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The poem "Footprints in the Sand" stuck in my heart this week.  For those of you not familiar with it, it tells the story of a person who is viewing the timeline of his/her life.   When things are well, there are two sets of footprints, and when things are hardest and darkest, there is only one set of prints.   The person asked the Lord why they were abandoned in those times of need, and the Lord informs his "precious child" that the reason there is only one set of footprints is because in those times,  the Lord was carrying them.   It is a beautiful image of how God can keep us moving as long as we are still here.

Mine was a slightly different take.  As any parent who has been to the beach with their child can tell you, the trek made walking down the beach is anything but direct.  Whether a toddler is running toward the dunes (and the sand spurs), an elementary-age child is running toward the waves (and the jellyfish), or a middle-schooler is twelve steps behind, too cool to be seen with parents, the paths of the footprints will not resemble those in the poem.    For many of us this can be seen as being oblivious to the perils that are to the left and right, a desire to do things our own way, or even trying to distance ourselves from God since He didn't do what we wanted Him to do, or felt He should have done.

The footprints of God would be different as well.   As a loving Father, his would be all over the place, staying within reach of his children, reminding them of his presence, and where the best place for them truly is.    The final illustration that accompanied the poem  would be different for each of us, but share many of the same traits:   zig-zagging prints as God follows us on our arbitrary wanderings, one set of footprints often, as when he lifts us out of the sand spurs, picks us up off of the sand that is burning our feet, and when he plucks us away from the jellyfish and muck into which we have ventured.  I see where the trail loops back as He wants to encourage and love us as we lag behind, trying to avoid being involved with Him.   I picture the deep spots in some of the footprints where we have dug in our heels to fight with Him, and even some further apart where we have taken long strides to run away from Him.    But in the end, I like to think of my footprints beside his, in stride, as we walk together toward the finish line.    I hope that is the picture you want for yourself as well.

 

10

It has been over a year since my last post, and it has not been from lack of subject matter.  It has been from the inability to act.  Paralysis of the heart and soul eat at me every day.    The event that has stolen my desire to enjoy life was not a seasonal thing, like football.  There is no "maybe next year" to get me through an unsuccessful year, no flipping pages of a calendar to mark the date that I can expect to be recovered.   When next year arrives, as it has three times, I do not find myself in a better place.   That is because healing of the soul doesn't just happen.  It requires effort that I have been unable/unwilling to invest.

The body will mend over time.  Small cuts quickly scab over and heal, leaving no trace of the injury.  Broken bones and surgeries take a little more external effort, but when the bones are set and the stitches are applied properly, the body works it's magic.  The passage of time is all that is needed from that point forward.   This method doesn't work on the soul.

The soul needs attention.  Unfortunately I know this all too well.  I have been living with the idea that I just need more time to get better, feel better.   That false belief is along the lines of hoping that your dog gains strength and grows, without giving him food, water, and attention.   My desire it to start feeding my soul once again, watering it giving it the attention it needs to stop withering.   If you have suffered loss and felt that you just need some time, please let my lost time encourage you to begin nurturing your soul today.  Help and encouragement from the outside-friends, professionals-may be needed as well. But without putting in the effort toward getting better that only you can, a different day, month, or year on the calendar will make no difference.

hole-in-heartIt has been two years since the loss of Kyle to suicide, and looking back I wonder how we have made it this long.   A dear friend, who has lost a child of her own, recently sent me the email  from our conversations and our joined pain.  Although the pain is as real and the hurt just as deep, the despair has subsided.   I contacted her because I knew that she knew my pain.   How it happened doesn't matter, only that it has happened.  From day one, I didn't know how we would continue, and she let me know it was one minute, one hour, one day at a time.    And that is true, not figurative.  I wanted to die right then, right there, and end the pain.  I knew that what was good and right in the world was no longer in it. I knew that for as long as I lived, I would have a void in my heart, an inability to feel true joy, and inescapable pain.  Two years later and those thoughts have so far been true.  Seven years later for my friend and I believe she feels the same way.

If you are reading this searching for answers to your own loss, I cannot give you answers, only suggestions for things that have aided us.  My friend was very helpful in her words about one step at a time, one day at a time.  There is no big picture.  There is no time frame.  There are only steps, acts. Take one step.  Do one thing.  Then do the next.  Then the next.   Get professional help immediately, for your sake and for the sake of others.   There is no shame in getting help in any aspect of your life.  The damage to your heart, soul, and being is as real as a broken leg or cancer, so get the help of a professional.  We have gone to counseling as a family and individually.  I have been on and off meds for the past 2 years.   I am broken as a person and sought help, so if you are experiencing "unseen" pain, do the same.  It helped our family to get on the same page, help to understand what steps would help us, help us to understand the differences in our grief and how it is shown, and the importance of planning for days in our lives that we cannot avoid.

For me, my faith in God, the loving grip of my family, and the active warmth of my friends have helped me each day.  It is easy to say faith in God, and of course your family loves you, but let me emphasize the "active warmth" of friends.   Texts are good.  Calls are good.  Cards in the mail are wonderful.  Nothing helped me more than the physical presence of friends.   If you want to help your grieving friend the most, be there in person.   And don't take no for an answer.  In fact, it might even be best to show up unannounced.   The loss of Kyle threw me into depression (not that I am out), and it is so easy to say "no" to invites.   Really it is so easy to say "no" to everything.   Do not give up on your friend and say " Well, I asked them" or "I guess they don't want to see anyone".  Of course we don't.  We hurt so badly that we do not want to see anyone or do anything ever again.   We want to crawl underneath the covers and wake up in our heavenly home with our precious child.   But we (those of us with losses, in pain) need you here, now, on earth, even if we don't make it easy.

 

2

It's been over two years since the world I knew ended.  September 20, 2014.    Kyle's suicide was, and to this day still is, the apocalypse.      One definition of apocalypse is "an event involving destruction or damage on a catastrophic scale",  and that pretty much describes what has happened to me, his mother, and his brother.     My world is one endless reminder after another of what I miss, what was missed, and what will never be.   Halo video games left unplayed.    Uno cards not being dealt.  Lemon bars not being made.   Nerf darts from upstairs not pummeling the innocent bystanders below.  And none of his music in the house.  Where is my little drummer boy?    The silence truly is deafening.

I want to wake up from this nightmare.  I want to find Kyle outside driving Papa's truck.  I want to give him money to go see a movie with his friends.  I want to watch him playing football.   I want to see him in the car with me when I go see Kevin at college.  I want him beside me screaming out the lyrics to a Thousand Foot Krutch song.   And I want to hear him play those drums.  Until my heart stops beating, I will want these things, even though I know it won't happen.

When the boys were young I kept a journal.  I wanted to be able to remind them of the cools things they did, and I wanted to be able to remember those events better myself.   This is the first I have written since then, and I hope I can continue.   The pain is real, raw, and still fresh, but I hold to the hope that good can come of this.  I selfishly want to be able to stack up the good that I hear---the children going for counseling, the friends who credit him and his story to saving their lives--so that I can thank God that my pain at least brought comfort and help to others.   If I never see "enough", I still know in my heart that it is happening...because that is what God does.

Suicide doesn't end pain--it passes it on to ALL those around you.  And there is NO SHAME in asking for help.