Extreme trauma and deep bereavement, such as the death of your child, changes a person. It literally makes physical changes in us, and it totally effects our thoughts and how our minds operate.
I became so forgetful it drove me crazy, especially the first two or three years. I would get so frustrated with myself at the things I would forget, at the things I didn’t or couldn’t remember, at my constant confusion and fuzziness. It took me quite a while to find out that was a normal part of intense grief.
I started speaking over myself according to 1 Corinthians 2:16 (“I have the mind of Christ”) and 2 Timothy 1:7 (“I have a sound mind”). Eventually the fog began to clear and I wasn’t quite so scattered and forgetful.
After several years, I have to be honest and say I still don’t have a clear mind like I did before. It can be very frustrating at times. Friends have tried to encourage me by saying things like “Oh, I forget things too.” But this isn’t the same thing as just getting forgetful with age. We have been through a traumatic event, and our minds just freeze, forgetting how to function at times. I keep giving it to God and don’t allow myself to be stressed out about it.
What was happening with me physically and in my mind during the worst of my grieving period those first couple of years seemed so much greater than my strength to get through it. In a very real sense, the mental and emotional “energy” of grief saps brain power and leaves a person quite disoriented and unable to hold a thought for very long.
There are those who would tell us it is our choice to either lean on God for strength or fall apart, but that wasn’t the case for me. I did both. I leaned on God as I fell apart. Only those who have lost a child can understand there are times when the intense grief of those first few months and years will emotionally and physically take over, and we really have no choice in the matter. We can’t function no matter how much we try or how much we might want to.
On those days I would cry out to God. It was the only thing I could do. And in that place of trauma, God has never rejected me. I still occasionally have times like this, and I can still call out to Him with the tiniest cry at any point, and He comes in to give me the strength I need, moment by moment, until I can function again.
Don’t you love it when people become our cheerleaders, telling us we can do this because we are such a strong person? Or when someone tells us they admire us for how strong we are? Or that they could never go through what we are going through in losing a child. WHAT? News flash: we had no choice in the matter! We are being forced to go through this. And just because you see us in survival mode doesn’t mean we are being strong.
We need to find ways beyond just the spiritual to bring ourselves comfort in our time of grief, and it is very easy to do so in unhealthy and even harmful ways. Doing things to numb ourselves from the pain will only prolong the grief and even intensify it. Obviously, we know the dangers of excessive drugs and alcohol, but there are lots of things we can do excessively that are not good for us. Things like excessive shopping, excessive Internet or TV, and excessive eating or sleeping. Sometimes we may do some of these things because we just need to shut down for a while. And that is okay! But we want to monitor ourselves to make sure it is not a substitute for going to God to help us get through this.
One thing God so graciously shared with me in all my times of sleeping was the reminder that He never sleeps or slumbers. He could still minister to me while I was sleeping. And He can and wants to do the same thing for you. Ask Him to bring healing to your soul while you are sleeping. He doesn’t need us to be awake.
Here is the last thing I want to encourage you with. This is a process! It takes time. Do the next thing you can do, whatever it is, no matter how small it is—that’s it. Just one thing at a time. Don’t try to look too far ahead. It is exhausting and overwhelming. You have permission to give yourself lots and lots of grace, especially when others do not!
This was taken from chapter six of Laura’s book When Tragedy Strikes. To receive the full chapter as a gift from GPS Hope, just fill in your name and email address, and it will be sent directly to you.