It is not lost on me that the story of our family has become a story of three deep losses.
Who gets ALL of that? A girlfriend asks me, half-kidding, half-despairing.
I know, I laugh in that dark way we learn to laugh when Irish blood runs through our veins, tragedy and comedy flowing together so we can survive. I know.
But what I don’t know is what to do with this story.
Tell it, of course. Trust that the vulnerability of the telling has already changed lives, mine and those of people who write to me or stop me in person and share that something in our story has resonated deeply with theirs.
But how and when and where and to whom to tell this story – all these questions have been churning within me for months.
Whenever I have felt grief settling over my life like a hard, vast dome, impenetrable and suffocating, I have to remember myself back into a better metaphor. Grief is not something foreign outside me, threatening to take my life.
It is something organic within me, creating me anew from the inside out.
I am far from the only one who knows this truth. For months I have been collecting sparkling gems from others – mothers, writers, seekers – who have lost and kept living. They have given me words when I needed them most. They remind me of the deepest truths of a story like ours.
It is creation:
This doesn’t have to be the end. It could actually be the beginning of something powerful. Something supernaturally, life altering. This beautiful mix of sorrow and joy creates something explosive in a mother’s heart…
It is resurrection:
This big, huge thing that God is doing, this thing that will change the world forever, comes about quietly in the dark…We find it right here, in the midst of ordinary grief, in the midst of ordinary darkness. We never expected it, but here it is…
It is mercy incarnate.
Science has a name for this, too: the expansion of empathy, the deepening of faith within tensions, the calling to create out of loss. Post-traumatic growth.
“The existence of post-traumatic growth suggests that, while the pain never vanishes, something new and powerful is likely to come.”
We want transformation to come without a price, for growth to arrive without suffering. But life speaks the truth that more often, the painful experiences are the ones that catapult us into a new place entirely.
I have seen this in so many stories – from Scripture, strangers, friends and family – that I know the Holy is at work here.
Twice a month my husband and I sit around a table in the basement of a downtown hospital. We listen to other parents share their stories of loss. We tell our own. Every single person around the table has lost a child. Or more.
(Believe me, it is a terrible club. But once you are in it, you are terribly glad to learn you are far from alone.)
One evening the support group facilitator leaned across the wide table said something simple but startlingly clear.
Time does not heal. It’s what you do with time that heals.
This is the question of my life right now. What do I make of this time of grief? How do I let God recreate my life after loss?
The world spins madly on and people tire quickly of what is heavy to bear. When they ask how we are doing these days, they do not want to hear the truth.
Half the time people leap to answer the question for me – you’re doing better, right? You seem good! You look great.
But the space between their question and my response is where I do all my living these days. It is the space of transformation. It is the empty, potent space of Holy Saturday, of a life ripped open by death but clinging to the belief that God will make something new.
If this space is left wide open – with air for the wound to breathe and time for the ache to settle and freedom to reenvision a new version of the life that looks drastically different from what we expected – then the possibility is ripe for growth.
I see this in the lives of so many people who have suffered beyond what the world wants to hear. I know that it is true, and every morning I convince myself again to trust that it could happen for us. That it is happening for us.
It is the growth that changes everything.
For five months these words from Scripture have hung on our wall by the back door. For five months I have read them to myself with every coming and going.
After five months I am even more convinced that they are true.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)