You might think this story begins with death, but like most stories, it unfolds from a place of love. Grief, after all is an outpouring of our deep love.
Losing a child isn’t the natural order of things, and I certainly never expected to bury one of my children. When my son, Stuart, died by suicide on a regular Tuesday morning in 2014, nothing could have shocked me more. Suicide was never on my radar. Handsome, successful, and totally in love with his two precious daughters, his suicide left me broken-hearted and full of questions.
My love for my son is so deep that living without him seemed like not only an insurmountable feat but a heart-wrenching one as well. Grief twisted me tightly and then wrung me out—leaving me depleted and empty. Because I had no other choice, I went through the motions of daily activities, but I was hollow inside.
Many days found me unable to move, to function, to get out of bed. I was fragile—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, Words and prayers wouldn’t come, they lodged in my throat and nearly suffocated me. I started believing the lie that my faith must be weak for me to be this broken, and I sank lower in despair.
Grief is lonely. It’s a solitary journey, even when others are grieving the same loss. And while a little seclusion while grieving is fine, common sense tells us that complete isolation will leave us utterly alone. Unfortunately, I chose isolation as a means to get through each day. It was the opposite of what I needed. Before long, I felt unseen, unloved, and unlovable. I was heading down a rocky path.
A few weeks after Stuart’s death, I struggled to keep a promise to a friend by meeting her for ice cream. A terrible migraine threatened to keep me home, but my younger son was looking forward to seeing his friends, so I pushed through. On the drive there, the headache grew much more intense, and I started having trouble breathing. My chest hurt, my heart pounded, and my face and hands became tingly and numb. I was afraid I’d crash the car with my children inside. I quickly turned into the parking lot, thankful to come to a stop. My friend called 9-1-1, and as the paramedics lifted me into the ambulance, I fully believed I was dying.
I’d never experienced a panic attack before, nor did I know anyone who had. The experience was one I’d not wish on my worst enemy. It was debilitating and terrifying, and it felt as if death itself was clutching at my heart. The loss of a child is so profound that it settles in the marrow and flows through the body with a lifeblood of its own causing anxiety, fear, and a multitude of physical symptoms.
Although I recovered quickly, I realized that if I hope to live the life God planned for me; I need the courage that only He can provide. In faith, I still must purposely turn my fear over to Him daily—sometimes many times in one day. God tells us,
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 ESV)
Continually reminding myself of His presence helps me take the next breath.
In the early days after Stuart’s death, I didn’t want to talk to God. I didn’t have much to say—at least nothing good anyway. But eventually my hurt and sorrow drew me to Him. I shouted. I argued. I wailed. I gave Him everything I felt. What I found when I looked up, when I was still and quiet, was God—listening, holding, waiting, and accepting my pain. For the first time in my life, I truly understood lament.
I’m thankful God doesn’t leave us in our distress. He sees us. He is El Roi – the God Who sees me. (Genesis 16: 13-14). As I read through Psalms and encountered Him through the laments of David, I knew He saw me, loved me, and understood me. This gave me the courage to continue my talks with Him, to share my deepest hurts, fears, and sorrows. This lament allowed both my faith to gain strength and my love of God to grow in ways it never had before.
My grief didn’t go away just because my faith was strong. No, things got worse before they got better. Fear gripped me from the moment of my son’s death. If this could happen to him, it could happen to anyone. That reality stung my soul as I worried about my loved ones. My family, steeped in grief, was vulnerable. Adult suicide loss survivors are ten times more likely to consider suicide themselves in the initial months following a loss. The suffering is too much, and you simply want to put an end to it. As Christians, we know that while we grieve, we grieve with Hope.
I am thankful biblical lament truly allowed me the courage I needed to draw closer to God. The lines of communication, open and flowing, allow such a beautiful transition from the wilderness to trusting God in ways that were new to me. Lament brought me to a place of rest, which was what I needed in my sorrow—a quiet place to rest with the God who sees me.
Faith Griffin Sims
More About Faith: Faith Griffin Sims is a mom of six and “Mia” to 17 grandchildren. She writes about grief, suicide loss, and living life with hope. She lives near Atlanta with her husband of 42 years and their two youngest children. You can find here on her website Faith for the Journey or follow her story on social media here https://www.instagram.com/faithgriffinsims/ and https://www.facebook.com/faithgriffinsims.
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