A Mother's Mourning

March 25, 2014
By Lisa Catherman 

“If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to 'glorify God and enjoy Him forever.' A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild.” ― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Grief is an unwelcome house guest.  It comes unannounced and at an inopportune time.   It stays longer than anticipated and sucks the life out of you.  My grief is that way.  When my son Titus died in November, I was swimming in the ocean of grief.   (You can read his story here). The frigid waves were gently lapping against my legs, but I was able to stay on my feet.  I think this was in part due to the fact that we were loved and loved well by the people around us.  We were blessed with weeks of meals, visits, flower arrangements, cards, gifts, free chiropractic treatments, a time-share vacation, and the outpouring seemed endless.  Plus, I was just plain busy.  I was busy with the holidays, homeschooling, packing, moving, and remodeling our new house in January.

February brought stillness.  In that stillness, out on the horizon, the monstrous wave of grief blew in and bowled me over.  I was taken off guard and found myself drowning, clinging to whatever I could find, and gasping for breath.  On Valentine’s weekend my husband was gone on a weeklong work trip.  The kids had been sick for the first time in 3 years.   The dog was sick and even dying; we just didn’t know it yet.  I was driving my kids home from a visit to Grandma’s and the frustration and anger I spewed at them was so ugly.  I got home and laid on my bed weeping.   As I questioned my ability to mother, my son rubbed my back and gently encouraged me.  “Mom, I just want you to be happy," he said, "What was your favorite thing we did today?  What can I do for you?”  In that moment, I realized that the wave had knocked me over, unaware.

I spend my sleeping hours grinding my teeth to the point that they've moved.  I endure my waking hours in intense pain from headaches, neck and back pain, face pain, complete exhaustion, and even my plantar fasciitis has flared up.   Emotionally my sorrow is always at the surface.  I could cry or scream at any moment, for any reason.  It may be that pregnant woman I see that sets me off, or even the friend’s new baby.   It may be when I drive by the hospital where Titus was born.  It may be a song or the mementos of Titus’ short life.  It may be a date or milestone that I had expected and hoped to have during my pregnancy.

March 30th was to be my due date.  As I reflect on that day, I had expected a day filled with joy, a day where I’d hold my son, comfort him, bring him to my breast and give him the life within me.  I had expected to bring him home to a nursery and a family anticipating his arrival.  I had expected that I’d see his brothers hold him, playing peek-a-boo.   I expected to see a father wrestle with his young son and teach him to be a man as he grew.  And as C.S. Lewis said in the quote above, my motherhood is written off with Titus.  The expectations I had of this life with him will not happen.   Instead, he has gone to be in the loving embrace of his Father in Heaven and my arms are empty.

I know the truthfulness of God’s Word.  I know his promises.  Life has taken me on many difficult journeys that have rocked me to the core.  As a pastor’s wife, I expected to weather this well.  I think others may have expected that much of me too, but the truth is I’m weak.  I know that apart from God I can do nothing (John 15:5).   And, I can do all this through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).  God is gently reminding me of who he is in this and drawing me closer to him like a hen draws her chicks under her wings. He is reminding me of his faithfulness even when I’m unfaithful (Psalm 36:5).  He is reminding me of his compassion towards me (Psalm 86:15).  He is reminding me that he is unchanging (Hebrews13:8).  He is reminding me of his kindness (Psalm 145:17).  I know I will not be better tomorrow or even the next day, but I also know I will come through this.  I know that one day, God will wipe every tear from my eyes and there will be no more.  In the meantime, I know that my Abba Father, my daddy, will carry me through these waves.  I will cling to my rock that doesn’t move.  His ways are perfect, and I will trust in Him.  I pray that in my sorrow, I can be a witness of God’s love to those around me.

*Photo by flickr.com user, "Little Wild World" is licensed under a creative commons license.