I’ve said goodbye. Not just once or twice. I’ve lost those I loved as siblings and friends, sons and daughters.
I’ve heard the sterile seal of the Children's Services Office door, cutting me off from my children. Five times, I have turned and walked away, knowing I would never see those children again.
I’ve lost eight kids in the past 3 years.
Every day, I’d stand at my window, and watch the school bus pull up out front. You’d climb down, run across the yard, in the door, and up the stairs. You wouldn’t stop until you were in my arms.
I miss you every day. Every. Single. Day.
Adam’s sin brought evil, suffering, and death, into the world. The promised Messiah has crushed the head of the serpent, giving eternal life to all who believe in him, but, while Christians have a light at the end of the tunnel, and Ecclesiastes tells us that God wants us to enjoy our life as best we can in this fallen world (Ecc 3:12), frankly, there is still a tunnel.
I’m writing this, dear reader, because you’ve lost someone too, or you will. Probably both. Love means goodbye. So, while I know this doesn’t even begin to “make it all better”, here are eight things I have learned from losing eight kids.
Let yourself cry. Let the tears roll down your face and drip off your chin. Wipe your snot on the pillow case. Life is messy. To all the males out there, let me say something. Boys don’t cry, men do.
Talk about it. Talk to God, talk to your friends and family, talk to a counselor if you need to, or talk to me. How you are feeling and coping, memories of them, or whatever else is on your heart, let it out.
You did enough. Don’t ever forget that. We don’t know what is best, either for us or for them. “For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 6:12 ESV) Trust that God knows best, and God would not have taken them away unless your work in their life was done.
Nothing but God can take the pain away. Trust me, I’ve tried. There are many tunnels, but only one has light at the end. Pursue God and his plan, and he can heal you. Anything else is a band-aid at best.
Value the time you have with those you have left. We never want to lose anyone, but if you would regret not having done something with them, then do it. One day, you will have to say goodbye, so live in such a way that you don’t have to fear that day. Don’t procrastinate. Make those memories, and take those pictures. Most of all, cherish every moment, no matter how grueling. Never doubt that relationships are worth the pain.
Use the pain to help others. When someone loses a loved one, you know what they are going through, because you have been there. You can comfort them, teach them, and heal them, better than someone who has never experienced that kind of pain. Don’t shy away. Let God use the lessons you have learned to bring healing to someone else more quickly.
Forgive anyone who took them away. This was the hardest for me. I had to forgive a number of Children’s Services workers who made a choice I felt was not in the best interest of the child, in removing them from our home. Forgive God. Sometimes it’s an easy knee-jerk reaction to become angry with him, and question how a good and loving God could have allowed so much pain. God's existence does not make us entitled to an easy life, instead you and I deserve to die for the wrong we have done. God, out of love, offers forgiveness and life to us, but we have to be careful not to think we somehow deserve more. Whatever your circumstances, if someone took your loved one away, you have to forgive them. You will never heal until you do.
Let. Them. Go. I know you can’t bear to, but hear me out. Letting go does not mean forgetting, and it doesn't mean you won’t miss them. Believe me, I wouldn’t tell you to lose one single drop of their memory. But your life is yours. When they are gone, leave their picture on the wall, but tighten up the chairs at the table. That is, don’t forget them. You can’t do it, and trying will only make it hurt worse. But reframe your life, without them in it. Figure out what your future looks like now. Go ahead and take the opportunities they held you back from. And the scariest, but most healing, thing of all, spend the love you have for them on someone else. It’s what they would have wanted.
God loves you. Your pain does not change his goodness.