Responding to Loss

On Sunday night, April 27, a tornado came through our area resulting in loss of property for many and loss of life for some. Included in those who lost lives was one of my co-workers and two of his daughters. This man was a godly father of nine children who dedicated his life to caring for family - not just his but countless others as well. And he was putting his family's safety above his own when the house collapsed around him. His daughters were faithful followers of Christ as well.  If ever there was a Christian family, in the true sense, this was it. loss

That next morning, as I was processing through the tragedy of the night before, it was as if I was hyper sensitive to everything going on around me. Everything that would normally seem "ordinary" was suddenly worthy of notice. I wrote the following post on my Facebook page, even as I sat in my vehicle willing myself to walk into the office.

It's trash day in our neighborhood, and recycling day. We dutifully lugged the trash and recycling receptacles to the curb. The kids made their school buses on time. The local fitness center parking lot was packed. A large garbage truck blocked the path of the car in front of me making us wait unnecessarily. The drive through line at the local Starbucks was wrapped around the building, as usual. A large SUV tailgated me for a mile or so as I drove to work, arriving just a little later than I'd planned.

Just observations made, all so normal for a Monday.

And yet this Monday, I sat at our dining table in stunned silence, weeping.

This Monday, I held my wife in embrace a little longer.

This Monday, I didn't want to let my kids go.

This Monday, I felt guilty for packing my running gear so I could get out for a lunch run, for even packing a lunch. Yet the need for normalcy and release seem to take over.

This is the wake of disaster, of tragedy striking close to home.

Yet I am not without hope or purpose.

"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words." (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ESV)

Even as I was writing that, another passage of scripture came to mind. It's the story found in 2 Samuel 12:16-23. You can read it for yourself, but here's my paraphrase:

King David's child - the child conceived because of adultery with Bathsheba - is deathly ill. David fasted, laying out all night on the ground begging God to save the child. But the child dies anyway.  David's servants are afraid to tell him the child died, but David figures it out by the way they're acting. Then he gets up, cleans up, gets a bite to eat, and carries on with his life. His servants are confused. If he was so grieved by the child's sickness, why is he not even more upset about the child's death? David's reply: "I fasted while I could still do something about it. But there's nothing more I can do, now that he's dead." Again, that's my paraphrase, but that's the general story.

Dealing with Loss

I know that everyone deals with difficulty differently. But it would seem that seeking normalcy in the face of tragedy is actually pretty common. I'd go so far as to say that going about one's usual routine is actually a way of dealing with grief - actually a form of grieving itself. For me, even in my routine I find myself processing - going all foggy headed one moment and then all of a sudden having extreme clarity. Having muddled thoughts one moment followed by new epiphanies the next. Feeling extreme sadness in one instant, even weeping, and then joy in the next - and more tears. All while doing what is routine, what comes as "second nature." Because, after all, life goes least for a time.

I know it's likely that you may be reading this and experiencing a difficult time in your life right now. I just want to say that it's okay to find solace in routine.  It's okay if you don't know how to act, what to say, what to do. If everything seems inadequate or maybe just too much. And it's okay to have those feelings of fogginess and clarity. That's just part of grief. It's okay if things make sense one minute and then not so much the next. Maybe you'll find some comfort in these words. I guess that's what I'm aiming for.

Or maybe I just want you to know: you're not alone.

How can you help victims of the tornado in Arkansas?  Go here for more information.  Also, go here to listen to a special FamilyLife Today® broadcast.   


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