A vaccine for grief

A dear grieving mom and special friend, Shauna Caldwell, shares from her personal grief journey in this month’s blog post. The original full-length article, “A vaccine for grief” was published April 2021 at www.MBHerald.com.

The deaths of our seventeen-year-old identical twins sons seemed to parallel their births. Jordan and Evan arrived and departed from this world side-by-side, only moments apart.

After a Friday evening youth group event, eight boys hatched a plan for a late-night “adventure” at Calgary’s Olympic bobsled track. The decision to have some unrestrained fun with friends turned into a deadly tragedy.

As they hurtled down the track on sleds, they did not realize that a death trap awaited them. Halfway down, an immoveable steel barrier instantly took the lives of our sons and critically injured others.

These were the events we pieced together for the coroner on February 6, 2016. Since then, I have attempted to piece together my life.

Discovery through grief

I wish I had a vaccine that would protect people from grief, but I do not. Upon reflection, though, I would not want to. I appreciate how very important it is not to waste pain. Pain on this scale can “make” people even though it seems designed to “break” them.

I’m weaning myself off the need to feel comfortable. Instead, I’ve discovered more about myself and my God through my grief—and I continue to learn every day. It is not easy, as anyone in grief will tell you. I’m slowly exchanging comfort for character. Christ-like character doesn’t come easily, nor is it cheap. I wouldn’t want to be inoculated from grief because I’ve discovered something profoundly encouraging. God is deeper still! Don’t waste your pain; it will make you stronger as you companion with God.

I’ve learned that when you are in a fog—though you can’t see your way—you can follow a voice. Give ear to that voice: the voice of a loving Father who desires you to move from being made in His image to also becoming like Christ. I write to help you hear comfort, companionship, love, purpose, meaning and hope.

“Is anyone crying for help? God is listening, ready to rescue you. If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there. If you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath. Disciples so often get into trouble, still, God is there every time.” Ps 34:17-19 MSG

Hard work ahead

Whether you are knocked-back by a death, illness, divorce, separation, loss of employment or financial hardship, your identity takes a hit. Loss strips us down.

During COVID, many have experienced what the Harvard Business Review captured in an article title: That strange feeling you’re experiencing? It’s grief!

If you can identify that the strange feeling you are experiencing is grief, it will allow you to move forward.

I first discovered these “strange feelings” of grief a few weeks after the tragic accident. I was in the grocery store filling a bag with lots of apples. I froze as I realized I didn’t need all these apples anymore. The boys weren’t there to eat them. I fled from the store in tears.

How to cope

Grief is overwhelming. Perhaps a simple equation can illustrate what is happening in your life: LOSSES + CHANGE = GRIEF

Can I suggest you grab a cup of coffee and “sit with your grief”? Permit yourself to embrace your pain.

Write down the losses and changes you have been experiencing. Let the list be exhaustive. It may surprise you how they add up! Now write down the feelings you have associated with each loss or change.

I’ve felt overwhelmed, numb, anxious, angry, afraid, tentative, depressed.

Many experts have compartmentalized the grief process into a tidy series of steps: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, and acceptance. In my personal experience, the journey is far from linear. It is an erratic jumble of tangled, messy missteps.

Over time, you will get your life back—though it will not be the same life.

Grief knocked out all my navigational systems: physically, emotionally, psychologically, relationally, and spiritually. I had lost the normal rhythms of my days that had given stability to life.

So, what can a person do?

  1. Take care of yourself. Eat well, keep hydrated, take regular walks and get a good sleep.
  2. It may be helpful to have some medication or a referral to deal with your specific needs and concerns.
  3. Ask for support rather than suffering in silence, hoping someone will reach out to you.
  4. Accept days when you have a reduced capacity to function. It’s one day at a time.
  5. Purpose in your heart and mind to trust the Lord.

“I love you, GOD—you make me strong. GOD is bedrock under my feet, the castle in which I live, my rescuing knight. My God—the high crag where I run for dear life, hiding behind the boulders, safe in the granite hideout.” Psalm 18:1-2 MSG.

Through my story, I hope it can be a connection to bring some comfort, resolution and assurance as you accept, process, adjust and move into a new normal in your life.

To find more encouragement from Shauna’s articles, explore her website at evanjordan.ca.

Picture of Shirley Thiessen

Shirley Thiessen

Author and speaker helping you bring hope to broken, grieving hearts.