I was rushed into emergency surgery to save Baby B. The next several hours brought heart-wrenching pain and joy. The grief we carry from losing our son has helped us learn a few things as we stepped back into the season. I hope the lessons my husband and I have learned encourage you if you find yourself in a season of grief.
Invest in your program quickly.
We had moved from Nebraska to Texas for a coaching opportunity with my husband’s brother less than eleven months prior to the birth of our boys. Our hearts were heavy to move from the state we loved, but we were excited about the new opportunity.
It is always a little scary starting at a new school. Who can you trust? Who should you be friends with? Where should I sit at games? That first year brought trials, as do all coaching years, but we quickly allowed ourselves to be enveloped into the community and culture. We said yes to dinner invitations. We showed up to as many events as we could and met as many people as possible. God opened doors in our new community because he knew what was to come in year two. God knew how much we would need people to come around us and hold us up while we grieved.
Say “yes” to help. Be specific about your needs.
After we left the hospital, we stepped into a world of the unknown; funeral planning, taking care of a premature baby, healing from an emergency c-section, and trying to support one another in our grief. In the midst of this, all of our tangible needs were taken care of. Parents and coaches stepped in and stocked our pantry, provided meals for weeks to come, and set up a Go-Fund-Me account to cover our medical bills and funeral costs.
After the initial shock of everything, we got texts every day offering help. It was most helpful when someone would text and say, “I’m bringing _____, let me know what time I can come by” instead of “Let me know if I can help!”.
I learned to say “yes” when people offered. I had to realize that people wanted to love us, and did not expect anything in return. I also kept a list of things I needed for when people asked, and they were quick to fulfill those needs whether it was a box of tissues or mowing our lawn.
Go to the game.
The next fall brought an exciting and successful football season. I could have stayed home and kept my son away from the late nights, germs, and loud crowds. But I felt the need to go. My grief was often overwhelming when I was home alone, and having something to do each week was helpful.
My son slept through most of the games, and I had more than enough volunteers to hold him. It wasn’t always pretty. Sometimes there was a diaper blow-out at the most inconvenient time, or my grief would sneak up on me and I’d cry while ringing my cowbell after a touchdown. But being there allowed me to be honest about what we were going through, and realize that life continues on, even with new scars.
Going back to school wasn’t an escape for my husband. Work provided some distraction, but he was also able to be vulnerable with his coaches and players. He could speak about walking through trials with a new light and hope. We were wrestling through doubt and often questioned God (and still do), but because we had allowed ourselves to establish relationships the year before, we were free to do those things with support and without judgment.
My husband’s players saw him at his lowest moment. They have encouraged and loved him in ways that wouldn’t have been possible had he not shown up and shared his heart with them. Some of those boys have become like family to us, providing our son with some of the best “older brothers” to look up to.
Healing has no timeline.
The pain and sting of losing our son are not as fresh as it was two years ago but are still strong. We won’t ever “be over it”. At times it feels like the world has forgotten even when it seems so vivid in our minds and hearts. Time has not healed our pain.
We are able to function better, navigate the emotions and support each other in ways that we uniquely need. We’ve consistently seen a counselor, shared our story and we include both of our sons when we talk about our family. Our hearts long to see our son. But even more, we long for Jesus. He has taken our sin away and gives us eternal life. True healing will not come to our broken hearts until we are taken from this broken world and meet him face to face. As much as we want our son to be with us, we know that he won’t heal our brokenness. Only Jesus. We are one day closer.
Grief comes in so many ways.
Grief cannot be compared from one experience to another. We can let it shape our lives without taking our lives from us. We can let it impact the way we speak and interact with others. We can learn from it. Our prayer for the players my husband coaches is not that they remember the wins, the attention from the media, the comments from critics, or the hours spent in preparation. We pray they remember who loves them and why they are loved.
We pray that they remember a coach wrestling and questioning a good God in a difficult season, but still trusting in his promises. We pray that they remember how to give a big hug and tell someone they love them. We pray they remember that this world is temporary, but we are living and sharing Jesus because of what he has already done and what he has prepared for us.