When we are deeply wounded, a scar is left behind. That happens both physically and emotionally.
When I was around three years old, my dad took my sister and me on a bike ride around the neighborhood at my grandma’s house. We had done it before. My sister was sitting behind him, and I was sitting in front of my dad as he was pedaling the bicycle. This one time, when he turned the wheel, I didn’t spread my legs far enough and got my ankle caught in the bike spokes. It took out a chunk of my ankle, and I ended up with a staph infection.
It took me out of commission for quite some time, and I didn’t get to play in the water that summer. I had to sit on the edge of the pool with my injured ankle wrapped in a plastic bread wrapper to make sure it stayed dry. We have a picture of me dangling my non-injured leg in the water while watching my sister and cousins splash around having fun.
I recovered, but I still have a scar on my ankle and always will.
At age forty-eight, my husband, Dave, ended up having quadruple bypass surgery. Recovery took a long time, and over ten years later he still has some effects from it and is on certain medications for the rest of his life. He also has a permanent scar, reminding us what he went through.
If you have been connected to GPS Hope for very long, you know that my daughter, Becca, had her leg amputated when she was only three years old because of bone cancer. (She died at age twenty-nine due to long-term heart damage from one of the chemo drugs given to her at that time.) Obviously, she had a scar on her stump from the amputation.
Becca’s missing leg can be a good illustration for to us, as bereaved parents. Having our child die is like having an amputation; a part of our very being has been cut off from us. The wound is severe, but it will eventually heal, but there will always be a scar, reminding us that a part of our very being is missing.
But the comparisons don’t stop at the scar of the injury.
Did having a staph infection in my ankle keep me from ever riding a bike or swimming again? No way! I loved riding a bike, especially as a kid (although I recently switched to enjoying riding my mini Segway) and I love to swim and be in the water, especially in warm places with beautiful beaches.
Did having quadruple bypass surgery keep Dave from permanently doing things like holding and playing with his grandchildren, or starting new adventures like selling our house and learning how to drive a 38-foot motor home that we now live in? Nope!
Did having an amputation keep Becca from running and playing with the other children? No, it definitely did not! It may have slowed her down and caused her to adapt to how she ran and how she played, but it didn’t stop her.
When these horrible things happen, including something as terrible as the death of our child, does it mean our life is over, and we will never be able to live a full life again? No, it doesn’t.
We need time to go through a “recovery” process (for lack of a better word) and need time to learn how to function with our child no longer here, but it doesn’t mean we will never be able to function again.
- We will go through times when everyone around us is splashing and playing while we are unable to participate because of our wounds.
- We will go through times when we can’t function and have to wait for more healing.
- We will go through times when we have to adjust the way we do things.
- We will forever bear the scar of our tragedies.
- We will always have things that trigger reminders.
But we are not permanently injured to the point of being out of commission for the rest of our lives.
Our lives will never be the same. We will never be the same. But within that, we can make sure the tragedies in our lives are not wasted by leaving us incapacitated. And that includes the tragedy of the death of our child.
We can allow God’s love to wash over us, to heal us, and to take this change in us and use it against the enemy who brought death into this world.
And just think, all of our scars will disappear someday, both the physical ones and the emotional ones, when we join our children in that place where there is no more pain, no more sorrow, and all of our tears will be wiped away.
But until then, we need to remember…
Wounds heal so that we can continue living. Yes, our scar reminds us of what happened, of who was cut off from us, but it also reminds us that our life isn’t over. There is still more living to do, if not for yourself, then at least for those who love you and still need you in their lives, and for your child who is no longer here.
We can (and need to) learn to live with our scars in a way that honors our son or daughter, not in spite of our child’s death, but because of his or her life.
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Expressions of Hope is written by author, speaker and singer Laura Diehl. She and her husband, Dave, are the founders of Grieving Parents Sharing Hope (GPS Hope). Dave and Laura travel full time in their Hope Mobile (a 38-foot motor home) to be more easily available for speaking and ministry requests, including being invited to hold one-day GPS Hope & Healing conferences.
If you would like more information about Laura as a speaker for your next event or want more information on hosting a GPS Hope & Healing conference, click here.
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