I once heard loss and grief described as a giant object in your life. In the days and weeks that immediately followed Titus’ death, coping with life and our loss was overwhelming, to say the least. Most days I could barely get out of bed. Functioning enough to parent my children and manage our home was overwhelming; I felt I could barely breathe at times. But I find that as time passes, our loss of Titus is getting easier to bear. We still miss him immensely, and the ability to better cope with our grief does not negate the size of our loss. Our lives have grown to better accommodate our grief.
However, there are days when grief is still difficult to cope with. Several weeks ago, we made a trip to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle for a scan. It was the first time we’d been back since Titus was there, so I knew it would be emotional. The scan was to check for congenital abnormalities because we now have a family history.
We sat in the waiting area of the foetal medicine unit waiting for the midwives to call us back to the ultrasound room, and my heart raced at 2 or 3 times what it normally is. The midwife called me at last, and we learned I’d have an echocardiogram of the baby’s heart first. The cardiologist was very thorough in his examination. Before he began the midwife asked if I was ok seeing the ultrasound screen above my head. I said yes, but as time continued, I closed my eyes on occasion because I have so many memories of doing such scans with Titus. The scan proved more emotional than I anticipated.
The cardiologist completed his exam, and what he saw pleased him. He could see everything he needed to see. This baby had no signs of congenital heart disease! Tears of relief flooded my eyes. The most anticipated news of this pregnancy so far was good news. The second scan of the baby was just as thorough, with good news at the end as well.
That trip to the RVI happened on a Thursday. I wept all weekend. I felt so blessed that God had given us a healthy baby after all we’d been through with Titus. I grieved because I felt it wasn’t fair that this baby should have a chance at a full life, but Titus never got that chance. I wept over Titus’ short life and God’s goodness during our journey with him. Grief knocked me off my feet more than I’d anticipated that weekend. I found myself riding the waves of grief yet again. Eventually, things levelled out again—for a while until the next wave hit.
The waves of grief seem to hit harder and more regularly these days. It seems like they’re more intense the closer I get to this baby’s due date. Friends and family tell me how much they appreciate my public grief. That encourages me, but it also makes me feel as though I should keep my grief closer to my heart. I sometimes feel guilt for sharing so much about my grief and emotions.
I’m learning a lot about lament right now. As a western culture, I don’t think we understand the discipline of lament. In the Old Testament, there are examples of people tearing their garments and wearing sack cloth and ashes as a public statement of mourning. Yet today’s culture often expects us to deal with the pain privately and get over it. If we look at the Psalms, we have an excellent example of what godly lament should look like. There are many Psalms of lament in the Bible, but Psalm 130 speaks to me right now…
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.” (ESV)
A book I recently read described lament as a cycle of four stages. As with grief, each stage can last longer or shorter than the next, and you may not work through every stage in every cycle. Even the Psalms don’t include every stage of lament.
There’s nothing wrong with weeping and crying out to God. We want to know why we face such suffering; it’s part of life. We may or may not expect an answer to our questions, but still, we weep. “Out of the depths, I cry to you O Lord!”
At some point, our hearts turn to worship. I’ve learned that in our darkest days, worship brings us back to who God is and what he’s done for us. It gives us hope and helps us see our faith in action. Our faith comes alive because we desperately need to know that God is with us through our suffering. “But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.”
We spend our lives waiting. We waited for Titus to arrive. We waited to learn what the implications of his abnormalities would be. We waited for the Lord to take him Home. Now, more than ever, we wait for eternity with our Saviour. We long to be free from pain and from the effects of sin in our lives. We long to be reunited with Titus in Heaven. “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.”
As an introvert, this is the part I struggle with. We need to share what God has done in our lives despite what we’re going through. This is where the “public” part of lament comes in. And as believers, it’s a testimony to God’s faithfulness to be open and vulnerable. It brings glory to God when we share with others the way He works in our lives through our suffering. “O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.”
If you’re walking through a difficult trial, you are not alone. I know it’s tough, and I understand the grief that might come with your trial. You are not alone. Sometimes we cycle through lament repeatedly, like waves crashing on the shore, and that’s okay. Cry out to God; scream if you must. Worship Him for who He is. Wait for deliverance (although be aware that it may not be what you expected). And tell everyone about how faithful our God is.