Thursday, February 28, 2013

What Are You Feeling?

To help you express your emotions and share your story with others, it will be helpful to identify and define what you have lost and how you feel about it. Follow these steps:
1. Identify your loss. What did you lose? This seemed so obvious to me when I first went to write my response to this post...I lost my son, twin brother to my youngest child.  But then I realized that I lost so much more.  I lost my naivety about pregnancy, I lost my innocence.  I lost friends.  I lost the respect of some people (thankfully I gained it by many, many more people)...I guess I lost a big piece of myself. 
2. Determine your specific feelings about that loss. Initially I felt intense sadness and much confusion.  I just didn't. understand if I wasn't meant to bring two babies home from the hospital then why did I get pregnant with twins in the first place.  I felt guilty for not being overjoyed at the news that I was having twins.  And then I felt angry and bitter.  Those feelings came later, after the boys were born.  They tied into the loss of friends and respect.  I was so angry that the life I knew was gone, that people couldn't understand the new me, that people would judge me...but most of all I felt angry that this was my life...that I was to be the mom of an angel twin. 
3. Tell someone: "I'm feeling —— because of this loss." I didn't do well at expressing some of this but I think I shared bits and pieces of it with others and never kept it inside for too long.  Unfortunately the people I told were somtimes very unsure how to react and sometimes were judgemental.  Loss of a child, especially in a still birth situation, is such a hard thing for people to know how to react to...what to say, what not to say.  Validation for the loss was so important from everyone for me and I didn't get that from some people....I still don't from some people.

Dr. H. Norman Wright says, "What you need is more public affirmation and recognition of the fact that what you went through is a very legitimate loss, and you need to have grieving opportunities for that." 
I never wanted people to have to go through the pain that I went through but part of me will always wish I could put them in my shoes so they might be able to understand and would then recognize my loss as significant, recognize Cole's life as significant.  I think in time that has I could show how Cole inspired change in me and inspired me to do things for others, to fundraise, to raise awareness....I think as those things became more apparent then my loss was more validated.

Identifying your losses and your feelings is an important step to take at the personal level, but it is also important to share these feelings with another person and receive his or her affirmation.
I have an online friend, one of the very first who I met in the TTTS world, who lost her son about 18 months before I lost Cole.  She has never been public in her loss, she doesn't say much outside of the TTTS world about him, she rarely speaks his name.  She is still grieving so badly and finds it so hard to move forward.
I, on the other hand, needed to learn to stop talking about it at times...maybe I still do.  I don't pick up on cues that others don't want to hear me talk about it...actually I don't really care.  Why?  Because I feel I am honoring my son's memory by mentioning him and by sharing what he has inpsired me to do.  Obviously I had not been inspired to do much in the first few months but even then, by sharing Cole and our journey with others I think I helped myself move on and find acceptance.  I didn't hide my emotions, I didn't hide my son. 

"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God" (Romans 15:7)

Righteous God, thank you so much for helping me to understand what I was feeling, and finding those with whom  I could share my feelings? Continue to make this clear to me, and give me the courage to follow through. Help me to be that person for others, the person that they can share with.  Help me to help them.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sudden Loss and God's Grace

Dr. H. Norman Wright says, "Sudden death is a shock to the system. It can often plunge a person into a crisis state. It's the suddenness of it that's just overwhelming. You don't have the resources. It stops you from your walk through life." 
Most of the families that I deal with, most that I have so much in common with, were shocked by the death of their child.  Some had a bit of warning but we had none.  It was like being hit by a train.  We went from a blissfully happy twin pregnancy with no signs of any concerns to a life threatening diagnosis, surgery for treatment, loss and another life threatening diagnosis all within 48 hours.  It was completely overwhelming and I really didn't know where to turn. 
The sovereign Lord will remain by your side and will keep you from being destroyed by your emotions and circumstances. Claim His words in the Bible, and stand on the truth of His promises, regardless of what you feel and see. Cling to God with all you have. He will preserve your life. 

I wish I knew then what I know now but then again I wouldn't be who I am now if it hadn't taken me the time it did to turn to Christ. 

In the following verse Paul said he felt great pressure and confusion, but God set a limit as to how far this would go:

2 Corinthians 4 : 1, 8-9, 16-18

1 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

When you need God's grace the most, God will bless you with a special, dynamic grace to get you through. 

Elisabeth Elliot experienced the deaths of her first two husbands. She says, "I think that the reason I did not cry at Jim or Ad's funeral was because God gives grace to help in time of need. Everybody else at those funeral services was just dissolved in tears. I can honestly say that I really did not feel like crying; I was just so swept away with the glory of the fact that my husbands were with the Lord. 
Sometimes those of deep faith are so filled with grace and can actually celebrate death and loss.  They don't dissolve in tears because they are so filled with peace knowing that their loved one is with God.  I don't know that this is the case with many when the loss comes as a shock.  So often in those situations if you don't see the tears and devastation it's because everyone is just in shock.  I sometimes think that is God's way of protecting us and our 'dignity' for lack of a better term.  He knows that we will need time to absorb what has happened and so he gives us a form of grace to cope with what has happened.

"I think God gives special grace at times like these to people who need it the most." 

As a Christian, God's grace protects you and sustains you in so many ways, even when you are not aware of it. Humans are limited in perception and understanding, but God's grace is infinite. Believe that God's grace is being poured out for you today, and if you need specific grace, ask Him for it. Through Jesus, you can find something to rejoice about in suffering.

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance" (Romans 5:1--3).
This scripture quoted by the Grief Share devotion folks reminds me of my favourite scripture...

James 1

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Savior of my life, I have said it time and time again, someitmes the pressure seems unbearable, but it has not crushed me and I do not believe it will crush others who turn to you.  Sometimes, even now, so many years after our loss, I am utterly confused and overwhelmed, but I have not given up, I will not give up.
I have been forcefully struck down, but I am not destroyed.  I believe that You have given me a special grace to help me through the hardest times. I will stand on Your promises even when I cannot see You or feel You. Amen

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Third Principle of the Journey: Be Involved

"Don't imagine that you're gonna tough this out and make it all by yourself," says Dr. Jim Conway.
I don't think I ever thought that but I also never saw myself as 'needing' anyone for grief either if that makes sense.  I needed distraction, I needed company, I needed help with the older boys but I never thought I needed someone to share everything with...I mean I shared it with EVERYONE didn't I....
Do you have a person with whom you can share your innermost feelings about your loss? Take action to find someone. Often it is helpful to find someone who has experienced a loss similar to your own.
And this I now realize is something I didn't do.  I didn't have anyone I shared EVERYTHING with.  I told bits and pieces to different people but no one heard my innermost fears, feelings, emotions and thoughts.  I would share abit with one person but if their response wasn't what I needed or wanted to hear then I shut down and stopped talking or spent forever trying to 'swing them' to my way of thinking....when no one but me could really think this about this situation...because I was and am the only one who carried Cole Edward Ryan Tummers. 
Pray first that God will direct you. Then make a list of family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers with whom you might share. Pick up the phone and plan a time to meet and talk. You might also call your local church and explain that you just need someone to talk to about your situation. Another idea is to find a grief support group where you can share, ventilate, talk, and find support from others who can truly relate.1
I really encourage you to do this.  Having more then one person is ok but try to share the deepest parts of you, with your grief, with someone. 
There was a man all alone;
    he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil,
    yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked,
    “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
This too is meaningless—
    a miserable business!

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
 (Ecclesiastes 4:8-12).

Lord, direct us to the person You want us to have as a friend and confidant during this time of grief. Help us to confide and hold nothing back so that we may feel supported and so that our loss may be validated. Amen.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Second Principle of the Journey: Be Expressive

Express your tears and your pain. In order to move on, you cannot push down and pocket your emotions; they must be fully communicated for you to heal.

"Everyone cries," says Dr. H. Norman Wright. "Everyone sheds tears. Some people do it on the outside, but some are only capable of doing it on the inside. From a health perspective, the shedding of tears is very beneficial to physical well-being. 
Well this is reassuring to me... I know I have shed more tears in my life then I thought possible and I have certainly shed more tears in the last 4 years, 2 months and 11 days then I ever knew a person could.  I have always been someone who could cry but had never really given it much thought as to how healing it could be.
"The people who are unable or haven't developed the capacity to cry are carrying a heavier load of emotion that can actually contribute to some physical difficulties. I don't think you should ever apologize for your tears because you never apologize for something that is a gift from God." 
It is amazing how hard it is NOT to apologize for tears. I do it all the time.  Ironically though I NEVER do it when I am moved to tears by something God has put on my heart...most often by worship music or sermons that move me.  God has given me those tears for an even more valuable reason I think.... to know that he is sending me a message from him, that he is walking very closely with me at that moment.
Pull out your emotions. Face the pain head-on. Mourn loudly. Weep bitterly. Be set free.

When Peter realized he had disowned Jesus three times, he "went outside and wept bitterly" (Luke 22:62). When Stephen, the first Christian martyr, died, devout men "made loud lamentation over him" (Acts 8:2 NASB). 

2 Samuel 18:33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Lamentations 3:48-49 Streams of tears flow from my eyes because my people are destroyed. My eyes will flow unceasingly, without relief

Holy God,Sometimes we become so adept at pushing down our emotions that we don't know how to pull them up.  We know that must, that in order to move ahead we need to release those emotions that are caged up inside of us. We need to be confident in those emotions, comfortable in the gifts from you that they are and stop hiding them from others. Give us the opportunity and the courage to let our emotions pour out freely. Amen.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The book of John

As I said in my last post...the book of John is often said to be very key to understanding for those new to Christ.  Here are just some highlights that really spoke to me....

John 3

There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again,[a] you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.[b] Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.[c]So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You[d] must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

 13 No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man[e] has come down from heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.[f]
16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.[g]

John 4

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” 25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

John 5

19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

John 6

26  “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me,but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.

53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent meand I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

John 7

Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. 17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. 18 Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.

28 Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29 but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.”

33 Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me.34 You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”
35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36 What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”[c] 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

John 8

 “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
13 The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”
14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”
19 Then they asked him, “Where is your father?”
“You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”
25 “Who are you?” they asked.
“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”
27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up[a] the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.

31 Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

There is so much more I could share here...and I might later but for now I simply say...

Lord Jesus, I want to be set free. Amen.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The First Principle of the Journey: Be Honest

Do you embrace honesty as a foundational principle in your life? 

If yes, then honestly evaluate your emotions right now. What emotions and struggles have you experienced from the first moment of your grief until now, including those you have not admitted to others? Be honest with yourself and with other people.
For a great many months the strongest emotion I think I felt that just didn't fit with grief in my mind was guilt.  I blogged a lot about it in start of my first blog... here and here. I lived with feelings of 'if only I had been overjoyed when I found out I was expecting twins', 'if only I had read more about the risks', 'if only I had more confidence in myself as the mom of twins or in us as parents able to financially care for twins'.  If only...if only.  Yeah, it got me NO WHERE!!!
The second greatest emotion I felt was confusion...which was tied to guilt to.  I didn't know how to feel because I hadn't been overjoyed about twins so maybe this was for the better. (oh, so guilt producing).  I was confused because I didn't know how to miss the son I had never met.  I was confused because I didn't really even understand what had happened and couldn't fathom why.

"When you are suffering, you may sometimes tend to withdraw, pull back, and pull away," says Anne Graham Lotz. "I do think there is a time for that, and each day you should spend time alone with the Lord. But don't forsake other people, because other people can give you comfort and encouragement and help you keep your focus. Sometimes you can get so preoccupied with the problem that it consumes you. Other people can help give you a balance."
There was a mountain of emotions and feelings that came out in the months and years of healing.  Shame at times at how I was dealing with it, the amount that I focused on loss in conversation and how much I didn't want to let it go as I wanted no one to forget we'd gone through this, no one to forget our son.  I felt loneliness and separation from my friends.  I was angry at times...not so much at the loss of Cole and of our 'twin dreams'/loss of Cameron's twin connection.... but more at the change my life had taken and how hard it was to deal with, how hard it was to find my way back to some sort of life.  I was fearful of what else could happen, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  And I was exhausted...mentally, emotionally and physically....for months and months and months.

God wants you to be truthful with yourself and with other people. He wants to free you from the debilitating effects of withdrawing and hiding your emotions. Jesus says in the book of John that "the truth will set you free." Read the book of John to learn more about Jesus' teaching, His truth, and true freedom.

John 1

In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
    and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,[a]
    and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness can never extinguish it.[b]

18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God,[g] is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.

The book of John is one of the first books I was told to read when I was born again in Christ.  I have read excerpts but it was not until I did this devotion that I actually read the book chapter for chapter.  Please read my next blog entry for some of the verses I find key to understanding who Christ was, what He did while he was here...what he is to us.