When Grief Makes you Feel Out of Place

Out of Place Series – Sara’s Story

My son, Silas, suffered from a disease that required him to be on feeding tube for the last year of his life. Not many people understood the challenges of having a child with severe needs, so whenever I met families like ours, we immediately bonded over our shared connections. We knew technologies like feeding pumps and seizure medications kept our children alive, even if it made our lives a little more complex. We also knew the normal, ordinary things of life were gifts.

A few months after our son passed away, I was at a restaurant when I noticed a family who had a child in a wheelchair. He was fed by a G-tube that went directly into his belly. I stole glances at the father while he slowly poured formula into the slender tube.

I knew what it was like to be that parent, a caregiver who has learned all the medical terminology and equipment and was willing to use it bravely in public places despite the stares. You acted like it was no big deal, but nothing could hide the fact that your child was different. Going out to restaurants, taking your kid to the park—all of this was harder because of the sheer amount of equipment that had to be packed. At the same time, nothing brought more satisfaction than knowing your child was experiencing the joys of childhood. 

when grief makes you feel out of place

The restaurant wasn’t busy, so I slowly made my way over to the man and said, “Your G-tube supplies remind me of feeding my son.”

The man looked at me, startled. I realized the mistake I had made bringing up this topic without warning. The man hadn’t seen me feeding my son, because my son wasn’t there. My son was in heaven, freed from using a feeding tube ever again.

That’s when it hit me. I’m no longer one of them. 

I was excluded from the club of parents who had children with special needs. The father I had approached didn’t see me as a special needs parent, because I wasn’t anymore.

Standing in the restaurant, I realized that not being in the club felt like loss—the same club I had begged not to be a part of in the first place.

Being Silas’ mom had been my identity for so long, I hadn’t realized that I was different. Grief had shifted all the things I had finally accepted. 

It took this father’s shocked expression to help me understand what I couldn’t tell myself: I was in a new club now. One that left me feeling more out of place than ever.

Over the next few months as I reeled from grief, I started to see something else emerge: a new understanding that my core identity was found in Jesus, even when everything else changed in life. 

Even when our labels get ripped away, God never leaves us without an identity in him. No matter how many times our identity shifts, his does not.

Even when our labels get ripped away, God never leaves us without an identity in him. No matter how many times our identity shifts, his does not.

In 1 John 3:1a (NIV), we can find comfort in our God-given identity: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

Even when we’re searching for where we belong, we’re reminded that the one identity we can count on is being called God’s child. He not only loves us, but lavishes his lovingkindness on us. This identity in Christ affirms for us that we have God Almighty as our father, who knows every hair on our heads and loves us unconditionally. It gives us confidence that our future home is in heaven where we will be with Jesus forever. 

As our identities change in life, God never does. No matter how lost or alone we feel, we always find our home in him. 

Have you ever felt like a palm tree in a pine forest? Have you ever been transplanted to foreign soil, unsure if your roots will ever grow deep enough for you to thrive? Have you ever looked around, and felt so different, so other, that you wonder if you’re going to make it?

If so, this series is for you! Every Monday, we’ll hear from someone who has also struggled to belong. Be sure to subscribe below to get The Scoop so you never miss a post! As a thank you, you’ll receive access to belonging-themed scripture cards and adult coloring pages in the free for you library!

Thanks! I can't wait to connect with you!

Meet Sara

Sara R. Ward is the author of the bookMade for Hope: Discovering Unexpected Gifts in Brokenness (Feathered Quill Book Award Finalist). Made for Hope shows us what God has to offer in the midst of our brokenness as we grasp to make it through a difficult season. Through a heartfelt and vulnerable story, the bookprovides hope for those who have gone through grief.

Sara also speaks to women’s groups about cultivating joy and faith, and shares free resources on sararward.com. Sara has been published on the Today Show Parenting Team, Focus on the Family, Adoption.com, and (in)courage. Sheis a wife and mom to three children who came into their family through adoption, including a son who passed away from Leigh’s disease in 2012.

Sara’s book, Made for Hope: Discovering Unexpected Gifts in Brokenness, can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other book retailers. You can connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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