Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Taking My Grief Outdoors

Some days my grief is like a wet blanket smothering me. Especially since I suffer from out-of-order grief.  I have buried two young sons. There are no words in the English language for that specific kind of grief. The closest I've heard is 'bereaved mom'. Perhaps instead of widow, I could call myself a 'kidow'. But even that sounds like too gentle a term for the gut-wrenching loss of children. No weddings, graduations unattended, grandchildren not heldthese are some of the losses that I struggle with.

So I take my grief outside. I wander in the woods. I find beautiful things to look at. Last year my husband and I sold everything we owned and moved into an RV. We did this so that we could be closer to the healing power of nature. When I gaze at natural creations I am reassured that there is indeed a God above. God promised us that we could find him there.

Our RV--"Harvey"

Romans 1:20 NIV: "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."

When I'm outside my brain automatically returns to the sensations of my childhood. The curiosity of what lies behind the next bend in the path, the burst of color from a cardinal hopping on a branch, the iridescent blue on a butterflythese all return me to a place in time and space when the world was filled with wonder and promise. The same can be said of seasonal walks through the fall leaves or the pristine snow. It all makes me ponder the beauty that my boys must be witnessing in heaven.

Many books have been written about heaven. What they all have in common is the promise that it is even more beautiful than we can imagine. It is not the boring, stereotypical image of clouds and angels with harps.

 In Revelation 21 verses 18-21 The apostle John describes the new Jerusalem"...The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, and the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eight beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelve amethyst..."It goes on to describe the famous pearly gates and the streets of gold.

When my 14 year old Chris was on his deathbed he already knew this. He said, "Mom, when I get to heaven there's going to be more flavors of soda than they have here on earth. There'll be flavors we haven't even invented." The Lord had allowed Chris a sneak preview that he could share with us.

After Chris passed I devoured books on the subject of death. Authors such as Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and Raymond Moody all described the beauty of the heavenly encounters of the dying. I was both surprised and comforted by the accounts that mirrored my son's deathbed experience. God has in store for us more color and flavor than we can possibly imagine here on earth. When I gaze upon the beauty of nature I feel as if I get a small nibble of what glory is in store for me, and I am comforted by the knowledge that my boys are already experiencing that.

But nature isn't just beautiful. It is purposeful. It is divinely created.

 Jeremiah 31:35: "Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its wave roar; The Lord of hosts is His name."

It is no accident that our sun is the correct size and our earth is the perfect distance with the exact tilt of the axis and the precise mixture of gases to sustain life; just as all of the beauty we see in our outdoor ramblings is no mistake. From the six sides of a  snowflake to the intricate mathematical patterns in seeds and seashells the nature we gaze upon is intentional and ordered. See Fibonacci numbers: For examples click here.

My husband, Rob, and dog Marley, enjoying a North Carolina waterfall

Let's not forget the fluffy side of nature. When our Chris was on his deathbed he also knew that there would be animals in heaven. "Mom, remember how Moonshine(our black lab) always used to drop the Frisbee. Well, in heaven he'll catch it every time!" I can't help but smile when I think of my loved ones playing with our deceased pets. The bible even promises that natural enemies in the animal kingdom will get along.

(Isaiah 35:1) "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox…"

Recently, Rob and I encountered a large black  bear crossing the road as we traveled along The Blue Ridge Parkway. We were grateful to be inside a vehicle! Imagine having such fearsome creatures as playmates when we get to heaven. There the violence in nature will be erased, and only the grace will remain.

Some of us who are grieving find relief in prayer and meditation. Try taking it outdoors. See what happens. Sunlight is a well documented mood enhancer. If you are like me, you may incorporate your prayer and meditation into exercise. As I jog around my favorite lake the beautiful scenery and the endorphins almost always elevate my mood. It makes it easier for me to remember the temporary nature of this existence.  Acknowledging this gives me hope. 

One of the lakes at our campground where I jog and talk to my boys.

Those of us who grieve will continue to have bad days. Our second son, Jarrod, died in an accident so we didn't get to say goodbye like we did with Chris. But we know that Jarrod is experiencing the same beauty and peace as his brother. Please be assured of that for your lost loved ones. We still cry and we should. We are human and we live in a fallen world. But when we take our tears outside they fall into the perfect cycles of nature, reminding us of the glory ahead.

Psalm 19:1: "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork."