“You who are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me.” Jeremiah 8:18
When Jamie passed away, I was working for Liberty University. Since they are a Christian organization, they were very understanding about my returning to work later than the normal 3 days most companies provide. I think it was about 2 weeks later when I did return. But even though I took a little longer (than the standard time) it wasn’t easy.
I was the Welding & Fabrication Supervisor for the University. My shop was in the alley behind Green Hall and next to TRBC and LCA where Jamie went to school. Part of my duties included doing work for and in LCA and TRBC. Having to go into LCA or TRBC those first few weeks were torture. I would see things and remember things about Jamie. I would hear the band when they rehearsed. I would see his friends, but he wasn’t with them. If I had to go into the sanctuary, all I would see was his casket sitting in the front.
I found it very hard to concentrate on my work. Something that I normally could do in minutes would take hours or sometimes even days. I would forget about meetings and deadlines. Quality of work and safety are some things that I have always taken pride in. But I would even be slack in those areas. Some days it felt like nothing I did was right. I was walking around in a deep fog trying to find the way out. If it wasn’t for my guys in the shop stepping up to fill in for me, I probably would have lost my job.
“You do what you’re supposed to do, but in fact you’re not there at all.” – Frederick Barthelme
I was also battling health issues. For those who have been following us, you may remember that I had just had a heart attack prior to his death. My doctor was constantly telling me to reduce my stress levels. Just waking up increased my stress levels. My first thought in the morning was being reminded that he was gone, and our family was shattered. Going to work only increased my anxiety and stress. Yet, not going to work wasn’t a financial option for us.
Over the years Laura and I have spent time with many families who have lost a child. People underestimate the overwhelming grief, emotional stress and physical toll that the parents endure. Sometimes no matter how much you need to work, you simply can’t. We’ve spent time with families who couldn’t go back to work. For some, it was numerous health issues that piled up on them after the death. For others, it was simply the inability to concentrate on anything but the loss that cost them their job.
I’m thankful that God protected me and allowed my health to improve. I’m also thankful I had a couple of people at work that I could talk to about my grief. They helped me cope with what I now know was depression. The VP that I worked for as well as other leaders at LU and TRBC helped me in ways they will never know.
“Co-workers are mostly caring and supportive, but their lives haven’t changed. They haven’t (most likely) experienced the loss of a child. They naturally anticipate that we will rebound from this and be the same people we were before. They have no frame of reference for what we are enduring. We begin to feel the squeeze of job requirements and expectations. Our own desire to work hard and perform well adds to the burden. Work is tough when we’re grieving.” (Surviving the Loss of a Child, Gary Roe)
If you are grieving a loss and are having a hard time meeting the expectations of job – please know it is okay and you are normal. My first advice would be to seek the Lord for comfort and guidance – not just day to day but minute by minute. Give yourself grace as you sort through the emotions. Find healthy ways to grieve. One of which is finding people that you can talk to about what you’re going through.
We’re not meant to do this on our own!
In His Grip,