I’m sitting next to my husband in grief counseling, folding and refolding the tissue in my hand as tears drip from my chin. There’s no point in tissues anymore. When tears come this often and this easily, they’re now a part of my wardrobe. I’m not ashamed of them. I wear them on my face just like any other accessory. But just because I’m used to them doesn’t mean I like them. The grief I’m holding is uncomfortable.
“Grieving is like wearing a new pair of shoes that don’t fit right,” my counselor says. “They’re awkward and clunky and give you blisters. And sometimes you just want to throw them across the room.”
In March 2017, my husband and I welcomed our firstborn son into the world. Our joy quickly disappeared when we realized he wasn’t breathing, and after extensive measures to resuscitate him, he never regained a heartbeat. We said hello and good-bye to our sweet Titus all within a matter of minutes.
This last year, in the depths of grief, we’ve been stretched to our limits, but our weakness has taught us to depend on God’s Spirit day by day, minute by minute. We’ve gotten very familiar with what the Bible describes as “groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26 ESV). And we know how meaningful it is to have people in your life who are willing to get uncomfortable and sit in the pain with you.
A couple weeks after our son was born, we ordered a bunch of blue bracelets with his name and Joshua 1:9 on them. At his memorial service we passed them out and people wore them in solidarity to show us they stood with us in our grief and loved our son. Some of our closest friends still wear their “Titus bracelets” today.
What it means to be courageous is something God’s been teaching me through Ty’s life. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that courage is not something I can summon in my own strength. The Bible’s command in Joshua 1:9 to “be strong and courageous” comes with a reason: “for the Lord your God is with you.” Courage and strength come from the presence of God, and praying His presence into our pain has been life changing. God doesn’t promise our circumstances will be what we expect or that our lives will be without pain, but He does promise that He will be with us.
If you have friends who have lost a child, the best advice I can give is to show up. Bring dinner. Pray with them, out loud and often. Pray God’s presence into their pain. Send a note or a text. If you’re thinking about them, tell them. If you’re thinking about their child, tell them. There’s a 100 percent chance they are thinking about their child too. When you acknowledge their loss, they will feel less alone. And when necessary, help them throw those blister- inducing grief shoes across the room and know that in the midst of the uncomfortable, the comfort of our Father shines brightest. Show up because in doing so, you’re mirroring God’s promise that He will always be with them. And that is the beginning of knowing true, Spirit-breathed courage.