On November 19th, 2004, my six-year-old daughter, Anna, let go of her last breath. In the weeks following, I felt like I was dying too. My heart was utterly broken.
During that season of grief, I remember saying, There is no greater pain. If I can survive this, I can survive anything. But… I didn’t really think I’d survive. I feared I was changed forever and wouldn’t ever be quite happy again. That fear, alongside my sorrow, was all consuming.
What made me want to try… to attempt to move beyond the grief… was my other beloved children. Kyle and I grieved as adults, but our five children grieved too. They not only lost their sister, but they lost the comfort and consolation of their parents’ strength and stability, which broke my heart into even more pieces. Their sorrow is what gave me the courage to heal. I would heal for them.
It’s been thirteen years.
November always brings back that memory of grief. I swear there is something in the air that reminds me of it. I woke yesterday and felt Anna. I thought about her. I longed for her. I hurt for a moment and my eyes welled up. But then almost as soon as I ached, I rejoiced, because remembering that grief, reminded me that it had passed long ago. I then remembered my own words, “There is no greater pain. If I can survive this, I can survive anything”, and I felt fearless for a moment. God had performed the miracle of healing my broken heart.
When I got out of bed and went about my day, I mentioned my solemn, yet meaningful, morning to my girls. We talked about the lasting effects of grief and how Novembers seem to somehow carry the leftovers of the sorrow. Abigail, who is an adult now, but was only eleven when Anna died, told me that she woke up from a sad dream… a dream where I had died. She started to fight back tears and couldn’t go into the details. I was reminded that we all have some scars, but along with those scars are memories of God’s power and protection over us. We have healed and grown together.
God’s promise to my family (and to every other grieving heart) was and is “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” If God brings something into our lives, he does something with it. He uses it. He uses us.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
It takes faith and courage to believe that when you’re grieving. But when you’re already at your lowest, what do you have to lose?
“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Today is December 1st and to me, it’s more than a new month. It’s a symbol of passing grief and restored hope. Yesterday was a day of reflection.
Today is a day of expectancy.
“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.”
We can’t forget all of the pains of the past, nor should we. For in reflection there is a greater appreciation for the peaceful days. Those memories help put all of life in perspective.
*Psalm 147:3, Joshua 29:11, Joshua 1:9, Psalm 16:11