Friday, March 29, 2013

Psalm 34:4~Delivered Me From All My Fears

                                                                                ~Photo by Jean Ann Williams

Dear readers,

King David says this:

"I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears."

Do you think it is possible that the Lord can really take away our fears? That we will no longer be enslaved to fearfulness?

The truth is that He can and He has for me. When we go through various trials, ones that are high on the scale enough to create sorrow, we have two choices: believe God will help and watch Him in action or go on our own and fulfill our fleshy desires in a wasted unholy path.

I've said this before: one of my greatest weaknesses was fear. It still could be if I let Satan take charge.

God decided we should stay in our house four years longer after Joshua died there. That was my second greatest sorrow, but one of the rewards is I no longer quake in unholy fearfu. It was a long process though, and it took years to truly embrace a relationship of trust with Lord God.

Now days, if a first reaction of fear grips my heart, like one of my remaining children becomes sick, I pause. I'll pay attention to my breathing in and my breathing out. I know Satan has tempted me to not trust God.

Instead of trembling and freaking out, I latch onto God's promises that I no longer have to fear and pray to Him for to heal my child. This doesn't mean He will choose to heal my child, but I know without a doubt God can. The most important part is, I'm pleasing God by placing my faith in Him.

I tell people now, "Turn your fears into prayers of faith."

Fear is a waste of time, when we could be praying, praying.

How about you, dear reader? Have you had experiences where God took you through the trials and showed you how to trust in Him more fully?

I would love to hear from you.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your loving kindness and mercies each day. We know that You created us, and You enjoy the faith we carry in our hearts for You. In Jesus' holy name, I come before you. Amen.

Until next time . . . Trust the Lord God and all His Greatness. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Psalm 33:8~Stand In Awe Of Him

Joshua at age fourteen

Good morning, dear readers,

The Psalmist writes this:

 "Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him."

People may wonder what it means by the word fear here. If I understand it, we are to fear-respect God and fear-tremble before our God. Why? Because He created us. He created the ground we walk upon. The waters we swim in. The stars we look upon. Without God's creation . . . well, we wouldn't be in existence.

This is why the above verse says it all about our position before Lord God. This is also why when we are going through the smallest or harshest of trials and struggles, we are free to call out to God. Actually, we must call out to God. Unlike what too many church societies would tell you, we must lament before our Lord. We must be honest that we hurt. And that my friends, may take a very long while.

God wants us to NEED Him.

To need God is to share all with God. It's somewhat like a marriage. What if I didn't need my husband or he did not need me? There would not be that holy bond we can have together if we were independent of one another. That doesn't mean we are not each one held accountable for our own spiritual growth with God, but as one together, my husband and I can have joy because we need each other.

When our son died by suicide, my husband and I drew closer together.

At the same time we did that, we each drew closer to God like clinging children. Frightened and horrified by our loss, we needed God like never before. Even though, we suffered in such harsh lamenting that we could not feel God's presence, we hung on  to the promise that God can not lie. He said in Hebrews 13:5: "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." (KJV)

I love that promise. We'd have to be the one to walk away from Him, but He cannot leave us, dear readers.

Father, holy One, thank You for helping us to understand more of You. We love You! We need You! In Jesus' holy name. Amen.

Until next time . . . cry out unto the Lord for He longs to hear your needs.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Psalm 32:7~Thou Art My Hiding Place

Tide Pools, by Jean Ann Williams    

Good morning, dear readers.

I've missed the weekly Psalm verses. Having guests on my blog has been an enriching experience I hope for all.

The Psalmist writes:

"Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah." (KJV)

Has God at all times been my hiding place? Yes, but I had to acknowledge that I needed Him. God is always ready and waiting to hide me within His presence. But I do not always take advantage of this gift. Then, I falter and become confused and drift about like a wave tossed in the wind.

I'm wandering scared before the Almighty!

I get into trouble, because I did not hide within His holiness. And so, there are no songs in me to sing.

When I choose to ask for God's help, then all that the verse says flows until I break out in song. Oh, maybe not really singing always, but thoughts of joy because of God's protection over me. And other times, yes, I am singing. I sing songs I learned in worship. Or I make up my own, which are truly the most freeing of songs.

I am truly happy in the Lord.

What about you, dear readers? Give it a try and see what I mean about the blessings stated in Psalm 32:7. Even at our grumpiest moments, we can determine to turn our mood around and experience the blessings of our holy God.

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for giving us the Bible, Your Word, to know more about You. We shall never be truly joyful without You. In Jesus' holy name. Amen.

Until next time . . . hide under God's spiritual presence.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Barbara Swanston Finds Ways to Bring Awareness of Depression and Suicide

photo by Jean Ann Williams

We're back with our last day of interviews with Barbara Swanston. I've sure enjoyed getting to know Barbara.

What is your purpose, Barbara, and how do you hope to accomplish it?

I speak out to end the stigma around mental illness and suicide. We need to let people know how the stigma and silence surrounding mental illness and suicide contributes to those deaths. We must not let silence prevail in the wake of tragedy. We must speak out and replace the stigma with compassion and understanding.

I want to open people’s minds so they can open their hearts and make the UNspeakable speak-able. 

My deepest hope is that I can help to eliminate the stigma around mental illness so no one will feel so ashamed, worthless, or hopeless that they complete suicide rather than seeking help.

And that no one will ever know the excruciating pain and suffering of losing a loved one to suicide again. 

Then my beautiful boy, my Terry, will not have died in vain.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to our dear readers that may help them in their grief journey, or that they could say or do to help a friend who has lost a child to suicide?

You have experienced one of the most tragic losses anyone can suffer. Be gentle with yourself. Find people who will support you and listen to you. Look for support groups, either in your community or online. Don’t rush it. Grief is exhausting, it is hard work and it takes a long time. 

And if you know someone who has lost a child be patient with them, don’t rush them, let them talk about their child, listen to them. Mourning is the external expression of grief and it truly helps when people have an outlet to mourn, someone to talk to.

Is there a spiritual component to your grief journey?

I believe we are all connected and that energy, thoughts and actions impact ourselves and everything around us. I find meditation very helpful, a way to find some peace. 

Barbara, thank you for participating in this week’s Love Truth blog. I’m sure you have helped others with your wise words.

Father, thank You for sending Barbara my way. I pray a blessing over her and her ministry. In Jesus' holy name. Amen.

Until next time . . . Mothers After Loss, unite!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Barbara Swanston, Mother of Terry, Talks About What Helps Her

photo by Jean Ann Williams

How would you like people to respond to you when they find out Terry had died by suicide?

Keep it simple. 

Say you are sorry, that it must be terrible to lose a child, or just say you don’t know what to say and ask if there is anything I need. I needed people to call me, not wait to hear from me. 

People often told me they had been thinking about me but didn’t want to bother me. I asked them to please call me if they thought about me. That I could not pick up the phone yet I needed to hear from friends. 

Ask how I am doing, offer to help, do something concrete – take me grocery shopping, cook a meal, help with the garden – I could hardly function in the beginning. 

And just listen to me. 

Now when I meet anyone who has lost a loved one I always ask them the name of the person they lost (if I don’t know it), and I often ask them to tell me something they would like me to know about him or her. Nearly everyone wants to talk about their child, but people are uncomfortable and rarely ask.  Please ask me about Terry, and don’t worry if I get upset – that is okay.

What have you done to help yourself since the tragic death of your son Terry?

The first year was terrible; I was mostly in a grief pit and could not get out.  I survived. The second year was a little easier although little things, or nothing at all, would blindside me. However it began to get less intense, more manageable, in tiny increments. 

Coming up to the second anniversary I began to write and ended up writing what I call ‘An Open Letter from a Grieving Parent.’ I sent that out to lots of people and was astonished by the responses, especially from people who shared their own experiences with depression or other mental illnesses and stigma. Also people who had thought about or even attempted suicide. 

I realized there were a huge number of people out there who were hurting and silent because of the stigma. I felt I could begin to make a difference, take the terrible tragedy of my son’s death and help others. So now I have become what I call a Suicide Awareness Advocate. 

Thank you, Barbara. Tomorrow, you'll talk about other ways you bring awareness of suicide to society.

Father, we thank You for Your merciful love and ways. You always stay the same and are Someone we can count on. In Jesus' holy name. Amen.

Until tomorrow . . . reach out to a grieving person and listen.  

Barbara Swanston Talks a Bit About Her Son Terry

Photo by Jean Ann Williams

I have as my returning guest Barbara Swanston, mother of Terry. Terry died by suicide on August 21, 2010.

You may view Terry’s memorial site:

Barbara, thank you for being willing to speak about your loss of Terry.

Thank you, Jean. Let me start by saying although I wish neither of us had reason to be speaking on the subject of suicide, I am honoured to be here to speak about my son, Terry and my experience before and after his loss. Sharing is one of the most powerful ways we can help ourselves and each other in our grief journey.

I have a few questions for Barbara, and she hopes her answers may help other parents of suicide and those who want to help. Tell us a little about Terry. What was he like as a young child?

Terry was a beautiful boy with golden curls, a huge smile and the biggest shining blue eyes. He was funny and bright, sweet and mischievous. He was very outgoing and curious. He also was very sensitive, he had ADHD, and he struggled socially. Adults really loved him but he had a hard time fitting in with other kids.

What was he like as a teenager?

As he entered his teens Terry began to be troubled. He struggled in school and socially. He decided early on it was better to give up rather than try and maybe fail. I think he began to have bouts of depression, although we didn’t recognize them for several years. 

He began to use marijuana to self medicate his ADHD and ease his emotional pain. He was such a kind person. When he was 16 one of his best friends got brain cancer. It was terrible and he stuck by her through all her treatment when many others did not. She survived and they were friends for the rest of his life. 

Do you sometimes feel isolated from those around you, because of the death of your son?

I did feel isolated in the beginning, but I think that was as much about my own emotional fog and shock as people withdrawing. People are at a loss about what to do or say so they often say or do nothing. 

It took time for my friends and family and for me to begin to come terms with Terry’s tragic death and begin to learn how best to deal with it. 

I have tended to surround myself with people who are compassionate and supportive, and I began to ask for what I needed – please call me, please just listen, please let me talk about Terry. 

Most people have been wonderfully kind. I know this is not everyone’s experience. There were a few people who withdrew and a few people I knew I could not keep in my life after Terry died. Those losses were difficult, but it was better not to keep people around who were not supportive. 

Please stop by tomorrow and read more about Barbara and what helps her on this journey of loss. 

Lord, we praise You for the courage Barbara shows as she grieves the loss of a beautiful son. In Jesus' holy name, I pray. Amen. 

Until tomorrow . . . reach out to someone who is lonely. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Barbara Swanston's Last Part of Her Letter

Terry, Son of Barbara Swanston

We continue today with Barbara Swanston's Open Letter.

Remember when we called cancer the Big C, when unwed pregnancies, domestic violence and homosexuality were not discussed? Many people are uncomfortable hearing or talking about suicide (and mental illness) and there is still stigma and misunderstanding. I believe this must change. We need to be more compassionate, kind and understanding.

Here are some facts. From Wikipedia: The majority of gun-related deaths in the United States ARE SUICIDES, with 17,352 (55.6%) of the total 31,224 firearm-related deaths in 2007 due to suicide, while 12,632 (40.5%) were homicide deaths. The World Health Organization estimates that every year, almost a million people die from suicide, one every 40 seconds. It also estimates that for every suicide, there are up to 200 attempted ones. A recent scientific study stated the British economic recession, rising unemployment and biting austerity measures may have driven more than 1,000 people in England to commit suicide since 2007. Suicide rates in Europe have increased as well since 2007.

From the Health Canada website: Twenty percent of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness every year. Mental illness, by definition, has a serious impact on a person's ability to function effectively over a long period of time.

A while ago, I learned about a mural planned in Philadelphia to help raise awareness about suicide. I got in touch with the artist and he agreed to include Terry's image on the mural (he used the photo above). It is complete but I don't have any close up photos of it yet. Here is a link to the website. I am pleased that his image is part of this project.

Shortly after Terry died I joined an online support group called Parents of Suicide (PoS). It has been a lifeline for me and many other parents in the same situation. Sometimes it seems they are the only people who truly understand – probably they are. 

PoS is mostly an email exchange group. In every email there is a list of birth dates and memorial dates of children of our members for that month. I usually pause and read the names for that day. Last year I could not look at the August list because I could not bear to see Terence S not once but twice. I would skip over it as quickly as possible and avoid looking at the screen. It was too painful. Last August was just too painful.

It is August again (can it be 2 years already?) and there is that list again. This year, each time I see it I stop and read his name, August 21, Terence S (memorial) and August 28 Terence S (birth date). It is still very painful but I guess this is progress. 

Each name represents a human being who took his or her life in a moment of depression, despair, anger, irrationality, or whatever prompted them. Each one represents people who were impacted by that person’s sudden and most often unexpected death. People who are struggling to come to terms with the unthinkable. Some parents have lost children younger than 12 and some more than one child. Imagine!

What can you do? If you speak to someone who has lost a loved one to suicide don’t hesitate to talk about them. If you know someone who seems to be struggling with anxiety or depression, take time to listen to them. If someone you know mentions suicide, talk to them about it. Talking about suicide does not cause someone to become suicidal or increase the risk. Showing genuine concern by asking about suicide directly can be part of an immediate intervention. When you speak with me do not hesitate to mention Terry. He was a wonderful boy and young man. I need to feel he is not forgotten. Don't be afraid to speak about how he died and how he lived. My hope is that by talking about Terry’s life and his death, maybe another life can be saved.  

Elizabeth Edwards who lost her 16 year old son in a car accident said, ''If you know someone who has lost a child, and you're afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died, they didn't forget they died. What you're reminding them of is that you remember that they lived, and that's a great, great gift.'

Thank you for reading this.  

With love and peace,
Barbara, Terry's mum                                   
Aug 28/80 - Aug 21/10,
Your light went out too soon!   

Thank you, Barbara, for sharing your heart here on Love Truth. Tomorrow, you'll return to begin three days of interview questions and answers for readers.

Father, thank You for helping us parents get through the most difficult grieving journey of all. We lean on Your strength and Your love. In Jesus' holy name. Amen.

Until next time . . . ask that person you know to tell you about the child they lost.