A butterfly coming out of the cocoon is a beautiful picture of how working our way out of bondage and darkness makes us so very strong.
As parents who have faced the death of our child, we are that butterfly in a cocoon. But many of us don’t even want to come out. And if we do, we often don’t believe coming out is possible, as we feel too weak to keep fighting. But fight, we must do. Some of the strongest, most caring people that I know are pareavors (bereaved parents) who have fought their way out of their cocoon of bondage and darkness.
They are also some of the most beautiful and loving souls I have ever met. Many of them have a deep passion for an unexpected purpose in life to help others. My friends, Dave and Dee, organize runs to bring awareness to heart failure and donate the proceeds to various community organizations. Anne goes into schools to talk about bullying, after her daughter died by suicide in a school bathroom. Kelly started professional training for medical staff on how to help parents in the hospital with infant loss at birth. The list could go on and on, including my becoming an author to help other grieving parents find hope, light and a fulfilled life again after the death of their child, and my husband and I starting an organization to do the same.
If you don’t know our story, it was actually a 26-year ordeal. But to simplify it in one sentence, our daughter, Becca, died at age 29 on October 12, 2011 from heart damage due to one of the chemo drugs she was given at age three (along with having her tiny left leg amputated at that time) as part of her treatment for cancer. (Click here to read the full story.)
The first two years after her death were a blur of suffocating darkness and confusion. (And the second year was worse than the first year, which seems to be pretty normal for those of us who have lost a child from this earth.)
The next couple of years I started doing a bit better, but the fifth year was another weepy one. That Christmas, my oldest son purchased some oysters to be opened live on Facebook, and the pearls inside were mine to keep as my Christmas present. It was so fascinating to watch them being opened and to see the gorgeous different colored pearl in each one. I ended up watching other people’s oysters being opened as well, and felt a drawing to watch more “oyster shucking” when I had the chance.
While waiting for my pearls to arrive in the mail one day, I found myself in tears thinking about how deeply touched I was to be able to have something tangible in my hands to remind me of the hope I have that God keeps His promises to take something so horrific, and somehow (as only He can) turn my shattered life into something of beauty that was still valuable and worth living!
Right then and there, I knew I wanted to find a way to give this same gift of this gorgeous symbol of the HOPE we have in Him into the hands of other pareavors.
I found myself writing something I wanted to give to those who decided to join me in having an oyster opened; letting them know the pearl inside is something we can look at, reminding us that even though it feels like it, we did not die along with our child.
Here is part of what I wrote.
You hold in your hand a priceless treasure. Yes, there is a monetary value placed on the pearl(s) you now possess. However, it is so much more…
…You have had something way beyond “an irritant” invade your life. You have had to face the death of your precious child. And now you have the opportunity to allow God to do a far greater miracle in you than He does in an oyster, which is to allow Him the time and tools needed to make something beautiful out of something so horrific.
Yes, it can happen. Not only can it happen, but it will happen, if you allow the One who sees what you cannot see, and knows what you do not know to be at work, deeply hidden in your heart and soul, where no one else has access. He wants to use this tragedy to make you highly valued; a rare and valuable gem, glowing with His love and glory unlike anyone else on earth.
It took almost a year and going down several paths, but my dream of being able to offer this for others is now happening. Once a month, we have an oyster opening live on our GPS Hope Facebook page for anyone who wants a gorgeous pearl as a symbol of who they can become, after a deep tragedy, including the death of their child.
YOU are a precious and rare gem. You may not feel like it right now, but as you continue on your journey, you will realize that yes, you are still valuable. And for those of you who are pareavors, it is because of the deep love you have for your child, that you can have hope as to your rare beauty and value because of that never-ending love.
For more information on the Pearls of Hope event, click here. Note: You don’t have to be a bereaved parent to get in on it. Anyone can purchase an oyster to be opened just for the fun of it, or as a gift for someone who would appreciate watching their own oyster being opened knowing the beautiful pearl inside is theirs, or because you want to be part of bringing finances to help GPS Hope be able to reach out to more grieving parents.
Expressions of Hope is written by author and speaker Laura Diehl to bring hope, light and life to those struggling in darkness after a tragedy, especially bereaved parents. If you would like more information about Laura as an author or a speaker for your next event, click here.
GPS Hope exists to bring hope to parents who have suffered the death of a child, acknowledging their unique grief with support, connection and education for them and those around them.