There is something else you should know about me: I struggle with depression that stems from the grief of losing my son. Daniel was six years old when he died on September 11, 2013. He was a special needs child: stemming from an overarching diagnosis of cerebral palsy, he struggled with many things, including quadriplegia (he could move, but not control, his arms, and he was learning to walk with a walker, but was largely wheelchair-bound). He was vocal but non-verbal, he was pure emotion with an incredible depth of love, the hardest worker I have ever met, and he was my mini-me. I wrote this on the three-year anniversary of his death, and it was published by both The Federalist and Michigan In Touch:
Grief makes no sense.
I mean, of course grief makes sense, in that something so precious, so beautiful—something we just took for granted would always be there—was ripped away from us. We are not meant to be torn apart by sin, death and the devil, but we are. We are not whole, and so we grieve when we suffer genuine loss, because we become still less, with even less to hold onto in this fallen world. Another light goes out, and we are left in still more darkness; the world becomes a little less bright. So we cry, we rage, we hide, we shake, we avoid, we indulge, we run, we fight; we do whatever it takes to cope with this pain that is so impossible to cope with.
And therein lies the nonsense. Because we can’t cope with it. We can’t carry it. We can’t live with it. And yet, we can’t escape from it. It rends us, pierces us, impales us, and decapitates us. It rips our heart from our chest, tears out a chunk and then shoves that mortally wounded muscle back into our shattered rib cage.
And then we have to go on living, knowing we will never again be the same. We read books, we talk about it, we hear advice (we are given still more that we don’t hear because we can’t or won’t). We face it head-on, we avoid it at all costs, but none of it helps. Not really, because the one thing we want—the one thing we need—the one thing we can’t live without—can never be again, at least not in this life.
So we go on. Our grief fades with time, but this is not the same as getting “easier” or “better.” In fact, there is cruel irony in this, because the pain that makes it so hard to draw breath is the only real tie we have to what is lost. And as that pain fades, so, it feels, does that tie—which is a betrayal beyond reason.
Why should life get easier? Why should life go on?
Why should I have to learn to live without what I have lost?
And this makes no sense, is incomprehensible, inexplicable. Because grief is not objective or comparable, in any way. You cannot say one’s loss is easier or harder, better or worse than someone else’s, because you have no idea what they’re going through. The flip side of this is that there is no one who can possibly understand what you’re going through.
No one, save God. And because He does know, and because He defeated those great enemies of sin, death and the devil, our grief will one day be over.
Thus, we do not grieve as others who have no hope (ref. 1 Thessalonians 4:13). I believe this, and yet…
And yet, I still grieve. We still grieve. With heads bowed, we grieve. With cheeks dampened by tears, we grieve. With throats tight and chests crushed, we grieve. With silent pain and anguished groans, we grieve. With desperate screams and heavy brows, we grieve—yes, we grieve.
For my son, Daniel, I grieve. My joy, my heart, my passion still evade my grasp since he was taken from me, three years ago. Three years. The cruelty of the passage of time never ceases or eases. Three years makes me feel as though I have no right to hold onto my grief. Three years makes me feel as though I need to move on. But three years without my son is impossibly cruel.
He has been gone half as long as he was alive. While his brother and sister grow; while other families with three children continue to live on together; while other dads get to laugh and play and hug and teach their children … I grieve. Alone. And not alone. But also alone.
You, who grieve: you are not alone. You are, of course, alone. But also not alone.
As I said, grief makes no sense. Thank God, then, that it will one day be wiped away.