Bruce Siegmund is a dear friend who lost his first wife 20 years ago. He wrote this post recently and I asked if I could share it. Why? Today is the 11th anniversary of us “losing” Kyle–only we know where he is and we will meet again. It’s a promise from God.
20 years ago today we lost my wife, Bren Siegmund to heaven. Six small children remained as well as a weak father, (me). I’ve had plenty of time to think about it. Every once in a while I get to share with someone my thoughts and ideas on death. I’ve been losing too many close ones lately. Here are my thoughts, if you don’t agree or like them, forget them. Find help somewhere else.
1. Death sucks. It messes up everything. It interrupts life. It ruins families, friends and relationships. It messes with security, development and purpose. It hurts bad.
2. For me it hurt most the first year. All the “firsts” took place. The first mother’s day, birthday, Christmas, thanksgiving, etc. You miss her the most then.
3. I don’t know how you make it without God. He promised us “He would never leave us or forsake us”. He is the only one that can be with us in life and death. He’s there on this side as well as the other side. He says “He’s near to the brokenhearted”. I experienced that. The more broken you are, the closer He will be.
4. The sting never leaves, but it gets a little duller over time. I still hurt because my children lost an awesome Mom and someone who would have been the grandest of grandmothers.
5. Life goes on. After someone dies the sun comes up, people go to work, the bills come in, the sun sets. My world stopped, but the rest of the world kept going. It didn’t seem fair. It still doesn’t seem right. The news has dumb stuff that people are arguing about and even more foolish things on TV and in life. The world just keeps going despite your great loss.
6. Your feelings are up and down. I can remember struggling with the kids to get them to bed so I could just cry. Someone called me on the phone and asked how I was doing. I wanted to tell them “How the hell you think I’m doing, what are you bothering me for?”. Not much later after I got the kids to bed, I sat alone and felt like no one cared and I had no one to talk to. My emotions were all messed up.
7. You have to find something to live for. I had my kids and eventually found love again. I think it was Benjamin Franklin that said “Many people die at 25, they just aren’t buried until 75.” You have to believe your future is better than your past. You can only find that in Jesus. You might find a temporary substitute, but our future belongs to God.
8. Everyone mourns differently. With my children, some wanted to remember all the special days and go to the cemetery, others seemingly didn’t want to be reminded. Find your way to mourn and do it.
9. Take time to mourn or it will come out when you don’t want it to. I learned this from Christy Wheeler. I took time every night after the children went to bed to remember. I read old letters. I prayed and I worshiped. Something good would happen to me as I did that. I received hope for the future directly from God.
10. Find out who brings hope and healing to you and spend time with those people. Some people are hurting like you and cannot spend time with you because you remind them of their own loss. Some of the people that ministered the most to me were people that didn’t know Bren. They cared about me.
11. Ignore the stupid things people say when you lose a loved one. They are doing the best they can do. They don’t know any better. These days we are all trained to say the same thing when someone dies. To me they sound shallow. I’d rather someone try and say something different and mess up rather than saying the same thing as everyone else. So if I say the wrong thing to you, forgive me. I’m just trying to break through and help you.
12. It’s OK to have a good day. We really do have hope. Jesus really has overcome death. She isn’t gone, she’s actually ahead of us down the road. She has arrived home and we are the ones that are still left. She’s not dead, she’s more alive than ever! We will see her and many others again. Real life is different than this temporary life.
13. Death plants seeds that grow. Something very powerful happens in death. I”m still trying to figure it out and explain it. When Moses died, Joshua became a leader and all of Israel was finally able to cross into the promised land. It doesn’t happen without Moses dying. Joshua got promoted. Jesus said that He had to die in order for the seed to reproduce. Without his death, there is no multiplying of the seeds. When people close to us die, God wants to give us more. He wants to give us more comfort, intimacy with Him, purpose, work and calling. In some strange way you are being promoted to a bigger calling. Instead of thinking that you can’t do anything any more (that is actually the voice of the devil talking to you), begin to ask God what He wants you to do. If it’s bigger than you can handle, it’s probably a God dream. For me, the seeds of what I do in Malawi came from Bren. No one wanted me to go to Malawi as much as she did. She was trying to get healed so she could take care of the kids. She said if she died, she still wanted me to go. Seeds grow.
14. Get help. Read books, make new friends, visit places you always wanted to visit, go to therapy, stay away from people that irritate you, cry. If possible, try and stay away from drugs, alcohol and the other more permanently damaging crutches that offer their help through grieving. Go to God first and ask Him to help you. Go to people that know him intimately and ask them to help you too.
15. Leave your own legacy. We are all going to die, so what are you living for? Find something worth living for that is also worth dying for. There are many things that I live for in general, but the one besides my family, that burns inside of me is the work I do in Malawi. It’s really not the work, but its the relationships that I get to have with so many that I work with. Seeing adults and children set free from bondage, sickness, poverty, hopelessness, etc. It’s worth living for. What is your wild dream? Have you discovered it yet? I was 56 years old when I finally did, but it had been planted inside of me during my high school and college days.
16. Whatever you’re going to do for people, you need to do it now. There were things I wanted to tell Bren and others before they died. I didn’t do all of them. We often think we have tomorrow and we don’t. It’s important to forgive quickly, to love now and not put it off. I don’t let regret live in my head, I”m not trying to encourage you to feel bad about your past mistakes. The enemy wants to continue to beat us up about them. Just learn from it and love better down the road.
17. Find your scripture. Find out what God is saying. As my pastor used to say, “What’s the true truth?” There are lots of “truths” out there, but they are not all really true. Here is one of my favorites from Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good, for those that love God and are called according to His purpose.” If I had a dollar for every time I leaned on this verse I’d be a millionaire. I believe it’s true. I’ve seen Him turn the crappiest, vile, evil, horrible situations into something good. He didn’t cause it, but He made it into something wonderful. All I have to do is love Him. Find your verse. Find your scripture and live it out.
18. Spend time alone with God. No one can comfort you like Him. No one knows you like Him. No one loves you like Him. No one can keep that promise like Him to never leave you or forsake you. He rewards those that diligently seek Him. Don’t make it a ritual, seek Him. It might include reading the Bible, but make sure you are talking to Him and you are asking Him to talk to you. He will speak.
So today I celebrate the legacy of Bren. All those seeds she planted and cultivated. The children she birthed, loved and prayed for. Her legacy lives on through me and so many others. You have a legacy too, let God show it to you!
And I celebrate Kyle. For those of you who have loved and lost, I pray you too feel the comfort of the King’s gracious, compassionate hands upon your life. I have grown so much through the grieving process, which I did not know was part of the healing process.
Open you heart to God. He will heal and fill the black abyss of grief as hope arises anew.