For those who have lost a child, we sit in a perplexing space of saying goodbye to the one who was supposed to outlive us. This was not the way we ever thought grief would enter our lives. And it’s hard to imagine that grief could bring anything more than heartache into our world. Yet, I believe grief carries with it unexpected gifts we often cannot see in the darkness of our pain. We may only catch glimpses of these gifts as our hearts begin to see glimmers of light beyond the heaviness of the darkness.
Gifts of Grief?
Let me be clear, I do not think for one moment that grief is a gift. I think it is an awful part of the human experience; one that I believe points to the reality that this is not how life was originally meant to be lived. But I do believe, that even amidst the worst circumstances, beauty can rise out of the ashes of our pain. I have seen it happen in my own life. In the midst of deep ache for the two daughters I have had to bury. In the midst of all the things grief brought that I would just as well wish away, here are a few gifts that have arisen out of my own grief.
The Gift of Empathy
Empathy is the ability to both understand and feel what another is feeling. It is not an “Oh, how sad, and move on” type of response. It’s an “I see you, I’ve been there. I may not know your loss, but I know loss. I feel deeply for you.” Empathy grows out of our capacity to engage in the hard and painful stories around us. Walking through grief opened my eyes to the pain of others. It enables me to sit in stories I could never sit in before. What a gift it is to sit with those in the midst of deep loss.
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The Gift of Comfort
There are few people that can provide the comfort a mother who has lost a child desperately needs. She often needs someone who has walked a similar road to sit with her, lament and cry with her. There’s a verse in the Bible, in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 that speaks to the power of comforting others with the comfort you’ve been given. Mothers who have lost children and sat with me, whether physically or virtually, have brought me both comfort and hope. Hope that if they are surviving this, perhaps I will too. This is an astounding gift that has come out of great pain. I’ve had the honor of offering the comfort I’ve been given to those walking through similar losses.
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The Gift of Love
Oh, how our hearts expand in exponential ways when we experience the death of a loved one, and especially our child. It’s also perhaps the most difficult gift to receive and give away. To spend our love on someone other than the child we reserved that love for is a difficult task for a bereaved mother or father. But if we’re willing to allow the love that parenthood has awakened in our souls to pour forth into those around us, it may multiply in unexpected ways.
It may not be your child who receives it, and it may trigger afresh the longings to give that love to the child you lost. But it may also be a healing piece of your grieving process. The legacy of your child may carry on as you take the love they gave you and give it to another.