As I was putting my daughter to sleep, looking at her innocent face in the dim night light, my heart melted. I felt a sudden heartache, and I cried for her as I held her close and kissed on her forehead. I recalled all the struggles and pain she has been through in the past seven years of her life. I felt a deep pain in my heart as I recalled the day of her diagnosis with a rare disorder. I remembered the endless seizure episodes she battled, the pain of numerous blood tests, MRIs, and injections, and the tiring hospital visits. I recalled when doctors said that she will be in a vegetative state for the rest of her life. I had thought I was much stronger emotionally, but I was not. I felt intense pain because of the helpless state my child is in.
According to a psychiatrist named Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. When we go through grief of any kind, our first reaction will usually be denial. We will be shocked and won’t accept realities. In the second stage, we will feel angry at the situation, at the people around us, and sometimes even at God. The third stage is bargaining. Secretly, we may make a deal with God in an attempt to postpone the crisis and the related pain. In the fourth stage, depression, reality begins to set in. We often feel sorry for ourselves and wonder why something like this would happen to us. The fifth stage of grief is acceptance. We come to terms with the grief and begin to look to the future. Once we reach the acceptance stage, we move toward resurgence — gaining more control of ourselves, our emotions, and the situation and beginning to think about what we can do next to move forward.
In relation to my daughter’s medical condition, I have been through almost all of these stages. I was confident that I was in the resurgence phase, as for quite a long time I had been able to maintain my emotions, keep myself motivated through each day, and keep my constant faith in God for her life. But a few days back, I had a relapse that felt sudden and severe. I couldn’t keep myself in the resurgence phase anymore. I felt shattered.
My heart pained for my daughter to the extreme. All I wanted to do was scream, “God, why does my child have to suffer? Why does she have to live such a challenging life? What is her fault? It isn’t fair! Why must she have such a dependent life?” As I held her close to me, I let my tears flow. I couldn’t accept the hard realities of her life, and I kept crying through the night. It felt like I had gone back to the denial stage — all the way back.
However, in the midst of this sudden surge of grief, as I prayed for my daughter, I remembered Jesus on the cross and the agony he went through. I thought to myself, Was it fair that God had to send Jesus to die for my transgressions? Nope! It wasn’t fair for Jesus’ innocent blood to be shed for me. It wasn’t fair that he was mocked, stripped of his clothes, whipped, beaten, and crucified ruthlessly. But because of God’s love for me, God was willing to allow and to witness this pain. As Jesus, God’s own child, was suffering, God’s heart was pained too. But this was the only way that I, and all of us, could be accepted, forgiven, and loved. I knew that God cared for my pain and understood how I felt. This insight made me surrender to God’s plans for my daughter and to know that God loves her more than I do. Though I don’t have all the answers and can see only part of the picture, I know the One who sees the full picture of her life. I just need to have faith.
I fell asleep and woke up the next day with swollen eyes and a headache, but also with a relieved and consoled heart. I no longer found myself back in the denial stage but once again in the resurgence stage, with a renewed hope and just enough grace on my life for that day. I am not sure if I will ever be fully in the resurgence stage. I may have an emotional relapse from time to time. But this is where I will always need God’s mercy to carry me through. With God by my side, there will be hope in between all the stages of grief. And no matter which stage I slip back into, I will always come back to the resurgence stage and see my pain in the light of God’s glory!
I pray that you will also find God’s strength and assurance in those most painful and question-filled moments of your life. May you experience God’s deep and abiding hope when you are weak beneath your burdens, and may you see your pain in the light of God’s glory. When you ask, “Why me, Lord? It isn’t fair!” Let God’s mercy carry you through, revealing God’s greatest and most painful sacrifice and selfless love for you!
“Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” — Psalm 30:5 (NIV)