20 February 2010

Not as Bad Off as I Thought: Dealing With My Grief

Christians are those who have faith in Christ. We all aspire to possess a faith that is strong and enduring. The reality, however, is that faith is not a constant thing. Our faith wavers between moments of supreme exultation and trying times that push us to the rim of despair. Doubt flashes danger lights at us and threatens our peace. Rare is the saint who has a tranquil spirit in all seasons.

Suffering is one of the most significant challenges to any believer's faith. When pain, grief, persecution, or other forms of suffering strike, we find ourselves caught off guard, confused, and full of questions. Suffering can strain faith to the limits.

These are the opening words of the new revised and expanded edition of R.C. Sproul's Surprised by Suffering that was just reissued in December 2009. I pre-ordered it a bit before it came out, got it, and laid it to the side figuring it would be something I would read soon. Well, this week the time came where I felt I wanted...no...needed to begin reading it.

These two opening paragraphs were an immediate comfort. While they do not reveal any deep spiritual truth, they spoke directly to my heart. For the past nine months since my son's passing, it has been a real emotional roller coaster, as many who have read my blog over this period have seen. Having experienced the death of other family members in the past, some who I was very close to, none were as devastating to my emotional state of mind as having my first born son taken from me. I never expected the death of anyone to affect me in such a way. I had heard so many stories of people losing children, and they are cut me to the bone as I say and thought (though only briefly) of how devastating it would be to be in their shoes. It would send shivers through me, and I would feel very sympathetic, but I guess having never experienced it first-hand, the emotions were but surface level and passing.

I had figured that as with other deaths in my past, particularly the death of my mother to whom I was very close, there would be a time of grieving and tears, but that it would last only for a fairly short time, even though I knew emotions would occasionally flair up as memories came to the surface. Well, this has been so unlike anything I had expected, and so crushing of an inner feeling, that I thought for sure this whole event was shaking, if not shattering, some aspect of my Christian faith.

When I posted the quotes from the early church writings in the post "I Feel Like Such a Gentile", I thought for sure I was of such weak faith to be mourning and feeling so depressed. My emotions and feelings the last nine months have at times quite often made me feel like I was pushed "to the rim of despair" and I was definitely "full of questions" and felt as though my faith was strained "to the limits."

A couple months ago I started taking a nutritional supplement that was something we had Jonathan on. I started taking it to get rid of it without wasting it. My wife said it would be good for me anything, so no hard in taking it. Plus, part of the "side effects" of it was it tended to be a mood enhancer of sorts for some people. I have taken it for a couple months, not real sure if it was affecting my mood in anyway...until this past week.

About two weeks ago I ran out of this supplement, and thought it no big deal. It took us until a couple days ago to get back out to the vitamin store to resupply that and other things I was out of. Well, the first week was no big deal, I did not even give it any thought (I was never sure if they really did anything to begin with). However, this past week, I noticed some things that had been absent for the past couple months. Involuntary and instant feelings of inner pain and grief would descend upon me at various times during the day. Little things would easily set me off and it would feel like a giant inner weight would drop on my chest. Memories would pop in all of a sudden and trigger these feelings, and they were becoming more frequent and common as the week went on.

At first I was telling myself it was just my mind "thinking" since I was off the supplement that I was having these feelings, and that having the feelings was causing me to have more feelings. I don't know, was I putting these things in my mind, and causing my mind to play tricks on me more and more frequently, or was the absence of the supplements to blame.

Well, I have been back on the supplements now for three days, and have not had any of those feelings flair up in the past two days. The same little things that days earlier had caused an instant breakdown, were no longer doing so. The constant memories popping up and causing issue were no longer doing so. Coincidence or supplement assistance? I hate the thought that perhaps I am somehow now "medicated" but if it really is helping, I am thankful.

I will say that even while "medicated" some scenarios still break through strong enough to cause a short term breakdown. The one event that seems to be the worst, is coming home late at night from one of my cover band gigs (like last night). As the garage opens and I begin the unloading process, I am taken back to that night.

It was about 3 A.M. as I returned from my gig that early morning of May 17th, and my wife, who had been sleeping beside Jonathan on the love seat, heard me open the garage door and came out to meet me. She told me of his restful sleeping, his almost rolling off the couch once and how he was overall doing well on the oxygen that they put him on earlier in the day. After she assisted me with unloading my drums, we went in and checked on him. He was sleeping peacefully as I looked down upon him lying there. I was tempted to get him up to move him to his bed instead of the couch, but since that would require moving the oxygen system too, I decided to leave him be. I reached down and touched his hand, which caused him to kind of twitch his head. That was the last time I gazed down upon him alive before we discovered him lifeless in the same position a mere three hours later. So, my 3 A.M. unloading job seems barely effected by the supplements.

I usually look to the sky through the tears, speak a quick "thank you" up to God for everything being so peaceful in the way it all transpired, and I usually speak out to Jonathan - telling him I am so sorry for letting him down, and how much I miss and love him, and long to see him again soon.

Anyway, I did not mean to go into this much detail, but just wanted to mainly let everyone know a little about how it is going, and mostly to share the words that gave me encouragement in realizing I am not totally losing it.