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18 Months

8 Sep

It’s been eighteen months since Dad died.  Some months the 8th passes by just being another day.  Sometimes the milestone brings another wave of grief.

Yesterday brought a new milestone of grief.  It was the first time someone visited our blog by searching for “Joe Lemsky cause of death.”  It sent shivers down my spine.  When I removed the veil of secrecy last month regarding the circumstances of dad’s death, I anticipated someone would google about it and I would provide fodder for gossip.  I knew that would happen.  I just wasn’t prepared for how I would feel.  

Today I’m reminding myself again that I am not defined by this.  My identity does not lay in this one event.  I am not a suicide survivor.  I am not left behind.  

I am beautiful and enough.  I am worth it.  I am a daughter of God.  The King.  That makes me a princess!  My identity does not lay in the grips of Satan’s lies, but in the King who gives me a hope and a future.  

The Shame of Suicide

14 Aug

Robin Williams’ death has suicide at center stage.  The internets are flooded with reflections on suicide prevention, whether or not suicide is selfish, how to recognize a call for help, and many other thoughts on suicide.

One thing that’s held my attention is the family of Robin.  Robin left behind a family.  This family is grieving at the loss of a best friend, a husband, a father, a funny-man, a man full of life.  This family is dealing with the publicity of his death.  This family is dealing with the aftermath of suicide in a very public forum.  They cannot hide the circumstances of his death.

I could.

You see last March, my father committed suicide and I’ve been wrapped up in the shame of it all.  My father committed suicide.  That sounds so outrageous.  Robin Williams’ death was eerily familiar.  How could such a sweet man with so much to live for take his own life?

There is such a stigma with suicide.  There is no glory in it.

Blues

If I shared the circumstances of my dad’s death with someone–be it the local coffee shop owner as I showed up at 6:15 am and uncontrollably burst into tears or a well-meaning friend–I would often be faced with “Was he depressed?”  As if a “Yes” answer would give him reason to take his life.  As if a “Yes” answer would wash away my despair and make me the selfish one for grieving his loss.  He was suffering and you couldn’t expect him to live like that forever.  

To this question I would offer a “No.  Not really.”  Much like Robin Williams he a happy man.  A smart man.  A genuine, gentle, loving man who could strike up a conversation with anyone and make him feel special.  He lived life out of the box and was spontaneous.  He was full of life, joy, and zeal.  However, there was the side of him that appeared in the days before he took his life.  A man with struggles, worries, and feelings of inadequacy and insignificance.

My shame gave the answer “No. Not really,”  It’s hard to reconcile that the man who brought me to life decided that his life was not worth living any more.  It breaks my heart.  I don’t want anyone to define my dad by his final moments.  Please don’t let that be how you remember him!

As I reflect on my shame and the shame other suicide survivors may experience I remember the story of the bleeding woman in Luke 8.  She had been hemorrhaging for 12 years and no medical treatment she sought had helped, but only left her broke.  She knew Jesus could heal her.  So one day when Jesus was surrounded with a crowd of people she approached him and touched the hem of his garment.  She was hopeful that she could touch him without anyone seeing her. Shame.  She felt shame in her ailment.  Immediately she was healed!

But then Jesus asked “Who was it that touched me?”  What would she do?  She didn’t want the attention!  She was hoping to quietly receive the healing without anyone seeing.  Jesus was addressing her shame.

Embarrassed she says “I touched you.  It was me.”  She poured out her shame in front of everyone.  Jesus responds sweetly to her “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”  

What Jesus was exposing in that moment was not her weakness and shame. What he was exposing was her faith. He wanted her faith visible so that everyone who carries a secret shame — which is every one of us — might have hope.  -Jon Bloom.

God can take the shame we feel in the aftermath of suicide and turn it into a “showcase for His grace.”

How to H.E.L.P. Someone along in Suffering

3 Sep

September 8 will be six months without Dad.  It’s unfathomable.  I can’t imagine life without him, yet we’ve been doing it for six months.  It’s still so very painful.

Our church family has been amazingly supportive through this valley, but we all can use a few pointers for how to counsel/support someone along this path of suffering.  I would say these tips are spot on for helping someone through a dark valley of suffering.  Check out Pastor Doug Wolter’s blog post on H.E.L.P.

H- Do not give answers–give Hope. Hope comes in the form of Jesus–the One who understands suffering most.  After all, he was the only innocent One who endured a criminal’s death.
E -Enter her pain–weep with her.
L – Be quick to Listen and slow to speak.
P – Pray for her and Patiently walk w/her through the long journey of suffering–long after help has stopped.

I am so encouraged by those who still ask how I’m doing and listen to me pour out my pain.  A band-aid wasn’t enough to heal the gaping wound of losing my dad.  Thank you to those who are still letting me bleed it out and heal properly.  

Comfort in a loss: Part II

21 Sep

I know everyone offering comfort is well-meaning.  However, those with the best of intentions can still do or say something that hurts someone grieving.  Before I went through my miscarriages I was a fixer–wanting to solve others’ problems.  I was too quick to offer comfort and even give an explanation.

Explaining away one’s pain seems to happen often when dealing with miscarriage.  “One in three pregnancies ends in miscarriage.”  “The baby probably wasn’t normal, and it’s better for it this way.”  “At least it happened early.”  “At least it’s not infertility.  I went through that, and it was terrible.”  None of these explanations helps heal–they only leave one feeling more alone, guilty for grieving, and ashamed of her pain.

Mike and I were discussing this on Friday.  We had said that those who offer the irreverent comfort of statistics aren’t trying to hurt, they just don’t know how to be empathetic.  Someone who has never lost a loved one might respond to a new widow with “Everyone dies.”  It’s true, but not empathetic in any way.

When comforting a friend through a miscarriage the best way is through empathy and sympathy.

Comfort in a loss: Part I

20 Sep

In my week at home after my second miscarriage, I experienced great peace and understanding from the Lord.  I just lost my baby!  I was destroyed…yet I felt peace.

We are never experiencing this pain alone.  I found great comfort in John 11 when Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus dies.  The Bible tells us in John 11:35 that “Jesus wept.”  Jesus knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead and yet he wept.  Why?  Jesus loves each person he created, and, as Lazarus died, he felt the great pain of those around him.  He empathized with them, entered their pain, and wept.  As I laid on my couch weeping, I knew Jesus was weeping with me.  He took on my burden.

There were many people surrounding me as I went through this loss.  Some were helpful, some were not.   My mom left a business trip in Europe in order to hold me in her arms.  This was immense.  I remember she braided my hair as she did when I was a child, she took me out to lunch, bought me some fun earrings, and she just held me.  She didn’t offer false comfort or throw statistics of miscarriage at me.  She took on my pain and helped me to heal.

My mom came to help me heal

A good friend called me last week to tell me her sister had just gone through the pain of a miscarriage.  She wanted to know what to do to help her sister.  I remembered that this friend and her husband were incredible healers during my miscarriages.  After meeting them for dinner one night, her husband went home and researched miscarriage.  He sent me an email saying how wrecked he was for us and included several resources for dealing with pain.  He didn’t offer false comfort or throw statistics of miscarriage at me.  He took on my pain and helped me to heal.

Another woman gave me a plant that flowered the same time every year.   She told me “Each year as it blooms you’ll remember your blessed baby.”  I love that she didn’t try to make my pain go away.  This gesture told me it was okay to feel like I did, and she actually encouraged me to embrace my pain.

As human beings we all will hurt sometime, and it’s nice to know that others are willing to walk with us during our darkest times.

September 17, 2007

17 Sep

Anniversaries of losses are tough.  Fortunately, most of my family and friends are still walking this earth, and I’ve only been to a handful of funerals in my life.  However, I have experienced the great pain and sorrow of losing a child.  Three years ago today, I endured my second miscarriage.  It’s been three years, and the pain is still great.

After getting a surprise “Pregnant” on a pregnancy test earlier in the year, only to lose that baby, God had it firm in my heart that I would be a Mommy someday.  So we trusted and hoped in our almighty god and got pregnant again.  So thrilled I almost peed my pants, we began imagining our lives with a baby.  This was no dream of a pregnancy–but of a living child in our lives.  One who would giggle, run around, make messes, and graduate from high school.

I ate for two

I happily showed off my 9 week baby bump

A few weeks later that dream was shattered as we stared at the dying baby on the ultrasound screen.  My heart still crushes as I remember my husband, with hope in his eyes, as he joyfully exclaimed that the baby’s heart was beating.  Her heart was beating at a mere 66 beats per minute–far from the normal range of 120-160bpm.  Our baby was dying, and we watched it happen.  By the time we left I was sitting in blood and her heart was beating at 45 bpm.

I spent the next week at home.  I didn’t go into work.  I didn’t call in.  I should have been fired–but everyone knew what had happened.  My child died.  I would never get to hear her heartbeat, feel her kick, anticipate her arrival, hold her for the first time, and watch her grow up.  She was born into the arms of Jesus–never to experience the sorrows of this world.  For her, everything is perfect.