Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Receiving an Invitation to Enter Into Grief

Before we lost Micah, I was under numerous misconceptions about how we ought to support those in grief. One of these was a misunderstanding about how to best support those in grief in the context of everyday conversation. I incorrectly assumed that any reference to the deceased would trigger certain memories or emotions that he or she had not previously experienced. In reality, a grieving person could tell you that you cannot harm them by discussing the deceased. A grieving person does not “pack away” memories of the deceased into the attic of the mind, and then only bring out these memories when someone else refers to the deceased. Anyone grieving the death of a loved one will tell you that thoughts of their loved one are nearly constantly on their mind.

In our case, we have found that, when a friend or family member is kind enough to converse about Micah, the conversation brings a flood of emotions, not because we have not already been grieving inwardly, but because the conversation provides an outlet to share these emotions. Rather than resulting in unwelcome emotions, sharing memories with us provides us with a welcomed outlet for our emotion.

According to our mentors Pat and Judy Misener, it is incumbent upon us, as the grieving parents, to grant others “permission” to enter into grief. In other words, because friends and family members don’t realize that it actually benefits us to talk about our deceased child, we need to invite them to do so. Whether we initiate conversations surrounding Micah, or even create new traditions or activities to remember Micah, it is good and healthy for us to “invite” others to grieve along with us.

If you know a grieving parent, I encourage you to accept any invitation offered to you to enter into their grief by conversing with them about the deceased loved one.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Micah's Age in Heaven

In the last scene of the movie, “Tree of Life,” the main characters are shown walking together through the ocean surf in front of a beautiful sunset. The movie follows a family of five (three sons—just like ours) through various times of life. While the disjointed plot of the movie does not provide us with many of the details, we do learn at one point that one of the boys had died unexpectedly. This final scene of the movie, in which all three of the boys are pictured together with their parents, provides a moving image for us, as we await our great reunion in Heaven.

Of particular interest in this final scene was the fact that the deceased son was pictured as a young boy, and not as an adult, like the other two sons who reached adulthood. Instead, he is shown to us as he was portrayed earlier in the movie--at about 7 to 10 years old. For these parents, they enjoyed not only a joyful reunion with their sons, but were reunited with their long-deceased child according to how they, as parents, last remembered him.

As grieving parents, Heather and I have often wondered how old Micah will appear to us when we see him again in Heaven. Will he be 9 months, or will he have grown older in the interim, just as we have grown older here on earth? Like other grieving parents we speak with, it is our hope that we might be able to see our son as he appeared to us, so that we might be able to not only enjoy our son’s presence again, but enjoy the very process of seeing him “grow up.”

I was surprised to learn that many Christian theologians down through the centuries have asked the question of how old we will appear to be in Heaven. Thomas Aquinas, for example, argued that regardless of our age when we die here on earth, we will all be about 33 years of age in Heaven—about the age of Jesus when we was crucified and resurrected. The theory is that, since this is the age when most humans reach a peak of physical strength, but before the human body starts to degenerate, then this is the age we will all be, as pictures of perfection. According to contemporary author Hank Hanegraaf, “If the blueprints for our glorified bodies are in the DNA, then it would stand to reason that our bodies will be resurrected at the optimal stage of development determined by our DNA.”

Others suggest that the New Earth will be filled with people of all different ages. For example, in Isaiah 11:6-9 we are told that, in the New Earth, “…the infants will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest…” If infants are going to play next to cobras and vipers in the New Earth, then not everyone can be 33 years of age! Instead, grieving parents might have the opportunity to parent their children through those years that they thought they had lost with them here on earth.

I’ve decided that it is OK for us to consider how we will see Micah again on that wonderful day. While we don’t know for certain how Micah will appear to us, we can be certain that God will reveal Micah to us in a way that will give us the most joy and God the most glory. For many children, Christmas is so enjoyable because, regardless of what they receive as gifts, they know that they will not be disappointed. Similarly, we as believers can look forward to Heaven, because while we might not know what Heaven will be like, we know we won’t be disappointed.