You never know how you might deal with something until it actually happens to you. I’m a worrier by nature and before entering into any situation I have already considered the ‘what if’s’ and worst case scenarios. I picture what it will be like, how I might feel, and what I will do. However, the actual experience is never what I think it will be.
Loss is the most recent of these experiences that has rocked my world and something I could have never predicted how it would affect me. Last year I lost my dad after years of battling cancer. It’s true that you don’t know what you have lost until it is gone. I know I took for granted my dad being there. I was always running to him with questions about my car, DIY around the house, technology that didn’t work properly and he would fix it for me. He was always there for me and I relied on his expertise in so many ways. It has especially hit me hard because my dad was also my pastor. He served 20 years in Scotland as a pastor and missionary. He studied God’s Word and searched for the truth and understanding. I trusted his understanding of the Bible and he was the first person I would ask about any spiritual questions I had or if I needed help discerning a Bible passage. This is where I feel the loss the most.
I can say he left a legacy of faith behind. Throughout his battle with cancer and towards the end of his life when his body was failing, he had such peace and joy in the Lord even facing death. He didn’t just believe that God was real, he also had a personal relationship with the Lord and loved Him completely. My dad once gave a sermon on heaven many years ago and he said that what he was looking forward to most is singing praises to his God and Saviour! (Singing on tune as well! My dad was terribly tone death and always wished he could sing… and now he can!) Some people find comfort in thinking that their loved ones are looking down on them from heaven. I personally find much more comfort in knowing that my dad is with God in heaven and that the only thing we can still do together is sing praises to our Saviour!
Some of the things I have learned over this first year about loss and bereavement is both insight into myself and also about others.I’m sure everyone who has experienced loss learns something different about themselves. There is no set lesson plan or process. For myself, I had to learn to rely on others which included how to be vulnerable and open with others. There is still more coming in this department so watch this space! 😉
1. No one really knows what to say.
This is understandable. I have read statuses by people angry at others for ‘saying the wrong thing’ and I thought ‘well, at least they are saying something at all!’ But this is it. People aren’t perfect and everyone experiences loss differently. What comforts one doesn’t comfort another. I know people who are so afraid to say the wrong thing they avoid me completely and others who say some ridiculous and strange things because they are trying so hard to be helpful. Neither of these responses are the end of the world and I can appreciate the difficulty of the situation.
2. Death makes conversations awkward.
There are times when a situation has reminded me of my dad or something he would do and I will tell others about it. Only to be met with silence and quick change of the subject. It is odd and I couldn’t figure out why until I had mentioned my dad to someone who didn’t know he had passed away and her response to my comment about him was ‘well that’s funny and such a dad thing to do!’ It took me by surprise because it had been awhile since it hadn’t killed the conversation. Then I realised that I had been missing normal responses from people. All these situations were odd because the normal responses weren’t there. Unfortunately for myself, I was getting the impression that people didn’t want to talk about my dad and I was just in the process of learning how to not talk him. I know I have done this myself to others in the past and it has been an eye opener!
3. There is a general inability to stay with difficult and painful topics.
I believe people generally want to be happy. But in this pursuit of happiness we miss out on the depth of emotion that can be felt in times of sadness. I had no idea I was able to feel so many things. I personally think it’s incredible that we are able to be touched by so many things. I can tell you though that you truly meet with someone in the depths of emotion. I have gotten to know people in a totally different light and I hope they have felt the same about me. It changed my relationships in some amazing ways and I have new respect for what people have come through. I wouldn’t have that if it had all been rosy and we didn’t talk about painful experiences. It’s what makes us real.
4. People surprise you in a good way.
The most unexpected people have been there for me. People who I have probably only said a few words to in the past have turned into the people I can say anything to without fear of judgement. And then to also find out that they had been praying for ages for an opportunity to be a friend to me. I can tell you that there were many times I felt so alone and thought no one even cared anymore. Finding out that someone was thinking about you and waiting to be able to be there is enough to restore your faith.
5. It changes you.
This would seem to be obvious but I certainly had no idea how. It has changed my relationships significantly! It has changed my understanding of myself. Changed my perspective on life. Changed how I cope. Changed how I have viewed the past. It has not been easy in any shape or form but I slowly have been able to recognise how I needed to change.
My dad often referred to Romans 8:28 throughout his lifetime and battle with cancer. There is so much promise within this verse that should be an encouragement no matter how long it takes before we see it true for our own lives.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Jeffrey R. Smith 1962-2013