Grieving Differently

Kerry Tittle

Kerry Tittle

Founder, Refined Family

Kerry Tittle is a mother of 9 children and an 18-year homeschool veteran. She is the founder of Refined Family. Her desire is to honor Christ while comforting others with the comfort she has received from the Lord. 

October is Child Loss Awareness month. Though I never really knew that, when I learned of it I began to read a plethora of articles. I don’t know why. I am certainly not wanting to be reminded of my grief but it was something I understood and could identify with.

The stories were all unique, but there was a common thread: change. Everything changes. The person you were ceases to exist and, yes, a big part of you dies. Marriages change, family dynamics change, friends change, siblings change…..everything about life seems to change. Resistance is definitely futile.

My first experience was in 2000 in the ultrasound room. I had been eagerly awaiting this day for a week. I had four precious daughters and I just knew this was the boy! The ultrasound technician was unusually quiet and asked me to get get dressed and wait in the doctor’s office. That was pretty much all I needed to know.

The next couple of months followed with quiet separation from social life. I didn’t speak much about it because at the time miscarriages seemed more of a medical issue than a human loss. Though hiding behind my externals has always been a bit of the norm for me, my mothers heart could not hide from the deep hurt within. There was something about a miscarriage that was brutal. You grieve so much unknown. You don’t have pictures with a baseball bat and a toothy grin to show others. You don’t know what their personality would have been. Since others couldn’t feel your grief of this mystery person it seems your baby had no real value.

It would be years before I could confidently say that “baby Job’s” value isn’t up for discussion. My baby was created and knitted perfectly even for a short time. He was a tiny reflection of a much bigger and loving Father who has him held safely until the day I can do so myself.

I went home that day and hugged my four little girls. Little did I know that a day would be coming that two of those precious children when be killed right in front of my eyes.

That fateful day came April 27, 2014 when our home in Ferndale, Arkansas took a direct hit from an EF4 tornado. My husband Rob and two of my nine children, Tori and Rebekah, were killed.

Change was instant. Change was constant. Change is still happening.

I went from a person who lived with great intentionality who planned things months in advance to a person who sometimes couldn’t even remember to feed her children. The person reflected in the mirror deeply troubled me. She was a complete stranger and I didn’t like her. Many times I still don’t. A dark shadow loomed over my soul and I have struggled with isolation.

Change is hard for us, but change is really hard for others too. They see a stranger and often want their old friend, spouse, sibling, or whoever back. They try to fix things and can’t. They become frustrated and weary of trying. Sometimes it seems hopeless.

Over the years, I have wrestled with this verse many times:

 

1 Thessalonians 4:13

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.

What does this look like? What does it mean to grieve as one who has hope? Paul is not saying that we won’t grieve. We will grieve when we lose those close to us, just as Jesus did (John 11:35). But we should grieve differently.

What is the basis of that different kind of grieving? It is the hope that we have and that Paul goes on to describe in the following verses: hope of a resurrection to come and a reunion, first with Jesus but also with those who have gone before us. In the Lord, we have not seen our loved ones for the last time. In fact, the amount of time that we have spent with them, whether minutes or decades, is but a vapor compared to the time that remains with them. Our relationships with them have only begun.

And our future time with them will not just be theoretical or “spiritual,” but real and physical. We will be given new physical bodies in the resurrection so we will have the opportunity to touch them and hug them for millennia to come. This separation that we now endure is the only separation we will ever suffer from them. Though it hurts like crazy now, the hurt will only make the reunion all the sweeter.

This is the hope that believers have. This is the hope that we grieve with. And when we grieve and are reminded that there is a hope of a future without this separation, our hearts should turn in worship to the one who endured the pain of loss and separation willingly in order to overcome ours.

Jesus voluntarily chose to endure unimaginable loss when He did not hold onto His place in heaven but made Himself nothing and became obedient to the point of death on a cross (Phil 2:5-8). He faced change that no one else could imagine. He lost his position as the exalted one of Heaven and took, instead, a wooden bed of straw in a stable. And, most crushing of all, he endured the loss of fellowship with His Father, fellowship He had enjoyed perfectly from before time began, when He became sin for us and endured the wrath we deserve.

That was the cost of our redemption, and the cost of our reunion with those we have lost. Let us take our pain of loss and allow it to turn our hearts to thanksgiving and worship of the One who makes it momentary. That is how we grieve with hope.

But, honestly, I’ll have to remind myself of it again tomorrow.

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