Elana’s dad was a recovering alcoholic. He had been sober for nearly a year and was diligently going to AA meetings, however he was also suffering from a bout of deep depression. Tired of fighting the inner darkness and afraid he would slip up and go back to the bottle, Elana’s father decided to give up the struggle and took his own life.
When Elana came to the Heartlight campus, she was struggling with the pain of losing her father and felt anger at his selfish decision to commit suicide. When I asked her how she felt when she first got the news, she told me “I didn’t feel anything, really. It felt like a movie. I put a smile on at the funeral, but it felt like I was sleepwalking. It wasn’t until a few weeks after my dad’s death that it finally hit me. But I still didn’t want anyone to see how much I was hurting.”
Trying to cope with grief by herself, and seeking a reprieve from the pain, Elana turned to alcohol. Yet getting drunk only numbed the hurt for a little while and Elana quickly realized that a dependence on alcohol was not the solution to her pain. And so this precious young lady came to Heartlight seeking help putting her life back together and finding a healthy way to deal with her pain.
All families will go through hard times. It could be a suicide. It could be a rebellious teenager, a bitter divorce, or a devastating health issue. In difficult times like these, we may try to distract ourselves from the agonizing feelings we have by seeking comfort in unhealthy avenues. But what we really need is the compassion only God can offer. And what I told Elana is what I will share with you.
Whether it’s through death, divorce, or rebellion, people in our lives can leave us. The pain of their abandonment is a wound that will ache for a long time. But as you seek comfort for your child, or for yourself, remember this; God promises never to desert us. In John 14, when Jesus told his disciples that He would be returning to heaven, He promised that the Father would give us the Holy Spirit to help us and be with us forever (John 14:16-17). Where is God when we feel that loss in our lives? He is right there, filling the void and comforting us. Though sometimes it may seem like He is far away, God assures us, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18 NIV).
In the midst of grief, parents often feel under qualified to deal with what has been handed to them. The job of raising a child who is processing heartache is too big. But may I lovingly remind every mom and dad that God has chosen you to be a parent to that specific son or daughter. Your kids are no coincidence or product of happenstance. God placed them with you because He knew you could successfully accomplish the task. When it feels like we don’t have what it takes to even get up in the morning, God is there to whisper, “You have more strength and faith than you think!” Philippians 1:6 says we can be confident in knowing that, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” You have a God-given purpose in the life of your family. And God will supply you with everything you need to fulfill that role.
Emotions are a natural part of being human. But some of us tend to push feelings to the side, hoping that they’ll just go away. Part of experiencing God’s comfort means letting go of the grief that may be bottled up. Maybe that means times of weeping, yelling, or writing thoughts down in a notebook. It’s even okay to be mad. God can take anything you throw at Him. If you’re angry, tell Him about it. If you’re disappointed with God, let Him know. Read through the book of Psalms, and you’ll discover David chronicling his joy, sorrow, anger, and frustration towards the God who is ready to listen. In all those songs, never once did God say, “Don’t say that! I don’t want to hear it!” The Lord encourages us to tell Him what is on our mind. So go ahead and release your emotions to God. As you learn to trust Him with your whole self, He’ll give you His perfect peace.
We were never meant to walk the journey of faith alone. When grief is overwhelming you or your child, take comfort in the support of others. Find a group of people who are going through the same things you are and start talking. Or open up to people in your church and ask them for prayer or advice. God often brings us comfort though the actions of others. Don’t suffer alone. Lean on the support system God has placed in your life.
My friend Gerard recently shared with me the story of how his family dealt with the suicide of his youngest son. Burying your child is something no parent should have to go though. When his son Alex died, Gerard, his wife and their remaining children struggled to make sense of a senseless tragedy. Though there are never clear answers, Gerard came to realize that although we live in a broken world, God came to bring healing. And the Lord can turn our pain into something with purpose.
At the funeral for Alex, Gerard watched as a hundred people heard the gospel message and stood to receive Christ. Though it could never bring back their son, knowing that God could turn their pain into something beautiful brought immense comfort to Gerard and his family.
I don’t know what you’re struggling with right now, but I do know this: The end of the story has already been written, and God will make all things right. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
The situation you find yourself in today may seem unbearable. But don’t give up. Remember that God loves you and will never let you fall. It’s in Him we find lasting comfort to get us through the toughest trials.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, located in Hallsville, Texas. For more information and helpful resources for moms and dads, check out our website. It’s filled with ideas and tools to help you become a more effective parent. Go to www.heartlightministries.org. Or read other helpful articles by Mark, at www.markgregston.com. You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173. Hear the Parenting Today’s Teens broadcast on a radio station near you, or download the podcast at www.parentingtodaysteens.org.