Soon after Melanie died a friend came by to visit. He brought me a beautiful gratitude journal. It was a very sweet gesture but if I’m honest, I thought it was an odd gift to give someone during this time.
If I had been one of those cartoon characters on television where a “bubble of my thoughts” appeared on top of my head it would have said, “Buddy, don’t you know that my daughter just died! A gratitude journal! Really? Gratitude isn’t exactly at the top of my list right now!” Of course, I didn’t say any of those things. Instead, I graciously thanked him for his thoughtfulness and tucked it away in the back of a drawer a few days later.
Well, it’s been a couple of years since that visit and recently as I was searching for something I found it in the back of my nightstand drawer. I began thumbing through it and saw that it was a lovely book. My friend had such good and kind intentions, but when Melanie first ran ahead to heaven I wasn’t in a place where I could appreciate it.
Seeing that journal was a sweet, gentle reminder about how God has been carrying me through my grief. He’s slowly and tenderly taken me through those early days when life was so very dark, and each day was filled with such heart-wrenching emotions I often couldn’t breathe. He’s brought me to a place where the waves no longer knock me completely off my feet.
As I looked at the journal it reminded me how much I truly have to be grateful for. It’s hard to see gratitude when your heart is shattered by the loss of a loved one. I’m in the middle of walking through my 3rd year without my girl and although I miss her just as much today as I did then, I am finally able to see light shining into the dark places.
When we lose someone we love it takes a long time to get your feet back under you. If you are still in the place on your grief journey where the weight of it all is still so heavy, please let this be an encouragement to you. Eventually life can be good again.
Grief will always be a part of us, but if we allow it, our faith can begin to heal the deepest hurts we have.
As I look in the rearview mirror I can clearly see how it was my faith in God that has seen me through the death of my only daughter.
If I had written in that gratitude journey my faith would have been the first thing I am grateful for. Faith is the first and most important thing that has sustained me. I can now see how God carried me through the valley of the shadow of death. He promised to heal my broken heart, and little by little I can see how the cracks are being filled in with his healing balm. It doesn’t happen all at once or quickly. Healing is day by day.
The second thing I’m most grateful for are my dark alley friends who have helped me through this unbelievable loss. Dark alley friends are the most amazing friends that God gifts us with as they help us through our darkest seasons of life.
Girlfriends, you know who you are, and I want you to know I have so much love and gratitude for you all. Each of you in your own way have held my hand and my heart since that first dreadful day when I heard the words, “your daughter is dead.” The love and care extended to me with meals, early morning and late-night phone calls, texts, and visits is immeasurable. You’ve never made me feel as if I’ve been mourning too long because you know, with child loss there is no time limit. You never made me feel ashamed of my endless tears, outbursts, or repetitious stories of my girl. I will be forever grateful for each of you who prayed with me then and continue to lift me up in prayer today. I love you all.
Seeing that gratitude journal in my nightstand made me stop and realize that although I may not have written in that particular journal, (I have plenty of others I have written in though), it’s been my faith, gratitude and dark alley friends who have gotten me through these hard times. I didn’t know it then, but there was a little seed planted by my friend who gifted me with the gratitude journal and for that I am grateful.
Friends, if you’re struggling right now, sit back and take a moment. Breathe in and out. As the scripture says, “Be still and know I am God.” Let the stillness of the Lord be there with you in this quiet moment. Do you have a dark alley friend who has been walking with you? Have you seen God’s hand of faith lifting you up from the valley of the shadow of death? We may not understand why we find ourselves on this path, but if we wait I believe we will see the goodness of God light up the dark places of our grief.