Uprooted in Grief and Fear

I feel the vice grip of fear entangle me this morning as I contemplate writing a blog post, talking myself out of such an endeavor, that God really didn’t nudge me at all.  Justifying my disobedience with the fact I am still horribly grieving most days, and He wouldn’t ask such a thing of me while I am still entirely too down and out.

I am writing after all, so what is the difference whether I keep it private, or post it anyway?  Just a matter of logistics, and maybe a few dedicated followers who actually read my ramblings. Not a big deal.  Or is it?

That, and was I perhaps playing the “victim” card I verbally speak against on almost a daily basis?

“I am not a victim.”

“I am not a victim.”

“I am not a victim.”

The exhilaration of His guidance at the possibility of blogging again had me leaping at His quick response to an inward request for clarity on the inaudible whisper I was certain was from Him in the first place.

I guess I am afraid.

I see a sign post today, laying flat on its back from the storm.  I ponder its uprooting.

I mean really, Harvey has hardly made an impact here, so the fact that it is a casualty, hasn’t weathered the storm at all and is down for the count, has me feeling like if it were a person, she would be playing the victim card herself.

She is too tired to hold up any longer. Too emotional to weather the pain.

“Let someone else alert others of the approaching curve ahead,” she would say if she weren’t an it.

Instead she lay there broken.

It is time to write publicly again. I say this with a bit of trepidation in my fingers as I type the commitment.

Yesterday, as I read a book’s introduction, the author quotes C.S. Lewis on fear and grief:

“No one told me that grief felt so much like fear.”

Yes, I’ve stayed away from this outlet more out of fear than anything else.  Fear of what?  Fear of a subtle shift of writing “to” instead of writing “from”.

It is a slight deviation that keeps me on the shallow end instead of the depths. Wondering if people will read what I write and feel compelled to rescue me from myself.  I get it.  As I read through the first entries of this writing journey post Bill, I see me too near the ledge, feet teetering too close to the edge, close to jumping out of this life, into the after life.

But, I am still standing here today.

Actually I have made it 111 consecutive days of writing, meeting God at the kitchen table with Bible in hand each morning.

Yet I know my writing is beyond my own healing. It is meant for God to be known, especially so in the midst of this inescapable darkness.

I have many moments that blow my mind away of how God is moving in the midst on my behalf.

But, I don’t want to get ahead of myself here.

So, to keep me from compromising, I’ve decided to continue on today privately, but begin to post from former days and move forward from there.

They are choppy at first. Raw.  Difficult. Unedited.

My hope is you glean a glimpse of His Glory in the midst of such darkness.

 

Today I leave you with the initial entry from May 8th:

Sitting outside staring at the last of the blooms from the tree that was planted in honor of the man who died of cancer. No, not my husband, but the former occupant of this residence.

We just made it back today after a whirlwind of memorials in two states, and in exhaustion hit the bed as I stared at a pic of the two of us, and cried myself to a deep sleep.

I feel this thought creep up–would this not have happened had we not moved into this home? I mean, really, the eeriness of the similarities has me wonder. They moved here. He got sick. Died. We moved here. He got sick. Died. What if when it happened, we just moved? Would chemo have worked at that point?

I know.  Josie don’t go there. You are not superstitious. I know.

I’m just heartbroken.

 

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Acknowledging Grief

I enter the room, carefully maneuvering around the land mine of a familiar face, which I desire to avoid for fear familiarity will cause an explosion to my composure.

I make my way to a corner to hide in the wide-open, when the gracious host walks my way and asks how I am doing. “I am on the verge of a panic attack.” I honestly answer. She acknowledges my pain with words of comfort, and by pulling me close.

When I say something that instantly feels profound, “I want this more.”  As much as I struggle each time entering this room, especially after last week’s discouraging news, I want to be in that room more than allowing fear to cause me to flee.

Sometimes there are times we need to set grief aside for the better option, which in this case is community.

Yet, there is also a time to be still and acknowledge the deep sadness within and not run from her turmoil.  Like right now. The tears are fighting for release.  And all attempts to keep them under lock and key have me an anxious mess.

Release is important and necessary. It doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on miracles–not at all.  I send desperate pleas Heavenward on a nightly basis. Because truly the landscape is prime for a God-sized miracle as we are without human hope.

Still, to only believe that healing will occur and not allowing myself time to grieve is dangerous ground to tread. Maybe I’ve said this already, maybe I haven’t, but grief is a process that begins before the end of a life. And it is good to grieve.

I grieve when I see him pack away years of hard work into boxes and trash cans.

I grieve when I see him plan for our future without him.

I grieve when I lay beside him at night knowing that this may end sooner than later.

I grieve the day our girls walk down aisles without gripping tightly to their daddy’s Popeye-sized forearms.

Grief is perfectly normal as I reflect on how much this man means to our family.  To attempt to deny the affect his life has on mine would be disastrous to my wellbeing.

I saw a couple on Fox News one morning, a Christian couple I might add, who shared the heartbreaking story of the loss of their son.  I caught the story mid-stream, but guessing they wrote a book on their story.

Leaning in, I listen as my heart prepares to be empathetic with their hardship, I hear the words of the mom and instead feel agitation rise as I yell at her, “This is wrong. You are not grieving. Don’t you see that you are living in denial by not accepting his death?”

Cliff note version:  She says she refuses to use the word death to describe her son because he is in Heaven, or on the other side, or something of that nature. True.  But my issue is with what happened to him, not his whereabouts. He is dead.  Death is a hard word to say, I get it.  But, she needs to come to terms with it, not deny it. It won’t make it worse, it actually will make it better in the long run.  Because by denying this, I don’t believe she is fully grieving the loss of her son.

I know this because I once stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. Seriously, I am Hospice certified in South Dakota.

That, and my sister died years ago, but because we never dealt with her absence by acknowledgement of her death, the hurt remained underneath the surface for a very long time.

It is healthy to make peace through grief when a loved one is resting in peace. It will rip your heart out more than you think possible.  It may make you throw up.  It is okay to not be okay.

I want this more…

I want to entirely feel even when the feeling overwhelms me to a point of collapse of composure.

 

 

 

The Unspoken Rules of Disengagement

I saw an excellent movie the other night, titled, ‘A Monster Calls’.  I read this eclectic book of illustrations, intermixed with words, in under 48 hours.  Very few times does a movie’s quality compete with the writing, but this was an exception to the rule.

Basically, without a spoiler alert, it is a story of a boy and a monster and a mother with cancer. Amongst the dialog, wise words were spoken from mom to son about life.  One particular statement by the mom stood above all other words expressed, “life is always in the eyes.”

Yes, and even more so, may I suggest that there is more than just life tied to the eyes, and  that true, authentic connection occurs in this inaudible display of this particular sense?

I first learned of my avoidance of intimate connection at a Proverbs 31 Conference, in which I paid an exorbitant amount of money to receive instruction on my speaking abilities.  Overall, I did well.  My mentor gave me excellent marks on performance, appearance, voice inflection and such, but, she said that I diverted engagement with the audience by looking up when the topic transitioned at a pivotal point–the point when I entered the emotional portion of my message.

By doing so, I kept my composure.

But, by doing so, I disengaged my feelings.

Since Bill’s illness, I am acutely aware of my need to avoid.  Sometimes I divert engagement by switching to topics less intrusive, to keep the conversation on the surface, so the emotions stay safely under control.

Ot, I avoid community all together in favor of staying close to home.

I’ve noticed disengagement with others also.

A quick glance and smile my way, both while in mid stride, but no locked-in gaze to stop and initiate conversation.  I call it the ‘walk by’.  Similar to a drive-by, but without threat of personal injury.

Or, let’s say we are in a conversation, and I sense the atmosphere feels too close for comfort.  But instead taking heed to the internal warning, I start to share my hurt, and in doing so, the conversation takes a quick turn just out of the intimacy range.  Usually it is the cousin of a friend’s next door neighbor, who moved away three years ago to another country, who happened to have a vaguely similar struggle–oh wait, that was the Hallmark movie she now recalls from 2002.

She says, “Yes, the actress was going through the same thing, and I cried throughout the entire movie.”

Or, glib answers to fill in life’s hard terrain:

“It will be ok.”

“He will be okay.”

“You just need to have faith.”

The problem with pat dialog is it is devoid of intimacy.

I get it.  Sometimes closeness is like wearing wool on a warm day, in South Texas.  Intensely uncomfortable.

Still, how do we break through the disengagement ceiling, and be fully engaged? Even when intensely uncomfortable?

Maybe a hug.

A prayer.

Words like, “I’m sorry you are going through this.”

Or, “I don’t know what to say.”

Perhaps, “I’m here if you need a shoulder to snot on.”

Sometimes the hardest thing in the world is to acknowledge and address pain.

Today, as I walked into the coffee shop, I had two doors from which to choose, both with tables nearby occupied by people that I happened to know personally.  Both, I knew would involve conversation, which may not be good because my emotional wellbeing was near breaking point.

But, I moved forward on the one I knew was the more dangerous of the two.  The one which was likely to not allow me to disengage.

In doing so, I received eye contact.  Hugs. Words of comfort.  Encouragement. Even when I felt the need to exit, they continued to engage.

It was this depth of engagement that bypassed eye contact, and penetrated my hurting heart– with love.

To you, you know who you are, thank you for engaging me today.

 

Trials

Sitting at the kitchen table, I decide to open the pamphlet on the drug Bill will begin in the near future.

Five pages long, it is specifically catered to a similar, yet different cancer, as his type does not have specific trials as of yet.

The similarity is the cancer didn’t  respond to traditional treatment, that being chemotherapy, and has spread.

As with anything on the market which is supposed to be of aide, the warning signs nearly cause one to reconsider, as it may require additional medication to counteract the anxiety-induced attack of panic-driven proportions..

We were assured though the chance of anything too serious was around the 1% range per warning.  Oh, okay, I feel much better now.  Unless, of course, you place a face to the statistic.

Trials are tough, and come with risks.

Life in general is not without a certain amount of risks.  Some days they are entirely obvious, but on others, I wonder how oblivious we are to the risks against our wellbeing.

Bill was asked at the onset of his surgeries to donate his unhealthy tissue for clinical trials, because not only is this cancer rare and aggressive, he doesn’t fit the general profile of one who succumbs to this disease.

Actually, we are excited at the thought of possibly helping another individual from walking through this particular valley in the future, by helping researchers find a cure through his donation.

Even if the cure does not have Bill’s face attached to it.    

Oh, how we hope and pray it is, but, to know this trial benefits another, comforts us also.

Life’s trials are not always solely our own.  And, when we (I) recognize this, difficulties can become opportunities in the midst.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 

Sometimes the Truth is Hard to Swallow

You are Beautiful.You are Accepted. You are Loved. Love, God

I opened the refrigerator to discover the unthinkable–Daughter #3  drank the remaining orange juice.

I saved just enough for me. How dare she? I know it was her because she left her empty carton on the counter, and well, Hubs would have discarded the evidence.

This is ground for termination in my household. How in the world will I swallow my vitamin now?

It is huge; horse-pill status.

Well, it feels like it. Probably twice the size of ibuprofen.

Even with OJ, it still takes a good five attempts to swallow it down.  Even when I place it far back in my mouth, it makes its way back onto the front of my tongue.

I attempt again.  And again.

Panic sets in.  I just may choke.

Does anyone know the heimlich? Anyone?

So my daughter, who thinks I tend to be entirely too dramatic, says, “Mom you swallow pieces of food larger than that pill.”

Maybe. But does she realize how many times I chew oatmeal before it finally goes down?

Desperate though for my Vitamin B, I take the risk…

And… I am alive to talk about it. Took about ten attempts. The coating pretty much dissolved completely.

It tasted quite bitter.

Sometimes good things are hard to swallow.

One day, standing in front of the mirror, getting ready for the day, God spoke to me. Actually, it was more like through me:

“You are Beautiful.”

“You are Accepted.”

“You are Loved.”

I have shared this before. But, sometimes we need to regurgitate the truth before we entirely believe it.

Before it is swallowed deep, deep within.

Just so you know, these words are not just for me.

If you are feeling unattractive, rejected, unloved…

By all means, spit it out.

Don’t swallow these lies any longer.

Don’t Ask Why, Ask What

It is a short exclamation, in the midst of a long message, which makes my heart pitter-patter at the speaker’s declaration:

Don’t ask why, ask what.

Not long after, I lose internet connection, and the video shifts to static on my screen.

But, instead of attempting to reboot connection and find my whereabouts in this unfinished message, I move on about my morning without another thought of this peculiar phrase.

Until I enter my vehicle.

After a failed attempt to phone a friend, I turned on talk radio.

The first words I hear transmit over the airwaves are exactly the same:

Don’t ask why, ask what.  

What in the world?

The pastor’s next words do not infiltrate my thought process since these five take possession of my mind, and grab hold of my heart.

I ponder its meaning.

I don’t feel there is anything at this very moment in time which I would question God with–

Why?  

Why, God?  Why?

Why did you allow this to happen to me?

Why don’t you fix this situation that I know you can?

Why are you doing this to me?

Why, God?  Why?

So, knowing this is not necessarily for now, but later, my mind deliberately wonders–

What?

What moment will I be apt to question You, Lord?

What do You want me to learn from this situation?

What part of me do You want conformed to Your character through this difficulty?


 

Today, I am stuck with another question, in the form of a how–

How?

How is it You love me as much as You do that You interrupt time and space to fill me with messages directly from You?  (is this even grammatically correct?  I don’t care.)

Oh, How He loves us.  

She Leaned In

I sat in the chair after dismissal, and fidgeted with my belongings in an attempt to appear distracted from the person who sat one seat away from the empty one beside me.

Slowly, I placed each item into my bag, methodically, until I was left without an excuse in hand. At this, she did what I hoped she would not–she moved in to the empty chair next to me.

Placing a hand on my back, she entered my closed off space as she leaned closer.

My insides screamed, “Please keep your distance.”

Yet, another other part of me wanted, or more like needed, to allow her to take some of the burden of my heartbreak I could no longer handle by myself.

She asked a simple question on how I was doing, even though I am certain she knew the answer even before I spoke.

With no energy to put on my, “I’m fine” game face, I told the truth.

I was not at all good.

Tears emerged unrequested.

She shared a handful of words with me in that moment.

I cannot give you a play-by-play of what was actually said, but I can tell you what was felt–

Relief.

Temporary reassurance knowing I was not alone in my pain.  

Such a simple gesture on her part.

To lean into a person’s brokenness, and offer herself.

No big answers to life’s questions.

Just sweet, gentle assurance I was not alone in my pain.

I believe she was heaven sent that day, to sit beside me and minister comfort from Christ Himself through her compassionate heart.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)