I could not possibly remember or count the many times I’ve heard this. Sometimes if I’m being transparent it feels so empty and quite overused. But what else do you say when a loved one has passed? We all want to encourage, or be encouraged and feel some ounce of betterment. We feel the immense sorrow when someone we’ve lost dies. What should we reply when someone says “I’m sorry”? do we just say it’s ok? or nothing at all? After all it is an expression of sympathy. We offer our compassion and concern. We are showing that we care. But what if we changed the script.? What if we expressed our concern by saying My deepest sympathy, or I’m sending you love, prayers, comfort during this time…I’m thinking of you, and I’m here. We struggle to find the right words. Everyone’s journey through grief is so unique. It’s ok to be short and simple. It’s so hard to see our loved ones suffering, and in the grips of a loss. I’m sorry is not wrong. It just simply doesn’t cover what are brutal emotions give us. Good intentions can make “robotic statements” seem less authentic. My hope in this is that we allow ourselves to respond better if you will to offer genuine support.
The thing about grief is that what is true always changes. My life since Eliyah’s passing hasn’t become easier, it’s become more complex. I set on a search for balance, which included setting some much needed boundaries. Friends, family have this idea of how you should be. It’s their perception of how you should grieve. For example, ” You’re too happy today, shouldn’t you be more sad? ” Or “you sure are sad don’t forget to smile it’s been almost ( insert time here).” People unintentionally will fault you or bring guilt because they perceive it should look a certain way. I was and am determined to not fall into that trap. Grief looks different for me than it does for anyone else. Grief is unique. I had to talk to the Lord about this often. Smiling…. I felt how can I do this when he is not here to enjoy? I felt I was betraying Eliyah who was not here. Sadness… does Eliyah really want me to be so sad? I searched for moments yes moments of enjoyment. I wasn’t going crazy, I was grieving. There are so many layers to grief. I experienced people saying extremely insensitive things to me. It’s like did that really come out of your mouth??? You can’t wrap your mind around it. But what matters the most is not what is said to me or about me but my response. What is my reaction? What are my thoughts towards this person? They don’t understand my pain, or maybe they are trying to avoid their own pain, They speak without thinking etc. Whatever the reason may be has nothing to do with me. What was helpful to me was not to respond. Yep, keep my mouth shut and when necessary remove and isolate myself from the source. You think, am I not going through enough without the extra nonsense of people?? yet God was reminding me that even in grief he will get the glory. I had to forgive…Cry out to God to help me because this is hard.. Job said ” I have heard many things like these; miserable comforters are you all. (Job 16:1-2). Can you even imagine?? How frustrating it was to listen sometimes. I had to in my anger and sometimes confusion forgive. I could not allow bitterness to take root in my heart towards these individuals. Did I get mad? Yep…. I sure did. I could not believe that people I knew would behave in that manner or from a different perspective those that vanished, disappeared, went ghost, that simply could not handle or face our loss did that…. I though they would be near to my family and instead they were not. Again dealing with the many layers of grief. Recently, I sat with a young woman who recently lost her teenage son. Part of our conversation, she told me she visits the cemetery every day. I said to her you must do what gives you peace. She said her sister asks her “Why do you go there, he’s not there!” She said she knows but it’s something she has to do for now for herself.. I told her if going to the cemetery for the last month since his passing brings you healing, then that’s what you do. You can not be pressured into grieving how your sister feels or wants you to, or anyone else for that matter. I said people mean well for the most part, but going to his gravesite helps you and that is all that matters. Well meaning, well-intentioned people, has caused me to pray more. They do not understand my pain, and nor should I expect them too. My expectations have to stay in check and I have to focus on what is crucial and beneficial to my healing. Having and keeping my boundaries. It always points back to the Lord. I was reminded a couple of days ago that God’s Sovereignty is over my situation. He is in absolute total control which means I can trust and lean on him through my pain. I hope and pray that you can do this as well.
Good morning. Have you ever called someone to come and fix something in your home? Or maybe took your car to the mechanic to have something fixed? Maybe your like so many I know including myself that can fix stuff around the house, and with channels on you tube you can just do it yourself. There is a cartoon called Bob the builder. His motto is “Can we fix it? Yes we can!” I work in television and film and on a sitcom all the problems are solved in 30 minutes right? It’s quick. As a mother I have fixed many of things. I’ve hemmed pants, sewn buttons on, solved problems around the house, super glue at times has been my best friend. I have fixed “boo-boo’s” with band aids, I’ve even as some say fixed dinner.(laugh) Yet, on Jan. 19, 2013 as my son laid lifeless his bed, I couldn’t fix him. I couldn’t change what had already happened. I couldn’t reverse this. I wasn’t able to sit him on my lap and tell him everything will be ok. I couldn’t fix this tragic, terrible, thing. I was no longer the fixer….. I could not wipe the tears away with a tissue and make this ok. No amount of super glue, crazy glue, gorilla glue, tape, band-aids, nails, putty, or any other adhesive was going to hold my heart from the billions of pieces it had broken into. Honestly, I’ve never felt such pain in my life. Several times after his funeral I found myself at the Dr.’s office and the emergency room once because of the physical chest pain I had. I thought I was having a heart attack or something. The tests results came back each time as negative, EKG was nice and normal. The doctors could not fix my broken heart. There was a pain there that could not be detected with machines. It could not be detected or helped with medication to make it feel better or go away. As a child, I used to hear the term “Jesus will fix it” someone even made it into a song. When you are facing a monumental challenge what does that mean? What does Jesus will fix it really mean? I needed real answers. I could not focus on my hurt or my problem in order to get these answers. I had to rely on my faith. I could not leave my faith behind. I had to trust that God would show up. I was suffering, in pain, and needed help. What I had to understand was that even the most damaged, broken, unimaginable situation that I or anyone else could go through including the death of a child was not to hard for Jesus to heal. Who is God in character? He is for me and this is the truth. So it means that with my sorrow and pain I can’t be the center, he must be. Eliyah’s death had to be looked at from a different set of eyes. Yes my heart was bleeding out, but I know that God is persistently consistent and apart from him I could fix nothing!!! This is how my healing would be. This wasn’t going to be a neat little pretty package that all works out just fine and dandy, and end in a fairytale happily ever-after. In this “fixing” of it all would require me to know that my faith must continue to render that God is always Good. Always. This wasn’t going to be a sitcom fix as mentioned above. It was going to be a lifelong journey. A journey of remembering who God is through my faith, knowing that he cares for me. I didn’t have to be a fixer any more. I can quiet the sound of the hurt and let hope and faith resonate the loudest. His power alone can handle and manage it all.. What a healing to my hurt to know this. Love Always Wins!!
I remember the first day of school for all my children. Since preschool I’ve taken that first day photo like many other parents. Now, over the years I’ve watched parents get elaborate thanks to fantastic websites like Pinterest. Eliyah passed on a Saturday morning just shortly after returning to school from a 3 week holiday for Christmas break. I know the first Monday after his passing, was extremely hard for his friends, peers, and teachers. The school did a very special memorial over the PA system. He was the anchor and the face in the morning for GVTV. They too did a special announcement for their fallen friend. That was the first day of his empty chair. Each class he was in had an empty chair and a very real realization that he was gone….. An empty chair in Band, English, Math, History, Lunch, etc.
I also had empty chairs. I remember looking back in my driver’s seat in my van and seeing where he sat most of the time. I had to walk by my dining room every day and see the dining room chair that he would no longer sit in. The couch, his bedroom on his bed, my room, everywhere that I ever saw him sit would now be empty……It took a while to not see his face looking back at me while I stood in the kitchen and watched him eat. I remember funny times where he would eat the biggest bowl of cereal and I’d ask did he save some for the rest of us and we’d just laugh!!!
Eliyah was a Junior in High School. The first day of what would have been his Senior year, I was a wreck. My daughter was going to be a Junior now and my other daughter Second Grade. Once again faced with the agony of sadness for one and joy for the 2 others. It’s the craziest feeling. Smiling while crying. That year was the hardest for me. The place where he would’ve taken his back to school photo was empty…. All of his friends/peers were participating in Senior activities. Homecoming, Prom, and all else that comes along with it. I dropped off my oldest daughter at school one day and saw the seniors in cap and gowns outside prepping to take their senior photo… I lost it. I don’t even know how I drove home. My heart felt that missing piece!!!! I did not attend what would’ve been his high school graduation but many told me they honored him and gave a moment of silence. It was so difficult and sometimes heart wrenching to see birthday announcements, and graduation announcements from others. I know they didn’t send to be vindictive towards me but dang, didn’t they know how much I was hurting? The truth is no. They were doing what most do, go on with their lives. I told people that he had already experienced the greatest graduation that one day all of us living for Christ will. He is in Heaven and nothing would ever top that. That’s what my Spirit celebrated. That’s what my faith shouted to me. But my human, motherly side said this sucks…..
Many parents that are grieving are seeing the empty chair for the very first time.. This is the time of the year which we call back to school and many kids didn’t make it over the summer to enter this school year. If you know someone who has or is experiencing the empty chair give grace. A listening ear is encouraged. No one is looking for you to be the hero, just be present. It’s a challenge to see other kids grow, change, have new experiences, develop, while you will forever miss those milestones. Be gentle, and show kindness. To my fellow members of the club no one wants to be in, continue to celebrate the memories. Honor your child the best way you can. Acknowledge all of the beautiful moments you shared. Healing is taking place. Be kind to yourself. There is no timeline, no manual. Say your child’s name and express the love within!!!!! Amen!!!!!!
I have a hope….
I pray each day that your sorrows lighten. The Lord is your strength. I knew that when Eliyah passed there would be new journey ahead of us that we would have to endure. I didn’t want it nor did I ask for it but here it was. I could not change it… I couldn’t close my eyes, click my heels and wake up and he’d be back. I wanted to even bargain with God.. Change this outcome for my peace I cried out!! I wrestled with him, I told God that I thought you loved me…well this doesn’t feel like love… Love shouldn’t hurt I thought. You allowed me to be crushed and I don’t know if I can trust what you say!! I said all of this in my hurt. I will tell you that I was in awe that God gave me so much strength and compassion for others in the midst of those first few weeks. My faith in God, probably just a tiny bit bigger at the time than a mustard seed demanded that I have hope. It demanded that I not lean to what I understood because I didn’t know why. I didn’t have any answers. I knew that this, Eliyah’s absence felt unbearable. My spirit did what my flesh wanted to fight. I was able to smile because deep down I knew God did love me. I kept hearing it….Elizabeth, you’re so strong, you’re so composed, you’re so inspirational, you’re so this and that…..I “felt” like none of that. I was this woman/mother who felt like she has just been stepped on and was struggling to regain focus. I felt insane, helpless, invisible, and very other feeling inside. These were my feelings. I believed in the power of God. I knew that if I let go I would have crumbled. I thought that only the dark clouds of despair were visible. So, I kept my eyes on him. I kept focused on him. I clutched only to him. I only wanted to see his Glory because my heart, my spirit knew that it was the key to my survival. It was imperative so that I may endure. I was brought to the edge of hopelessness. I want to encourage you that God knows your struggle, and heartaches. There is no hole to deep that Gods love can’t reach. Endure, fight, and don’t lose hope!!!! Words alone can’t heal so I/we/ will go to the rock that’s higher than us!!! Amen!!!!
Welcome to Eliyah’s Heart, a Mother’s journey through grief.
On January 19, 2013 my first born and only son Eliyah Jalaan Linell closed his eyes on earth and woke up in Heaven. He was 16 years old. He passed away from having had a seizure in his sleep.
This blog is a journey of what I have learned in the process of grief. This blog is not a place to argue or spew any negative opinions of what you may disagree with for this is my journey. I will share my stories, thoughts, feelings, advice, and what ever else God gives me.
Eliyah was born on the Fourth of July, and I couldn’t think of a better date to begin. It’s been 5 years of memories, tears, pain, joys and laughter. I love saying that broken crayons still color. Thank you for being a part of this journey with me.