The Way Back from Loss
My senior year of high school started out with transition and change, just not the kind you have been planning for since your freshman year. I had just moved to a new church on my own without my mom but with her blessing. I was excited about all the new opportunities, friendships, and involvement a church in the UPCI could offer. A month or so into this transition, I was having dinner with some of the youth. It was just a normal night for me. I got home around 9:00 p.m. to hear the phone ringing. When I answered, there was a man on the other end telling us my brother had been arrested and there was a problem during transport. They had him at the local hospital and we needed to come as soon as possible.
We drove for what seemed like hours! I remember walking in this cold building, numb and completely unprepared for what was coming. Everything was moving at high speed and I was stuck in time! I walked to a closed room and looked through the window while my mom stood talking to the doctor. I saw my brother lying on a table with the paddles shocking his body. My heart was in my stomach. I knew my life was about to change forever.
We watched the staff hang their heads in disappointment after working as long as they could. We sat in an empty room with doctors and officers explaining an intense story of unfortunate events that resulted in a mother losing a son. A simple traffic stop? Not quite! My brother was on probation and in possession of drugs, which was an instant trip to jail. In an effort to hide the drugs, he put the bag in his mouth which dissolved, and the rest was history.
I stood by the bed where he lay, charcoal still on his face from unsuccessful efforts to pump drugs out of his body. Still unable to show emotion, I begged God in my mind to change this outcome. I pleaded with God, Please, he is my protector! He is my best friend! I cannot do life without him!
So much of my childhood was spent relying on my brother. Our parents divorced when I was very young. My dad was backslid and homeless all because of addiction. My mom worked sixty hour-weeks and most Saturdays all so we could survive. I was all too familiar with loneliness and rejection, and my brother was the one person I could count on.
That dark, bitter and empty Friday night altered my life in a way I couldn’t prepare for. I was alone in a world I didn’t understand!
Soon after the loss of my brother, pain became a familiar emotion at the core of my very being. I was barely existing and happiness was unattainable, or so I thought. I honestly felt like I didn’t deserve any better. My life had been a constant series of storms. I stopped going to school the way I should and spent every day going to the cemetery. The last thing I wanted to hear were the well-meaning conversation starters that felt like a way of making it less awkward for the other person. “I’m sorry!” or “he’s in a better place.” I didn’t want him in a better place. His best place was with me!
I distinctly remember sitting in a cold, empty cemetery on a cloudy day, completely broken. I was no stranger to the agonizing sting of rejection, but this unbearable loss—how would I come back? How would I recover? The clouds hovered over me as if to tell me, There is no hope. You are a lost cause. The conclusion of your story will not differ from this. Why even try?
I wish I could say it didn’t take many mistakes to finally make my way back to happiness, but I turned to all the wrong things before turning to God and deciding I wanted my life to make a difference. I finally came to a place where I could talk to my mom. I sat in the metal chair at her work begging her to help me. She made one simple statement, “You can be happy! You are still alive and you cannot allow this pain to control your life.”
I went back to the cemetery and said my final goodbye. I promised myself that day that no matter what, my life would not end unhappy. I remember watching the sun peek out from the clouds and I knew then that I was in control of my story. The sunshine was God’s subtle nudge at my heart, encouraging me to trust Him. Oh how foreign trust was to me, but I was willing to try. Anything was better than the clouds of sorrow the enemy was leading me to.
I could make the choice to fight my family tree and what was expected of me. The choice to live loved and in God’s will was mine alone. I could change my path. I could have more, and God wanted me to come to Him for healing. I had a choice to walk a righteous, imperfect path of restoration with God, or I could choose anguish and torment with the enemy.
It didn’t take long for me to realize I wanted the sunshine. Everything is perfect in God’s timing. You see, three months prior to losing my brother, I walked fearlessly into a relationship with the man I now call “husband”. I knew so quickly that I would spend forever with him! Had I not been surrounded by his crazy, sold out love for the church and God, maybe I wouldn’t have been brave enough to take a leap in faith. I completely immersed myself in my local church.
The nagging pain was still there and I spent some days choking on my grief, but I pushed and fought my way forward. I knew I was holding onto a promise, and if I would wait and be patient on the Potter’s wheel, soon I could find peace in my storm.
Almost two years after my brother’s accidental overdose, I received a phone call from one of my dad’s friends who usually called when my dad needed help in one area or another. She said he was robbed and killed. I couldn’t trust her information so I went through several channels that eventually put me on my way to the GBI. I had to identify a body they found earlier that day. He had been beaten, but thankfully the first blow killed him so there was no suffering. I will never forget what it felt like to be questioned in an interrogation room and being left to wait as they determined if they had the right person. After a long period of silence, the detective confirmed they had my father.
In my mind, I was completely numb and wondered why? I can’t go through this again! In my pain, I was determined to come through this just like before. Addiction is a selfish disease, and so many days I spent alone, wondering what I did wrong! I often felt second best or unworthy of happiness. Something had to be wrong with me for my father to reject me the way he had my whole life. I am so thankful to understand and believe in my heart how untrue that really is.
After ten years, I began to use my testimony as a way to reach others who were hurting. The more God worked on me, the more I realized my entire life was a testimony and this situation was just a part of it. I was healing by using my pain to connect with teenagers at my church and in my district. When I made the conscious decision to step into God’s will and place Him at my center, He began taking me places that my flesh was uncomfortable walking.
I can now confidently tell anyone in my path that as long as we have faith that God is just and good, we will make it. All we have to do is hold on, stand still, and allow Him to work. Flesh wants us to crumble and stay in a pile of shame, pain, guilt, and rejection, but God wants us to trust, love, have faith, and hope.
The way back from loss is never easy but it is worth it. My seventeen year-old life was worth every fight I fought to not lose myself in my grief. The only path of healthy healing is through Jesus Christ. Surround yourself with positivity! Make your youth pastor your best friend. Come to church even when you don’t feel like it. Pray and seek God’s will for your life because He doesn’t want fear, bitterness, sadness, and hopelessness for you. We may have no control over life or the choices of those directly connected to us, and we may even blame God or the devil when sometimes it has nothing to do with either. Other people’s choices can affect us and place us in unavoidable situations. This is why our hope cannot be placed in earthly things!
We have to trust, hope, and have faith in God. He is the way back from loss!
I am a thirty-one year old mom and pastor’s wife at Faith Tabernacle UPC in Conyers, Georgia. My husband Michael also serves as our district youth president. We have two handsome boys who keep me motivated to stay young!