My Grief Journey

By Tami Nash
(Taken from a Ladies Class on Helping The Grieving)

Tami & Justin

Tami & Justin 

First, I would like to thank everyone for the interest you have shown in coming today and in your willingness to be a help to others. But most of all we must be thankful to God for all He provides to us and for opportunities such as this to help each other. I would like to read Hebrews 13 : 16. "But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."

I really appreciate all that Donna Hill has done to organize this study. I know she has spent a lot of time and energy getting this together. When Donna first called me and told me about Joyce coming to do a study on grief with the ladies, she asked me if I would have anything to say. And of course, I said yes. She was very kind and she said she did not want to put any pressure on me. I clearly remember telling Donna if God gives me the strength, I will be able to do this. So I say all of that to say, it is because God gives me strength and courage that I am able to do this. It is the only way.

There's so much I would like to say, but I do know we have a time limit and I wanted to do what was most helpful, so Roger suggested I read some of my journal writings. You see since June 1999 I have written 7 journals and now I am working on Journal #8. I believe that reading these journals is the best way that I can help someone understand a little about this journey we call grief. I don't say that to brag about myself but to give God the glory for giving me so much to be thankful for. He sends so many blessings our way and at just the right time when we need it most in many various ways, the song of the bird, the flowers, and through people. We just have to pay attention . He's always there.

I will begin by reading the first journal writing in the very beginning of my grief journey and choose a few to share my heart with you. On May 27, 1999 when Justin left this physical world a part of me went with him. I am forever changed and I really don't have a choice. I have heard it said you can either become better or bitter. And of course, I don't want to become bitter, it is a constant challenge to do the right thing when I don't even know what to do next, or how I will be feeling in the next minute. Grief is a journey no one wants to take, but when it is our turn we must endure it with faith and trust in God. It is the only way. I am so determined to have peace and joy and I know God wants to give it.

Let's read Romans 15:13. "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the holy spirit."

(Read Journal writings)

First Journal writing dated June 14, 1999. (This was only 3 weeks after the wreck)

Justin's physical death has been so hard to accept, although we know he now lives on in a much better place that we can not comprehend. Saying good-bye to him has been the hardest thing I have ever gone through.

I will always remember the wise words of Bill Hall on the night of the tragic accident when I said, "Justin was such a good boy", and Bill in his comforting way said "Justin is still a good boy, he is just living in a different and better place."

I am praying for strength to get through this difficult time and to have the right attitude. I take great comfort in knowing God hears my prayers, and to know so many are praying for us, and truly care for us. Together I know Roger, Bryan, and I will get through this very tough and trying time. God will see us through and He will carry us and lead us along the toilsome way as long as we put Him first and just trust and obey. And through it all we will become better stronger christians with a greater faith and determination to serve God and give God the glory. Now more than ever I am pressing toward the goal and looking forward to going home to Heaven and live eternally.

Through tragedy we learn and trust God. Many lessons are learned through the sad trying times. But do we really grow stronger when all is well and smooth and easy? No, not really.

Ecclesiastes 7: 1-4 "A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one's birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting. For that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."

We miss Justin so very, very much. That cute smile, his quiet ways, his questions, and just his uniqueness and a different way of looking at things. We learned a lot from him, he was a deep thinker and wanted to be sure his faith was his own, he would not blindly follow. What depth and character for a boy of 17. Thank you God for allowing him to be with us in this physical world for those 17 years. We are richly blessed to have Justin as our son.

As my sister, Glenda said, "Justin accomplished more in his short 17 years than many do in a much longer life time." Truly we are blessed!

New Beginnings, The Rose ( written August 8, 1999)

Today was my 41st birthday, a day I was really dreading, mostly because Justin would not be here and be able to give me one of those special unique gifts, that he always chose. But I did receive a most special gift from Justin. Remember the rose bush he gave me for Mother's Day? Well this past week I have been watching it closely, and I noticed it had a bud on it, and I told Roger wouldn't it be wonderful if that rose bud would open up on my birthday. Early this morning before I got ready for church, I went out to check on the rose bud and it had opened into a beautiful, unique rose. A pretty pink one, my favorite flower, a pink rose. What a gift! How comforting! Justin really did give me a gift and what an unusual rose it is. It is small and has 5 petals on it. It seems as though God is saying "I care" and He has special ways of showing us. We are blessed.

Friends and family helped to make my birthday bearable. Lots of phone calls, cards and
gifts and kind words spoken. How comforting it is to know so many people care so much! So, to sum it up, today wasn't so bad after all. The rose from Justin really did something special for me. It gives me hope, that it will get better step by step. I just have to deal with it, and do the best I can in each situation and remember to please God is most important. We just have to hang on and keep the faith and realize we can do this! We really can! We have no choice, if we want to live life to the fullest. We must focus on the positive! I can do it!

Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me."

The Depth of Despair ( written September 7, 1999)

That's how I feel right now! It's terrible, one BIG mess and it is not getting any better. In fact, it is getting worse! I miss Justin more and more each day, I want to see him so bad, I can't stand it. And again I ask why and there are no answers. I have felt so sad again today. 15 weeks ago yesterday, I saw him. 15 weeks is a long, long time when you want to see someone so bad. It hurts so bad. Does anyone really know what it's like? It's different for each person. Roger, Bryan, and I all hurt so much, and each one hurts differently. It just makes me so angry that we have to have such hurt and pain in our lives. We were all so happy, and life was good. And now it is forever changed. And I don't like this change. And we have to have the right attitude???? Sometimes, actually a lot of times, how can we have the right attitude during such tragedy, but as usual, we have no choice. We can't be bitter and resentful. Boy, am I in a bad mood. The depth of despair.

I decided to look up "despair" - to give up all hope or expectation, the state of being without hope, combined with a dread of coming evil, hopelessness, loss of hope in the mercy of God.

Wow, I guess I am not that bad off. I do have hope and I know things will get better, I just don't know when and that is hard. But I have many hopes, so I guess I'm not really in the "depths of despair" after all. What a relief. It just feels pretty desperate at times. I have to be honest, and it's comforting to know God knows and He really cares, even when I sometimes wonder. There are so many hopes.

1. The hope of Heaven and to know Justin won the battle. That's not despair, that's hope.

2. The hope of knowing one day, Roger, Bryan, and I can go to him and we can all live
on in a better place. That's not despair, that's hope.

3. To know we have to do our best in any circumstance or tragedy and hang on tight.
It's hard, but that's hope.

We can do it. From the depth of despair to Hope and Assurance.

2 Corinthians 5: 1-8
For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven,
If indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.
For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.
Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
Therefore, we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.
For we walk by faith, not by sight.
We are confident, yes well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

"All Is Well"

Death is nothing at all,
I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I, and you are you:
Whatever we were to each other, that we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name,
speak to me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference in your tone,
wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect,
without a trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was;
there is absolutely unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near.
Just around the corner.
All is well.

Henry Scott Holland
(1847 - 1918)

This poem was read at the memorial service at Jefferson State for Connie Beddingfield. I keep it in my Bible and I read it often and it gives me so much comfort. We know God sends comfort in many ways.

You know about Justin's rose bush and how special it is and it continues to provide beautiful pink roses. I also have something else that is very special to me. It's a mockingbird. The first time I heard the mockingbird was on Memorial Day 1999 at the cemetery when we said good bye to Justin in this physical world. That day there was a breeze and as we sat there at the cemetery heart broken and numb I heard the happy singing of a bird, it was a most joyous sound on such a sad day. I whispered to Roger, and said, "do you hear that bird?"

As time went on I started noticing at the times when we would be so low and depressed, I would hear a happy bird singing right outside our bedroom window. Later, a friend told us he saw the bird that day at the cemetery and it was a mockingbird. The mockingbird continues to come at the time we need it the most. I find it most comforting it's at times when I am thinking of Justin and missing him so, I hear the song of the mockingbird. I continue to beg God to give me peace, and show me all is well with Justin and so often within minutes I will see or hear the mockingbird in the most unusual places. Indeed God works in mysterious ways to bring us peace and comfort and I believe God sends the mockingbird as a special messenger to help. In fact, Roger has several bird stories too. I would like to share with you a list Justin made when he was 16. I did not find this until several weeks after the funeral and birds had already sang many times to lift us when we were down.

Justin dated this list April 26, 1998

Things I'd like to do before I die ( in no particular order )
1. travel to every continental U.S. state
2. go sky diving
3. become a published cartoonist
4. go to the moon
5. get married and have a family ( but not anytime soon )
6. figure out why I was put here

Things I'd like to do after I die ( in no particular order )

1. have a conversation with God
2. get reincarnated as a bird ( if there's such a thing as reincarnation )
3. figure out why I was put here ( if I don't do it when I'm alive )

Of course, we don't believe in reincarnation, but we do know God sends comfort in any form He chooses. So the next time you hear the mockingbird, please remember Justin and know all is well with him, it really is!

I guess what I am trying to say is: Let's all remember we are spiritual beings and we need to do better at feeling connected to God. To the grieving and to those who are helping the grieving, I say Let God comfort You. Only God can heal our breaking hearts.

Psalm 147:3 tells us "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." God is willing to help us, but we must ask. He wants to give us good gifts.

Luke 11: 9 - 13 "And I say to you , ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, it will be opened . If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"

That is a powerful passage, I am afraid we do not comprehend the greatness of it and the power of God. Do we really trust God? If we do, we need to show it by completely submitting to His will for us. Somehow we have a hard time doing that, we want to do it our way, and it just doesn't work that way. I often wonder how many blessings we miss out on all because we do not ask and we do not look around to see what God is doing. We must have a close relationship with our Heavenly Father and talk to Him often and ask Him for help, and when He constantly cares for us, we need to be thankful and praise God. All we have to do is look to Him and let Him send us messages in the form He chooses.

I think what helps me the most through my journey of grief are the comforts that God continues to send me. I still feel Justin's presence all around me, but most of all, I feel the presence of God.

In closing, I want to read a recent journal writing dated December 27, 2000.

I titled it "Mom, I love you always"

Today is the 27th and it is now 19 months since the horrible wreck, that took Justin from us. But so very often, I feel his presence in extra special ways. I need to write down a few of these things I always want to remember.

Today Bryan and I went shopping at the Galleria in Hoover. Today I parked at J. C. Penney, and we went in that way. We usually did it that way when Justin was along. Now, Bryan and I go in at Sears. Anyway, by J.C. Penney is the Pet Store, The Bean Bag store and the Toy Store and in front of those stores is a nice sitting area with comfortable black couches and chairs. That is where Justin would meet me when we finished our shopping. So today as I walked by that area, I just had to look and see if Justin was there. That is how desperate I am to see him. I suppose in my mind, I'm thinking, "just maybe".

He was on my mind a lot and as I walked along, I stopped at a little shop that had beautiful crystal glassware and the first thing I noticed was a pink rose and it lay on a crystal base and it said, "Mom, I love you always." And again it seemed like Justin was talking to me and sending me a message. I know he's here and all about offering me hope and comfort.

Thanks Justin, I love you always, too!