How Can I Go On?
Living after losing your child is like dying a thousand deaths daily. If you are like me, your grief has impacted every aspect of life. Following the death of your child, you might try to get back to life "as normal." You might be able to focus, at least for a time, on your job or the needs of your children. During those moments, you are lost in your work world, seemingly insulated from the real one, the one that involves death, grief, and a missing family member. But then, often at unexpected moments, such as the sight of a child or a stray comment from a coworker, a thought of your deceased child comes to your mind, and this insulation from grief is lost. At each of these moments throughout your day, the memories come back to your mind again, and a consciousness insulated by your work day is broken by the reality of your child’s death.
For me, it is the painful memories surrounding my son’s death: those desperate moments when our son went unconscious; the wail of the sirens; holding him in my arms as we took him off life support. Then the wake, the burial, and the funeral. And now visiting the gravesite. If you are like me, you have to grapple on a daily basis, again and again, that your child is gone, and there is nothing that you or I can do about it. This daily rhythm of life, of engaging, disengaging, and then re-engaging in grief, is emotionally and physically exhausting. So how can I possibly make it through?
There are all sorts of things that we could try to avoid our suffering or lessen its impact upon us. We could become alcoholics, workaholics, or shopaholics. We could take up a new hobby or even a new career. But while there are benefits to considering how and whether certain routines in life affect grief, none of these decisions will ultimately substitute for meaning within our lives.
The only hope for mourning parents is to live in the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Anything else would be insufficient to persevere over the course of a lifetime. After all, anything other than God will not last. Even good things, such as family, work, or charitable causes will provide us with the joy, significance, and purpose to make it a lifetime in grief. David Powlison writes that, “None of them gives you high joy in knowing that your entire life is a holy experiment as God’s hands shape you into the image of his Son. None of them changes the way you suffer by embedding it in deeper meaning.” David Powlison, God’s Grace and Your Sufferings, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, Piper & Taylor, eds., 165.
So how do we embed deeper meaning in our lives of grief? We hope that the following five points are helpful to you as you think about bringing significance to your suffering:
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