So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you gain and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
Habakkuk 3: 18“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
God is God and He knows what he is doing…. I can’t possibly know the reasons for all of this, but I can have hope in knowing God is who he says he is and he is in control in a world that looks so confusing to me.
Psalm 13: 5“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.”
Psalm 51: 12“Restore to me the joy of my salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”
Posted by Carrie at 4:22 PM
03 November 2011
I think sometimes in suffering, we can begin to think it is all about us. We think all this grief and struggling is happening to ME. It is MY struggle. It is MY burden. It is all about ME! I remember thinking when Jack died that it was all MY fault even. God had clearly chosen me to live a life of grief and struggle. I had lost a boyfriend, a good friend, a young cousin, an aunt, a close family friend, a grandparent and soon 2 grandparents and my father left me at a young age. I knew loss. I knew it well. Daniel, my husband, not so much. He had entered into MY suffering... an innocent bystander to... well... ME. You see, this hadn't happened to anyone but me in my eyes. It was MY child after all. I didn't think about the fact that it was HIS child too. That my mom and my in-laws lost a grandchild, my brothers lost a nephew, my son lost a brother, my neighbors lost a friend. We were all suffering and ultimately is wasn't about me and it wasn't even about them. It was about living in a fallen world. It was about living for the glory of God, not for my own. It was about showing the lost Jesus in the midst of my grief. It was about gaining perseverance for the glory of the Lord. It was about receiving comfort and then passing it along to others. It was about hope. Hope for a life spent with Him! You see, it really isn't about you. I don't mean that to be harsh... your pain is real... my pain is real. God cares deeply about that. He cares deeply about comforting you... He loves you. He will not leave you in your pain. He is actually going to use it for more... for others... for His glory. That should make you smile, my sweet friends. That should give you hope. So, cling to that hope and pass it on.
Philippians 2: 13“For it is GOD who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
So my biggest struggle these days is that I see Jack’s death as “all about me.” I’ve lived the life of struggle, hardship and crisis. Daniel has not so much. But, since he has married me, he has had struggle after struggle and now even the death of his child. I feel sometimes like he has married into this life of struggles. I mean, I know we all struggle in a life of Christ, but his seems like something different to me. I can’t seem to work this one through. I am sure that the Lord has used my struggles and losses to strengthen me for this day and for the days to come. They have brought me perseverance.
2 Corinthians 4: 8,9“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
Romans 5: 3-5“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
2 Peter 1: 5,6“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness, and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”
So, through my struggles, I have perseverance for this day and for my husband?
Posted by Carrie at 6:11 PM
14 October 2011
Some days scripture was all I could write. All I could do was run to His arms, opening and beckoning me to His word... I think that is exactly where He wants us all. So, below you will find scripture after scripture that spoke to me during this time. They were a balm to my soul. I pray you would read each one and be comforted.
Around this time, I started to realize that people were moving on and talking about my sweet Jack was starting to become uncomfortable. Not for me, but for those around me. I thought, really?? I mean... really? It's a shame that we shy away from talking... talking about grief. Talking about our loss. Tomorrow is infant death awareness... did you even know there was such a day? I read this quote and it spoke straight to my heart. It would have back at this time in my journey, but even now, when I want to talk, this quote speaks to my heart. Elizabeth Edwards, "If you know someone who has lost a child, and you're afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died--you're not reminding them. They didn't forget they died. What you're reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and...that is a great gift." You see, it was becoming uncomfortable for those around me, yet I still had to go through all the milestones of loosing my son and yet, now I couldn't speak of it, it seemed. When I saw my son's name on his head stone for the first time, I broke. I piece of me broke. There it was for all to see... my baby's name on the ground forever in memorial to him. I wanted to talk that day. Who can I talk to on his 5th birthday? Who can I talk to on the day he should start kindergarden? Who can I talk to each time I think of my little man? Will you be there to let someone talk without making it uncomfortable? Will you be a safe place for someone? Will you be a comfort from Jesus to someone who needs you?
Psalm 127: 3 “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is His reward.
Romans 8: 1 “Therefore there is now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”
Romans 8: 6 “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God.”
Romans 8: 15 “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of son- ship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
Romans 8: 24,25 “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait patiently.”
Yesterday we got to go see Jack’s head stone for the first time…. Memorial Day. How fitting. It was so hard to see my little boy’s name there. I miss him so much!It seems to me that people are getting to a place where they don’t want me to talk about Jack as much, but some will always let me. I miss my little boy!
Ecclesiastes 11: 5 “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the maker of all things."
Jeremiah 29: 11 “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not evil, to give you a future and a hope."
Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
Psalm 41: 10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Psalm 118: 25-29 “You are my God, and I will give you thinks; you are my God and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
Psalm 55; 22 “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.”
Psalm 56: 3-4, 8, 11“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose work I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?"
“Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll- are they not in your record?”
“In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
Posted by Carrie at 1:50 PM
09 October 2011
Let's just say it aloud together because we all know it's true...holidays sometimes just plain suck for the grieving (yes, I meant to use that word, sorry!). I remember my first round of them after losing Jack. Each one brought the pain searing anew into my heart. At the holidays we gather as family... celebrating Christ and one another. Those who are missing are magnified, it seems. But, praise be to the one who will one day make all things new and right. His Word holds so much hope and joy for us.
Mother's day was especially hard (as one can imagine!), but I was so very thankful for a church who recognized the mothers who had lost children. What a sweet time. A time to not have to explain the tears. Not have to explain the heaviness of heart. To not have to apologize. To sit in a room with people and not have to be alone. The pain doesn't get easier, but I felt such joy when 3 years later I was given the opportunity to help in that service and give comfort to other women just as God had given me comfort. I pray that through this blog and through relationships I can honor God by doing just what He asks of me in 2 Corinthians. To comfort others through the comfort I have received. I pray you do the same as the holidays draw near. Sit with someone who is grieving and let them grieve. Let them talk... or not talk. Let them feel. Let them cry... or laugh. Just let them be right where they are. Just be there with them... let them be comforted.
So, this past weekend was great and yet very painful. Friday night the church had a service for women who had lost children through miscarriage, abortion, or early infant death. It was a beautiful service and there were far too many women there.
Isaiah 61: 1-3“The spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
2 Corinthians 1: 3-5“Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Compassion and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”
Sunday was Mother’s Day. My first holiday and 1st Mother’s Day since Jack died. It hurt my heart. We had a baby dedication during the church service. It broke my heart to not have Jack there seeing all those little babies… it wasn’t about me and I was happy for all those parents, but my heart broke to not have Jack in my arms. When will the mourning end? My guess is not this side of heaven.
Posted by Carrie at 3:39 PM
28 September 2011
Romans 1: 11-12 "I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith."
How many kids do you have? Seems like an easy answer for most of us. You know your children. When someone asks you that question, they all come to your mind by name. You wouldn't dare say 2 when you know you have 3. It would be like denying a part of yourself. It would not honor all of your children. It would not honor all that Christ has graciously given to you. Seems reasonable to say 3. But what happens when one dies? What do you say? What do you say when your soul cries out 3, but you only have 2 standing there? Do you say 2 and deny part of yourself... deny all the blessings God has given to you? Do you say 2 because to say 3 might make someone uncomfortable because you know they will ask their ages and you then have to explain that one lives in heaven and now things are uncomfortable? What do you say? I think this is a question each mom, dad, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or cousin has to answer for themselves. I'm not sure there is a right answer, but my soul shouts 3. Making others comfortable in a fallen world where pain and suffering and sin abound is not my goal. My goal is to be true to God, true to myself, and to honor all that God has given me. Honestly sometimes I do say 2. Each time I do, I feel this subtle prick of conviction. I dread that question and yet God has blessed my answer of 3 so many times. Women have thanked me, my husband has thanked me, grieving people thank me... it seems to give them permission to declare their journey as well. So, I stand here to tell you... I have 3 beautiful children. Luke, Jack and Ella. Luke is 6, Ella is 3 and Jack is living in the care of his heavenly father. How many kids do you have?
Last Tuesday I was at a store with Luke. Someone asked me if I had any other children. How am I supposed to answer that question for the rest of my life. If I say no, I would feel like I’m lying and not acknowledging Jack. If I say yes and explain that he died, people will feel like they have to come up with something to say and it changes everyone’s mood. Why do people always feel like they have to say something?
Posted by Carrie at 2:38 PM
17 August 2011
Isaiah 53:5 "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed."
Moving into the second month as a "mother who has lost a child," I began to think about life still moving. Not moving on... but moving none the less. But, I also realized that my potential for suffering was not over. I had not checked some preverbal box that would keep me from suffering ever again. Not only would it not keep me from future suffering, but it wouldn't even keep me from this type of suffering. I hadn't check the "lost a child" box only to not have it happen again. That is scary. That is heart stopping, heart wrenching, soul searching kind of scary. So, what do we do with that? What do we do in the middle of suffering knowing that it may not end here? We rely on God. We acknowledge our dependency on Him. I was never closer to God than in the middle of my worst pain. I clung to Him in ways I never had before. I never knew how dependent on Him I really was until that little boy let out his last breath. Oh, I needed a Savior as much before this as I did in the middle of this, but I didn't see it in the same way. What a sweet gift. What a sweet gift the Savior of the world would give to me. A closeness and a dependency on Him that I had never had before. Suffering gives us an opportunity to fully acknowledge our need for Him. That is a sweet thing, my friends, for He is a good God. He is the only God that can work it all for our good and His glory. He is the giver of life... the giver of our future. He is a compassionate God that wants to heal your wounds. We live in a fallen world, my friends, and until that day where we will meet our God in heaven, we will suffer... thanks be to Him, my rock and my healer.
Yesterday I met with Maria from Steven’s Ministry. It was great to be with someone who not only understood what I was going through, but who had also come out on the other side and has had other children. She lost her first son 20 years ago. She adopted one child and then birthed one 3 years after that…. 5 years after losing her baby. She had 10 miscarriages in between babies. I can’t imagine! It scares me that Jack may not be the only child I lose. But, I must stay here in the moment and not get discouraged about what might happen in the future. I think Satan loves to keep us in the past or in the future and away from the present and/or eternity. I must finish morning Jack and dealing with his loss.
Posted by Carrie at 10:13 PM