Archives For healing

A Grief Revisited

Tim Jackson —  December 20, 2011 — 12 Comments

I spent last Friday with the HelpForMyLife video crew capturing the story of one of our coworkers, Kevin Burgess and his wife Dawn. Kevin works the audio magic to “sweeten” the audio of many of the RBC radio productions. (I have no idea what “sweetening” entails but I don’t think is has anything to do with the little sprinkles we like to shower over Christmas cookies.)

For those of you who have followed the HelpForMyLife.org blogs over the past year,  you may remember Kevin and Dawn. I featured them in my December 22, 2010 blog, A child is born . . . and one is taken. What a privilege to be with this amazing couple!

Their story is one of sorrow and grief, courage and compassion, endurance and hope. Having lost their precious son, Braeden, to cancer just a little over two and a half years ago, just shy of his 4th birthday, they allowed us to take the journey of grief with them as they shared their story.

And it’s a story worth telling.

Our hope in this new year is to launch a new portion of our website that features the stories of real people with real struggles that requires real faith. We’re thinking of calling it, The Journey Through . . . series. It’s because we’re always in process. We don’t arrive until we’re finally and fully restored in the presence of our good God. So on this earth, we’re all journeying through something.

For Kevin, Dawn and their remaining children, their hurt hasn’t evaporated over the past year. They quickly dismissed the notion that “time heals all wounds.” It doesn’t. Braeden’s absence at their Christmas celebration this year is just as poignant and painful as last year and the year before. But they also reflected something that only they can through this journey through grief . . . hope.

Kevin and Dawn readily admit they’re not immune to grief. Neither are they incapacitated by it. Instead, they are inspired by hope. They are using their experience to touch others who have lost children too. They want to share what they’ve learned on this journey they never chose, but that chose them.

What became very clear to all of us who witnessed their story first hand is this:

They have a story to tell. And we have the privilege of telling it.

Their story is not about a destination, but a journey through grief.

Their story is not over yet. They are still on the journey, they haven’t given up . . . because they have hope.

Why? How? As they would tell you emphatically, “God is in this.”

And their story inspires me to hope too.

So as you celebrate this holiday season with your family and friends, be grateful for those who are present, grieve over those who are not, and always remember the  glorious Hope that arrived under the cover of darkness to a couple in a stable 2000 years ago who is our Prince of Peace who heals the brokenhearted and brings comfort to the grieving (Isaiah 61:1-3).

Merry Christmas.

And, look for Dawn and Kevin’s story of hope in the new year at HelpForMyLife.org.

“What I dread has happened to me.”

Those are not the words of one of the thousands of family members whose lives have been devastated by the upheaval of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan last week. Although they could be.

Those are the words of lament from a father 3000 years ago (Job 3:25) who lost not just one, but all 10 of his children and their families who were snuffed out when a microburst of wind collapsed the home they were in (Job 1:18-19). Job’s catastrophic loss of his family was preceded by the pillage of his economic wealth by bands of marauding thieves (Job 1:14-17). Everything that meant anything to him was gone.

Job went on to lament: “I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil” (Job 3:26).

When everything that means anything to you is gone, where do you turn? How do you respond?

As I watched the news feeds on the networks and internet, I struggled to wrap my mind around the surrealistic video of the 30-foot wall of water that seemed to swallow up the land and it’s inhabitants, and then vomit out a grotesque amount of wreckage, destruction and death as it receded back into the ocean. It looked  like an eerie CGI movie scene. But this time it wasn’t. It was real. As terrifyingly real as it gets.

Trauma–whether natural or man-made–always leaves a contorted heap of rubble and devastation not only on the physical landscape of our world but also in the hearts and minds of those who live through it. The physical clean up efforts of the land will take years. The emotional, relational, and spiritual wounds will take much longer. And it requires help. Help comes from people who not only care, but those who also have experience and training sorting through the turmoil of their own traumas and who have emerge out of the darkness and into the light of hope again.

But grief is a journey. Not a journey we choose, but one that chooses us.

It’s in those moments when we feel crushed and buried under the rubble of trauma that we can mistakenly believe that grief and pain will forever define us. It won’t. But is sure feels like it. While it  shapes and influences the rest of our lives to be sure, it’s not the trauma that defines us. It’s how we respond to it that does.

Jesus knows how trauma messes with us. How it overwhelms us. And how we tend to lose heart when we feel buried (John 16:33). He reminds us that trauma never has the final word. Why? Because he has overcome the world that is overwhelming us.

He invites us to dump our burdens on him and he will help us shoulder the load that’s impossible for us to handle on our own (Matt. 11:28). And, he will provide others who can help us carry the burden that’s too much for us to bear alone (Gal. 6:2).

Please pray. Help bear the unbearable burden by taking the plight of the Japanese people to the God of all comfort who heals the brokenhearted (Isa. 61:1; 2 Cor. 1:3-5). Pray not only for the healing of the land of Japan, but please pray for the healing of her people as they sort through the grief and anguish of their losses and seek to rebuild their wounded souls.

Letting pain breathe

Jeff Olson —  January 13, 2011 — 5 Comments

Recently I watched the movie Open Range. It was a Christmas present.

Westerns don’t normally interest me, but this film drew me in. There was one scene, in particular, that grabbed my attention.

One of the main characters in the film is Charlie Waite (played by Kevin Costner). He’s a Cowboy trying to escape a past filled with pain and regret. During the night, he has a nightmare of being attacked by a masked gunman. The woman, whose house he was staying in, heard Charlie stirring and tried to wake him up. Startled, Charlie momentarily mistook the woman for the man in his dream and drew his pistol on her.

The next morning at breakfast, Charlie apologized to the woman. He went on to explain that he was trying to put some bad times behind him “but sometimes they don’t stay put.” The woman paused for a moment and then spoke these profound words to Charlie,

“Always make me feel better to let things breathe a little—not bury them.”

As a counselor, I couldn’t have said it better. When we bury and try to suffocate the painful realities of life, they start to own us in ways that are not good. It’s best to let them “breathe a little.”

Facing our pain is not about becoming bitter and angry. It’s about putting our hearts in a honest position where we can begin to heal.

Whatever it is, leaning into our pain and letting it breath allows deep lies and false interpretations of events to surface so they can be identified, challenged, and replaced with what it is true. It’s a difficult process for sure, but it allows God to speak into our painful places and bring truth that heals our wounded hearts.

Is there a pain you need to let breathe?

Heal, heels

Allison Stevens —  August 9, 2010 — 5 Comments

Just came back from the physical therapist with my husband who broke both of his heels in May. It was a difficult thing to watch:  the therapist moving my husband’s ankles, heels, and toes and seeing my husband wince in pain.  A lot of pain.

The therapist explained that it’s necessary to massage his feet like this so that the swelling can go down and more blood can circulate through to the injury to speed up the healing. Healing is a result, but so is pain. A lot of pain.

There is intentional, growth-producing pain and then there is pain we tolerate because we’re too afraid to really face it and do the difficult things up front. But what we may not realize is that doing the hard thing up front (i.e. going to physical therapy) provides healing that goes deep to the wound and we can hopefully be pain-free.  If we avoid the hard stuff now, it will inevitably lead us to pain on top of pain.

If my husband does all the physical therapy, follows the doctor’s orders, and exercises, he will greatly increase the likelihood that his heels will heal faster, and that he will walk again soon with little or no pain. Will it hurt at first?  You bet!  Earlier, when I said he “winced” with pain, I was being nice.  He really cried like a little girl (just kidding, honey.)

If he doesn’t go to therapy and sits around with his feet up al the time, sure the bones will eventually come back together, but he would never walk normally again, and he’d do so with a lot of pain. And pain for what?

I won’t try and draw all the possible parallels to our emotional, relational and spiritual lives, but the parallels are there. If I’m going to feel pain, I want it to be the kind that is redemptive, pain that brings me life. I want to have the kind of courage my husband has. It’s not the easier path, but it is one leading towards hope and freedom.

In 1967-68, Phil Downer was a 19-year-old Marine lugging a M-60 machine gun through the jungles and rice patties of South Vietnam with the Second Battalion, Fifth Marines. Phil’s outfit saw some of the heaviest fighting in the Fall of 67 in Operations Swift and Essex. In one of these battles, his unit was ambushed by the enemy and within 90 seconds lost 20% of his men either dead or wounded. After 13-months in-country, Phil left the war front in Nam and came home to peace . . . or so he thought. What he didn’t expect was that he carried the war back with him . . . inside.

When I asked Phil to describe his battles with PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, this is what he shared:

“Well, one minute you’re with a buddy you’ve fought with, you’ve seen the pictures of his family, you’ve shared your C-rations, you’ve saved each other’s lives, and in a second, he’s a bloody mess and you’re writing his mom about how he died. You don’t know what to say. The screams of the moment he was hit–you live with. They wake you up at night. You have no place to put the guilt. Why not me? You have no place to put the pain, the anger, the rage, and then you come home–to people who are at least indifferent if not angry with what you’ve done and the whole thing seems to be for nothing. And when that happens to you, it’s a pool of pain that radiates in every relationship and aspect of your life.”

And what Phil experienced has been the story of so many of our service men and women who come home from war. Whether it’s Vietnam, Gulf War 1 or Iraq and Afghanistan, the struggle is still the same. There is a war within that comes home and there’s no place to put the pain, the loss, the guilt, the fear, the rage, and the isolation.

But Phil’s journey home from war didn’t stop with the struggle. He broke into a smile as he also spoke about the healing he has and continues to experience from his internal war wounds:

“I’ve experienced a lot of healing from that war. A lot of wonderful things have happened in my life that have been restored, but I don’t think I’ll ever fully be over that war or forget the trauma of what I went through and had to deal with on a daily basis.  People ask me sometimes, ‘When were you in Vietnam?’ And, sometimes, my answer is quietly, ‘last night in my dreams.’”

Maybe you’re like Phil, and your war has come home with you in too many ways that you never expected. Maybe you’re overwhelmed and not sure what to do with it all. Maybe you don’t see it, but others close to you do. They’re telling you that you’re different. And somehow you know they’re right. You’ve been changed by what you experienced in war.

You can’t go back. You can’t undo what’s been done. But you can grow through this. Yes, in spite of the pain, you can grow through this. Just getting through it–surviving the firefight like you did over there–isn’t enough. The pain is too painful and too precious to waste. So, use it. With the help of God and those who love you, you can learn to grieve, grow, and live again even through this pain. You were taught how to survive in a war zone. Now you need to learn how to thrive back at home. But remember: it’s a process that takes time and effort. Get help.

For more help with PTSD, check out The War Within, Hope for the Home Front, Point Man Ministries, and round table discussions and insights on PTSD on HelpForMyLife.org.

And for all you Vet’s who have served, let me say personally and on behalf of RBC Ministries and HelpForMyLife.org, Thank You For Your Service. We are grateful for you and your sacrifice.