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Surviving a Child’s Suicide

Rick and Kay Warren

Rick and Kay Warren

Mental illness (MI) is once again in the news. Sadly, another mass shooting took place at the hands of someone who apparently suffered from MI. The shootings at the Navy Yard in our nation’s capital rocked the nation. Left us all grieving, stunned, and angry. Why does this keep happening?

Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life” and pastor of Saddleback Church, knows what it’s like to have a child with serious MI. They faced a parent’s worst nightmare: the loss of that child to suicide. In April 2013, Matthew killed himself.

Matthew Warren

Matthew Warren

Last night, Pierce Morgan used his show to interview Rick Warren and his wife about MI and gun violence. The entire hour-long interview sounded like a message from the pulpit. Rick and his wife shared about pain, sorrow, grief. Yet their responses were sprinkled with unshaken faith in God, and words of hope. They spoke of seeing their son once again in heaven. And honestly admitted to nagging unanswered questions.

Here’s a portion of that interview:

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-pastor-rick-warren-talks-about-sons-suicide-20130917,0,3592656.story

Here’s another link:

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/09/15/rick-warrens-slow-walk-back-to-the-spotlight/comment-page-8/

When we’re going through a trial that seems like it could defeat us, it helps to turn to someone who’s experienced it and survived. Rick Warren is one of those people. He had to live what he’d been preaching. Now when he speaks, people can’t say, “That’s easy for you to say.” He’s living proof that God is faithful. Our Father upholds the weary. And comforts the sorrowful.

Spend some time listening from Rick yourself. On his church’s website, he has a series entitled “How to Get Through What You’re Going Through.” Pick one of those that would most meet your current needs. Here’s one:

http://www.saddleback.com/mc/archives/

 

 

 

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Happy Days

Chris and Bobby at Disney World

Chris and Bobby at Disney World

“Happy days.” What does that conjure up in your mind? The Fonze? Carefree times, now gone? A yearning for joy to replace mental illness (MI)?

Does your mind wander back to happier days before MI hit? Or do your senses sabotage your emotions?

One day, I visited our son’s former Christian elementary school. To attend the funeral of a loved one. I cried more AFTER the service ended. It’s because I chose to exit the building through the classroom hallways.

The familiar smell of the building instantly transported me back 25 yrs. Back when Chris was in elementary school. Back when life seemed less complicated. Back when Chris’s eyes sparkled with joy.

Funny how one whiff of a building can flood you with feelings you had forgotten. Like an electric shock, the aroma jolted my thoughts to days when Chris seemed happy-go-lucky. Memories rushed through my mind. Suddenly, I “saw” Chris bouncing into my classroom at the end of the day to share what he’d learned. I “heard” his young voice telling me what he did at recess.

I “heard” him share happy news. “Mom, we’re going to go on a field trip to the science museum. I’ll get to see what a real planetarium looks like. I can’t wait!” Echoes from the past so real they tempted me to look for an apparition.

I had shoved those scenes deep into my memory. Locked them into a trunk stored in the attic of my mind.

Don’t unpack those memories, Vicki. Don’t even consider mentally caressing them for a second. Those times are gone. Love Chris for how he is now. Be grateful for glimmers of Chris’s personality and joy.

I quickly exited the building. Barely making it to my vehicle before violent sobs overtook me. I sat in the car with streams of tears pouring down my cheeks. As painful as it was, I needed that moment of private grief.  I needed those precious reminders of the son I know and love. God ministered to me in that quiet sanctuary.  He gently reminded me that Chris is still there. Locked behind an illness that masks his joy and peace.

Other aromas spark emotion. Reminders of happy days include: ballpark franks, burning leaves, boardwalk fudge, movie popcorn, Thanksgiving turkey, new school supplies, and Grandma’s perfume.

We wonder if we’re making any difference at all in the lives of those around us. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were the fragrance that stirs someone’s heart for Jesus? 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 tell us, “In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.”  (MSG)

Imagine that…through us, God is spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.

Reflect on this sentence:

“God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade.”

Easter lilies remind us of another happy day…of when Jesus washed our sins away. Enjoy “Oh Happy Day.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a37bBm8pXSk

 

Tsunami

tsunami

Which is worse: dealing with unpredictable behaviors, or facing certain devastation? As bad as things seem, they could always be worse.

My heart goes out to moms who have kids with serious mental illness (MI). It’s not possible for me to reach out and hug each of you, so I share Bible verses of comfort.

This devotional is offered as a different form of comfort. I decided to relate a story about a mother who is facing a much greater trial than mine. Her struggles put mine into perspective. Maybe you’ll have a similar response. Or, you might read her story and realize that you’re living a worse nightmare. In that case, this story might take your mind of your situation momentarily. Regardless of your situation, I’m sure you can stand a dose of inspiration…to read about how another mom is able to find joy in the Lord. Even though she faces impending grief.

After church, I ran into a parent of two former students. Her older son, Andrew, recently graduated from high school. I knew he’d been suffering symptoms of a rare progressive neurological disease. Kim gave me an update.

“Andrew’s been diagnosed with a rare disease which is similar to childhood Alzheimer’s. David has also been diagnosed with it.”

That sentence hit me like a bullet.

Please Lord, no! This can’t be happening. Not to a family who loves You so much. Not to Andrew who has such a sweet personality. Not to David who’s only in ninth grade. How will David cope as he watches his future unfold—seeing the disease takes its toll on Andrew first.”

I stood there in shock, choking back tears. Speechless. Unable to move.

My mind swirled with questions.

How can a parent deal with the knowledge that her two sons will die young? It must feel like being strapped to a chair, watching a tsunami approach in slow motion. With nothing to do but think about the impending destruction. Dreams demolished. Emotions obliterated. Unbearable heartache.

Moses faced an impossible situation. An army of chariots quickly closed in. Millions of Israelites complained in fear. The Red Sea blocked an escape.

By faith Moses said, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”  Exodus 14:13-14

Can Moses’ advice help us?

We fight MI. Others deal with the onslaught of an incurable disease, unfair accusations, or an unexpected betrayal. Many wage a battle within of doubt, uncertainty, loneliness, mental exhaustion, or discouragement.

Regardless of our circumstances, we can all find comfort in knowing the Lord will fight for us. Our challenge: to be still before God. And wait in confidence for His deliverance.

By the way, on that day when Kim provided the update, she asked me, “Would you be willing to tell what Andrew was like in second grade? We’re making a documentary for our website. We want to educate people about the disease.”

I agreed. The Lord helped me speak without crying. You can see that documentary on The Andrew Coppola Foundation website.

Are you able to get still before the Lord? How/where/when do you do that?

Maybe Hillsong’s ‘Still’ will help you draw near to Him in stillness:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28ZZgD3Q9sQ

 

Friend

funeralcards
Does it help when people attend the funeral of a loved one? Do sympathy cards make a difference?

My husband and I were comforted by all the people who came to my mother-in-law’s funeral.

It’s amazing how much cards and flowers softened my grief. The prayers and sympathy meant so much. Because of who sent them. Sorrow was soothed by friends who care. Each gesture brought some relief from my hurt.

I reread the sympathy cards and blessings swelled my heart. How I cherish the relationships I have with godly women! Ladies I call friends.

A friend stands by us when times are hard. No words are needed. Just their presence says, “I’m here for you.” Pain dissolves at their gentle touch and warm hug. Shared tears let us know their heart weeps with ours.

Who stands by our children who have mental illness (MI)? Few people want to be around someone who is depressed. Many don’t know how to handle someone else’s anxiety.

A mother’s care is constant. She reaches out to her son when emotional pain engulfs his heart. Sometimes, he welcomes her listening ear. Other times, he recoils at the sight of her open arms. That’s when her teen would prefer a friend. A faithful companion who would console him.

Some individuals with MI are blessed to have a good friend. Others aren’t so fortunate. It’s hard for a mom to watch the isolation and loneliness. It’s difficult to hear some of the unkind names used when people refer to a person with serious MI.

Who will call our children “friend”? Jesus. We can count on Him to see the person, not just the MI.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus called Judas, His betrayer, “friend” (Matthew 26:48-50).

Satan had entered Judas (Luke 22:3). Yet, Christ’s perspective was on the person.

God knows our need for friends.

“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11). Abraham was called God’s friend (James 2:23 and Isaiah 41:8). Christ called His disciples friends (John 15:15. And He expressed His love for us when He said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). He demonstrated that love for us on the cross (1 John 3:16).

We can count on Him to be our child’s true Friend.
Dear Jesus,
Please send godly friends into my son’s life. Thank You for your ultimate expression of friendship when You willingly died for my sin. Praise You for blessing me with women who weep with me. Help me be a faithful friend to those You have placed in my life.

Let the words to this song “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” minister to you.

Help me, God.

kneelingprayer
Last week when our traveling vet came to put our dog down, my husband stayed with our pet to the end. I couldn’t watch.

I went upstairs and began praying for my husband. He would miss our dog, the most favorite pet he ever had. Our beloved cocker spaniel “watched” football with my husband on the recliner. There would be no long ears to pet while at the computer. No helper to prewash the dishes for the dishwasher. No dog to accompany him as Howie brought in the shopping bags.

I couldn’t ease his pain, while mourning our loss myself. No words could spare him the grief. So, I knelt to pray…an unusual position for me since I have multiple sclerosis (MS). I cried out to God.

Later in the day, Howie and I consoled each other. I lovingly said, “When you were with the vet, I got on my knees and prayed for you.”
He playfully replied, “There are two things wrong with that…you have MS and you’re not Catholic.”

Howie knows that many people pray on their knees. He understood the position of my conversation with God meant I spoke from my gut…from the core of my being. His long embrace told me how much that intercessory prayer meant to him.

Deep pain and urgency drives a person to cry out to God. Our human limitations lead to desperation.

Sooner or later, everyone gets desperate. Heartfelt prayers are sent to God. The fox hole prayer of a soldier, the surrendering prayer of an addict, the negotiation prayer of an unfaithful husband, the deathbed prayer of a terminally ill patient…or the pleading petition of a mom.

Mothers nurture and help their children. We’re driven to heal the hurts. But, sometimes those hurts can’t be cured with a band aid or a kiss. Like when a child is distraught or depressed. Or when a son is tormented by anxiety or distorted thoughts.

A mom of a child with serious mental illness (MI) watches such pain. We’d rather take the pain ourselves than have our children suffer. In helplessness, we cry out to God.

When you cry out to God, do you fast? Do you ask the Holy Spirit to pray for you? Do you sob or scream the words?

Hagar’s story encourages those of us who can’t stand to see our kids suffer.

“Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.
When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, ‘I cannot watch the boy die.’ And as she sat there, she began to sob.
God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’
Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.” Genesis 21:14-19

God tells us, “Do not be afraid. I hear your child crying.”
Our heavenly Father can do what we can’t…with greater love and power.

Listen to this song that reminds you He sees each tear that falls and hears when you call out to Him.

In the Shadow of Death

Our Beloved Pet

Our Beloved Pet


Are we ever prepared for the death of a loved one?

On Martin Luther King Day, we had to put down our beloved 13 yr. old cocker spaniel. Three days later, my 93 yr. old mother-in-law, Mary, passed away.

Losing a family member is devastating. Losing two loved ones in the same week is more painful.

Many of us who have a child with serious mental illness (MI) worry about an early death of that child because MI can lead a person to commit suicide.

Our son, Chris, often says, “I won’t kill myself. But if I die, I’ll be in a much better place.”
Each time he repeats those words, I wonder if God is preparing my heart to face the unthinkable: Chris’s life being cut short. How could I face such tragedy?

Christ’s disciples faced the death of their Lord. Such loss. Soon after, He arose from the grave and appeared to them. Such joy! But, then He left them again as He ascended.

Then the disciples did something unexpected. They worshiped Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and praised God.

When our dog died, my first reaction wasn’t joy. When I saw Mary in the hospital after she suffered a massive stroke, my inclination wasn’t to worship and praise God. Sadness flooded my heart. Tears flowed.

How were Jesus’ followers able to praise God when their Master left them? Luke tells us the answer.

“While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.” Luke 24:51-53

They looked to God. They stayed in His presence.

Only there, can we find the same comfort. Remaining in His Word and continuing in prayer.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3
We can have victory over the enemy’s attempt to get us to abandon our faith.

The Bible tells us that we have a cloud of witness (Hebrews 12). Heroes of faith who have gone on before us are cheering us on. Can you hear them speaking to you? They’re telling you, “Trust God. Be patient. He is compassionate and merciful. Keep running your race. You can do it because God is faithful.”

Still, I wonder if I could maintain a trust in God if my son died young. I know the Holy Spirit would comfort me.

That same Comforter helped Job. A man who lost not just one child, but all his children…in addition to his livelihood. Yet, he still praised God.

“Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’” Job 1:20-21

Job wasn’t the only one who lost his business and all his children.
In 1873 Horatio Spafford, a wealthy Chicago lawyer, wrote the words to the favorite hymn “It is Well with My Soul.”

Job and Horatio Spafford were real people. We can have a blessed assurance that God will help us through such grief. We may not understand why God allows suffering. But by faith we too can say, “It is well with my soul.”

Listen to that hymn as you read Horatio Spafford’s remarkable story.