What is it?
There are many reasons that your heart may be broken. Usually, it’s because of the loss of someone or something you love. The most common cause of a broken heart is because of the death of a loved one (bereavement)!
Your heart may also be broken because of the break-up of a relationship. Or, you may feel broken because of the loss of your health, business or finances.
We offer our story in the hope that we can connect with you in your pain and suffering. Our heart is to pass on the love and comfort we’ve experienced in bringing love and comfort to you in your pain.
Our story is outlined in the following video’s:
8min – How do keep Living after the Death of two Children?
30min – Love and Suffering
Deep deep pain in your soul or spirit. Feelings of hopelessness, sadness and yearning. This can be described as feeling like death and can lead to depression, psychosis and many of the physical symptoms listed below.
Crying/deep deep sobbing, inner groaning, loss of appetite, insomnia, fatigue/loss of energy, low libido, heaviness, aches, pains and sometimes more serious consequences.
After Alex’s suicide, Jeannie had all the above emotional and physical symptoms. For four months she said again and again, ‘I wish I had never been born!’ This is one step further than saying, ‘I wish I could die.’ Eventually, the stress and strain was too much for Jeannie’s body and she woke one morning with a terrible pain in her abdomen. Several hours later, and after intensive testing, she had life-saving surgery to cut out a double knot in her intestines! The prolonged pain of Alex’s suicide was too much for her body. In earlier days, she would have died with the cause of death being, ‘A Broken Heart.’ The pain was just under her heart!
Stages of Grief
No two people grieve in the same way and it’s wrong and dangerous to be too prescriptive about the stages of grief a person should go through.
There is a helpful analogy in the deep sea diver. He goes down into unknown waters that are dark, mysterious, and dangerous and a huge weight of water pressing down on him. In coming up to the surface and the light, he has to be very careful. If he comes up too quickly he will get the ‘bends’ (bubbles forming in the body) that can lead to paralysis and death. His ascent needs to vary depending on different conditions.
Similarly, people grieve in different ways – different symptoms and different lengths of time. It is not something to be rushed!
However, it is possible to recognize different stages of grief that may not manifest in the same order:
- Denial and Isolation – for quite a while, Jeannie would not accept Alex’s suicide and expected him to come home at any time. Also, for several months she pushed many of her close friends away!
- Anger – as the realty of the loss settles in, anger may occur, directed at one’s self, one’s loved ones or someone or something else. This is often linked to blame, which becomes intense when linked to a suicide (see Suicide). Why wasn’t I there? If we hadn’t done so and so it could have been prevented. If the doctor had diagnosed the disease sooner! At this stage, there is a fork in the road to healing your broken heart. Go the right way (see below) and you will journey on into light and love. But, if you go the wrong way, you will journey into darkness and hatred. Jeannie journeyed the wrong way and it took her many years to recover!
- Hatred and Bitterness – this is a very dark and dangerous road to take and should be avoided as all costs. Like Miss Havisham, in the Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations, as well as yourself, many people will be severely damaged if you go down this road. Refusing to accept the reality of the terrible loss you’ve incurred, you want to relieve your pain by hurting other people, especially those who love you and are close to you.
For two years after Alex’s suicide, Jeannie hated herself and she hated me. Initially, she hated God too but this turned to unbelief – she couldn’t accept that a loving God that she had been serving for 24 years could have allowed such a terrible thing to happen to our family.
- Depression – This will probably also occur along the dark and dangerous road after taking the wrong folk. It comes as a dark dark cloud that blocks out the light. The ability to reason goes and hope quickly dims as well.
Jeannie was in deep depression for a long time after Alex’s suicide and, but for the grace of God, our beautiful marriage would have ended and she may well have taken her own life!
- Healing – in this life, you never get over the loss of a loved one, but you can journey on successfully, turning the terrible pain into something that will bring healing and comfort to others! See Healing your broken heart below.
The Biblical Stages of Healing
When Jeannie and I were in our darkest hour, the Lord showed me the Biblical stages of healing found in the following scripture from Is 61:2-3:
‘To comfort all who mourn,and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to:
- bestow on them a crown of beautyinstead of ashes,
- the oil of joyinstead of mourning,and
- a garment of praiseinstead of a spirit of despair.’
The first stage is the battle or conflict that takes place in the mind (the crown is placed on your head). For several years after Alex’s suicide, Jeannie was covered in ‘ashes’. Her mind was filled with negative thoughts – blame e.g. why didn’t we see it coming?, why didn’t God rescue him? etc., hatred (for herself, me and God), unbelief (she lost her faith for two years), and hopelessness (what is the point of living!). And then, bit by bit, her thinking started to change. She started to read scripture again and to share them with me. I knew she had a breakthrough in her thinking when she said to me one day – ‘You know Gerard, I am thankful…!’ I cried because she had come a long way from saying, ‘I wish I’d never been born!’
The second stage has to do with allowing the Holy Spirit to have access to your inner being. Yielding to Him. It involves surrendering the grief and mourning to God. Sometimes you might feel guilty for starting to live a normal life again. You may feel you’re forgetting or letting your loved one down. More and more, Jeannie started to allow the Holy Spirit to flow in and through her and she received some amazing words from God. She joined me in meeting and having sweet fellowship with our dear friends George and Judy Kohl. And the joy started to flow!! Again, I cried.
The third stage is the surrender of the will. It’s a willingness to say to God, ‘I may not understand why you’ve allowed this terrible thing to happen to me but I’m going to trust you anyway!’ This establishes the Lordship of Jesus Christ over your life. Job said, ‘Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.’ 13:15. The opposite of despair is hope and when we surrender our will to God, hope arises for now and eternity. Jesus is lifted up and the natural outcome is praise. The tears would often flow when I saw Jeannie lifting up her hands in praise and worship to God in the little house church we ran with Gorge and Judy.
Is God there?
Some of the most difficult things to wrestle with in the terrible pain of your loss are the questions, especially those concerning God. ‘If God loved me so much, why did He allow this to happen?’ ‘Where was God when I needed Him the most?’ ‘I thought He promised that no harm or evil would happen to me?’
These questions are very normal and I encourage you to wrestle with them because:
- The great men and women of faith in the Bible wrestled with God over these very questions;
- Half of the Psalms are laments, asking, ‘why God?’;
- This may be hard to understand (you’ll have to trust me for now on this one – see the scriptures below) but God is hurting more than you are about your pain!;
- God wants you to come to Him with your pain – He can deal with your anger, pain and disappointment. He wants you to share it with Him;
- I have had many many times of the deepest weeping with God in which I off loaded my pain and questions on to Him; and
- It’s very healthy spiritually, emotionally and physically to share your pain with God and others and, yes, that may include some shouting and ranting and raving!!
You’ve arrived at the fork in the road that I mentioned above. Your choice at this point will determine whether you journey on into triumph and light or into darkness and depression. I can assure you that Satan is doing all He can to persuade you to take the road into darkness.
You’ve arrived at the point Jesus was at before He went to the Cross. Knowing what was about to happen, He was in absolute unbelievable agony. The cup He had to drink was incredibly bitter and He asked the Father if there might be another way!! And then He made the decision that God is asking you to make! Will you surrender all your pain and suffering, your very life, and say with Jesus, ‘nevertheless, not what I will but what you will!’
One day, you will understand why God allowed your heart to be broken. You may not see it now; in fact it makes no sense to you at all!! But, will you trust God in the midst of your pain and suffering? Like Jesus did, will you say, I surrender my life to you God and I ask you to come and give me the grace to journey on with you for your glory and your honor. This is what it means to take up your cross and follow Him. And, when you do this, you release from your life more of His Kingdom and love to drive back the darkness in this world.
Choosing to surrender your pain and suffering to God will probably not take it away (although He does give us the grace to journey on with it). Jeannie and I often have intense pain in missing our beautiful Rebecca and precious Alex. But, when the pain comes, we try to make a conscious decision to rededicate our lives to Christ. Some days are easier than others!!
Below are some scriptures that have helped us on our journey.
Healing your broken heart
God is the best person to heal your broken heart. He knows and understands you more than you know yourself. If you’ve received Christ as your Savior, you have the Holy Spirit within you and He is the Comforter(John 14:26).
After Alex’s suicide and Rebecca’s unbelievable death, I said to the Holy Spirit, ‘You know better than I do how to heal my broken heart and I ask you to do that.’ He has been healing me ever since that prayer. Even now I can find myself in deep sobbing and I believe it’s the Holy Spirit doing some further healing on my heart. I always feel lighter and more whole after these healing sessions.
God is very close to you in your pain!
God feels every bit of pain and suffering that is happening on this earth. We read in Genesis 6:6 that God’s heart was broken when He saw all the pain and suffering happening on earth.
One night I was alone in my study and I was sobbing and grieving the suicide of Alex and struggling with the darkness that Jeannie was then in. All of a sudden, I felt an arm around my shoulders. I looked and there was no one I could see but, I still felt this arm round my shoulders. I then had a strong sense that Jesus was in the room with me and it was His arm that was around my shoulder. What I sensed next has never left me – Jesus was actually sobbing with me – deep deep sobs that words cannot describe. Does God feel your pain – absolutely and He wants you to allow Him to share it with you. To allow Him to come into your deepest pain and be there with you.
God, ‘heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds’ Ps 147:3
Jesus said, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me
… He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted.’ Luke 4:18
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Ps 34:18
Why does a loving God allow suffering in the world?
You may ask, ‘why did God create an earth with so much pain and suffering?’ The answer is, He didn’t. When He first created the earth and humans and all the animals, there was no death, or suffering or pain.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Gen 1:31
It was only after human beings rejected God and His ways, deciding instead to take on the role of god and to go their own way, that death and suffering and pain was released on earth. Man’s rebellion against God affected everything including, humans, animals, plants, and the universe!
Thankfully, if you have received Jesus Christ as your savior, God has rescued you, and through eternity you will be with God in Heaven where there is no more death, or mourning or crying or pain (Rev 21:4).
‘Why though,’ I hear you ask, ‘did God create humans with the ability to reject Him and, in so doing; bring pain and suffering and death into this world?’ It’s because He wants a people who will choose to love Him and are willing to have Him as their God (and not themselves). To find those people, there has to be free will.
How you exercise your God given free will, determines how you journey through this age and where and how you will be in the next age!
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
Advice for the Journey
Only when we get to Heaven will we fully see and understand and get answers to our questions.
For now though, we pray that the advice and answers offered below will bring you some comfort and peace in your suffering.
Why am I suffering?
Nothing is wasted in God’s economy! Rest assured, God is working to bring good out of your suffering. God will turn what is terrible and even evil into something that will be good both for you and for others.
It may take you years to see and believe it, but God does have an eternal purpose in allowing you to suffer!
The story of Joseph in Genesis 37 to 50 gives us great hope in how God turns evil into something good. After terrible undeserved suffering, Joseph goes from prisoner to Prime Minister of the most powerful nation on the earth (Egypt) and is used to save millions of lives!
But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Gen 50:20
Every bit of suffering and pain you go through in your walk with God, He will repay one hundredfold both now and through eternity!
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.” Mark 10:29-30
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Rom 8:18
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Cor 4:17
The Cross is both the most horrific thing that has happened on earth and the most loving thing!
God gave His only son to rescue us for eternity! And, it is only in the context of eternity that we can start to make sense of the suffering God may have called you to in this age.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross. Heb 12:2
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Cor 4:18
You have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. Phil 1:29
Those who suffer according to God’s will should, while doing what is good, entrust themselves to a faithful creator.’ 1 Pet 4:19
Jesus said, ‘Anyone who is not offended because of Me is blessed.’ Luke 7:23
Will I ever know love, joy and hope again?
Yes, you certainly can have love, joy, hope and peace again. You may still miss your loved ones but, you can have sorrow and joy at the same time! Your soul can have peace knowing that all is well and, in Christ Jesus, you will see your loved one again. Even in the grieving, the Holy Spirit causes supernatural joy to well up from within.
‘Joy is not the absence of suffering but the presence of God,’ Amy Carmichael
‘In acceptance there is peace.’ Amy Carmichael
‘In quietness and trust is your strength.’ Is 30:15
Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. 2 Cor 6:10
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Rom 15:13
How can I get through each day?
Courage is your best friend at this time. Courage to keep going and not give up. Courage to go to the throne of Grace (see below). Courage to love, to keep moving forward, to embrace your grief and continue on your journey!
Some days are going to be very very hard. In the midst of terrible suffering, the Apostle Paul said, ‘we live in the face of death!’ But, I want to share with you the key to journeying on in the most difficult circumstances.It’s a key that all the great men and women of God have known through the ages.
There is a place where you can receive everything you need to journey triumphantly through your day – love, comfort, strength, courage, peace, joy, wisdom, provision etc. It’s called the throne of grace! It’s God’s throne room and it’s where He will impart to you all that you need for every day. The provision is from the victorious life of Jesus and it’s imparted to us by the Holy Spirit.
I go to the throne of grace every morning and through the day and I spend time with God in friendship and fellowship and I receive from Him supernatural love and power for victorious living. I don’t always feel like going to the throne of grace but I’m so grateful when I’ve broken through the inertia and I’ve spent time with God. God speaks to me in a still small voice within and His words to me quicken my spirit. I read His word (the Bible) and sometimes a friend will send me a scripture or a message.
Your words are what sustain me; they are food to my hungry soul. They bring joy to my sorrowing heart and delight me. Jer 15:16 (TLB)
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness. 2 Cor 12:9
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever. Ps 73:26
On a very practical level, try to find a rhythm in your day. Establish times when you can put your grief down. After Alex’s suicide, Jeannie worked part time for four years looking after two young boys who needed special care and attention (she is gifted in this area). The work was a distraction from her grief. She had to be disciplined in going to work and she had to focus when she was there.
God has given you your friends and family to help you in your time of need. After Rebecca died, there was an outpouring of love and comfort on Jeannie, Ben and myself from our friends and family from all around the world. It felt as though God was holding and hugging us!In fact, He was, because scripture teaches us that the body of Jesus on earth is made up of everyone that has received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior!
‘Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.’ 1 Cor 12:27
Should I take medication?
We’re not qualified to answer this question for you. However, I will share with you what Jeannie and I did and why.
In first few weeks after Alex’s suicide, Jeannie and I took a sleeping tablet. Not every night but as needed to ensure we got at least 5-6 hours of sleep a night. Maintaining a good sleep pattern is essential to help with the mental, emotional and physical strain you’re under.
We saw several people after Alex’s suicide including a Psychiatrist. Jeannie began to be psychotic (disconnected from reality) and suicidal and she was prescribed a strong drug. She took one or two but then stopped taking them because she was concerned about side effects and was also tempted to overdose (Jeannie has never liked taking any sort of drug)!
I will share one quite frightening episode on our journey. A few weeks after Alex’s suicide, we were very concerned about Jeannie’s mental state and her treats of suicide. We decided to have her omitted to the local Psychiatric hospital. However, shortly after checking in at the front desk, it became abundantly clear that this was a very bad decision. We realized we were handing over all our rights and Jeannie would be placed on heavy medication and be sectioned with some very unwell patients!! It was a very close call but at the last minute, Jeannie, Rebecca and I managed to persuade the medics that Jeannie was not going to try t take her life and she would be better cared for at home! We all thought that if Jeannie had been omitted it could have been the end of her!!
Please note, every person is different and, in your case, it might be the right decision to be omitted to your local Psychiatric Hospital.
Where to find Help
We recommended you ask trusted friends in your church or community to advise you of the best local help for your particular grief and suffering. Try and get two or three different opinions before settling on where to go locally for help. Your church and doctor can help you and some churches (not necessarily your own) have excellent councilors. Jeannie saw two excellent councilors from our local church over the years and they gave her some wonderful help and guidance.
Hopefully, you have two or three close friends who will journey with you. Choose wisely because you want Godly people who will base their advice on God’s word and speak positive healing words into your life.
Helpful web sites:
http://www.goodtherapy.org/ – Helping people find therapists. Advocating for ethical therapy.
http://www.compassionatefriends.org/home.aspx – supporting family after a child dies
http://forums.grieving.com/ – a forum resource for people to connect with others and share stories of loss and healing.
http://www.missfoundation.org/ – A Community of Compassion and Hope for Grieving Families
http://www.losingyourparents.org/ – connecting and sharing stories
Helping the Brokenhearted
Has God called you to be His hands and feet in caring for someone with a broken heart? If so, you’re fulfilling a very important role within the body of Christ and, as such, you’re bringing glory to His name.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Gal 6:2
It is a very important and challenging role but the Holy Spirit will equip you to carry it out.
First, an important spiritual principle. Depending where a person is in the stages of grieving (see above), there may well be a lot of darkness and confusion in their thinking. They could be starting to turn away from God (even if they’re not saying they are). Remember, suffering (including a broken heart) is one of the main reasons people don’t believe in God or lose their faith in Him (like Jeannie did). God wants to use you to help rescue the person you’re caring for and the first and most important way you do this is by giving them God’s love.God’s love brings spiritual light that will drive away the darkness encroaching on your friends mind and enabling them to see and receive God’s love for themselves.
How should you love your friend?
Be present for them and experience their pain – God came and lived with us for a while and He wept with us!
Weep with those who weep. Rom 12:15 Jesus wept – John 11:35
Hug and hold them – this will reassure your friend and let them know that you’re present with them. However, be sensitive if they’re not ready to be hugged.
Be faithful and consistent – your friend has lost their bearings, their world has fallen apart! They need you to help them find their feet.
Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find? Prov 20:6
Listen well–Allow your friend to offload on you even if they do say the wrong things!
Give gentle, tender and timely words – your words have the power of life and death. Even though your words may be true they could cause tremendous damage because they are not said at the right time.
The tongue has the power of life and death. Prov 18:21
Timely advice is lovely,like golden apples in a silver basket.Prov 25:11
Several years after Alex’s suicide, a friend sent Jeannie a lovely card with Rom 8:18 carefully written inside – ‘we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’This is a well know scripture and insensitive people can cause tremendous damage in casually quoting it to those in pain. Thankfully, in Jeannie’s case it was a word in season from the Lord (God had been speaking to Jeannie from this verse shortly before receiving the card!) and it really encouraged her and lifted her spirit.
Simply telling your friend that you love them and that you’re so sorry for their loss and pain and that you’re going to be there for them, will be wonderful words for them to hear.
Be patient – the first definition of love in the Bible is, ‘Love is patient’ 1 Cor 13:4God did a deep work to develop more patience in me in the many years that Jeannie was healing after the suicide of Alex!
Carry as much of the burden as you can – this will be a wonderful expression of your love for them.
‘Let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.’ 1 John 3:18
After the suicide of Alex and the unbelievable death of Rebecca, our friends from church organized a group of people to provide for our main meal for several weeks!
What not to do!
Don’t try and heal of fix your friend, just love them. It’s the Lord who heals the brokenhearted not you! Tremendous damage can be done by trying to speed up a person’s healing – see stages of Grief above and the deep sea diver! Your calling is just to love them.
Don’t rattle off a whole load of scripture – this can be so insensitive! It can cause so much damage and, unless your friend’s heart is ready they won’t receive the words anyway. Pray long and hard about what to share with your friend and, if you do share, be very gentle and sensitive. Remember, Jesus was full of grace and truth – John 1:14 – notice grace comes first!
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Col 4:6
Don’t betray confidentiality – the only time this would not apply is if someone is in physical danger e.g. your friend tells you they’re going to commit suicide.
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