I've never really been much of a New Year's resolution person. No particular reason ... I'm just not.
But for 2014, I'm thinking about making some. The fact that it's already the tenth day of the year should indicate the fact that I've really spent some time thinking about these things. And I believe that these are resolutions that all those of us who have children in Heaven might want to consider adopting as our own.
In just over a month from now, Hannah will have been in Heaven for five years. It doesn't seem possible, but it's true. And God has been faithful to gently carry our family through many painful days and months since that time. These have been the most difficult five years of my life, but He has used them to teach me things that I don't think I could have learned any other way.
So, in light of that, I present ten New Year's Resolutions for Bereaved Parents:
1. I resolve to ... Look forward to the future and not spend time agonizing over the "If Onlys". These things are in the past, they cannot be changed, and it is a waste of my time and energy to be consumed by them. These thoughts draw me away from doing the things God wants me to be doing today. And I believe that it dishonors both my child and my Lord when I remain stuck in the past and refuse to move forward.
2. I resolve to ... Extend grace to those who inadvertently add to my pain by making well-meaning, but inappropriate comments. And I refuse to replay those hurtful words over and over in my mind, thinking about all the things I could have, should have said, that would have put them in their place. I will remember that I, too, have said unintentionally hurtful things in my own clumsy attempts to comfort others.
3. I resolve to ... Extend grace to those who avoid me, or who are clearly uncomfortable talking to me about my child. They're just afraid. They don't want to add to my pain, so it's easier just to steer clear of me. I will remember that I have been that person, too.
4. I resolve to ... Help others understand what I need from them. If I need to talk about my child, I'll explain to them that it helps me to talk about her, even if it does make me cry. If I need to be alone for awhile, I'll ask them to respect my solitude. If I just don't have the energy for chit-chat and smiles, I'll explain to them why. If I need to celebrate holidays in a different way, I'll discuss it with them ahead of time. If I don't know what I need (which happens a lot!), I'll even tell them that.
5. I resolve to ... Be patient with myself. Grief takes time ... much more time than I ever realized before. I will give myself all the time I need, and not try to rush it (even though others may try to rush me along). I will be gentle and kind to myself and the fellow grievers in my household.
6. I resolve to ... Find some joy in every day. There's a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is dependent upon circumstances, and happiness can be pretty scarce sometimes. But joy is God-given, and it is possible to still have joy even in the worst of circumstances. And it doesn't have to come from big things. It can be found in little things ... dew on a spiderweb, the sight of your favorite pet greeting you at your doorway, the sparkle of sunshine on the water, the feeling of pulling on a pair of new warm socks on a cold day. I resolve to look for and appreciate those things.
7. I resolve to ... Be grateful for the 17 1/2 years I had with Hannah. I would rather have had her and lost her than to never have had her in my life at all. And when I consider the fact that I haven't really "lost" her, but in fact, I will spend eternity with her ... the gratitude just overflows.
8. I resolve to ... Recognize and rebuff the attacks of Satan. He knows that I'm vulnerable right now, and he would like nothing more than to destroy my witness and to tear my family apart. He wants me to believe his lies -- that I'm somehow responsible for my child's death; that God is punishing me for some sin; that if only I had had more faith or if I had prayed more, my child would still be here today. I refuse to allow Satan to have a foothold in my life.
9. I resolve to ... Depend upon what I know to be true about God, and not on what my feelings are telling me. So much of the time, my feelings and emotions are completely out of control and unpredictable. I can laugh and cry and be angry and happy all at the same time. I can be fine one minute, and sobbing the next. And I may not even know what triggered the meltdown. My feelings will lie to me (See #8), but God's Word always tells me the truth. To keep this resolution, I must spend time with Him, and be intentional in prayer and Bible study.
10. I resolve to ... Remember that I can do none of these things on my own. I have no power within myself to keep even one of these resolutions. It helps to talk to other moms and dads who understand what it's like to miss your child so desperately. It's great to know that I'm not alone in this thing ..
. that I'm not the only one who struggles with these things. But even more than having the support of other bereaved parents, it is critical that I lean on my Heavenly Father for strength. Because it is only in Him that I can find the strength to keep these resolutions.
"And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." II Corinthians 12: 9-11 (NASB)