One year ago today, my sweet baby boy went to be with Jesus. After four days with our son, he left us on Earth and was immediately in the presence of Jesus. You can read the detailed story here. I woke up today thinking, "I cannot believe it has been a year since I held my son."
One year of loving my son.
One year of missing my son.
One year of hurting.
One year of healing.
One year of crying.
One year of sweet memories.
One year of a giant hole in my shattered heart.
One year of love my heart can't even contain.
One year of asking God why He allowed my son to die.
One year of trusting God with all my heart because I know He is good.
One year ago today, we walked on holy ground. As JJ left earth, Heaven came down into the NICU at Kaiser Sunset to get him. Many people have heard me share about the minutes following JJ’s passing. I sat on a couch in a hospital room, singing about the goodness of God, holding my lifeless son and the presence of God was so thick in the room. I don’t know how else to describe it but to say that I could physically feel the Lord holding me as I held JJ’s body. It was the absolute worst moment of my life and the closest I have ever felt the Lord’s presence. I told Josh in that moment that it was the most at peace I had ever been. At JJ's memorial service, Josh said "I don't think I'll experience Heaven like I did in those moments until I get there." I can attest that the promise is true that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).
I wanted to take a little bit of time today to think back over the past year and observe the process of grief. One of the first books on grief I read was "A Grief Observed" by C.S. Lewis. His raw honesty about his grieving process was so real and soothing to me that I started jotting down my own thoughts on my grief. This isn't all of it and there's more to come at a later time. I apologize if this is a bit scattered. Grief cannot be tied up in a pretty, organized bow. I’ve wanted to have grief all figured out. I wanted to be really good at grieving, but grief is not simple enough to figure out or be good at. We are still very much in the midst of grieving and healing, but a year and actively working on healing does make a difference. It has been difficult to reconcile the hope that I have with the excruciating heartbreak I have experienced, but Jesus has held me close every step of the way.
This morning, Josh and I watched JJ’s memorial service. I was feeling far away from him and I wanted to be reminded of his story first hand. We cried through the entire thing, but it helped me feel so close to my boy. As time has gone on, I feel so much further away from him and it's so hard.
However, watching that video and especially hearing Josh talk, I was reminded of just how desperate and raw those first few weeks were. I really had no idea if I could survive such a gut-wrenching loss. I felt so raw and helpless all of the time. I remember thinking that I knew it would be hard, but I felt like I was thrown into this overwhelming spiral of grief that I would never be able to get out of. There were triggers everywhere. As much as I am glad to be out of that initial shock of it all, being one year out feels way too far away from my son.
When I look back over the past year, I think about a lot of pain and a lot of tears. I also think about a lot of sweet times with my husband and family and friends remembering our boy. When I think back over the past year, I think about a lot of anger and a lot of uncertainty. I often still wonder, “why couldn't JJ be one of those miracle baby stories?” However, over all the moments, good and bad, all I can think is “Great is your faithfulness to me.” Our God is so faithful. He has held us this past year.
A year later, I have not come to terms with it. I don't think it's ok that my son died. I wish with all of my heart that he was still here with us, but there has been some healing. It felt like it took forever for any healing to begin. Tidal waves of grief and tears came so often. I felt so disconnected from everyone and everything around me. At the beginning, I couldn’t even get off the couch to get myself a bowl of cereal. The thought of functioning as a normal human being was so overwhelming.
The healing really began when I stopped being mad at God and that took a while.
I stopped being mad at Him solely because it is really hard to be mad at the one who has literally held you and protected you through the storm.
For healing to begin, I had to let go of my anger. The tidal waves of grief still come, but not as often. To be honest, there were so many times I would force myself to read the Word or listen to worship music because I knew it was what I needed not because I wanted it in that moment.
I’ve learned a lot about prayer. We prayed and prayed for weeks for healing for our son. We had tens of thousands of people praying for a miracle. The miracle we wanted, full healing and survival for JJ, didn’t happen. That made me mad. What was the point of all that praying if it didn’t make a difference? Josh and I went to Europe over Christmas and on the last day, I was watching the sunrise over the tower bridge in London and I was listening to “Awake My Soul” by Hillsong Worship. There’s a line in that song that says “There is a sound that changes things, the sound of His people on their knees” I kept thinking, "but it didn't change things." I thought that over and over until the Lord reminded me: prayers may not have changed the outcome, but they grounded me in the moment, continually pointed me to Jesus and gave me foundation for this entire grief journey. Our foundation through this entire past year has been the hope we have in Jesus and that is because of the hours and hours we spent in prayer. Prayer helped us to surrender in the moment and continually helps us to surrender now. Philippians 4:6-7 says to present our requests to God. But with that, He doesn’t promise the result we are asking for, He promises peace and He lavished His peace on us in those moments following JJ's death.
I think the person I was died the day JJ died and a new version of me was born. This one year old new version of me has experienced real, deep pain. I am fragile and can easily go into a tailspin of worry that this is all going to happen again. But I’ve also begun to experience healing that has only come as a result of knowing and trusting Jesus. This one year old version of me has learned to trust Him more because of who I have seen Him to be. I have more compassion for those who have lost loved ones and more joy because of the deep comfort I have received from my Savior. One of my favorite quotes from a podcast this year sums it up perfectly: “I am weaker than I have ever been before and I see a stronger Jesus than I’ve ever seen before.”
I have had the opportunity to talk to multiple women over the past few months who have had miscarriages recently. It’s hard and heartbreaking, but the fact that God is already using our experiences to bring people closer to Him and help women not feel alone in this is healing for me. My hope is to be able to minister to more women going through these heartbreaking losses in years to come. God continues to remind me that I don't need to be healed in order for him to use me. He can use me and what we have gone through right where we are. I just have to be open and willing to listen and share when opportunities arise.
Thank you, friends and family, for the support over this past year. We have come a long way and we have a very long way to go, until we meet Jesus face-to-face.