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When the Unthinkable Happens (part 2)

If you haven’t already done so, please read last week’s post “When the Unthinkable Happens” (Part 1) by clicking on that title in the right-hand column of this page

God?  God is the reason you still have some kind of healthy relationship with your MIL despite how your infant daughter, Sophie, died?

That’s what Susan had said.  God.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I wanted to know what she meant. She doesn’t blame her MIL. That would be a natural reaction to what had happened. And hate could have followed … and won the day.

When the rubber meets the road, I want to know what people really mean when they say “God helped me survive that tsunami of a life-happening” … because most people go under.  I want to know how other people have found God to be BIG ENOUGH for the most difficult, painful experiences we face.

How does she see that the “bigness” of God has anything to do with her MIL/DIL relationship?  Faced with such heart-breaking – and as one commenter put it, “gut-wrenching” – loss and the circumstances surrounding it, why does Susan believe that “God” is the reason she can love her MIL?

Here’s what she said.

“My MIL convinced herself that it was SIDS.  I found Sophie.  I know she suffocated and the autopsy results said the same.”

“She probably couldn’t live with herself if she …” I was vaguely aware that I was thinking aloud.

“Yeah, she can’t.  And so I just don’t touch it.  It’s not something I need to set the record straight on.  It’s pointless.”

They never talked about it.

“It wasn’t something that was possible to revisit immediately or even years afterwards.”

What did happen, Susan related, was that God did a work in HER heart, changing it completely.  She felt that God let her see the event from His vantage point – a bird’s-eye view… or perhaps a “God’s-eye view” … of much that was involved.

Susan went on to talk more about the aftermath.

“My face was in the dirt because of the loss of my daughter… I spent three years just keeping God at arm’s length.  ‘Who IS this God who would allow that?  Who IS this God?  I don’t know Him!’ And I was right – I didn’t.”

“During the three years of holding this God that I THOUGHT I KNEW at arm’s length, I was so wounded.  I went for weeks without talking to Him.  I felt betrayed. For months He had been telling me to read (the book of) Job (in the Bible).  Finally, I relented.  Job took me into the deepest waters I had ever been in with my God, the place where your feet don’t touch bottom.  I realized I had made this awesome God into a ‘candy man’.  The gospel as I knew it was ‘Christian’s don’t suffer’.  I had a one-dimensional God and He was revealing to me that He is multidimensional.

“Reading Job showed me WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE for Sophie’s death.  Satan was. This had nothing to do with my MIL.  She was just a player in the play, a pawn of sorts. … He (God) helped me forgive the part she played.”

Contrary to popular belief, Susan said, her MIL is not “the enemy”.  Satan is.  “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8

Nope, that’s not your MIL.

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Much of what I read online these days by MILs & DILs – what they say about one another, how they complain, criticize, judge and dismiss one another – causes me to ask “Are they facing real adversity with their MIL/DIL?”  Or are most of these monologues basically petty, self-absorbed whining because we feel diminished or threatened?  Or things don’t go the way we had planned.  When we’re not getting what we want, it’s all too easy to blame someone else for the discomfort and disappointment that plagues us.  I’ve done that myself – more often than I’d like to admit.

Susan’s situation is a real-life example of caring enough about the MIL/DIL relationship to pursue it with perseverance.  She didn’t direct her confusion, pain and anger toward her MIL.  She turned to her God for answers.  She didn’t ditch her husband’s mother.  She dug in and hung on, believing that this special bond is worth the effort.  It’s a challenge to all of us to rise above the norm, examine our hearts and make truth, mercy and love our lifestyle and our home.

What I’m learning is that the MIL/DIL relationship has more to do with what’s going on inside me than it is with what’s going on around me.

MILs and DILs – Family, Friends & Allies … That’s what I’m looking for.

“I hope this will be a blessing to someone, someday” Susan adds.

It already has, Susan.  And it will.  I’m sure of it.

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When the Unthinkable Happens (part 1)

Exploring MILS & DILS as “Family, Friends and Allies” led me to visit with Susan, a woman who has 33 years of experience as a DIL with “a very strong-willed woman” as her MIL.  In her words “We have journeyed along a hard road, but have successfully traversed that road to arrive where we are now finally friends.” Here is part of her story – truly “a hard road” which, by the grace of God, their relationship survived and it continues still.  Read on ….

Susan has six sons.  She brags about it on her car’s license plate.  I’m envious, although it’s highly likely I would have lost my mind if I’d had that many kids, never mind all boys.  She rattles off their names, pausing to do the math when I ask their ages. mom & baby2

“I had a daughter between Alex and David.   That’s why there is a gap ….  I wasn’t slacking off!  She died as a baby at two and a half months old.”

I think my heart skipped a beat as the shock of what she had just said registered in my mind.   She had lost her only daughter?  I told her that she didn’t need to talk about this, if she didn’t want to.  She suggested that it was pretty pertinent to our discussion about the MIL/DIL relationship.

Susan and her family had been traveling from Oklahoma to Virginia and had stopped along the way to visit her in-laws.

“We had brought a crib and had set it up in the van.  It was sturdy with wooden slats on the sides.  When we got to my in-laws’ home, we planned to  bring in the crib for our infant daughter.  My MIL said ‘No, we have a crib.’  It was really a playpen with mesh sides and a pad on the bottom.  I wanted to bring the crib in because Sophie was used to it and it was safe.

‘No, no, no.   Use my crib” her MIL had said and Susan had relented, yielding to her MIL’s wishes.

I held my breath and pressed my lips together, sensing that my heart was about to break on Susan’s behalf.  Please don’t let her say what I think she is going to say next!

“So, I used her ‘crib’ and that night Sophie got wedged between the mattress and the sides and she suffocated.”

Silence.

In the middle of a busy afternoon at a coffee shop, the two of us were caught in a moment where there was no sound … no movement …. just deep sadness & pain. I looked directly at her, stunned.  More than 20 years later, her eyes watered and she blinked back the tears.

“How do you get over that?”  I asked as much to myself as to her, wondering if one ever could.tulips

“God” she replied simply and then repeated herself.  “God. That’s the only way.”

I’m trying to imagine the extent of the anger toward the woman who had played such a role in the death of a child and I just had to ask.  “How do you forgive your MIL after something like that?  And not simply forgive, but want to continue the relationship … and even…”  I paused here, considering …  “… even love her?”  Is it possible?

Susan repeated her answer.  “God.  God is BIG!  He’s SO big!

To be continued ….