I find myself in yet another season of deep, irrevocable loss.
When I wrote my memoir about finding the fullness of joy through allowing myself to grieve — This Undeserved Life — I could not have foreseen the depths of grief and trauma I still had coming at me. But isn’t that exactly how trauma works? It blindsides us and catches us off guard and knocks us down to our rockiest of bottoms.
Tumultuous. That’s the kind of journey I am experiencing.
Loss, no matter the kind, changes us.
It works into the corners of our souls a sorrow that remains, even if at times we don’t feel it.
In the last two months I have lost life as I knew it. My many identities and roles have been slowly stripped, many relationships forever altered, my hopes and expectations for my future completely dismantled, I lost a child I was going to adopt, I physically lost a car and the home I was sure I’d be in for the next five years.
All seems lost because all is lost.
This statement has forced its way into my head a multitude of times: “Natalie Brenner: where all things come to die,” because that is exactly what the last two months has been. Every piece of the life I knew, dying as I knew it, being touched by loss.
I like to look for all the reasons to be grateful. I like to hold life in both hands: the joy and the sorrow, the deep appreciation and the deep agony, the brokenness and the healing.
Often in the Christian world, when we decide to talk about pain and brokenness and suffering…it is perceived as though we are ungrateful. In my experience, I have found that we are quickly met with someone reminding us that God is with us and that we still have this or that, and that the sun is out. And though these things are true, I would challenge and invite us to sit down and not feel the need to rush to the morning.
We cannot force the morning joy to arrive when it’s two am darkness, and frankly, it doesn’t bring the sufferer closer to healing. It only creates a wedge and isolation.
I know joy will come, and I will make it through the night, but I have learned there is no forcing or willing it. I have spots of joy in and through my day, because that’s real. But I am holding onto knowing that one day there will be another side to this incredibly darkened spot I am in.
The thing about loss and losing life as you know it, is that it is exhausting. Physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally.
And yet, never have I felt closer to Jesus and more sure in who He is in my life than when I am wailing in my bed, because there is no other response to the brokenness.
Even though I am watching everything disintegrate in front of me, my anxiety has skyrocketed, and I am taking anti-depressants in an attempt to bring my baseline up to some sort of normal functioning…I am still able to find places of peace within myself.
Even though life has thrown me out into the deep, with waves rockier than any person should have to live through, I am still able to close my eyes and ask Jesus to show me Himself. I am still able to ask Him to calm the fibers of my body, over and over and over again.
When all seems lost, I think it’s okay to just flat out say that it is all lost. That is simply part of living on this broken earth, and that is why the term “hell on earth” exists. Because sometimes your life falls apart at the seams, unraveling for all to see in humiliating ways, your pain and agony displayed…and you feel like surely God has forsaken you. Hell is without God, and sometimes this life feels so damn godless.
Yet, there are moments I am able to look out over the horizon of years I assume I will live, and I believe there is good on the other side of this shocking, tragic nightmare. I believe there is a type of earth-wholeness and holy healing; I have seen friends walk through this type of Hell on earth and they made it through the depths of darkness. There was and is good for them. If there was good for them, there is good for me. And yes, they still carry grief and sorrow, embedded into their souls, but that’s because they haven’t yet made it to Heaven. It doesn’t remain all dark and all pain forever.
I have found Jesus over and over and over again in this wreckage.
Let me tell you how I’ve seen Him:
I have seen Him in the quiet ways with my Bible and journal.
I have seen Him in support groups.
I have seen Him in the way my business has boosted to support us.
I have seen Him and experienced Him deeply through music.
I have seen Him through my community…. you guys, this last weekend was my weekend to move houses and I had already scheduled 11 photoshoots for Saturday + a session Sunday. I reached out and asked for help and while I worked from 8:45 am to 6 pm Saturday, they moved my entire house from one to another AND SET UP THE NEW HOME. That night, I laid in bed weeping over His goodness despite all the pieces of my life that seem all spread out bare for everyone to see. But also…people are dropping off meals and/or groceries, taking my kids to and from school, having my kids over to play with theirs, checking in on me, sending me coffee… I mean the list of community support is endless and humbling.
I thought I knew it before, but I know these two Truths to my core:
When I am weak and empty and depleted…He is strong and enough and gracious.
When all is lost…He remains. He remains with me and steady, holding Hope for heaven where there is no sorrow or pain or suffering or loss.