Tag Archives: Grief

Silencing Voice

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I’ve felt different for some time.. the freedom I’ve found, my small voice, suffocating, being shoved down, shoved back. Clawing to survive, being forced inside, blanketed, weighted. Held down from all angles. Crying for oxygen, for some ounce of gentleness.

And then I am stuck. Inside the lies, inside the time of what was and what should have been, could have been. Replaying the words, spoken to me and over me. Might as well have been written in me, one me. It shaped me, made me, built me and broke me. Sharpie.

It burns in my stomach, pounds in my head, rips my defenses. Not this again.

The numbing spread wide, covering my inside. Just when I think I might break, rest.

The illusion of safety, was just that. Illusion. No weeping for now, no tissues needed. Too gone for that in this season.

I ask and I ask but I know, ” I’m too much”. Caught in the twist, no one to take responsibility for this. Left in the mess. Alone. Forgotten. Cries with no sound fall on deaf ears abound.

Quiet. The stillness. It lurks. Fear at each turn. They tell you to mourn. You want to do good, can’t seem to make it right.

You think and you think. Because there must be a link, that makes me different from them. How’d you turn out so far gone in the end?

This little girl trapped in a body much to old for her.

She looks around at her peers, her friends known as family. Most with spouses and kids on their way to owning houses. They got 9 to 5 while she sits alone dying inside. quiet inside not yearning one bit.

For she, she just wants to belong.

She holds a small candle, deep in her heart. No one sees it there. Sometimes she’s afraid it’s gone out. The black is so dark.

Ridicule she’ll receive, if they even know or see. So fragile. So small. Because she’s much to old to hold onto hope that long. So she can never admit her deepest sadness exists.

“My Bursting Heart must find vent at my Pen” Part: 1

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If I know what love is, it’s mostly because of her.

Several times the last few months I’ve reached for my phone to call her, only to remember I can’t. She’s dead. On the way home from a particularly devastating doctor appointment a couple months ago, I actually pulled out my phone and typed in her name, as if I could still reach her.  But it’s no longer her number. I looked at the phone and just placed it on the passenger seat next to me and proceeded to talk to her, as if she was still alive and on the other end of the line, because I needed someone to talk to, someone who knows me and loves me and was willing to listen. It felt so good to see her name on my phone, even if it wasn’t real. And a few minutes later when the ache of the emptiness of essentially talking to myself stung more than the reality of her being gone, I pulled over and deleted her name from my phone. It was time. I cried.

So this is what it means to be an adult. To have to keep going even when the world feels cold and lonely. Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” — Alfred Lord Tennyson

Sometimes, when one person is absent, the whole world seems depopulated.—Allphonse de Lamartine

Losing someone you love really affects you. It won’t magically go away. Sometimes there’s pressure on mourning, so you stop (or maybe never had the opportunity to, because realistically, mourning has privilege attached to it, and not everyone is privileged to be able to). But it stays buried deep down and becomes a deep hole of ache.

That’s the thing when someone you love, really love, dies. Instead of going into every fight with back up (whether it be an academic, illness, or some other feat that requires a strong sense of support), you have to go in alone. Often without a soul even knowing you’re in the battle.

I miss her in all the places and things we did together. I miss her in the movie theater, with my can of off brand soda and two candy bars she’d let me pick out at CVS. I miss her at the grocery store when I see the Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal and Oreos she bought for our sleepovers.

There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief.—Aeschylus

I miss her at Christmas, when she’d make the two of us lasagna and she always made me a stocking, filled with candy and little treats. I miss her at my old church, where we’d go to senior luncheons together (I could never pass up getting to hang out with all the older ladies.. and free lunch!). I miss Christmas shopping with her. She could out-shop me any day. I miss the smell of holidays in her house and the bright red lipstick that always left a little stain on my cheek when she kissed me (I sort of just miss being touched in general). I miss her on the roads she’d drive, our breakfast spot, her favorite restaurant, the pond she’d take me to.

Even places she’s never been, have memories of her. When I was in college, she was one of two people I ever received mail from. She sent me a package every semester. On each of the mission trips I went on, it caused her much worry that I would be leaving the country yet again, but I’d hear from all her friends how proud of me she was. It’s easier to miss someone at their cemetery because you’ve never been there together, but to miss someone at all the places and situations you were in together feels gut wrenching.

“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.”— Morrie Schwartz

She always told me she loved me. She knew how to love, practically and in her words. She knew how to love ME… how I would feel loved, before I was even aware how I feel love, probably because we both felt love in the same ways. Now I have a hard time remembering the last time I audibly heard it. And maybe that’s another hard reality of being an adult now, that you don’t get to hear you’re loved very often. But I know how to give it and say it, and I will continue to, even when it’s hard. Even when I don’t hear it towards me. She taught me that.

She loved mightily.

“The only thing we never get enough of is love; and the only thing we never give enough of is love.”— Henry Miller

No one has ever become poor by giving.
– Anne Frank

The anniversary of my grandmother’s death recently passed by. It was a quick day for me. I was pretty sick. I slept much of the day. I thought about her and still went about my remembrance celebration. This year, it was a peanut butter cupcake. I wrote my letter to her, because words mattered to her and I. I spent weeks trudging through the cards in various stores, trying to find the perfect one… because even though I have my own card business now, I wanted the perfect one, with the perfect meaning. It’s the only time in my life I can justify spending $6 on a card. And I sit at the bakery on the anniversary of her death, and I write her a note, part update, part longing, part grief. And I eat my cupcake, and I thank God that I had someone for a little while, and that He gave me it, her: stability, and warmth, and touch, and grace.

And I reflected about what parts of who I am actually came from her. I have never been like anyone I am biologically related, but this year, I knew I was like her in some ways. And I am so glad that some of her goodness carried over, to live on in me and through me.

She saw the best in me. And by seeing the best in me, she empowered me.

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives? When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see in truth that you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
— Kahlil Gibran

 

 

On healing and normalcy

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On healing and normalcy

“You can’t patch a wounded soul with a Band-Aid.” ― Michael Connelly

Over the summer, my housemates and I took many trips to the coastal New England beaches. New England is not known for many areas of intense waves or dangerous waters, except for the occasional beaches where sharks are known (which we just don’t venture to). There’s something about having a rough week or day and then sitting out on the beach, feeling the sand, smelling the ocean, and seeing the vastness that reminds me about how big the world is, especially when my world feels small and lonely.

One particular weekend, the waves were the biggest I have ever seen in Massachusetts. We grabbed our boogie boards and run right in. After taking hit after hit of waves, I walked out within 5 minutes with a bruised and bleeding leg. I couldn’t withstand the pressure. I wanted so bad to enjoy the waves, knowing this was a rarity in Massachusetts, but I couldn’t.

“PTSD is a whole-body tragedy, an integral human event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions.” ― Susan Pease Banitt

Our bodies are made so magnificently and intricately. They are not designed to take hits, wave after wave. Eventually our bodies will go numb. That’s the thing about PTSD as well, our bodies are not made to withstand the events of trauma continually nor the heightened affects of it indefinitely.

“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams healing can begin.”

Atrocities refuse to be buried. The desire of the mind to deny the atrocities are just as forceful. In this subconscious war, the body takes wave after wave of blows, suffering in the areas of digestion, autoimmunity, and within the nervous system.

The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma. People who have survived atrocities often tell their stories in a highly emotional, contradictory, and fragmented manner that undermines their credibility and thereby serves the twin imperatives of truth-telling and secrecy. When the truth is finally recognized, survivors can begin their recovery. But far too often secrecy prevails, and the story of the traumatic event surfaces not as a verbal narrative but as a symptom.

Often in my journey to heal from trauma and PTSD I am tempted to plunge in, to take on far more than I am capable of handling and processing alone. There’s been pressure from the outside to move through it quicker, to understand more, to go to more classes, more therapy, more support. There’s pressure from within me, demanding I “get back to” normal life, look like everyone else, find a way to understand the world in order to fit into the world.

Because I don’t feel normal. I don’t understand things typically. I feel lost much of the time. And it’s a lonely walk.

The pressure gets to me often, as if I could only attain “normalcy” and then I would be all set, I’d fit in the social club of life. Only, so often normalcy and healing get confused.

For the sake of “normalcy” I try to find support groups, more therapy, a job. I want to exercise more, lead bible studies, be a pursuer through engaging others relationally. I want to be involved in committees and on non profit boards. I want to have a 9-5 career, a house, a newer car.

“Some people’s lives seem to flow in a narrative; mine had many stops and starts. That’s what trauma does. It interrupts the plot. You can’t process it because it doesn’t fit with what came before or what comes afterwards.”

But for the sake of “healing” I see a therapist. I take a couple of slow walks around the neighborhood a week. I stepped down from a local non-profit board. I go to a bible study and allow myself to be a member. I stay committed to the few people I feel responsible to and for, and I focus on loving them well. I coach a sport team, which allows me to have a tiny pay check, but also is a good use of my giftedness in supporting others to grow in a unique way. For the sake of “healing” I say “no” to a lot.

And for the sake of “healing” I scrapbook. I watch loads of netflix. I make dinner for my housemates. I visit friends out of the city at least monthly. I stay in bed when the physical illnesses I have are too intense. I ride the waves of PTSD and trauma when they arise, but I do not go seeking it. I do not jump in head first and hope to conquer it. I know that type of attitude is not only futile, but dangerous.

Because the waves are strong and are sometimes meant to be understood of their beauty from afar, not from a futile battle within.

Write 31 Days

The Frailty of life

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The Frailty of life

It’s been a strange, beautiful, nostalgic New England weekend. It’s our first real cold weather. The trees are changing colors. Apple picking is in full swing. You can find pumpkin everything in nearly every store. It’s the time of season where you sort of get sick of apple pie and apple crisp that others bring to events to get rid of their apples.

Fall is strange. It’s the season that ushers in winter; the hard season. It’s as if God beautifully paints our foliage before the harshness comes. Fall is beautiful, but it leaves me anxious this year. The last few falls have been very difficult.  And I’m rolling with it, because I can’t do anything else. But anxiousness is hard. I’m not sure what to expect.

Today on the drive home from a weekend trip I just cried. Tears for people I love who are struggling. Tears for people I just want to make things right for, but can’t. So often I wish I could take their suffering, their hurt away, even if it cost me. Empathy is a gift, but it’s costly.

I see so much Jesus in you, not because you’re perfect, but because you’re not.

I came in my house and found a dear friend sitting there. SURPRISE. I literally leaped onto her on as she lounged on the couch, a full body embrace. We chatted and drank tea. We talked about the ups and downs of our week. I laid on her lap and wept. And she just rubbed my hair and proceeded to encourage me in ways my soul had been parched of for many seasons.

Often we are quick to point out others flaws. We continually remind others of them, things they need to work on. Not often enough do we tell people the things we see that are GOOD in them, the positive things, the things that are Jesus like. My dear friend said she remembered when I was near “perfect”. I did nothing wrong. I was semi stoic and had all the “right” doctrine for every issue. Now I am sort of this messy blob, trying to find my way half blinded, half hoping. She said she sees more Jesus in me than anyone she’s ever met, not because I’m perfect, but because I am not anymore, because I am so honest with my faults and failings and shortcomings, that Jesus is all the more real in me. That I still am able to do and be all that I am AND be a mess is a testimony of the power of God and the gifts he’s given me. WOW.

I talk to my counselors about you. I mean, who would send me an empathy card after I broke up with my boyfriend? Maybe people would send a card if they thought I was sick and dying, MAYBE, but for a break up? No one but you. You live as if you recognize the frailty of life and that grief comes from all sorts of places.

I don’t feel very hopeful often. But my dear friend pointed out that, though I may not feel hopeful, I LIVE with much hope, and that is much much greater. That’s real courage. Real integrity. I am involved in many things, pursue others, care well. I have every reason to have given up. But I have not. Friend said she has never met another person who loves people so personally by recognizing the frailty of life that each dear person has.

How encouraging to know that though I battle and fight many days and feel like a failure, my life is still lived with much hope and expectation and joy in God.

The world needs more people to embrace that which is GOOD in others and SPEAK it alive to them. No one will ever die saying they had too much encouragement. God can tear the things in our hearts down well enough. We don’t need one another doing it as well. Let’s be a people known for our exhortations, praise and gratitude, and affection for one another. A people that looks at the image of God in each person and declares it GOOD.

31 Days of Writing: Embrace

31 DAYS OF WRITING: Hoping, Healing, and Caring for those around us: Day 3

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 Sometimes, often, I am overwhelmed by the heaviness of humanity and sin in the world. My heart sinks so deeply I sometimes think I can feel it in my gut, my innermost area. Compassion, I’ve learned, is a gift. Compassion also costs. I want to follow every.single.thing that tugs at my heart. I want to meet with every.single.person who is struggling. I want to meet every.single.need that I hear of. And when I can’t, I feel grieved.

I think brokenness, sin, the heaviness of humanity should grieve us. There is no possible way any one of us can meet each need we are encountered in a given hour, let alone a day. Grief is the only possible response for me. Grief for how life ought not to have been.

And then there are these moments, sometimes when I do have the capacity to meet a need, that I am so grateful to God for the opportunity to be with someone, show up for something, or share a piece of my story that connects with another. These moments are glimpses of what capture the beauty of humanity, of working towards peace and togetherness that I imagine and hope heaven will be like.

But if I am honest, it’s the times when I don’t meet the need right away, when I am not sure God wants ME to be the one, but rather a part, in some capacity, of seeing healing. That happened today. Today, one of my soccer students, who has a lisp that often makes her barely understandable, spoke words of encouragement to our team, and they listened and applauded her. The team applauded her. She often has panic attacks because of the fear of letting people down, often because she’s not easily understood. Her captains now are the ones who help her through each panic attack. Not myself. She hasn’t had one in a week. Unheard of for her.

Another student who does not have a typical soccer body and really struggles in the sport, started in the game due to lack of alternatives. The captains have been taking turns running laps with this particular young lady each practice as she finishes far later than the rest and barely can do a light jog. Seeing the captains doing this, the other teammates have begun to loop back around and run with her as well, encouraging her every step of that last lap, and taking on an additional lap themselves. Last week said student realized she could ACTUALLY run without falling. For the first time in her life, running is so fun for her, especially with teammates by her side.  In the game, this student was an MVP. Not.Even.Joking. She punted the ball. She blocked. She tackled. She attacked the ball and defended the goal and owned her position.

There are these times, too, when we see such goodness in humanity, such wholeness and healing coming from places I would never have expected. Even though I want to meet every need, help every person, I can’t. I’m not supposed to. Sometimes the best thing I can do is get out of the way and let others who have some additional capacity enter in and experience the richness of those moments together. Those are the images I want to capture in my mind and hold onto, images of humanity and of conquering, of looking fear in the face and continuing to go, with a team cheering on. Sometimes God wants me to play a part, an important part in the lives of others. Other times he just wants me to watch, capture and record the moment, and thank him that even though times may feel heavy, it’s being redeemed, one day will be whole. Until then, I will have glimpses.

31 Days of Writing: Capture

31 DAYS OF WRITING: Hoping, Healing, and Caring for those around us

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31 DAYS OF WRITING: Hoping, Healing, and Caring for those around us

For the next 31 days I’ll be writing about all sorts of pre-determined topics everyday on hoping, healing, and caring for those around us. Sometimes the most extraordinary thing we can do is live out lives aware and in tune with those around us, normal, thoughtful lives.  Scroll down for DAY 1 below.

DAY 1: A place called grief

It was 8PM on a weeknight. I sat at Starbucks with a tall decaf hot coffee in mid winter, desperate to not be overtaken by the wave of despair that seemed to creep into every ounce of my being when the sun went down during these 4:30PM New England winter daylight savings. I need light in a similar way that I need water, only not just any light, sunlight.

I looked around and wondered if anyone knew I was hurting. If anyone could hear my calling, crying, hoping. How many times had I sat in this same very place and not noticed or wondered if anyone around me was hurting, crying, hoping for something their own vocal chords could not convey. How many times had I been unaware of the agony that others were enduring?

And here I sat, desperately wanted to weep, but the tears wouldn’t come. They pain was agonizing, like shards of glass ripping me apart, only it wouldn’t stop. It’s surreal. There was no passing out from this pain, just the crippling anxiety of fear, of failure, of heart brokenness, shredding my heart to pieces. I wanted to scream, but nothing came.

I wrote one line down on a piece of paper. It was all I could do that day: “You are not a failure.” After staring for what felt like a decade, drips of water pounded and blurred the blue lines of the paper. I didn’t feel like I was crying, but tears crashed and splashed and blurred my one sentence until the words were almost no more.

Loss felt deep and piercing. Failure. I had failed numerously in ways I wasn’t aware. And in order to heal, to grow, I had to lose more. I had to step out of all I had known and step into what felt like utter darkness. That’s the thing about tragedy, death, disease, illness, loss, it puts you in this other category, the categories that no one wants to be in, the ones you don’t choose. And you probably won’t know what to do when you have to start living in it. I was trying so desperately for so long not to be in those categories. I fought them. But I could not longer. Whether I liked it or not, my world had changed and in the most painful of ways, God began calling me into a more rich, albeit far more painful place. A place called grief.

GRIEF

But the truth is, we’re all fighting a battle.

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It’s Invisible Illness Week. I don’t think most people know that. But I do.

Somedays I wake up sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I live with chronic, progressive illness. I have since I was very young and it became much more pronounced as a late teenager. And somedays I cry just from being tired of being sick.

I was first hospitalized for it as an “adult” when I was 17. I would not stop internally bleeding. I could not hold food in. I saw glittery stars all day long. The first few weeks out of the hospital was my first time needing a wheel chair. I used those little electric carts at Target. Mind you, I could walk, I just needed to reserve my energy and it was painful to move. All my joints hurt, my head would pound, and I would be fighting to breath. But I so desperately wanted to get out of the house…

You see, I had lost a full sports scholarship to college for my illness. I had to stop working. I did not drive but now I could no longer walk many places so I was completely reliant on friends to drive me to and from. I could not eat much and I also had to be careful when I ate, how much I ate, and what I ate. I had to take over 50 pills a day.  And my mother moved away with my little sister too. My whole world shifted again. At 17 years old. All within the same 3 weeks.

So here I was in target with an older friend, driving around the cart. And I received so many stares from others. They felt like judgements.. judgements that I shouldn’t be using that cart, that my leg wasn’t broken nor was my head bald (as if damaged limbs and cancer are the only forms of debilitating illness). I felt ashamed and thought maybe I should push through it, push through the pain. I have always been sensitive to what others think, to their judgements. To this day, I still struggle to use those motorized carts even when I need them.

I have a host of invisible illnesses that include: chronic pain, chronic fatigue, chronic dizziness/vertigo, ulcerative colitis/Crohn’s disease, asthma, migraines, arthritis, TMJ, Ricketts, visual field loss, PCOS, PTSD,  pseudotumor cerebri, depression/anxiety,  and sensory processing disorder… to name a few.

What you do not see are the 12-15 doctor visits a month, iron and nutrient infusions, or the scar from my breast bone to my pubic area. People who know me, KNOW I push myself, because if I didn’t, I would go no where. I’d live sad, or worse, angry at the state of my life and all the dreams I will never fulfull if I didn’t push myself often. Not many people expect or hope much from me or for me. If I didn’t push myself, I’d lose myself.

I live in a certain amount of pain regularly that I believe many of those around me can’t comprehend, physically and emotionally.

Then there’s a dear friend of mine. We went to get pedicured a few months back for my birthday. She could not keep her leg in the angle required to get the pedicure. She has a neurological disorder too. She barely makes it around. She fights depression. She longs to be a friend and a mother in a way she’s not able to always. Oh how I love her. Instead of going bowling, we go to McDonalds and use the new computerized bowling games there. It’s the only way she can bowl with her young daughter.

This past week has been terrible. I acquired a cold on my plane ride home from a trip this summer. I have not got rid of it yet. I have a low immune system. I had to go into the hospital for a day to get “buffed up” in hopes of fighting it off. Many weeks later, I’m still fighting it. Now it’s my allergy season. It’s worse than I have ever experienced. This past week I had a couple days where I could do nothing. I was in so much pain from allergies and sneezing. My body ached. I needed pain medicine to make it through. And now I have a huge hernia from sneezing so much. And a flair of tendonitis and shingles and asthma. Oh yea, I’m not allowed to sneeze. And I burst a vessel in my nose. And we’re hoping I don’t get pneumonia. And I got a letter from my oh so lovely neurologist that I love. She’s leaving. And I am sad and nervous about that.

Saturday I went apple picking. And it cost me a lot physically. But I did it and I loved it and I am glad. And some days, I will do other things that will cost me physically. Or I’ll help a friend and her newborn when they aren’t well, even if it’s just making dinner and playing with him while she naps. Because it feels good to give, even when I’m not at my finest. And somedays I need the handicap parking, even if I don’t limp when I walk or have some other noticeable ailment. My body and my mind bear the scars of the illness underneath my clothing, underneath my skin.

There are stigmas attached to invisible ilnesses. Sometimes people don’t believe you. Sometimes they say it. Sometimes not. Sometimes you get looks, or worse, they outright ignore you. Sometimes I don’t get the help or care I need. And I’ve learned to push through and care for myself. Sometimes it’s hard that there’s not more physical help. Sometimes it’s hard when there is help that I don’t need at that time.

I cried when I got the letter from my neurologist saying she was leaving the practice. She would validate my physical and emotional pain and try to help me fit in the mold of how modern society works (bigger, better, faster, more). I struggle and battle in a culture that rarely rests or stops or considers that someone (like me!) might not be able to do or participate in the same things in the same way as others. It’s often felt like a constant game of catch up for me. Catch up to how far others are walking, catch up and push through the long shopping day with others, etc. I’ve learned that I can’t easily be accomodated. So unless I know I can either push through something or make an easy accommodation myself, I just don’t show up. And my neurologist, she’s the one who gets how the U.S. functions and how lost I get in trying to find a quality of life in it.

I have an uncle with MS and a friend with MS. Another friend with a rare breathing issue that could kill her if she gets pneumonia. I have another uncle with cancer and a grandfather that’s dying of a brain tumor. My mother has several diseases as does my biological father and two of my sisters. I have had several housemates over the last 5 years that battle depression and GAD and several more close friends with it. Two friends are fighting addictions. And this last month alone I had a student have 4 panic attacks on the soccer team I coach. Yesterday another student confided in me how she often has them about academics too. And last week a student that I coach told me how she witnessed her parents death and was later adopted and now struggles with mental health. You’d never know it looking at these people. Not one. You could go out for pizza with them and it wouldn’t come up. We all adjust. We all fight some days and rest on other days and laugh about it here and there.

But the truth is, we’re all fighting a battle. For some, it’s invisible, unseen to the naked eye and fierce. And we could all use a few kinds words here and there reminding us that we are seen and not invisible, not someone to be mocked or second guessed for using the electric cart or elevator instead of the stairs or because today we can walk up and down the hill but tomorrow we can’t get out of bed. We could all use a little bit more compassion in our hearts and out of our lips.