Dear heartbroken mama,
This letter is for you. The one who finds herself awake in the dark of night, unable to sleep. The one who has trouble getting out of bed and getting dressed and getting through the day. The one who finds herself sitting on the couch just staring off into the distance, the one watching movies just to escape the reality of her own life. The one whose heart continues to beat even though it has broken. This letter is for you.
I was where you are. I may not know what circumstances brought you to this place of pain. There are so many ways to find yourself on this road of suffering. But I know the road. It wasn’t long ago I was sitting where you sit; right at the beginning of it. Sitting there in the shock and disbelief, numb and full of fear. Nauseous. Raw. Piercing pain with each heartbeat. Wanting to sleep just to escape from living a nightmare. Surviving rather than living.
I will not pretend and say if you follow these steps you will find healing. I do not know your pain. And if there is one thing I have learned on this road of suffering, it is that everyone grieves in different ways and everyone finds healing in different ways as well. There is no formula to follow. I only write this letter to you to walk alongside you and share with you how I found healing. I remember I had no idea what to do or where to begin. And that is why I am sharing. Because just maybe, one of these suggestions will help to start you on your path of healing.
Just breathe. I had a friend tell me right after my brother’s death; “one breath at a time”. One breath at a time. I can take a breath. I can take another. Even though they hurt, just take one more. One more day, even one hour is just too overwhelming. But one more breath I can do, shallow though it may be.
Sometimes I feel it’s all that I can do
Pain so deep that I can hardly move
Just keep my eyes completely fixed on You
Lord take hold and pull me through
So here I am
What’s left of me
Where glory meets my suffering
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide
(Mercy Me, “The Hurt and the Healer”)
Abide in Him. Fall into Him and allow the hurt and the Healer to collide. In the beginning for me, it was simply allowing Him to hold me. If you are one who is angry at God, then tell Him. He is a big God and I believe He can handle it. In the book of Psalms, we find David crying out to God over and over. Wrestle with Him if you must, but try not to turn your back on Him. Even if you cannot hold onto Him, allow Him to hold onto you and just abide. Rest in Him. Allow Him to share your pain, to walk alongside you, to carry you.
Allow friends and family to help. Food, babysitting, hugs, cards, just sitting and being with you. You don’t have to do this alone. And when everyone’s life goes back to normal and you are left alone with your mess, reach out to them. More often than not they are still willing to help, they just don’t know how. If you are like me, you might not even know what you need. In looking back, I found texts and food to be helpful. Just knowing I was being thought of and prayed for was so meaningful.
When you can’t sleep, take this time away from the noise of the day, away from the clamoring of the kids, to be alone with Jesus. Read, pray, sing, journal. Use this quiet time to nourish your soul.
Grieving with kids is hard. But it can also be life-saving. Snuggle with your children. There is something healing in the touch of a child. Holding them, feeling them breathe, feeling their heart beating beats life back into your own. Having my children home with me was life saving. Their presence wouldn’t allow me to sit on the couch, stare off into space and sink into of place of depression. They forced me to interact and to be present; they forced me to find healing.
Connect with people who are sharing similar experiences. It’s important to find support groups or connect with people who have struggled in similar ways. Just knowing that there is someone who understands your pain is comforting.
Read. Read. And then read some more. Read books snuggled up with your children. The kids and I would spend hours reading together on the couch. Read books for yourself. Dig deep into the books of Job, Psalms and Isaiah. Read books on how to find hope so you can find healing, so you can find your joy. Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, a daily devotional called Streams in the Desert and a book written by Barry Black called The Blessing of Adversity were three books that helped me to find healing.
Journal. Journaling allowed me a safe place to record what I was feeling, to get it out, to remember where I was in my grief and how far I have come in my healing. Journal things you are thankful for, even if you are only able to find one thing a day, write it down and focus on it. One joy everyday will turn into a priceless collection of many joys over time.
Seek professional help from a Christian therapist that comes recommended to you from someone you trust. It is sometimes difficult to find healing on your own. You haven’t been through this journey and you don’t know what to do or where to begin. Allow someone to help guide you. Sometimes just talking about things with someone you don’t know helps. Try not to run from the pain. Being in it and going through it is what helps you heal.
photo credit to my friend Grace
Go out into nature. There is healing there; feeling the breeze in your hair and on your face can breathe life back into your soul. Planting flowers or a vegetable garden gives you purpose. Exercise outside if you are able. It took me months to begin exercising again; so in the beginning, I simply got my hands in the dirt and planted bushes and flowers instead. It wasn’t until I started sleeping better that I was able to begin running again.
Reach out to someone in need. So often in grief our eyes are focused on ourselves, that we forget that there are others who are suffering. If you are able to take your eyes off of yourself and turn them on Jesus, they will naturally be open to seeing the pain in other’s. I believe there is nothing that can heal you more emotionally than helping another. Lose yourself in serving another.
Mothering in the dark is about taking one breath at a time and finding healing for yourself so that you can be the best mother possible for your children. Don’t give up. I encourage you to fight. Hang on in these first few hard months. They are difficult and messy, I won’t lie, but you will get through. It is in your brokenness that you will one day find beauty.
“Successful mother’s are not the ones that have never struggled. They are the ones that never gave up, despite the struggles“ Sharon Jaynes. Don’t give up. Over time, those first small breaths will turn into healing.
Dear heartbroken mama, two years down this road I cannot say that I am healed. There will forever be a hole in my heart; but everyday I do find healing. And I pray that you will too.