When the ‘What If’s’ Come Flooding in Like a Tidal Wave of Destruction

Grief is not discriminatory. It’s like an ocean, it is always there, but it is not until the tide comes in that I feel overwhelmed by its presence. I have been navigating the child loss journey for almost 9 years with emotions raging out of control, swinging from one extreme to the next, my fears often magnified and ‘new normals’ to continuously explore.

It’s easy to focus solely on my pain and loss, to get swept up in the suffering and heartache and fall into a pit of self-pity, feeling alone and misunderstood. I think we all come to that same crossroads in life at one point or another, regardless of the reason for arrival, the feeling is universal.

There came a time when I realized I had a choice. It happened to be while standing over my son’s grave the day he was buried. Faced with the seemingly impossible and daunting task of simply taking the next breath, when the warmth of the sun penetrated my face, and I felt it as if I’ve never experienced it’s warmth before. I knew. I knew my only choice was to live, to share my ‘taboo’ and unspeakable story and to allow God to piece me back together as He saw fit. In His time, like only He could.

My life has consisted of many layers, difficult chapters, and hard seasons, and it’s ultimately up to me how long I allow each one to dictate me.

Grace makes us strong to bear trials, but we still have to bear them

– Charles Spurgeon

My strength is not my own. That was a very early discovery for me after being tossed into the grips of grief, losing my ‘little man,’ Will.

On July 21, 2009, my beautiful 3 1/2 year old son died of a gunshot wound. Of a wound that leaves me paralyzed at times to even think about. As loving, careful, protective, nurturing, hands-on and dedicated as I am to my children, I now have to live with the reality that my son (who would be 13 this year) is no longer here in my arms due to a tragic accident. I had to endure and witness what no mother could ever begin to comprehend.

I prayed fervently as I held Will’s almost lifeless body that he would be healed, believing with every ounce of my being that God could do it in that moment. I prayed a prayer of utter confidence in my God to do a miraculous work, to ‘take this cup.’ Yet I held the weight of his body in my arms for the very last time that tragic day.

I lived the next few years clinging to God but also very disappointed and confused that He couldn’t have just answered those cries for a miracle that day, to spare my family and me from this tragic fate. When I saw someone else’s miracle and answered prayer I felt a sting of jealousy and my sorrow that much deeper. As awful as that may sound, it’s true. Jealousy, bitterness, anger, and doubt, mixed with pain, grief and sorrow is quite the medicine for self-implosion if kept brewing within. I’m not ashamed to bring those raw feelings I had to the Light because I knew that if I exposed them, they couldn’t hold me captive in my own misery. (And maybe someone out there is afraid of what admitting feelings like this would look and sound like.)

Shame is often times the enemy of healing.

Then there was the moment that I finally realized my prayer was answered that day. Will was healed. Will was okay. Will IS healed, and he IS okay, it just doesn’t look like I had envisioned. God came near to me in that moment and every moment thereafter; the broken-hearted, just as His word proclaims.

God’s faithfulness and character didn’t change because my world was turned upside down. God is good ALWAYS. It’s easy to shout that from the mountaintops of answered prayers and fulfilled dreams. But how about from the cemetery? Is He still good while I stand over my son’s grave? Can I shout of His faithfulness even there?

Patcine McAnaul
Patcine McAnaulhttps://www.instagram.com/thewilltochoose/
Patcine McAnaul is the mother of five children, four on earth and one in Heaven. She is the founder of #thewilltochoose ministry that supports bereaved parents with funeral costs as well as selling t-shirts with God’s Promises printed on them. Shirts are also available upon request to donate to bereaved parents. Find her on Instagram.

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