Transformation: God & Me After the Loss of My Child
When my son died within my embrace and in our home, I was certain the world had gone insane. Utter disbelief coupled with harsh reality ravished my broken heart.
Over the weeks and months after Joshua’s death, I didn’t know one could cry so many tears. Nor feel this lonely and misplaced from Joshua’s absence. My presence in the house caved in around me, and I believed I would go crazy and join him.
As the months became three years, and I still lived in the house where Joshua died, I told God it was too much. What did He expect from me as I walked the hall and past the door of my son’s room? What was the purpose of me in this home?
Wasn’t the loss of Joshua a teachable enough experience?
I cried unto Lord God and my spirit wrestled with His. I demanded a blessing from Him. Good had to come from this wreck of my life. Didn’t it? And, I hounded my Lord for relief from the pain and agony of losing my youngest child.
My prayer became simple: Make me stronger or allow me to die.
Joshua was a unique individual, and I’m not saying this because he was mine. He helped a friend choose life for her unborn child and spent time with her, sharing the gospel of Christ. He defied a high school teacher to his face, who, after class, offhandedly encouraged a student to get an abortion.
There were no gray areas in my son’s life. He stood strong in his beliefs. At Joshua’s grave side service, one of his friends said it best, “Joshua knew how to help others, but he couldn’t help himself.”
At the three and a half year mark after Joshua’s passing, I almost took my own life. At the last moment, though, weary and humbled within my spirit, I reached for the love of my Father in heaven.
Throughout the night after my near suicide attempt, I sobbed hours of tears until I was an empty shell. As dawn peeked through the curtained window above me, I gave my whole being to God. “You win, Lord,” I prayed, “do with me as You will.” It was not a joyous moment. I didn’t feel victorious.
It was a profound shift of surrender in my shattered spirit.
From the dawn of this new morning and the ten years since, I will never regret God kept me in the home where my son died. God broke me and remolds me into someone who can be used by Him to help others who suffer.
Within three months after my near suicide attempt, we had a buyer for our house. Weeks later, we signed the papers and handed over the keys to the new owners. At the seventh month point, my husband and I moved to Oregon on one acre of land where we raise a garden, chickens, and goats.
After our move here, I told a seasoned Christian my story. That God saw fit to keep me in the home after Joshua’s death, and this drew me closer to Him. “This was hard on me,” I told the man, “and I almost didn’t make it. God knew best, and I received His blessing.”
I thought the gentleman would agree with me, and what he said left me speechless and sad. “I wouldn’t have done it. I would have left the house.”
If I had escaped the home like I wanted, and I did make plans to do so, I would never have tasted the deep love and steadfast presence of God and His Son.
Jean Ann Williams published a book on suicide loss after her youngest son Joshua took his own life in 2004. “God’s Mercies after Suicide: Blessings Woven through a Mother’s Heart” is a devotional style memoir showing how God walked alongside her in the most difficult grief journey of her life.
Where to purchase God’s Mercies After Suicide: Blessings Woven Through a Mother’s Heart: Create Space
My son, Joshua, died by suicide on March 16, 2004, and I will never be the same. Nor do I want that old person back. God has given me His strength as I journeyed through the most difficult time in my life. And, I’m not a novice to loss. I began losing important loved ones by the age of ten, with the mental illness of my mother, and the death of my dear Nana and my baby sister Maria.
During the year of firsts in noted celebrations after Joshua’s suicide, Christmas was indeed the hardest after Joshua’s birthday in November. My husband and I felt tossed about in waves of denial, pain, and just plain not-caring-to-recognize the traditions part of Christmas.
As the celebration of Jesus’ birth came closer, our eldest granddaughter, Morgan Ann, age ten at the time, found out our plans to skip Christmas traditions. Below, is a chapter from my book, God’s Mercies after Suicide, and how Morgan Ann helped us, her nana and papa.
“Nana, please, we have to bake cookies, and you need a Christmas tree to decorate.”
Our eldest grandchild, Morgan Ann, would not quit on the topic of Christmas. I did not want to bake. The idea of a tree saddened us; Joshua had always been involved with the choosing. When Morgan pleaded more than once with us, we relented.
Morgan and her two sisters, Lynsey and Carley, came over early one morning. My heart’s desire was to hang only handmade ornaments on this year’s tree.
Our granddaughters created a mess with glue, glitter, and construction paper. We decorated cutout egg cartons for bells and strung cranberries and popcorn on strings. The girls hung the ornaments on a three-foot-tall tree.
A welcoming inspiration, Morgan insisted we make Joshua’s favorite cookies. We baked thumbprint cookies, and hand-decorated snowmen, Santa Claus, and angel-figure sugar cookies with pink, red, and green frosting. The colored frosting got on the table. My granddaughters howled with laughter over smeared frosting on their faces. I snapped oodles of pictures which I shall always cherish.
If you’ve lost a loved one recently and don’t feel like celebrating, it’s really, really OKAY. The only reason we went ahead and acknowledged the traditional part of Christmas was to not disappoint our granddaughters.
In return, we did everything on a smaller scale this first Christmas after Joshua’s death. And at the end of the season, my husband and I looked back and smiled at what one little ten-year-old had accomplished in an otherwise confused and difficult time in our lives.
Twelve years later, we still talk about what Morgan Ann did for us.
And even if we had not participated in a tree and the baking, we still would have celebrated Jesus’ birth and life during the difficult Christmas of 2004.
Jean Ann Williams grew up with a parent who suffered from mental illness. Her son died by suicide at age 25 in 2004. From 1996 to the present, Jean Ann has written over one hundred articles & puzzles for youth related magazines, which included a healthy eating column. She has published articles in eight book anthologies. Currently, she writes a column for Putting on the New blog & Book Fun Magazine on the topic of suicide loss. Her first book “Just Claire” is an upper middle grade novel which touches upon the topic of mental illness of a parent. Her second book, “God’s Mercies after Suicide: Blessings Woven through a Mother’s Heart” is her memoir devotional about the loss of her son, Joshua, to suicide.
Purchase GOD’S MERCIES AFTER SUICIDE HERE
Christmas time is a season when suicides increase. Please, if this is something you are considering, talk to someone you can trust. A member of clergy, or Suicide Prevention at 1-800-273-8255. There is also an online chat from Suicide Prevention.
Jean Ann would like to gift a copy of her book, God’s Mercies After Suicide. Please leave a comment and I will choose a random comment. Make sure you leave a working email in case you win.
Tags: author, Christmas traditions, family, first Christmas after family suicide, giveaway, God's Mercies After Suicide, granddaughter, grandparents, grief, Jean Ann Williams: Christmas After A Loved One's Suicide (GIVEAWAY), Julie Arduini, suicide
I don’t know how to explain it, but I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach 2016 was going to be a long haul.
Some things I knew were happening—a wedding in the same time frame as a graduation. A child’s genetic testing. Another child transitioning from high school to college.
But, as the year unfolded, there were plenty of surprises.
- I felt a stirring I attribute to God that I was to my own ministry/business as an author and speaker. By February, I was moving forward with Surrendered Scribe Media. By March, ENTRUSTED was re released and ENTANGLED was released.
- My husband changed his job. I had a feeling this was coming, but what I didn’t anticipate was his working from home much of the time.
- My father-in-law passed away in July. The kindest man, talk about a huge void.
- Grief from loved one’s choices I couldn’t control (and still can’t!)
- A complete flip in health that was hormone/menopause related. It hit me HARD.
It was rough, and I honestly wanted to define the year that way. However, the word for my year is perspective, and I’ve really tried to apply that. I see why it is the word for me, because I learned a lot.
The absolute fear and anger I had over my husband being home on “my” schedule also offered a lunch partner at times, and help when I wasn’t able to get our child from school.
Watching God grow our loved ones closer through as they listened to us share with transparency regarding choices. Had I stayed grief-stricken, I don’t think God could have used us. Seeing it in time as an opportunity instead of devastation changed everything.
I’m sure there is more I’m not seeing yet, but perspective definitely helps me move forward and not dwell on the negative. As we wind the year down, we also had a very thankful Thanksgiving. Not only are we surviving all these things, but we learned Tom’s oldest daughter is expecting. It’s the first grandchild for us, and we are thrilled for her and her husband.
What are you thankful for this year? Do you think of perspective at all? How?
THANK GOD FOR MEMORY
Two deaths in the space of four months—first my mom in February, then my husband in June—labels 2016 a tough year in my history book.
Death of a loved one is never easy, but to experience two losses in such a short period of time is like having the ambulance transporting you after a car wreck you just survived T-boned on the way to the hospital.
You’ve barely had time to catch your breath from the first gaping wound when another is inflicted.
Grief is nebulous, yet poignant; crippling, yet cleansing; personal, yet universal.
The last word that comes to mind when hearing the word “grief” is “thankfulness.”
Yet, would grief exist if joy, happiness, and love had not precluded it?
When I struggle to put grief in perspective with the goodness of God, I am drawn to the book of Job. We all know of the misery he suffered, the unspeakable sorrow he bore, the devastating despair that enveloped him. Yet, how did he respond?
His wife said to him, “You are still as faithful as ever, aren’t you? Why don’t you curse God and die?”
10 Job answered, “You are talking nonsense! When God sends us something good, we welcome it. How can we complain when he sends us trouble?” Even in all this suffering Job said nothing against God – Job 2:9-10
It was harder to accept my mom’s death than I thought it would be. I was so sure I was “ready” when Mom passed. Although mentally keen as a knife drawn across a sharpening stone, physical maladies, pain, and exhaustion warned us her days on earth were nearing their end. To be honest, my sister and I prayed for her relief from suffering.
Since her death, too many moments have come and gone that I wish I could share with her. The fact that I can’t produces a dull ache, kind of like the nag of an arthritic joint on a cold, cloudy day.
Although we had been forewarned of the gravity of his condition, my husband’s passing was much more difficult to bear. Reports from the surgical suite were optimistic, so much so that I went to the hospital chapel and thanked God for his mercy in bringing Manuel successfully through yet another surgery. It was upon my return to the waiting room that I was informed he had suffered cardiac arrest and was unable to be revived, despite heroic efforts by the surgical team.
Kind of reminds me of Job in a remote way. I’m sure that iconic Biblical character asked more than once how life could be so good one moment and so bleak the next.
The loss of my husband has inflicted a more acute, more frequent pain that throbs like a knife slash to the gut. His death has forced me to examine myself as a widow, a self-sufficient woman, and a child of God.
The drug that renders my pain bearable through both of these losses is memory. Sure, photographs, videos, greeting cards, and conversations with others whose lives they also touched trigger vivid recall of the part these loved ones played on my life stage.
Yet, it is the intimate moments of laughter and tears, triumphs and failures, dreams realized and hopes dashed, shared within those relationships that bind me to Mom and Manuel across the span of time. Without that treasure trove of deep seated memories that allows me to drink my fill, the pain would be so raw that it would surely crush my spirit under its weight.
There is much in my current circumstance that I have to be thankful for, but the one gift from God that stands out most prominently for me during this stretch of my life journey is memory.
My sentiments about this blessing are reflected in the following poem, recited by me at my mom’s funeral service and printed on my husband’s memorial card.
God gave us memory,
A dear and precious gift,
That on our darkest day
We could receive a lift.
He knew we’d suffer pain
Along life’s rocky fall,
And so He gave our brain
The power to recall
Our loved one’s tender smile
Or kind, devoted touch,
The guidance thru each trial
That fueled our love so much.
Though gone from here below
And where we cannot see,
Love leaves our heart aglow
Thanks to our memory.
So when your day is long
And sadness in you burns,
Your loneliness is strong
And there seems nowhere to turn
Take a moment from the day
To get down on your knees,
Bow your head to pray
“Thank you, Lord, for memories.”
Can you find thankfulness in any grief you may have experienced this year?
BIO: Patti has had short work published in two anthologies and local publications. She has three novels in progress. She has conducted workshops at Christian Writers conferences and served as an editor with a small publishing company. Patti loves to promote writers, both published and unpublished, on her two blogs, Patti’s Porch and The Over 50 Writer. She shares stories through personal interviews of those who have found their way from a dark place back to light or those who help others back to light on her weekly Blog Talk Radio show, Step Into the Light.
Patti lives in Southeastern Colorado and is fortunate to reside in the same town as her daughter and fifteen year old granddaughter, her only grandchild. Still, her heart brims with memories of the Adirondack North Country of New York, where she spent many childhood vacations and still returns periodically to visit family.
Twitter – https://twitter.com/PattiShene
Facebook – http://ow.ly/QN1u306koqf
Facebook (Step Into the Light page) – http://ow.ly/CRNS306koSJ
Blog talk radio show http://www.blogtalkradio.com/stepintothelight
When I was sent to the assistant principal’s office in middle school it wasn’t for mouthing off or fighting. Nope, I got in trouble for reading ahead.
Story of my life.
Reading remains my favorite relaxation. Although most of my time is invested in writing, I love sitting down with a good book. I long to talk to people about it.
Starting Tuesday, I’m combining writing and reading by launching my Fall Book Club. My plan is to connect with fellow readers and start reading and discussing my first contemporary romance, ENTRUSTED. We will discuss the chapters, and I’ll share behind-the-scenes features with characters, chapters, plot, and the Adirondacks. I’ll talk about the writing process. Some weeks will feature other authors and an interview with them, as well as “free surprises.” Once we finish ENTRUSTED, we’ll move onto ENTANGLED. Hopefully, ENGAGED will be after that. If not, we will read the third installment of the Surrendering Time series. I also look forward to reading books from my favorite authors.
Tuesday’s meeting is a kick-off with no reading required. I want us to get to know each other and I’ll release the reading schedule. After that, we’ll meet weekly.
Here’s more information:
The Surrendering Time series is an entertaining yet reflective adventure to the Adirondack Mountains. Each book takes an element of time (past, present, future) and explores through flawed and humorous characters what a surrender journey looks like.
In ENTRUSTED, Jenna Anderson leaves her Ohio hometown for the unknown in Speculator Falls. She’s determined to make her new job as senior center work and become one of the locals.
Ben Regan’s family is the backbone of Speculator Falls and he’s made a vow to protect the rural village. When his grandfather passes away and his former girlfriend leaves without even saying goodbye, Ben’s determined to prevent further transition in his life.
But Jenna produces a lot of change for Ben in a book about surrendering the present fears we have about change and wanting to belong.
BOOK CLUB KICK-OFF:
Tuesday, October 11, 8pm, EDT
Julie Arduini’s Facebook Author Page
Format: I’ll paste a graphic a few minutes ahead of time saying that all our discussion will take place under the picture. You might need to refresh, if so, hit F5.
To purchase ENTRUSTED: click HERE.
Tags: Adirondack Mountains, author, book, book club, Book Club Launches Tuesday, Christian fiction, clean romance, ebook, Entrusted, Facebook Author Page, fear, grief, grocer, Julie Arduini, October 11, Ohio, reading, surrender, wanting to belong, Youngstown
Surprised by Tears
Five years have passed since my mom died. Her final years brought significant back pain from a narrowing of the spinal column, or something like that. We used to range far and wide on bicycles; she had to give up bike riding. She stopped driving. She couldn’t even go for a walk. To get anywhere required holding onto someone’s arm.
Her life contracted to the house with visits to the therapy pool at the YMCA.
And then dementia began destroying her mind. She’d put plastic bowls in the oven. She forgot how to spell. Children’s books became her preferred reading.
Staying patient with her wasn’t always easy. When I had full care of her during my dad’s absence, she insisted he didn’t want to bother with her anymore. I kept telling her, he’s on a business trip, he’ll be back. She would not be consoled.
There were times I wished she would die. There is, after all, no more pain or crying in Heaven. She was no longer living; merely existing. A painful, confusing existence. What’s the point in this suffering?
And then she died. She is free from pain and crying and sorrow. But we are not. Five years has passed, and sometimes, still, the grief strikes fresh.
While cleaning the house, I decided to look through the half dozen boxes stacked in the tiny sewing room. They contained remnants of yarn. Mom was a prolific knitter and sewer. As I pulled out the skeins, I remembered their use. I remembered when she fell on ice and broke her arm. She had completed one mitten of a new set for me and wanted to finish its mate before I returned to college after Christmas break. With her arm in a cast, she couldn’t knit, and was so frustrated.
I remembered trying to sew a new top for the first day of a school year. I had to rush off to orientation, my sewing unfinished. I returned home, wondering what I’d wear, and discovered she had finished it.
Holding that yarn, the tears fell. The agony and horror of her last years are fading, and the memories of the good years are pushing forward. And I miss my mom. The mom who could be found in the church kitchen stirring up Kool-Aid during Vacation Bible School. The mom who helped plan and hosted a birthday party for two friends and me, born just days apart, with the church youth group.
She was very much an involved mother. Mom had the gift of service. Had she been old enough during World War II, I could imagine her serving as a Red Cross doughnut girl. For my new release, Soar Like Eagles, I named my main character for her. And I dedicate this book to her.
Carol wants to do her part for the war, but can she maintain her ideals?
Chet joins the air force, hoping to find peace.
Carol joins the Red Cross, serving doughnuts and coffee to GIs in England. Convinced wartime romances are doomed to disappointment, she avoids entanglements. She transfers to France, away from Chet, the B-17 navigator who tempts her to throw caution to the wind.
Chet’s father and brothers always belittled him. Now a squadron lead navigator, he longs to prove them wrong. He’s been offered a terrific job with PanAm after the war, but has several close calls in combat.
Carol and Chet continually cross paths. Do they dare make plans for a future together?
Terri Wangard’s first Girl Scout badge was the Writer. These days she is writing historical fiction, and won the 2013 Writers on the Storm contest and 2013 First Impressions, as well as being a 2012 Genesis finalist. Holder of a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in library science, she lives in Wisconsin. Her research included going for a ride in a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. Classic Boating Magazine, a family business since 1984, keeps her occupied as an associate editor. Her first two books, Friends and Enemies and No Neutral Ground, were published earlier this year, but the publisher went out of business one month before the third book in her WWII series was to release. All three books will be released by Celebrate Lit later this year.
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