There’s this handy little word I learned in therapy several years ago — it is so handy, I think it should be a part of everyone’s vocabulary. The word is “Trigger” and in psychotherapy, it refers to an event or moment in a person’s day that stirs up old unprocessed emotions, resulting in an over-reaction to the moment or event on the part of the individual. Most often, the uninformed individual does not realize it is happening. The “more-informed” person, however, can recognize it after the fact, and give a name to their experience of intense overpowering emotions that can so strongly influence their response to a regular circumstance.
I was triggered yesterday.
We had just finished Arie’s violin recital and were walking out of the church building where the recital is hosted. We grouped together with my husband’s family, waiting for the food line to die down. As we stood there, making small talk, a passing thought floated by my conscience: The last time we were altogether was the night of the miscarriage.
The last time we were all together, lingering after an event, was the night we lost our baby.
I did not see that load of bricks coming yesterday.
I didn’t see it until this morning, when I was crying with my husband right before church and realized, none of this makes sense, except that yesterday, I was with the exact group of people that were with me the night we lost our baby. Trigger.
Grief is sneaky that way. You think you’ve moved on, you think you’re finally starting to feel yourself again, and it hits you like a ton of bricks, seemingly out of nowhere.
Truth be told, I have been struggling with a lot of guilt lately. Guilt that I haven’t spent more consistent time in the Word. Guilt that I haven’t moved on from my grief, that I’m still feeling depleted and weighed down. Guilt that it takes a lot of extra effort and prayers on my part to be able to rejoice with those who are rejoicing, especially those rejoicing in the life of a newborn. It is hard for me to admit that.
Objectively speaking, I suspect some of my guilt stems from lies. Yet it is hard to see through the fog of grief sometimes, and even harder when you just want the fog to disappear altogether.
But guilt is guilt, and the only answer to it is Jesus. The last two Sundays, I have found what I had discovered during my first loss: there is a special grace and comfort from God in grief, an extra measure of discernment of God’s love. When we pray for these things for others, He really does show up. I can’t explain it.
After my first loss, as I was processing my grief, I kept being surprised by how much God poured out His love into my heart in experiential ways. I kept saying to myself and others: I shouldn’t be facing death and finding love. This doesn’t make sense. But that was exactly my experience. I found God’s love in the barrel of my grief.
This time, I have found it has taken more time for me to see that same love.
This time, I am discovering, His love is not to be found at all apart from the cross. This time, the Lord needed to humble me, to show me the fuller depths of my own weakness, envy, pride, selfishness first. And as I have been ministered to so deeply and richly by my church, through their faithful proclamation of the Gospel, Sunday after Sunday, I am finding a renewed and rich realization of my identity in Christ: that His love covers me even now as I pen these words. It is His love that is my breath; His love that forgives the depths of my sin, and does not just forgive, but reinstates me as His beloved child. He, the God of the universe, invites me to call Him Father. Because He is my Father. He has taken me under His wings, and called me His own, not because of how good I am, but because of how good He is. How can we ever say enough about the wondrous gift of His love?
Grief is like a canyon — massive parts of your very soul are wrenched from your grip, and a pervasive emptiness is all that remains. A true canyon is formed by the forces of water. Whether it is a great flood, or a slow drip, the sufferings of life flow through our lives, ripping out even the parts of us that we thought were strong enough to endure.
What remains is not just barren land. Layers of the rocks are exposed by the great water chasm. So too, suffering exposes the layers of lies we have built our lives upon, and how those lies are still entrenched in our very beings.
But new growth occurs where death has fallen. That is the law of nature and the law of our hearts, when we submit to it. And, in the end, what the water of suffering has formed when its done is a wider channel in which the love of God can more richly flow.
His love is there to meet us, when we ask for it. I have found it, both times, in some of the sweetest, richest, fullest ways I’ve ever experienced. Taste death, and drink of His love. That is grief, when you walk in it with the Lord.