After we first lost Harlynn I had a lot of people send me a lot of links to read experiences of other parents who had lost. Some of them were quite helpful and informative. Most of them made me feel like more of a failure. They were written by people who appeared to have it all together, who appeared to rely solely on their faith and who let that quench their grief altogether. As I read their words, I became angry. I felt judged for being completely broken. Not just heartbroken, but every piece of me was completely broken. I couldn't function. I couldn't complete a thought. A sentence. I couldn't do anything, let alone worship. Yet here were these people who seemed to bypass all the ugliness of loss and go straight to the flowers and frills of resting in absolute certainty of joy. I couldn't handle it. I decided I would journal my feelings as I felt them, so I wouldn't ever be able to gloss over the intensity of what I feel, when I feel it. That's not to say I don't believe or feel God's peace, or even joy, but it's a bumpier road for me to get to that point than I was finding along the journey of some of the resources I was presented with. I am a mess. And I need you to understand that.
In my daily Bible reading, I've once again come across the story of Joseph. His brothers sold him to slavery, and presented a blood-soaked cloak to his father so he would believe him as dead. Jacob thought his son was dead. His immediate reaction was one that we might expect, but as I kept reading I came to the realization that God's word spoke to the depths and the length of the grief a bereaved parent experiences.
"Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. "No," he said, "I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave." So his father wept for him."
(Gen 37:34, 35)
Genesis 37:35 said something my heart related to immediately. "I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave." Any validation any bereaved parent is looking for in how this grief will remain with you for the rest of your life is summed up in that verse. We will carry this grief until the day we die. It is and always will be a part of us. Until we join our children in the grave.
And it doesn't stop with grief. Later when the sons told their father they needed to take Joseph's younger brother, Benjamin, to Egypt in order to secure more food for their household during the famine, Jacob displayed the ultimate protective papa bear role.
"But Jacob said, "My son will not go down there with you; his brother is dead and he is the only one left. If harm comes to him on the journey you are taking, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in sorrow."
The reality of losing your child (and it was a reality to Jacob because he didn't know Joseph was alive and well in Egypt) causes you to forever expect the unexpected. Always be prepared for the worst. Worry about any harm coming to any one you hold dear. I would be lying to you if I said losing Harlynn didn't make me even more protective of Haley. If I said I didn't worry about her while she sleeps. If I said I wasn't scared to death of anything and everything during this pregnancy with Little Man. The loss of something, someone, you love and cherish, makes you hold on all that much tighter to others.
Something else in the story really struck me, though. The next chapter has Jacob (reluctantly) agreeing to let Benjamin go with his brothers to Egypt. Jacob makes the following statement:
"And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you.
As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved."
"As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved." So much meaning wrapped up in that small statement. I don't have the fortitude to pick that sentence apart piece by piece and express the many things Jacob was saying in those few words. I will say, though, the power of that statement hit me pretty hard. He was submitting to God's will. To God's provision. To God. I do want to point out - he wasn't "moving on" (a phrase I've come to despise), he wasn't discounting what he had been through and what he feared may happen again. Rather, he was submitting to the author of his faith.
Wow. I don't know about you, but Jacob has just become my brother in a very real, tangible way.
A dear friend who lost her precious daughter passed this clip along to me. It took me a while before I could watch the whole thing. Then when I did, I was a mess. I still can't get through it (and I've watched it dozens of times) without crying. But I want to encourage you to watch until the end. It's so powerful. It's so challenging. It's so ugly and beautiful and true and just out of reach - all in one. The commentary - I can't even speak of it without choking up. Just listen to the words. May they give you some restoration. I can imagine this is how Jacob felt. This is how I feel. Though you slay me, I will praise you. It won't be pretty. But it will be sincere. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.