16 Dec 2012

When parents have nightmares

We wake up in the still, quiet house with our hearts thundering in our ears and sweat sticking T-Shirts to our chests. Hair matted, fists clenched. Eyelids sticking shut trying to make sense of where we are. Where our dreams have dragged us.

Every parent has nightmares.

The only way to climb out of those dark thoughts is to put feet down on the carpet and pad down the hallway to where our tiny humans are sleeping. To kneel by the crib and place palms on backs that are curled around small toes, tiny bottoms thrust into the air. We treat our panic with the steady rhythm of their breathing.

And our own slows. As we breathe in and out the wonder of their being unharmed, alive, real, ours.

To have a child is to dive into a deep, dark sea of vulnerability. There are no guarantees. Only promises that your heart will break. And that you will be put back together in unexpected ways.

But some nightmares take place in broad daylight.

When my friend Corné lost her daughter, Isabelle, my brother and dad were there. It was one of those stories you hear about all the time. Desperately accidental. A driver who backed up and didn’t pay close enough attention. Isabelle, like my Jackson, was just 18 months old. We’d been back back in the States only five months. Only five months since we’d been in South Africa for her first birthday. And I was in Michigan surrounded by snow when we got the news.

I wanted to vomit. I wanted to climb out of my skin.

My brother tells how he couldn’t un-hear the howl of animal grief from her parents.

Some nightmares block out the sun.

It’s best not to pretend everything will be OK. It’s best to just howl alongside, I think. The desperate news out of Connecticut has raised a howl in all of us so hard and loud and ragged it is difficult to breathe.

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

We are not the first to ask that question.

We will surely not be the last.

Keep asking friends.

Take all your frustration and anger and terror to the God who has never shied away from hard questions. The only God I know who has experienced death and heaved with the howl of loss Himself.

We will have nightmares, thrash around in the dark and grope towards a night light. But we are the destined-for-morning people.

We are the sunshine creeping over the edge of a dark rock rolled away people. We are the gaping hole in the side of a hill defied by the Light people.

We are the Sunday morning, eyes still swollen from weeping people.

So we howl. But not without hope, my friends.

Not without hope.

Comments

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  1. 1
    A fellow south african abroad says:

    “To have a child is to dive into a deep, dark sea of vulnerability. There are no guarantees. Only promises that your heart will break. And that you will be put back together in unexpected ways.”
    …… And how deep the vulnerability is – it’s what keeps us awake at night and find it’s way into the deepest recesses of our soul. May their dear souls rest in peace. AMEN.

  2. 2

    i held a 9-year-old girl on the side of a highway ten days ago. she was shrieking for her dead sister who lay under metal just down the bank. the mother’s desperate pleas for help from right.beside.her.dead.daughter. won’t leave me alone….and i can’t unforget (love that word your brother used) my sister-in-law wailing three years ago, “i just want my son back….” and now i’m avoiding CT by leaving the room while husband watches the news some more. because if i give in to the panic none of us would ever leave our home again. and that’s not living. this post, thanks. lisa-jo. it’s what i needed.

  3. 5

    Very well written word. Indeed, we do have nightmares as parents & I hope never to howl that animal roar. It is hard to see His plan at times like these, but faith calls me to believe. May you sleep peacefully tonight.

  4. 6

    I went to my girlfriends five month olds funeral, while I was four months pregnant. Still makes me sad, still makes me howl. This friday makes us all have nightmares, you are right we have to ask God those questions and we are not without Hope. Beautifully written, you wrote what we have all been feeling.

  5. 7

    Very few words this weekend, except this: I needed your words tonight, LJ. Thanks for sharing them.

  6. 8

    I don’t have words. My heart is raw. Thank you for these words, my friend. We are not without hope.

  7. 9

    What can I write here? Just thank you, Lisa-Jo. Thank you for this.

  8. 10

    Thank you, Lisa Jo. My mama heart needed to read this – I’ve struggled with horrible, graphic, + lasting nightmares ever since postpartum with my first little guy almost 2 years ago – I can count on at least 3-4 a week. And sister, I’m so weary. I know the Enemy would love nothing more than to rock my world with constant fear + keep me from doing the Kingdom impacting work of being a mama by being so tired all the time. And things like CT seem to reaffirm his hold on the world. But God keeps bringing the words of this song to mind this week and I’m clinging to them…although somewhat desperately:

    And in despair I bowed my head
    “There is no peace on earth, I said
    For hate is strong and mocks the song
    Of peace on earth, goodwill to men

    Then, pealed the bells more loud and deep
    God is not dead, nor does He sleep
    The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
    With peace on earth, goodwill to men

    Again…thank you.

    • 11

      My Micah has terrible dreams too. This is a good song to fill your head and house with. I pray you find peace. Dreading bedtime, it’s a hard thing.

  9. 12

    Yes, We howl, because sometimes there are no words, but God – He still hears the heart – but God…

  10. 13

    we DO have hope… even in the hard times and even when we howl with grief. Thank you

  11. 14

    My nightmare started at the end of a long hot summer day. Winter came in July and stayed for long long cold winter’s night but God heals and hope comes and with it the sun.Thank God Jesus paid it all.

  12. 15

    Praise God we are not without hope! Praying for those who are lost without Him.

  13. 16

    Thank you for this, Lisa-Jo.

  14. 17

    I watched just a tiny portion of the vigil last night, just long enough to hear the speaker tell the audience that they should not wail or mourn because it would disturb their children’s souls in the divine realm. And I though, my God. If there was ever a time for total, raw, guilt free grief, it is now. I mourn and I pray. I know that even in this He will be revealed.

  15. 18
    Tina Matteson says:

    Lisa-Jo, like many of your posts, I thought ‘this is her best yet.’ You put into words so well what all of us are feeling. Thank you.

  16. 19

    Finally…
    Through so much noise, yours is a response that rings true.
    Talk about a howl of grief … I think the whole of creation is howling for these babies– and so many other babies.
    “How much longer, oh Lord?”…
    Even so, Lord Jesus… Quickly come.”

  17. 20

    Thank you, Lisa-Jo, for putting to words what I just could not.

    Close to 30 years ago I was a few months pregnant with my first, and I still remember the pain and cold, hard, brittleness that settled over my sister-in-law at the funeral of her full term first born who was stillborn. I remember the depth of hurt in her eyes and the way she looked at me, and I shuddered, not even beginning to be able to comprehend her loss.

    I grieve the children and families of CT today, but continue to call to God in the everlasting hope He will comfort and heal.

  18. 21
    Nancy - your friend from Canada says:

    I was disturbed by nightmares, as well, on Friday night. All I could do in the night was pray – what a gift prayer is!
    I kept watching the News in an attempt to “make sense.” The nightmares seemed slightly unrelated to the occurrence, but there was the common thread of being out-of-control.
    I remembered the next day how I had not counted by blessings, by writing in my gratitude journal, in sometime. What I have learned by not saying thank you because I “should”, but rather count the everyday, seemingly mundane, day-to-day things that make-my-heartsmile, that I love, that are gifts in my life (even the tough stuff), this is what keeps me grounded. This simple task gives me opportunity to cherish what is really important and keeps me in the here-and-now. And that’s all I ever really have in any given moment.

  19. 22

    I so needed this on a Monday morning, after kissing my kids too hard at school and thanking their teachers for selflessness. After a weekend of weeping, wondering, asking, not wanting to hear “it’s going to be okay”. After driving away from that school, crying and praying for the parents that won’t this morning. Thank you.

  20. 23

    Lisa – thank you for this post today. We needed to hear that it is ok to HOWL and ask God the hard questions.

  21. 24

    I never feel that my words adequately laud your writing.
    This is so greatly encouraging, giving light to dark moments of our lives.
    God bless!

  22. 25

    To hold our children loosely, to b e l i e v e that they aren’t really ours, anyway. Well, that’s the hardest part of being a mom for me.

    I’ve howled at lesser nightmares; this one is one I cannot imagine.

    To have a God who knows suffering beyond my comprehension? A seed of hope, a solace….

  23. 26

    I almost lost my 23 month old to one of those horrific accidents yesterday, but it would have been my fault…. I lost track of him, and almost lost his sweet smile. Nightmares indeed. Feeling especially raw and vulnerable today. Thank you for this post….

  24. 27
    Beth from Down Under says:

    This is beautifully real. Thank you. I remember those night-terrors when my kids were little. They ebbed and flowed with the years, but never disappeared. They have reemerged to disturb my rest since the arrival of a grandchild. The explosion of communications that bring the realities of war, violence, hunger, excess and terror into our living rooms daily, provide a never-ending supply of fuel for fear. Thank God for his peace and comfort.

  25. 28

    I’ve not been able to put in words since the CT murders. My heart aches so. It was just days after our son’s death 8 years ago. I know that howl. I remember hearing those deep sobs of my husband. Ohhh, that deep grief. My heart aches. Thank you for writing this . . . joy will come in the morning. It’s just going to be a long night.

    No, we are not without hope. Thank you Jesus.

  26. 29

    This part is so good:
    “Take all your frustration and anger and terror to the God who has never shied away from hard questions. The only God I know who has experienced death and heaved with the howl of loss Himself.”

    We need to remember that and keep reminding our friends and loved ones of it too. Thanks for a beautiful post.

  27. 30

    I think the day-time nightmares are worse than the night nightmares

  28. 32

    Lisa Jo-I just wanted to say thank you! Thank you for always putting into words what my heart feels right along with yours. Your writings are an inspiration to me to turn always to God first in times of sorrow and happiness. Thank you, thank you, thank you-for even though we don’t know each other, I feel like you are an old friend who knows just what to say to comfort and encourage me. =) Happy Holidays and God Bless!
    <3 Pamela from IL

  29. 33

    Oh Lisa-Jo-
    I’m reading this as I sit in the car pool lane,
    waiting to pick up my sweet girls from school.
    And now, tears are running down my face.
    But thank you for your words … For your reaching out from behind the computer monitor to offer hope. What a wonderful reminder that God DOES understand, because he has stood here, because he know the pain of loosing his son in a terrible, awful way.
    It is a powerful truth that you have shared.

  30. 34

    God bless you Lisa-Jo. I actually came to your site to thank because a few months ago I discovered Lisa-Jo-baker.com and it is really …helping and blessing and challenging me and reminding me I’m (mostly) doing an OK job.
    I know a mum who lost a child a few months older than my 14 month old son recently…I can’t put my son into bed without thinking about her and what she must begging through. And its a constant reminder to hug and kiss and love on my babies…..life is so precious.
    God bless you x

    • 35

      And your name is Jo? I love that. Naturally :) I’m so glad you can find some encouragement here. I think you’re probably doing much better than you feel you’re doing. At least that’s how it seems to me some days. glad we can be in it together.

  31. 36

    Must be GOING through. Silly auto-correct ;)

  32. 37

    This is a fantastic read.
    You have a gift Lisa-Jo

    “We will have nightmares, thrash around in the dark and grope towards a night light. But we are the destined-for-morning people.

    We are the sunshine creeping over the edge of a dark rock rolled away people. We are the gaping hole in the side of a hill defied by the Light people.

    We are the Sunday morning, eyes still swollen from weeping people.”

    Keep writing. The world needs your words. For you are one of those people.

  33. 38

    wow, just wow! Thank you for putting these thoughts into words…

Trackbacks

  1. [...] When Parents Have Nightmares (Lisa-Jo Baker) [...]

  2. [...] the floor by his side of the bed, burying their heads in the covers near him, also sobbing.  Those howls of grief another blogger wrote of. I can still hear it.   I remember mine . . .  And I think of it [...]

  3. [...] every dark night. For every terrible, haunting nightmare that turns out to be true. For every heart ache and gut-busting tragedy. For every awful, [...]

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