This post was written by a member of Life on the Vine, an Ecclesia congregation in suburban Chicago.
On October 30, 2004, I found out that my mom had died earlier that morning. At seven years old that put me into a pit of grief; which I’ve struggled with for the past eight years. I would have many nights where I would cry myself to sleep and days where I would take out my anger on my brother, sister and anybody that I could without getting in trouble for doing so. For several years I tried to work through my pain counseling and some other things, but not much seemed to help. My dad got remarried in 2008 and I felt sad because in my mind, a new mother meant that I had to leave behind the old one, which was a lie that I thankfully later had my eyes opened to.
Over the past few years I have been having long painful conversations with my parents and other family members about my grief. Often I would break down into tears and sobbing. At some point I realized that it was as if I had been paying a penance for my mom’s death that I didn’t need to pay. I felt guilty about being happy and alive while my mom was dead. Unfortunately, realizing this didn’t mean it was over; I still had more work to do.
Fast forward to this past summer, when I was part of the Youthworks mission team that went to Oklahoma. While I was there I was able to share my struggles about my mom’s death with my teammates. Through that I learned to trust non-family members with this heartache. I felt supported in my struggle and that I had the team’s understanding. During the trip my relationship with God had been renewed. I then felt God wrapping me in His love and I knew that somehow I’d make it through.
When October came around this year, I was nervous that it would end up being a pit of despair like every other October had been so far. Through talking with my dad I was lead to be at peace with the fact that God didn’t owe me an answer as to why she died. If God wants me to know why my mom died, He’ll tell me, if not, He won’t. Another thing that helped was that I was able to just think about all the good memories and most importantly about how far I had come from the little boy in the corner worried that everything that could go wrong would. I also realized, and applied, the fact that just because my mom died doesn’t mean that I did. I’ve still got a life to live right in front of me. I now know that I can be sad and grieve her death and not lose hope.
One thing that really helped me was the All Saints Day service that we had a few weeks ago. It helped me to see that I’ll see my mom one day when there’s no death, sorrow or sickness. At first it was hard to think of her from a perspective of hope and joy after years of thinking about her with despair and cynicism. Though I didn’t mention her name when we named those who have gone before us, just bringing her picture and setting it on the altar with the others was another step out of my hole. I still have those times when grief overwhelms me and I just have to take in sadness like an old friend, have it over for a while and send it out after a day or two; but thankfully God carries me through those days just like He did through the eight years that I felt like a dead man walking. I still have to keep working on this but God has carried me this far and I can say that God has and still is redeeming my life in the midst of this tough situation.