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Living with an unbearable loss

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Moving forward into the life you create in the wake of loss

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Looking Up From Underneath

Lauren’s only child, her son Gage, died of cancer at the age of nine.

In the early days, there was lots of anger and the big question — Why? Why do innocent kids have to suffer so much in this world? I spent a lot of time on my own, not really wanting to engage in the world so I read and wrote in my journal. I had to move to escape the difficult thoughts, memories, guilt, regrets, did we make the wrong treatment decisions, what did we do wrong, was it our fault? Was there something to the old belief that the children pay for the sins of the parents? My legs felt like my feet were in concrete. Getting out and walking took a lot of effort. Friends invited me for walks, and this helped me to get out of the house.

So, early days were walking, reading, journaling, drinking too much wine to numb the pain. I learned pretty early that wine was a bad escape because when it wore off, I was sick AND the emotions flooded back. Because the numbness held them back like a dam, it felt like they slammed me 10x worse when they returned. This was a quick lesson that denying the pain of grief only slowed healing and recovery. I had to learn how to live with this loss and daily intense pain and take it one step at a time.

With the anger part, especially with my faith in God/Jesus. My friends had a strong faith and encouraged me to try Bible study. I said ‘yes’ with the intention to prove I was right, that Jesus was not God (or vice versa) and my doubt he existed. Well, to make a long story short, I found little nuggets that lifted me up and helped me to carry on.

I read books like:

  • Healing After Loss by Martha Whitmore Hickman (daily meditations for working through grief). I still pick this up periodically, and it is very well-worn.
  • Why Bad Things Happen To Good People by Harold Kushner (spoiler — because it is a broken world)
  • Nurturing, Healing, Love by Scarlett Lewis (a mother who lost her child in the Sandy Hook shooting)
  • Talking to Heaven by James Van Praugh
  • Growing Up In Heaven by James Van Praagh
  • The One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

The above are the ones I have on my bookshelf in my office. The following are on the downstairs bookshelf. I don’t remember reading them but wanted to share them. Maybe I wasn’t ready before but I plan to revisit them.

  • The Birth We Call Death by Paul Dunn & Richard Eyre (a Mormon perspective)
  • Love Is Stronger Than Death by Peter Kreeft
  • The Grace Given by Ken Giges

The books about faith that did not help me were ones about God’s hand in a miracle healing. Why were others healed and not Gage? I got especially angry in Bible study when someone talked about about God having a hand in healing a 90 year old grandmother! I would feel bitterness. Why would God choose to heal a 90 year old who has had a long life and not a child?!? This type of comment still makes my blood boil. So, to this day, I don’t believe God has anything to do with healing a person physically. I believe “The Spirit” helps us spiritually by providing an inner feeling of peace, trust and hope, and this helps us to endure. I have come to believe in pre-destination because this is the only way I can make sense of the world and an individual soul’s purpose here. For some reason, Gage’s journey was to suffer through cancer, touch the lives of others and then be free at a young age. I like the belief of other faiths that our soul chooses a trial to become a stronger external being. Maybe a short life is actually the better journey because this world is really Hell and the sooner we are free, the better.

So, I have my answer to “Why?” Sort of. I believe there is a “Why?”, but I won’t know what it is until is is my turn to leave the world. When I have dreams about Gage or my Mom (who passed in 2004), their faces are at peace but also knowing and understanding the purpose of their journeys. The look is also of empathy, understanding what it feels like not to understand but knowing I will know one day, and I need to trust.

I heard a talk awhile ago describing this perspective like needle point. When looking up from underneath, it is a mess of thread and knots. But when looking from above, it is a beautiful picture or pattern.

Gage is laying on the rug on the bed in his room. He's wearing dark pants and a light blue turtleneck.

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