On Friday I received a text from my sister, Pam, The Almighty. My mom’s been placed on hospice care, diagnosed with end-stage Alzheimer’s. A year ago, Mom was driving her car and enjoying her life…. Wow.
(But God doesn’t.)
The day after I received that text, I read Reflections from a Mother’s Heart—the book that my mom filled out for me 15 years ago—the year Logan was born. I gave the book to her so I could learn more about her and have her stories to pass down to Logan. She wrote her answers to the questions and prompts—usually briefly—to tell me some of her Life Story. At the time when she gave the completed book back to me, I was a brand-new mom at the ripe old age of 39, so my focus was on Logan. I read a few of the pages at the time and put the book on the shelf, where it sat and sat and sat. Until Saturday.
When I finally read what she’d written 15 years ago, I learned a lot about my mom. The most important things I learned about her were that she loves God and experienced him in her life, so I know she’ll be going to heaven soon. I wish I’d known these things all along. I wish she’d talked to me about God and Jesus. Taking me to church wasn’t enough. I needed to hear her stories all along. I needed to hear her voice say the name of Jesus.
The most important things
On one of the Reflections… pages, the prompt asked about the most important lessons you’ve learned in life. She listed six things. They were all really good, important things. The first thing on her list was “Trust in God—He never changes.” My list would be very similar. The problem is that she didn’t teach me any of these Most Important Things. I had to learn them all for myself—without her wisdom, her guidance, her stories.
Let’s not tap-dance around the elephant in the room. Withholding truth and/or love from your children is neglectful. We unpacked my mom’s emotional neglect in this six-part post.
Telling your children
Peaceful Readers, remember to speak truth and tell your stories to your children—regularly. Fill their lives and their hearts with the good sound of your voice… teaching, sharing, leaving a legacy of truth and love. Tell them that God loves them. Tell them that you love them. Tell them what God has done for you. Tell them what you’re praying for. Tell them how your prayers have been answered. Tell them what you’ve learned. Tell them what God is teaching you. Tell them….
If you asked your children, “What are the most important things to me?”—would they know the answers? Ask them and see what they say. Then fill in the rest and repeat these Most Important Things regularly—out loud—with the good sound of your voice.
The impact of sin on trauma and loss
One key point that can’t be left out of this series is sin—thoughts, actions and non-actions that are contrary to God’s way. All four traumas that I unpacked in this series—abortion, child abuse, child neglect and spousal abuse/divorce—were the direct result of sin—wrong thinking and wrong living. None of these traumas were the result of a birth defect, a flood, a fire, etc. They were premeditated sin. Every single one of them. Plain and simple.
God did not tell my parents or Brandon’s parents to treat us wrong—to abuse or neglect us. Our parents are responsible for that. Our parents are responsible for failing to wake up one day and admit the obvious: “You know what? My way isn’t going so well. I need to ask God what his way is and make some changes.” They kept doing the same old thing and getting the same old results. Abuse. Neglect. Lies. Complacency. Control. Apathy.
Sin conceives and eventually
gives birth to loss and trauma.
As we’re forged by fire—becoming more and more like Jesus—and as we diligently do the work of grieving, we’ll find that these self-inflicted and/or sin-oriented traumas become less and less real in our lives because we’re living God’s way and not our way. Our way leads to trauma, despair and chaos. Our way is death.
God’s way leads to thriving, joy and peace.
His way is life.
To reflect more on this subject—the impact of sin on our lives—listen to this powerful sermon, “Psalm 80: A Prayer for Revival.” Click here and scroll down to this sermon, preached on July 30, 2017.
At the end of part 3 of The Trauma of Perfection, I wrote about The Art of Balancing:
Later in this series, as part of The Season of Grieving, we’ll think about and we’ll process The Art of Balancing. In other words, we can admit these truths: I had a loss or trauma to grieve and I did the work of grieving. Part of The Long Good-bye requires me to look honestly at the whole picture, not just the traumas and difficulties I needed to deal with. What positive impacts were there—directly or indirectly? How did this person impact my life in a very Big Picture kind of way? That is The Art of Balancing, where grieving is concerned. It feels better—it feels right—to say good-bye honestly, to both the good and the bad aspects of that person and that relationship—or non-relationship, as the case may be.
In the last post, I listed the Big Picture impact of my dad on my life when I wrote about my new beginnings in The Endings and Beginnings Exercise. One of the strange things that my dad’s narcissism created in my life is my proofreading ability. I want things to be right (and readable). This compulsion of mine leads me to vocalize enthusiastically when I see a billboard with a typo on it. I might say something like, “Whoa, buddy! Where’s the apostrophe?!” More importantly, I was a professional proofreader for an advertising company for several years before Logan was born. I learned a lot during that job—things that have served me very well ever since. The pressure my dad put on me to be perfect actually developed some strong skills that have truly blessed me. Interesting, huh?
Here’s some more….
My letter of gratitude
You read my anger letter to my dad in this post. Writing the anger letter was extremely therapeutic.
Here’s my Letter of Gratitude to my dad.
(1) I’m thankful that you took us faithfully to church. I learned about God, Jesus and the Bible, enjoyed my friends and activities there and memorized some essential Bible verses, thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Davis, who led our Sunday School classes. I loved the music and the singing. My love for music—especially for music that’s to and about God—was nurtured and blossomed at church. Your faithfulness in my church attendance paved the way for my relationship with God later in life. There’s nothing more important than that. Thank you for taking me to church.
(2) You worked hard to provide for us. We always had a comfortable place to live, clothes, food, toys, music and more. Thank you for the physical security that your hard work provided for us all. We never worried about food, clothes, a bed to sleep in or any of those things. Thank you for providing for me.
(3) You took us on vacation each summer. I liked that. I remember playing at the beach in Florida and playing with our cousins at Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Mississippi—silliness, games, eating watermelon and much more. The long car rides made vacations special. We could feel the sense of going somewhere good. Thank you for taking me on vacations.
(4) You played with us—board games, card games, snowball fights, etc. Thank you for having fun with us. I remember your smile very fondly. Thank you for playing with me.
(5) I remember being bored and fidgety during church sermons when I was a preschooler. You entertained me by drawing cartoon-like animals, like ducks. That was fun. You drew for me and made me smile. I remember looking up at your face and looking down at your hand as you drew the animals. Thank you for drawing for me.
(6) When we were on vacation once, I was running down some stairs at the end of our day at Busch Gardens. I fell down and skinned my knee. You scooped me up in your arms and carried me. I liked having you carry me. I knew that I would be okay. Thank you for carrying me.
(7) I liked listening to your deep, bass voice singing hymns at church. You sang harmony. I liked the way you sounded. Thank you for singing with me.
Thank you for these seven things and for the thousands of things that made these seven things real in my life.
I cried as I wrote about my dad playing with us, and I said out loud to God, “He tried, didn’t he. He tried.” That was quite a revelation to me.
And I am thankful.
Now that I’ve written my Letter of Gratitude to my dad, I can say that balancing out these expressions in a tangible way is very therapeutic, healing and revealing. The Art of Balancing is essential.
Grief exercise good-bye letter
Do you remember the Traumatic Grief post and my interview with Liz Taylor, the counselor and traumatic grief expert? She was amazing. During our interview, she gave me a Grief Exercise Good-bye Letter handout that she uses with her clients. If you have a relationship/loss that needs some resolution, closure and healing, give this exercise a try.
Read all of these instructions before you print out the pdf.
♦ Print out the pdf using the link below.
♦ Fold the paper so you can only see the title or cover the paper with something else.
♦ Uncover only one prompt at a time and write your immediate response to it. These spontaneous responses may surprise you, but they’ll reveal important things to you.
♦ Answer all of the prompts, one at a time.
♦ The last two prompts may not apply to your situation.
Use your answers to these prompts to write your Good-bye Letter to this person. Or use your answers to help you write your anger letter and your Letter of Gratitude. The Art of Balancing—looking honestly at the good and the bad—helps us journey to our destination after a loss or trauma.
Our destination is peace.
Here’s the pdf of the Grief Exercise Good-bye Letter.
My dad is dead. The power of my Letter of Gratitude has nothing to do with giving it to him. Its power is for me. In a similar way, you won’t be giving your Good-bye Letter or your Letter of Gratitude to the person you wrote it to. The letter is for you and The Healing Journey in your life.
Wrapping it up with math
I like it when things add up.
6 Most Important Things written by my mom
+ 1 Truth: Sin’s impact on the traumas in my life
= 7 Things in my Letter of Gratitude to my dad
From grieving to closure and peace
Peaceful Readers, I hope this series has blessed you. I’ve certainly learned a lot and experienced much healing in my own heart and life. Writing this series allowed me to walk down some dark paths and journey out of Trauma Town regarding my childhood. My relationship with my dad is resolved now. And I can walk peacefully with my mom during her last days, knowing and celebrating the truth that she will be with Jesus in heaven soon.
Thank you for reading Choosing Peace
and journeying with me.
Your grieving toolbox
I hope you’ll use the tools from this series, Grieving, to achieve healing in your own life. Remember to share Choosing Peace with your friends and loved ones.
1. Scriptures for this Season—see this post
2. Recommended Support Groups—see this post
3. To-Do List for The Season of Grieving—see this post
4. The Five Myths of Grieving and The Five Truths of Grieving—see this post
5. Healing from Abortion—see this post
6. Writing an Anger Letter—see this post
7. How to Unpack a Trauma or Loss—see this post
8. The Stepping Back Exercise—see this post
9. Divorce: To-Do List for The Season of Grieving—see this post and this post
10. The Doors Exercise—see this post
11. The Endings and Beginnings Exercise—see this post
12. Writing a Letter of Gratitude or the Grief Exercise Good-bye Letter—scroll up
Coming next: Well, it’s definitely Family Time for a while. I’m not sure when the next blog series, Forgiving, will begin. God bless you all….
Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.
Truth from The Word: Psalm 145
Song for Healing: These two songs are Get Up and Dance Songs. Even if you’re still in The Season of Grieving, I hope you’ll appreciate how these songs will characterize you in the days ahead.
This can be your life, spiritually-speaking, if you’re a child of God who loves Jesus as your Lord and Savior.