I started reading about Kristen’s Family on her blog, Further Still Ministries after Kristen passed away earlier this year. I knew of Kristen and know many people who were friends and “students” of the things she taught. This is the latest post on her blog, written by her husband about grief, a subject I’ve mentioned on many occasions: Grief Takes Time, just one I have written.
This is what her husband wrote:
In his book Tracks of a Fellow Struggler, John Claypool describes the heart-wrenching struggles of suffering, pain and death through three roads. (His daughter had a difficult battle with leukemia when God took her home to heaven).
The first one is the unquestioning resignation road. Travelers on that road try to trust God and just move on, believing they have no right to ask God any deep, penetrating questions. But this path seems to contradict the Bible. God invites us to interact with Him. We are His children, and children ask questions of their parents. Ultimately, we must trust Him, but this does not mean that we cannot ask the tough, brutal questions that harbor in our minds. Claypool dismisses this first road as a dead end that leads to despair.
The second path in suffering is trying to reach total intellectual understanding, explaining everything and putting a nice bow around every question. But this, too, is not the ultimate answer. Job’s friends had plenty of comments and suggestions for their suffering friend, but those responses were anything but helpful. Who can adequately respond to the hardest questions regarding the mysterious ways of God? His ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. This road also leads to a dead end of trying to tie up all the loose ends.
For me, the third response triggered a huge wave of comfort in the midst of my own grief. Claypool calls it the road of gratitude. Life is a gift and when a gift is given, we must give thanks and appreciate the gift for as long as we have it. But when the gift is taken away or removed, we can’t pout or blame the God who withdrew it, rather we give Him praise for the beautiful gift that we received and enjoyed. As I write this, tears have continued to pour down my cheeks, but I have a fresh perspective of praise and gratitude. I can’t say that I won’t cry any more or have days of deep sorrow in missing Kristen, but God has used this author, who lost his 10-year-old daughter to help me through my time of grief. I can either choose to grieve, mourn and even pout indefinitely, or I can choose to give thanks for 22 wonderful years of a marriage that was so rich and so beautiful in many, many ways. I choose the latter! Kristen was an incredible gift, and I praise Him for the precious gift of being her husband and best friend for over two decades. I choose to travel in that road of gratitude even when the tears flow.
My heart goes out to this family, Kristen’s family and to John Claypool and his family in their loss, and so many others who have had to say good-bye to a loved one, whether too early or after a long life well-lived, however, I disagree with Claypool’s roads.
I haven’t read the book so maybe I didn’t get the full gest of what he was saying but this I know…grief goes through many stages and perhaps none of them are right or wrong. Maybe they just are what they are, someone in so much pain that they can barely make it through another day, trying to make sense of the huge, gaping hole in their lives caused by the absence of the one they loved so much. Perhaps these roads are phases instead, phases we pass through, sometimes once, sometimes a multitude of times on a myriad of occasions.
Grief is so personal, so individual in nature. These roads and paths we travel are a part of the healing process, though not of the nature of being made whole, for that will never be accomplished this side of heaven. And that’s just the way it is.
I applaud Kristen’s family for being so open about their loss and grief. Her children post on the blog sometimes, too. They are showing us what true grieving is, a stumbling around, trying to make sense of a hurt so deep that it is difficult to go on with everyday, mundane tasks. They show us with the words they write that losing is a much a part of life as the air we breathe, and they show us what it’s like to try to find a new normal without the one they loved so much.
Kristen, you have an amazing family.