Rhonda and Jason

Rhonda and Jason
Our Wedding Day

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

grief (life goes on)

So I think I left off with letting go?  Grief is a strange thing.  I've experienced loss before and thought I knew what to expect.  Totally different when it's your child.  My past experiences don't even compare.  I loved my grandpa.  When he died, after years of debilitating strokes and struggle, I cried for a night and was comforted.  When my best friend's little sister, whom I was very close to, passed in an accident, I was lost.  It wasn't real until I was putting on a tie for the first time since childhood to be her pal bearer.  I broke.  I needed comfort, and God granted that.  I moved on.  When my oldest brother died, I found out what rock bottom feels like.  Life lost all meaning in a moment.  The night he died, fearing he may have been separated from the Lord, I prayed for God to "somehow, someday, show me a sign that Jimmy is alright and with you."  I knew He would answer.  I had seen my brother accept Christ and knew his heart, but I needed my heavenly Father to show me.  I assumed as I said my prayer , that day was far off.  I was wrong.  At that moment the entire room was filled with what I call "flaming tongues" for lack of a better term.  In the bible in the book of Acts there is a description used to depict what happened when a group received the Holy Spirit Acts 2:3 says:
And there appeared unto them separated tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
The room was filled.  I rubbed my eyes.  Still there.  I closed the blinds on the window.  Still there.  I turned on the light.  Still there.  I fell to my knees and worshiped.  Reassurance for certain, but only the beginning of grief.  I knew losing my brother would not compare with prior experience.  I just didn't realize the sheer terror of waking up to the reality of it freshly moment by moment.  Day by day.  Month to month and year to year.  I didn't know something could hurt so badly that it grew and blotted out everything else.  I read through the bible twice in 3 months.  The Word of God lived before me.  It was the only thing that had meaning; truth that lives in all generations.  So remarkable to see something written thousands of years ago that can literally be seen today.  Every sentence holds immense meaning with boundless application.
The first few years marked all the "first" anniversaries.  Holidays, birthdays, trips and mile markers of life without Jimmy.  The tears slowed and eventually reached the point of rarity.
I thought I knew what to expect if we lost Esther.  Most writing on grief, loss and mourning talks of a time of "numbness".  I never had that with Jimmy.  My dad, brother and I planned on taking it head on.  No avoiding, no running.  That wasn't Jimmy's style and we weren't about to dishonor his life with that kind of behavior.
I now know numbness.  It sounds so harmless.  It sucks!  I love my daughter and don't know why I am not completely crushed and useless.  Its selfish of me, but I want to wallow a little.  It just doesn't seem to be God's way with Esther.  Instead I am reminded that even meeting her was a miracle.  Hearing those two small cries as she was born.  Holding her hand telling her "Esther your papa's here. I'm right here honey.  Its OK.  Your so strong and your papa's so proud of you."  20 days!  She died the day after she was born on the machine that was meant to keep her alive.  20 days!  I would love to wallow, but can't help but rejoice.
I know I said I was angry when the doctors gave us the horrible news, but I need to clarify.  I was not angry at God.  I was angry at the situation; if that makes any cense.  I was angry because I didn't want to have that responsibility of deciding my daughter's fate.
Now I did have a moment of anger in the following days after hearing about other babies that were doing well.  I wasn't mad that they were doing well, I just didn't want to hear someone else's good news.  It had no value to me.
It didn't last though.  I can't stand being mad.  It is just such a waste of time, and makes me feel sick.  There is, after all, too much to be thankful for.  Now just like at children's hospital, the first few weeks were most painful at night falling asleep and after waking up first thing in the morning.  Other than that, I felt alarmingly well.  Numbness.  Sure there were moments throughout the day, but they were rare.
I guess I expected to be so broken I couldn't function.  Unable to get up or complete simple tasks because of the unbearable sadness.  Rhonda, experiencing much the same situation, brought up how we had just spent several months preparing for this possibility.  We reasoned that for 20days we were on the most intense emotional ride of our lives in the NICU.  I know sometimes scripture quotes can be cliche, but it really is a "peace that defies understanding".
Now Rhonda likes to follow blogs and a group of moms that have lost their babies, and we apparently don't fit the norm.  A lot of people hurt so badly they are suicidal.  85% of marriages end when they lose a child.  I don't find those stories amusing or simple.  People's hurt is intense.
Without Christ, without Rhonda I don't know what my life would look like.
Starting back to work was also a shocker.  When I lost my brother I found a job that required the least amount of thinking possible.  No responsibility for the guy who can't keep it together for more than a few moments at a time.  Nursing does not possess any of those convenient traits.  That said, the job has not been easier.  It is just that being away from my wife, having the potential of a loss of control, has been hard.  Days have been darker.  While at work the first few weeks, I missed Esther more than ever.  Although there are places to slip away and have a moment I am fearful of what might happen if I allow the "dam" to break at work.  How I could continue through the day after losing it and just slip back into the flow with a snotty nose and red eyes.  How I would have to explain to patients, doctors, coworkers.
Thankfully that is easing.  Since Esther's funeral, memorial day and other "big days", the numbness is slowly fading.  I have had several blowouts and it is soul shaking.  I am glad just to know it is there and I'm not fearful of the reality.  I see God's beauty and grace all around me.  I assume this is only the beginning of our mourning and grief.  That's alright.  Esther is worth every tear, cry, sob, and groan.  All grief is individual and personal.  No one knows yours.  Just as you can know no one else's.  We may experience similar things but at different times and for different periods.
  For far to many CDH parents, this is the rest of the story.  Life does go on whether we are ready of not.  Trust in the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body, soul and strength.  Everything else is just a waste of time.
to be continued.........


  1. Thank you, Jason, for sharing your grief with us. I am crying for the raw humanity and insight of your words, and for the beauty of your faith. Once again you - and Rhonda and Esther - have touched my heart.
    Mama to Samuel, www.samuelslight.blogspot.com

  2. Amazing! Thank you for your beautiful writing and God's beautiful story!

    Kim Howell

  3. I can't begin to know your pain and grief, but I can empathize with what you are experiencing. Grief doesn't always follow a straight line - it's common to "bounce around". You begin to think you have a handle on it, and "BAM!"-you're back at a place you thought you'd already passed through.

    My grandparents lost a child when he was four from a very sudden illness. They have talked about the numbers of couples who divorce after they lose a child. My grandparents believe their faith carried them through. Their faith, and the understanding that they each needed to grieve in their own way. They were able to lean on one another as well as give one another space.

    My prayers for the two of you, as well as Esther, continue.

  4. I'm glad and sad for you that the numbness is starting to fad. Glad because it is part of your healing journey, sad because the pain can seem excruciating at times, and I hate that you have to go through that. Continue holding on tight to Christ and also one another. You are continually in my thoughts and prayers.


  5. You have an incredible story that shares your faith. We are going through a trial of our own--not death, but one that has its own losses and reading your story has brought me encouragement. It is so easy to become angry and question why God allowed this to happen. Your perspective is refreshing and an encouragement to me. You will be in our prayers as you continue down this road of loss and grief. And again, thank you for sharing your story and being so personable.
    Blessings, Lisa

  6. Dear Jason (always Pappa when I think of you), Rhonda, family & All who post, you are an inspiration to me & continue to pray for all without ceasing in God's beloved family ... I am so blessed to no longer ask the question "Why" but "God, What do you want me to do with this?" Through Your Perfect understanding I am able to do all things & receive & share in Your joy - Complete trust in "You can trust an Unknown future to a Known God - He is Omnipresence - The great I AM - Praying this blessed assurance for all. Thank you for having the courage to leave nothing out; to speak of the unimaginable pain of ask to make that decision - praying that it will ease someone journey as they face any decision or trial that they think no one else could understand - Always, Jason, Thank you for all the gifts you give to us - for me pictures & music speak a whole another language - You, Rhonda & Esther are "Unique, Unrepeatable, Miracles of God" & Love - Upper Room sister in Christ, Kate

  7. Dear Brother Jason & Sister Rhonda, I am so blessed to have this living testimony to Him. I'm presently sitting in the ER of Durham Regional an off-campus Duke Hosp. extension- praying that All are in His will for my daughter, Christine, to receive what God has planned for her - Thank you, from top of head to bottom of feet for the knowledge of where I could go for inspiritation - again Thank you for sharing the music & you'll never know until we can meet face to face how much "Oh, How He loves us" has become my "rope" in all things - Praying without ceasing for Precious Esther's Pappa & Mommy & their love ones - as we "Rest in the Lord!" I love you, Papa!!!

  8. Your honesty will be a valuable example to others who walk a similar path. It's so good to hear that your faith is helping you through these moments.