I hesitated to write this post. Not because I don’t think the topic isn’t important, but because I don’t want this to come across as a criticism of my friends or my church or my community. I also don’t want this to seem like some big pity party.
Because it’s not. Because, unfortunately, I don’t think my experience is unique. It’s a cry from my heart to yours.
On July 30, my world was turned upside down. My parents got that call no parent ever wants to get. A policeman showed up at their door to let them know their 45-year-old son had committed suicide.
That evening, as I sat with my parents and my husband, I simultaneously felt numb and had a wild desire to run as far and as fast as I could – as if that would somehow make it all untrue, if I could just run far enough.
Over the next few days, I called family and let them know. I emailed and messaged people to let them know.
We found out on Thursday, and over that weekend one person talked to me on the phone. I did get emails and Facebook messages and a few texts, and, please don’t get me wrong. I did appreciate those and the thought and kindness behind them. But what I craved, and wasn’t able to really articulate at the time, was presence. I know people probably didn’t want to intrude or maybe they didn’t know what to say under the circumstances. I can’t tell you how comforting that one phone call was,though, or how much I appreciate my friend who came to walk with me on Sunday and just listened.
The next week we had the memorial service. A long line of people came to share their condolences, to share what my brother had meant to them. It was comforting that so many people loved and cared about my brother and about us.
Over the next weeks, a few people asked at church how I was doing. One day, I got so many cards in my mailbox, I thought maybe the mailman had made a mistake. And I appreciated every one of those cards and the notes written in them.
But, besides that friend who came to walk with me that first weekend, not one person came by my house during that first week. Not one person brought a meal (not that we really needed it). Besides a couple friends that I talk to on a regular basis on the phone, nobody called during those first few weeks. Not one person was truly present with me in my grief that was not my husband or my parents.
The thing is, I’m pretty active in my church and my community. I teach a Sunday school class, and I volunteer at a home for young women. But I felt utterly and completely alone in my grief.
I tried not to let it bother me, though, because I have this sort of horror of being petty. And I knew nobody was doing any of this on purpose. They were just busy and had their own problems and issues. School was getting ready to start. It was a busy time of year, and let’s face it, this wasn’t their loss.
But I still felt desperately alone.
Of course, God did not leave me completely alone and adrift in my sea of grief. Comfort did come and from the most unexpected sources. A group of online friends from a mom’s group I’ve been a part of for years, sent me these beautiful angel figurines. One of those women has faithfully asked me how I am doing and how she can pray for me – this despite the fact that she has a lot going on in her own life. In fact, that online group offered me more support than almost anyone in my real life did.
Another lovely woman from church who I didn’t really know very well – she was the mother of one of my classmates in school – has made it a point to come up to me regularly to see how I am doing and to give me a hug and to say she is praying for me. The thing is, I believe that she really is.
My husband, the Coach, often had the perfect words of comfort, the words I needed to hear at just the right time. Even though he’s normally pretty quiet, God used him so much during those first weeks to soothe those hard moments because dealing with grief when someone commits suicide is just a different kind of grieving.
And God showed up. The month of September had some wonderful weather, and I would take my Bible, my journal and my coffee out to the wicker love seat on my back porch, and God met me there. While I felt alone in so many ways, I did feel God’s presence in a real and tangible way during those weeks.
It’s hard to describe the preciousness of the God of the universe bending low to gently staunch the bleeding, to stitch up the wounds and to heal your tattered soul. But He did and I will be forever grateful for His goodness and His kindness.
But He didn’t just stitch things up because the truth was, embedded in the wound of my brother’s death was a root of infection.
As the weeks went by and my numbness and some of the trauma wore off, I became aware of this pit of resentment I was carrying around with me. I was resentful that I felt so alone, and I was upset that people I had counted on to support me, hadn’t met that expectation.
I was angry that people had acted…… just like me.
God first made me aware of the resentment festering in my wound, and then He did the painful work of cleaning it out. And cleaning it out included admitting that the people I resented so much for not meeting MY expectations acted no differently than I had myself on innumerable occasions.
How many times had I gone to a funeral, hugged the person, said I’d pray for them and maybe sent a card or some flowers or some kind of memorial, and then forgotten all about them as the busyness of my daily life swallowed me back up?
How many times had I actually shown up at someone’s house or called them on the phone when I had heard of a death in that person’s life? The answer is zero.
To be completely fair, that choice was not because I didn’t care but because I assumed the person would want some space and time with immediate family. I didn’t want to barge in at a really difficult time.
But what stopped me later on? I’d see that person out and about, and they seemed fine. So I assumed they were. It was easier that way because I was busy.
God showed me that instead of an opportunity for resentment to grow into bitterness, my own experiences could teach me how to help other people when they walked down those hard paths.
You are probably thinking the same thing I was thinking at this point. How in the world are you supposed to add another thing onto your overflowing to do list? How will you incorporate supporting those that grieve and are going through hard times into your already busy lifestyle?
The truth is I don’t think that you do. What I really think is that we need to fundamentally change the way we do life because how we are doing it is not working. And it is slowly, surely killing us – or at least our souls.
You know, originally, I had planned on doing a series of posts on I John – which is what I was studying this fall. Or maybe I would share about the women who populated the Bible during Jesus’ birth.
But instead, God has laid on my heart this burning message that we, as the Church, need to get counter-cultural. We need to intentionally stop being busy doing the urgent and start focusing on the important.
Because there are too many people who are hurting.
Because there are too many people who are struggling single-handed with their sin battle .
Because there are too many people who feel alone.
Community, fellowship – these things take time and intention.
If you are looking for a series on how to be more productive or meet more goals, this won’t be it. But if you are looking to change things this year so that instead of busy you have meaning, and instead of activities you have community, then I hope you will join me.
After all, what better time to look at the issue of busyness in our lives than December – the craziest month of the year?