One Year Later

April 8, 2011 — 33 Comments

As some of my readers may know, one year ago today my life was forever changed when I received the news that my dad had went home to be with Jesus. When my parents left on their trip to Maui, we never suspected that they wouldn’t come back together, and while we remain grateful for all that God has accomplished in our lives during the past year, it’s been an unbelievably hard one.  A few days before his passing, my dad had dropped off my parents’ best friends at the airport. His buddy turned to him and said “see you at home.” It became true for all of us; the next time we see my dad, we will be at Home.

Although I’ve written some about my dad over the past year, I’ve written very little about the grief that we’re going through. To be candid, it’s because I haven’t yet processed it, and one thing that I got from my dad (among others), is that I process before I speak (or write.) To try and write about something so painful, so raw, while at the same time experiencing it, isn’t something I’m prepared to do, mostly because I’m concerned it would come out in ways that don’t make sense.

However, as we acknowledge the anniversary of my dad’s Heavenly Homecoming, I think it’s worthwhile to share a few things I’ve learned:

1) The power of simple words – In grieving, it’s a blessing to have people who surround you who care about you and want to say things that will assuage your hurt. However, very few people know what to say, because frankly, there really are no words. What I’ve learned is that for me the most powerful words were the ones that acknowledged there was nothing to say. They simply told me they were sorry, that they were praying, and that they would be there if I needed them. More than any others, these words were the ones that I cherished.

2) Grief is not a shared experience – When people try to find words to comfort, they often want to compare experiences of grief. The hard thing about that is that no one else can really know what I’m going through. Even in the unlikely situation that their dad passed away in the exact same way, in the exact same circumstances, they didn’t have the relationship I had with my dad; their relationship, their history was theirs.  This isn’t to make a claim of superiority; it’s just that by its nature, every relationship is one-of-a-kind.  We compare because we want to empathize but unfortunately, oftentimes when we do we seemingly minimize the pain that the person is feeling, especially if we make a less-than-equitable comparison. As much as we may want to, grief is not an experience that can be shared; each must experience it on their own.

3) There’s no prescribed roadmap – People talk about the stages of grief, but I’ve yet to see that pan out in reality. There’s no set way that you grieve. Because everyone’s experience is unique, so is the process that they go through.  Grief comes in waves and cyclones. Sometimes it slowly builds and washes over you. Sometimes it strikes suddenly with intense precision.  Give yourself permission to grieve as you experience it.

4) Time (temporally) does not heal all wounds – Along with making seemingly inequitable comparisons of grief experiences, probably one of the most damaging things people have said as I’ve grieved is something that implies that “time heals all wounds.” The truth is, for the Christian, ultimately time does heal all wounds, because there will be a time where we’ll be in heaven with Jesus. But on this Earth, there are losses that you never “get over.” That doesn’t mean that these losses define you, but they do shape you, and you carry the pain of them with you. Thankfully, for believers Christ shares that sorrow, however it doesn’t ever go away; pretending like it does only makes it more painful.

5) There’s good grief. – I know “good grief” is something normally associated with Charlie Brown & the Peanuts gang, but I’ve learned that there really is such a thing. The reason that pain of losing my dad is so acute is because our family is so close. I wouldn’t trade the tightness of our bonds if it meant reducing the hurt. However, we were blessed in that our grief is not coupled by words that were left unspoken, fences that were left unmended or relationships in need of repair. As I’ve written previously, my dad was intentional with his living, and that meant being intentional in his relationships. None of us have doubts about how much my dad loved us, and we know he was fully aware of how much we love him. We grieve, yes, but we grieve with the comfort of relationships that were whole. This has become perhaps the biggest lesson of my grief. To live in such a way that when God calls me home, there is nothing left “undone”, and there are no relationships “unfinished” that remain.

Since my dad has gone to be with his Maker, my heart’s cry has been that we would grieve well; that our family would be true and honest with our pain, but that in doing so we would point people to our Savior. Hopefully, we have and will continue to do that.  As we do so, we eagerly look forward to seeing my dad at Home.

33 responses to One Year Later

  1. Thanks for sharing your emotions with us.

    Has to be difficult to process and then express.

    But I am sure that it has helped others who are dealing with grief or pain.

  2. Thanks Natalie for sharing . . . agreed: grief never goes away, but His closeness at times is what sustains us. It’s like all of life . . . one must experience to “fully” understand . . . and even then, is personal and is only understood by the imparting truth of His precious Holy Spirit. One must know Him in a personal relationship to fully understand “all” of life and the truth of His relationship at the different “seasons” of ones life. Thankfully we have His words. . . He promises to never leave us or forsake us . . . He promises to be with us when we walk thru the “valley of the shadow of death”. . . He says “nothing can ever separate us from his love; He says He goes to prepare a place for us . . . and one day, in His precious Holy Presence, we will be united with the many loved ones who have gone before us! How truly blessed we are to be called “His own.” I am thankful for you Natalie and for the close relationship you had with your daddy, and for the reality of His personal relationship with you. From when I stand . . . His abiding presence grows each and every day. PTL! Uncle Gary

    • So true, Uncle Gary. One of the things that has been so meaningful to me over the past year is that God “is near the brokenhearted.” So grateful for His promises and His faithfulness in fulfilling them.

      Love you.

  3. Natalie: Thanks so much for sharing your heart here. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a parent, but I am thankful that you had such a close relationship with your dad, and as you said, you had no doubts about your love for each other. That is a blessing. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers as you continue on in your grief and healing.

  4. Wow. I feel like there is just nothing more to say. You expressed all of this so eloquently and so deeply and clearly, etc. The grief that I have experienced in the last few years has brought me to understand other’s grief a little but what stuck out to me in my process was that there is nothing wrong with mourning. In fact, we know from Scripture that there is a time to mourn. As believers, we don’t mourn the SAME way but Scripture doesn’t say that we simply don’t mourn at all. Even Jesus wept at his friend’s passing. Anyway, that’s where my thoughts and frustrations have gone when, well-meaning as they may be, people try to cover up and push away my pain w/ trite statements and a bunch of Scripture (please hear my heart…I LOVE Scripture). Truly, sometimes, just being silent is best. I hope I have actually learned that so that I know how to help someone else in the future.
    Thanks SO much for this honest and heart-felt post.

  5. Natalie, thank you for sharing these words. I’ll continue to pray over you and your family today.
    Thankful to have you as our leader!

  6. Natalie,

    I never knew your father in life, only in death… I attended the service at CBC and was so moved by the depth and breadth of people who spoke so well of him.

    I was most deeply touched and impacted by how you and the rest of your family spoke about him and your respect and love for the man and father that he was.

    His life (and your witness of it)has impacted my life by providing a view of what a father can be to his kids and the gigantic impact that a father WILL have on them forever, and, has given me yet another prayer that I ask God to help me with daily…

    Thank you for sharing your father and your heart with us the way you have. We will all be home soon… and I thank you for your eloquence in expressing this truth and the journey.

    • Mr. Powers:

      My dad would have been honored that the type of father he was would encourage people to be a great dad for their kids. Thank you for sharing this with me. It means a lot.

      Looking forward to being Home….

  7. Heather Gilmore April 8, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Natalie, What a precious gift you had in your father. He left a wonderful legacy. I see that father/daughter relationship with Scott and Selah and it’s a special and unique relationship. Praying for God’s continued comfort in your families life. Thank you for being so transparent and allowing us to be involved and know how we can be praying for you.Love, The Gilmores

  8. Natalie and family-Every now and then I take time to read your blog…its very uplifting, like your father was. We had a moment of silence at work today in honor of him. Chris and Larry paid their respects by sharing a few thoughts with the many people who attended and I have to say it surely made an impact…again. Your father’s presence is still here, because he made an impact on each and every one of us. We truly miss him.

    All my best to your family,
    Maria

    • Maria,

      Thank you for your sweet comment, and please thank everyone for us that continues to honor my dad. He would have been so touched to know of his impact. He loved his job and the people he got to work with. I know he would have been proud of all the great work you continue to do.

      • Maria – I want to thank you for your kind words also. Please extend my thanks and appreciation to those who continue to lift us up and also honor Brad. I appreciate it very much. Cheri

  9. Natalie, Thank you for the blog. I will remember to come back to it as I grieve in the future. It has also helped me with our recent loss of my grandchild.
    I Love you and keeping you in my prayers. I am here for you always if you need me.
    Beth <3

  10. Well said Natalie. Love you.

  11. Karen Vanden Bosch April 8, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Thanks for the heart felt blog. I lost my dad 7 years ago and you are right about how we grieve. Our grieving will end the day we will be with the Lord and our earthly dad. So many things trigger the thought of my dad and I just wish that I could hug him one more time.

  12. What a profound article! For me, its been about 10 years since I lost my wife to cancer, so I’m a little further down the road than you, and I would add while you are right that time does not heal all wounds, it does make them more bearable. It’s like having something that will always be with you, you adjust and learn to live with it, but it does change you, as you mention. But while I agree with you that grief is not an individually shared experienced, I think a person that has grieved has a much stronger sense of empathy than one who has not, and is more likely to understand that first, grief is a long term process and second, there is no quick solution (or book, people gave me a lot of books) but it is a part of the journey through a fallen world. Perhaps in a sense, having grieved can make us better comforters.

    And I also think for Christians, it should be a shared journey. When somebody dies, everybody shows up at your door for the first few weeks, family stays with you, you get meals, there are services and visits. And then, suddenly, everyone goes home, and you are left to your grief without distraction, and it either morphs into the good grief you mention, or despair (bad grief, I would say) and the time when you most need to share the burden is the time no one is there. I think the church community can make a difference in that time, as do friends, neighbors, people God puts in your path. About 9 months after my wife passed away, Clyde Cook, who I had known for many years, sent me a letter which basically said “I know everyone who was around you has gone home by now but I wanted you to know I was thinking about you, and praying for you, and I understand this is probably the darkest time of your grief and I hope these words bring you comfort and know that I grieve with you still.” Very powerful words from a very wise and godly man. It’s one of the few things I remember from that time (which I refer to as the “fog”, the first year after).

    May God bless you on your journey through this, and thanks again for sharing.

    • Kevin,

      Thank you so much for your comment. My condolences on the passing of your wife. As tough as my grief has been, I know that it is even harder when it is a spouse or a child that God chooses to call home.

      I so appreciated your insight in regards to time. Someone wrote to my mom that “Time is not the healer of loss but is the revealer of God’s faithfulness in loss.” I thought that was so profound. I believe it gets more bearable because we continue to see God’s faithfulness within it.

      And I agree that it should be a shared journey. While no one may be able to feel the pain that another is experiencing, we should be holding each other up as they experience it. It’s easy to say “I know what you’re going through” when in reality we don’t; what’s difficult is supporting and loving one another even after the initial news of the passing fades away. It’s such a blessing to have people like your friend Clyde who recognize this and whose faithfulness doesn’t fade.

      Many blessings to you.

  13. Love you Natalie.

  14. Few people are able to put such a difficult topic in such simple language to show people what really is helpful to say and do during tragedy. I wish you could print this in Reader’s Digest, so many others could find comfort and guidance in your words. Bless you all…praying for you often.

    • Wow – thanks Mrs. Waller for your incredibly sweet words; they mean so much. And thank you for the continued prayers; we treasure them.

  15. Natalie, thank you for sharing your grief with us. You are an amazing writer and I’m blessed to read these words. We will continue to pray for you.

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