Your parent has died (or a friend’s parent that you know). There’s no nice way to say it and sugar coating it or being tactful is just insulting. It’s an ugly, excruciating fact shoved in your face. The thoughts and emotions that come with it aren’t so straightforward. Perhaps you feel overwhelming anger, or sorrow, or absolute disbelief, or complete numbness. Maybe you have millions of swirling sentences and making sense of them right now is inconceivable. In a military family, this reality impacts the remaining family members in all sorts of far-ranging ways.
The undeniable truth is that your mom or dad is dead. And you are devastated. The pain of it could easily swallow you whole. The other undeniable truth that stretches through your entire life, before and after that terrible day, is that the Lord is present and covers you with complete love, protection, compassion, and understanding. Whether you are doubled over with sadness and long for his arms or if you want to spit in his face with indignation, Jesus Christ accepts and receives you and every thought or feeling you have. He welcomes you completely into his love. Keep going to hear more about what the Lord has to say about death, grief, and his unending love for you.
When I was little, my dad gave me everything. Some parents give you money, some parents give you shelter, some give you education—my dad gave me all of these. I was quite a shy child and had difficulty coming out of my shell, but when I was about 6 or 7, my dad started taking me to our local Rec Center. I had found my ‘thing’. I started to become really good at sports and it changed my life. Every Monday and Friday, come rain or shine, my dad would drop me off, pick me up and more often than not, stay and make sure I got the best workout and training possible.
For about 8 years Dad nurtured my talent and I ended up being the best athlete in my high school in three different sports. At about 14 or 15, I got distracted and distant from my family, my dad in particular. I started sneaking out and getting drunk and hanging with friends. My dad was disappointed, absolutely frustrated. He would email me during his deployment or tell mom to tell me something encouraging from him; but I just ignored it and usually left to hang out with my friends or just turned my music up. He wasn’t home to yell at me, so I just did my own thing.
I had such a golden opportunity to pursue sports, and I didn’t deal with the other things that happened in my life as well as I could have, and I blamed my dad. Of course it was no way his fault—not in any way, shape or form, but I basically spent about 2 or 3 years just railing against my dad, blaming him for everything that had not worked out for me as I thought it should. After all, he was in the Army, not my choice, so all of our moving and switching schools was his fault.
In summer 2012 my dad was deployed to Afghanistan. I could barely look my dad in the eye when he left for the airport. There was so much anger, detachment, and at the same time I wanted to go back to those Monday and Fridays at the Rec Center. In August 2012 he died. I can’t believe he isn’t coming back. Sometimes I kinda trick myself and forget he is dead. I think for a few seconds that he’s just deployed, and he’ll be back in a month or two, nagging me about my chores. And now I don’t know whether I can regain my happiness or not. My life (I) am a vacuum.
Since my dad died, I’m not the same. I feel so alone and depressed without him. I’m not okay. He wasn’t only my dad—he was my hero. He was there always reaching out to me, and he’s the one that cared for me the most. And now to know that he’s only a headstone fills me with horrible pain. I want to tell him how much I love him, but I can’t anymore. I’m just sad. Ridiculously sad. There’s no other word for it, and I’m tired of acting like I’m all right, when I’m not. I wish I could hug him and tell him I love him.
The love I feel for my dad is so big—there will never be another human being that has selflessly done so much for me, and it hurts so very, very much that I hurt him so much. I can’t change any of this, and I have to live with it. I know all he wanted was for me to be happy and to live life well. I just wish, constantly, that I could change the way things went and make him come home and make everything okay between us. It’s a hard, hard experience, but I just try to do the best with it that I can. I just try and say to myself that, if I can be half the man in my life that my dad was, and help people half as much as he did, then I can be true to his memory.
(Story compiled from personal accounts posted on ExperienceProject.com)
This psalm is really a prayer—something for you to say when you can’t quite form your own sentences. There are a lot of different situations this applies to but the components are universal. In your grief, understand that God is present and willing to extend his love and peace to you. See how the psalmist expresses doubt, anger, frustration, hopelessness, fear, and many other things and still the Lord remains ready to help. In the end, the psalm turns to praise because, in the midst of great sorrow, there is the joy that Jesus Christ will be constant and will continue to protect, guide, and love us no matter what happens and what emotions we experience. This is a very tangible way to build resilience into your life.
Psalm 13: A Prayer for Help
How much longer will you forget me, Lord? Forever?
How much longer will you hide yourself from me?
How long must I endure trouble?
How long will sorrow fill my heart day and night?
How long will my enemies triumph over me?
Look at me, O Lord my God, and answer me.
Restore my strength; don’t let me die.
Don’t let my enemies say, “We have defeated him.”
Don’t let them gloat over my downfall.
I rely on your constant love;
I will be glad, because you will rescue me.
I will sing to you, O Lord,
because you have been good to me.
- Do you relate to a part or all of the story above? If so, which part(s)?
- What emotions are dominant in your heart right now?
- If guilt and regret are big ones for you, how do you plan to handle and process those emotions?
- Do you believe that asking God for help and comfort right now makes a difference? Is that something that is easy or hard for you to do?
- What sort of situation do you think the psalmist was in when he wrote that prayer to God?
- What did he believe about God? What was he feeling?
- How do you think faith influences your grief and guilt? How resilient do you think you are when you face thee kinds of trials that a military family goes through?
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My pain is overwhelming. The numerous thoughts and feelings I have right now are too much. I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know what I am supposed to be doing. I feel so much right now but I’m also numb. This is too much for me to handle. I can’t do this. I can’t do this alone. I can’t do this without you. Please listen to me. Please see and know all that I’m going through right now and give me the help I need. I’m so lost I don’t even really know what I need right now but please God give me your perfect peace. Keep me firm in your purpose and let me feel your presence here, now, during all of this. I am so heartbroken. I can’t do this. Please help me.