Thursday, August 19, 2010

It is Well with My Soul...

Wanted to show you one of my favorite pictures...this munchkin always had his fist in his mouth. And I love that you can see his big, bright eyes....miss this precious boy so much! I can see
his slobber marks on his shirt and just ache to put a new, dry one on him.

We sang It is Well with My Soul at church on Sunday...I cried the entire time. Luke and I had this sung at our wedding and debated on having it at Graham's memorial service. It has always been a special song to us although it holds such a different meaning than it did 8 years ago as I got ready to walk down the aisle. I have begged God over and over to make this song real in my life. When I think of the phrase...when sorrow like sea billows roll...I realize it is the perfect picture of my pain. And yet I want to say and believe, it is well with my soul. I pray this will
be more real in my life than we could have ever imagined. We are trying to
see God in the midst of the pain...knowing beauty will rise from the ashes...

Our grief is hanging on. Most days I wonder if I will ever creep out from underneath its shadow. Although the shadow is most definitely there, lately, I have been able to at least see where I'm walking. The last week and a half have been the "best" weeks I have had up to this point....this is the longest stretch I have gone without falling into a deep, dark slump. It is the first time I have had several days in a row when I felt as though I could actually breathe...that I didn't have a cement block on my chest. I am so grateful for that and yet in this time I find myself once again feeling like a stranger in a foreign land. I've grown so accustomed to the unbearable pain that having 10 days of it easing up is almost uncomfortable. There also comes a level of guilt even though I know those are just lies, for me they are a reality.
Grief has so many complex emotions and working through them all remains exhausting.

I still think of Graham every minute, miss him, cry for him, long for him, talk to him but the hope of seeing him again someday has been more real to me right now than it has in 7 1/2 months. I hope reading this line brought a smile to your face because several months ago I couldn't fathom finding peace...ever...this is because of your prayers. I remember
walking past his crib a few weeks ago (which is in our room so I pass it frequently)
and for the first time I didn't feel like I was going to throw up or pass out. I felt
almost an inner calm. It was in that moment that I knew healing IS taking place. Often
times I don't feel as though I'm moving forward at all, so it was nice to be able
to see "evidence" of some gains. I'm sure it won't be that way every time, but it happened...
I felt it...
Everyone continues to tell me it does get better. So it must, right? I hope so...I must
believe that it does. And yet, there is something strangely reassuring
knowing that I will always have this empty space in my heart because it means I will never, ever forget Graham. Nothing and no one will ever be able to fill that
very special place I hold for him.
He's my son, my precious baby boy... he will be that forever and ever.
It feels as though I've been grieving forever. I'm still encountering so many firsts...One thing about grief that I never understood is that it's so encompassing. It's not just the ache and the tears that come on holidays or the 6th or 23rd of each month. It's the everyday life
experiences that are constant reminders of what we have lost...what we are missing...I know
that for the rest of my earthly life I will encounter things that will make me long for my son. I'm
continuing to pray that eventually they will not paralyze me like they do now.

I was watching James at the pool several weeks ago and he went to jump off the
diving board for the first time. Exciting right? Absolutely! But after beaming ear to ear I began joy immediately turned to sorrow because I realized I will never see
Graham jump off the diving board. Those types of experiences
while seeming trivial, continue to fuel my grief. I feel as though my entire
life will be full watching James and Lauren "do" life without Graham.

I often times find myself overwhelmed with how I will make it through life with this gaping hole in my heart. Yes, I know the pain will lessen and the emotions will not be so
raw, but the reality is I will ALWAYS, always miss, love, long for, and ache for Graham. I have to constantly remind myself to take it a day at a stay focused on today... otherwise
I get too overwhelmed.

I'm learning and trying to incorporate my grief into my everyday life so that it doesn't
dominate my life. Right now it is still the first thing I think about when I wake up in
the morning and the last thing I think about when I fall asleep at night. I have felt a sense of renewal over the last few weeks of my body and spirit. I haven't felt so exhausted.
I'm so grateful for this breath of fresh air although wondering when it will end offers a great deal of anxiety. I'm trying to embrace this time knowing that possibly soon
I will be faced with those days and moments again when the tears won't stop,
when my prayers seem unheard, when God seems so far away,
when breathing is work, when I feel alone and hopeless,
when I wonder how I can go on.

Many of you have asked for specific prayer requests so here are a few:
September is right around the corner. Graham's first birthday would've
been on the 23rd. My emotions are already quite fragile as the anticipation
of this date draws near It's going to be really hard.
Please just say extra prayers for me during the next several weeks. Pray for
comfort and a sense of peace that we know can only come from the Lord. But also pray
for extra patience, extra laughs, and energy.
His headstone is also due to be completed by the beginning of September as
well as his memory trunk. We are so grateful to have these things completed
as we want to continue to memorialize Graham, but again it's the brutal reminder
of his absence...of the finality of his life on earth.
Finally, please talk to me... Please ask me how I am doing with my journey through grief
but also what's new in my life. Ask me about James and Lauren and how tutoring
is going. Ask me how many McDonald's cokes I've had that week (okay, maybe don't ) ;)
Tell me things you remember about he looked, when you remember
seeing him last...don't be afraid of making me cry. Sometimes I will, but that's okay.
Don't feel badly about it. I don't mind offers a great sense of continued
healing. Some my greatest moments of encouragement have been when
people have told me what they remember about Graham or that they
think of him often. It makes my heart swell and my spirit soften knowing that others
still think of him and remember him. And I want to hear what's going
on in YOUR lives....I don't want it to be all about me and my sorrow. You are
important to me.

Thank you, thank you, thank you...for your prayers, your notes, and your continued
thoughtful gifts. ...THANK YOU! We are humbled and amazed by the prayers and
support we have received. I would love to do a blog post
sometime on the amazing, thoughtful things people have done for us...for me. It's
really quite amazing. You are all really Jesus-with-skin-on friends.
We love you all...more than you will ever know and you hold such a special,
special place in our hearts.


Anonymous said...

Wow! Shelly, all I can say is "WOW"! Reading this, I realize how much you have worked through in coming to reality with your feelings and facing them right on! Your words are honest, as always, but I hear so much healing in them! Praise God! He IS carrying you every day! This is so helpful in knowing how to continue to pray for you and Luke and the kids each day. I have the picture of Graham on my desk and I see it each morning! His smile always brings a smile to my morning : ) I am amazed at the level of understanding you have of why you feel certain shows so much growth! I pray for God to continue to teach you and for you to just lean heavily on Him on those days you can't breathe or stand up on your own. I love you, sweetie! And "It is Well with my Soul" has always been a favorite of mine! Some days it is all we have to cling to! Thank you for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Hi Shelly,
I have never written to you before, but I have been following and saying prayers for you, Grahm, and your entire family. When I first stumbled upon your blog, my first son was 3 months old. I held him a little longer that night, as I shed tears for your loss. My heart aches for you as I read your blog, but do believe that you are healing and honoring Grahm all at the same time.
Continue to hold onto your precious memories and know that Grahm has made one mother out there take many more moments and cherish them even more. You, Grahm, and your family have forever touched my heart and my life, and for that there aren't enough words to thank you! Stacey

Anonymous said...

p.s. I didn't realize that I was spelling Graham's name wrong, I am so sorry for my error.

Carrie said...

My prayers are still daily! I know its been a while since I've written but know that you have been in my thoughts on a daily basis! I am so grateful to God for a little ease to the encompassing grief! Thank you for sharing your heart. What a precious heart it is! Love you!

My Life said...

I just read your blog as I am writing my own about my daughter Hannah. I just felt the closeness only mothers can feel to your pain that have experienced it. I want you to know that I am here anytime. It has been quite a long while since we last talked but I have been going through alot with the month of August stomping on my heels. Haley's Heaven Day just passed and it was a hard one. HOw you explain your grief is very similar to how anyone who has lost a child feels. Oh, and drink as many cokes as you need to drink you deserve it!! Lord knows we need it, one little thing to help us through a tough day. You are a wonderful person and Mother and Wife!! You are incredibly strong and wise in your thinking about Graham about what is next and what has happened. All the feelings so raw with emotion sit sometimes idle and then they rev back up and we heal some more....this is how it works. It has been now 6 years and I have learned to take things in stride. It is I believe a life long process of grieving and yes, it gets easier, but it does not go away. You just learn to tolerate the ups and the downs and smile as you watch your other children life the live we only wish thier siblings could of lived. Look forward to talking with you soon.

Sarah said...

You write SO beautifully, Shelly! Your words are just so perfect and bring me to tears every time. I think of you often! It makes me smile to know that you are finally feeling some peace. God is good and there are so many people STILL praying for you and your cute family.

Explain a memory trunk - I've never heard of that before and would love to know more details about that!

I see nothing wrong with McDonald's cokes - nothing!

Shelly said...

I've never commented on my own post, but here it goes...Sarah, a memory trunk is what we are having made to keep all of Graham's very special things in. Some people have a small box, but I wanted to be able to fit as much as possible in it now as well as add to it through the years. Things that remind us of him, pictures the kids make for him, etc...I also want it to be a piece of furniture that be a beautiful reminder of our Graham. Luke's uncle and family friend have handcrafted it from cherry wood. I'm sure it will be just beautiful....putting his things in a plastic tub simply isn't sufficient.
Oh and as far as my Cokes are concerned, it's my thighs that are getting a bit worried! ;)
Thank you all for your kind words to me...and again, THANK YOU for being a part of our healing!

Chad and Laura said...

Shelly, I continue to think about you and Graham almost daily and continue to pray for you and your family. You are SO loved Shell! Thanks for your honestly and vulnerability!

Nikki said...

Oh Shelly...what more can I say that these others haven't? You are without a doubt the most beautiful person inside AND out that I have ever met. Your words & raw emotions that you have continued to share with us are so amazing. You are such a strong woman to bear all like that, and I so appreciate you pouring out your heart. I will NEVER stop praying for you & your precious family. I wish there was something that I could tell you that I "remember" about him, but I wasn't able to meet your precious Graham. But I do know this, with a Mama like you he is one blessed little man :) Love you much!

Bethany M said...

Hello Shelly. I know this is only the second time I have ever said any thing, but one part made me want to write you again. When you said talk to me, don't be afraid to make me cry. I wish I would have known that a while back. See, in May, my husband, daughter and I decided to plan a last minute trip back to Indiana. When we went to the airport to buy our tickets, you and your family were there, going back to Indiana after your trip here in Florida. I told my husband I was almost certain it was you all and when I showed him your blog after we got home, he agreed. I wanted to talk to you then, wanted to tell you how often we pray for you and how sorry we are, but I couldn't bring myself to even say Hello. I almost started crying right there at the airport. I could see the pain in your eyes, but you kept a smile for your other children who are even more beautiful in person. I'm glad you had a wonderful trip and I am still praying for you especially as this time of year comes and goes. So if I ever see you in a totally random place someday, I will be sure to introduce myself and ask how you are. :o)

Anonymous said...

I came across your fb page when a mutual friend of ours commented and it showed up on my newsfeed about 7 months ago. After reading the comment I then decided to read your blog and although we've never met I have been thinking of you and sending prayers for strength your way. I wanted to check in and see how you were doing and I saw the post 'It is well with my soul.' This struck me because a couple weeks ago at church we sang this song in rememberance of a young child. We were told the history of the song beforehand and it was written by a man who lost all 5 of his children, 4 in a ship accident. There is a lot of power behind those words and a wonderful song to find comfort in. I hope you continue to find strength every day. Your children are beautiful and they have a wonderful angel looking over them now. Thank you for sharing your story, I admire your honest words and emotional strength. I will continue to keep your family in my thoughts.
-friend of a friend ;)

paul and lana said...


Your words carry unimaginable weight. The articles are hard to read without stopping at certain moments. Your and Luke's faith are so evident and inspire us to change our outlook on all the precious gifts we have from the Lord.

"It is well with my soul" is an amazing song written by an author who lived not all that far away from Goshen.

Thanks for sharing.

We keep your family in our prayers.

paul and lana

Anonymous said...

I love you dear friend. I am so happy that you are finding some peace through all of this uncertainty. You are never far from my thoughts dear friend. Sending you lots of love and prayers.

P.S. I love the idea of the chest. I'm sure it will be just beautiful!

Anonymous said...

My Precious Daughter,

My heart continues to ache not only for you, but for all of us.We miss Graham so much and will always miss him."When sorrow like sea billows roll" identifies the wave of emotions that have engulfed our family the past 8 months; but none of us have felt it like you, his mother.It has been so hard to miss Graham and see you and Luke suffer so much.Seeing the little glimmer of hope that shines through your words gives me reason to thank God for His promises and His faithfulness.We all want you to be able to "breathe" again and we know that you want that, too.Thank you for being willing to let us all get a glimpse into your soul where all the love, pain, and hope are wrapped up.It helps us all know better how to continue to pray for you and be there for you.God will bring beauty from the ashes...I have already seen Him working to make it happen.I will continue to trust Him to do greater things than we ever could have imagined!

I love you!


doddyj said...

Shelly, I stumbled onto your blog as a result of a tip from a family member. I remember you, not so much from specific memories in high school, but because you were in my brother's class, and your pure, passionate, and heartfelt desire to chase after God in everything has forever been stamped in my memory.

Your vulnerability, honesty, and utter grief you've spilled onto your blog pages is absolutely amazing to me - and quite a challenge. I think the only way I can capture your honesty is what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1 - you're using your blog to display the comfort God continually gives you so that others may be comforted. How can you be so selfless in such an utterly heartwrenching time?

Anyway, please know that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. Especially for tomorrow. You've given me reason to cherish every day that much more with my husband and kids and to hold on tight to each moment, each second, because life is truly but a vapor. Thanks for living your life still in complete honor to God.

-Jenn (Barben) Dodd

My Life said...


I wanted to let you know that i thought about you yesterday...and little graham too. I read your are right in the sense you are seeing things a little differently then before and I can see the healing taking place in your heart...but that place left will always be there for your baby. It never goes does tend to ache more times then others. I believe that you will become even stronger as you go takes some time but you start to notice it in the little things....things that normally would effect me before my are barely even able to touch me. I am armoured with sadly knowing the worse about things, so little everyday bumps in the road are like nothing anymore. I guess that is one blessing that comes from losing your child. we are changed Shelly...we are now keepers of the memories of our child and sharing with others about them keeps them alive in the hearts of many. thank you for sharing your heart. I am glad writing is helping you too. Take care and keep in has been awhile since we talked.

Anonymous said...

To the Carpenter family....always remember that there is the continued healing always. This little one that I viewed tonight is gracefully looking down upon his family and will continue to watch over you from his glory that he has far above us all.. and that soon we will all cross his path to grace his presence:).. from some one in florida...please see the same song sung on the bill gather (youtube) brought tears to me eyes.. but love the movement it brings to my end of the day:)