Below is what I wrote this week for the blog I write for, Standing on Peace. Every year, on the anniversary of my brother's death I am compelled to write. Some years it's been full of memories, others full of anguish and questioning. This year, was tender like every year, but I did feel like the Lord gave me some very clear things He has taught me through experiencing loss. I am grateful for what God has done in and through me and my family since then. He is so incredibly faithful...
This past weekend, I was more thankful than normal for our family get together. It's a blessing when all of us can physically be together on such an important anniversary.
It's been eight years since we lost our brother, since my parents lost their oldest son, since so many lost their friend. Eight years. Yet I am amazed how loss is a continual process of learning, growth and healing.
Counter to what I thought eight years ago, when it comes to loss, there's never really this "arrival" to a permanent place of acceptance and peace. Every year something slightly different strikes you sad, brings you hope, comes to memory. It's fluid, raw, heartbreaking and beautiful, all in the same breath. Yet the one constant we rest upon is the promise and hope we have in Jesus. We will see my brother again.
- I Don't Have to Explain or Understand Everything. My brother's life story is a complicated one. One that resembles a Prodigal Son story from the Bible (Luke 15:11-32). There were a lot of painful and hard to accept moments in his life. Many that left us wondering and questioning. My brother's story had a beautiful redemption in that he came back to his faith in Jesus before he passed. Through the years, I've come to rest in this fact: it's ok to not be able to explain it all. I can trust what I know and understand: my brother had a beautiful heart and he is with Jesus.
- My Process is My Own. How we respond to loss in our life is as unique as we are. There is no "one" way or even "right" way. Some may want privacy, but I found I wanted an army of friends to rally around me. Some may deal with the emotions of loss quickly, but I have processed these emotions slowly over time. I've seen a vast array of responses even within our own little family. Between us, we've done it all: lit candles, shared memories around a fire or table, written letters to him, looked through pictures together, sat at his graveside and talked to him, cooked his favorite meals. I came to realize, whatever the process of remembering and healing looks like: It's ok. It's my own.
- It Will Come. At various points since our loss, I've experienced moments of enormous pressure and guilt over not being able to adequately remember and share my brother's life and legacy. My husband and kids will never know him. And I long to be able to do my brother justice in how I relate and share who he was. After crying many frustrated, hot tears over this and praying about it, I received peace. Jesus simply reminded me it will come. The memories of my brother, qualities of his heart and impact he had on me will come out over time. I don't have to force it all at once, I don't have to be the most eloquent and I don't have to carry the burden of passing on his legacy perfectly. Our love and experiences together were real, as is our loss. The story and impact of his life will come out in time.
- Loss Makes People Uncomfortable. This was one of the biggest surprises to me through our experience. Of course, so many responded beautifully to our family. But many people stayed away or did not fully acknowledge our loss. Some gave unwanted opinions or advice. It taught me alot about grace in this simple fact. It's wasn't because they didn't care. They simply did not know what to do. I'm not entirely sure I know what to do either. But eight years ago I learned a couple gems: it's important to show up, listen and be willing to sit in the loss with
others, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.
This year, I learned that my mom has clung to a verse through the years. A verse I've not known well and it's beautiful.
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his godly ones." Psalm 116:15
Have you experienced loss in your life? How have you changed or what have you learned through it?