Tag Archives: loss

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.

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“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

My people, they aren’t extraordinary

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I know we aren’t supposed to choose favorite people.. or at last I’ve been told. But I do. My favorites aren’t usually well known or popular. Even my most favorite kids I’ve ever worked with had some pretty intense struggles and behaviors- and you guys I wanted to adopt them (and still do) and maybe I will. Some of my most favorite people in the Bible aren’t the ones who you’d think. They aren’t the Ruth’s or Deborah’s or even Priscilla. My favorites tend to be Naomi, and Lot’s wife, and even Jezebel.

Maybe because they aren’t big, or well known. They aren’t very prized or cherished or admonished. Maybe because we don’t know, we really do not know what their lives were really like, what lead them to the decisions they made, how things could have been different for them or even how THEY would have explained their choices. Maybe they think much more like me, perceive this challenging and difficult world similarly as I. Maybe life was really difficult, people hurt them, others left. Maybe they grieved horrifically in ways that few others could even try to imagine, let alone relate to. Because that’s how I feel, and it’s not too hard for me to imagine they could have, too.

So my favorite people, they aren’t extraordinary. They have no super strength emotions or vitality. The are very defeat-able, have big deficits, and ache for things beyond their control of obtaining. One of my most favorite people was my grandmother.

Her name was Shirley. I owe any normalcy of a childhood to this dear woman. From giving us normal, regular meals, to movies and beach/pool days and toys, she sacrificed so my sisters and I could have some semblance of what our peers had. And not just in physical ways, but emotionally. She’s the only woman I can recall hugging me. She kissed me goodnight during out sleepovers and walked us to bed. That was a foreign concept to me. She let us pick out special things and asked us questions, like if we liked a specific food or movie, what we learned in school, how sports or art were going.

My grandmother smelled of musty sweet perfume and red lipstick. She loved velour and elastic waste pants, but man was she classy for an older women! Her skin was soft and she loved elephants. She had amazing stories of her childhood and family, of life during war and poverty, of being the oldest of 5 kids and of caretaking for her mother in her mother’s last years of life. Grandma Shirley was kind, compassionate, thoughtful, and sacrificial. She loved her friends as family and her family all the same. I loved to watch her relationships, the ease with which she connected with others. And she loved to talk on the phone (I did not get that trait).

My grandmother is the only person who ever asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. She used to say she believed I could be whatever I wanted. When I was really good in the artistic arena, she always complimented, same with sports and music. She never pushed me, but just believed in me, believed I was more the sum of my situation (which was difficult to say the least). As I was older as a teenager and no longer was able to live with my parents, she’d drive to wherever I was living to pick me up at least two weekends out of the month. She’s always end our time together with some “spending money”, and baked goods for whichever family I was staying with. Even those families came to love Grandma Shirley. She always showed up when she said she would. She loved to see me.

She cared well for her friends. Her friends loved  me. I often stopped to visit them in her apartment complex before entering my grandmother’s home. At her funeral, dozens of her friends hugged me and wepted. I told each of them stories that my grandmother had shared with me about them or our stories all together. I reminded them how important they were to her and how grateful I was that she had such wonderful friends. My grandmother was social like me, but also introverted too. She loved people deeply and individually and with all that her heart was able to.

When my grandmother passed away, I was immediately ushered into some kind of care taking role for others. I was even asked to give the eulogy and officiate the ceremony (the perks of being the only family member in ministry). It wasn’t until a couple years later that things died down enough in the relative drama front to feel like I longed for her, grieved her. She was my favorite. I know I was her favorite too. She began to follow Jesus a few years before she died. I celebrated a lot that Easter.

It’s been a couple more years since then. I celebrate her birthday each year. She always celebrated me in whatever way she could. So each year on her birthday, I head somewhere and I buy two cupcakes. I pick out a birthday card and I write her a letter. And then I eat both our cupcakes. Because I know she’d be happy I did. And my heart stays soft in it’s grief, even when I can’t remember what she looked like. And each Thanksgiving, the anniversary of the stroke that eventually killed her, rolls by I remember that holiday that I found her-the precious couple weeks I took the 50 minute drive out to her hospital daily to feed her and read her a Francine River’s novel nightly, and I bake her brownies and mail them to someone I know could use a little package surprise. Because that’s what she did for me. And I honor her memory and role in my life in such a way. And I write her another letter. Because words mattered to both of us.

Five Minute Friday: Favorite

She felt it, and named it, and grieved.

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I found a toddler toy around my house. I hadn’t seen it in near a year. I saw it and I didn’t touch it.

I let it sit in the corner behind that couch for days. If I touched it, I knew I’d weep.

Weep for the little one who threw it who’s no longer in my life, but very much a part of my heart. Weep for the many ways I’ve lost.

I remembered. I remembered how it got there. I remember when that little one threw it back there and I laughed and said I’d get it later. Later never happened.

Grief is the strangest and most absurd facet of life I have encountered.

Naomi, she is my girl. I think we’d understand each other well. I think we’d be great friends. Naomi was well acquainted with grief. She’s sort of been a role model for me with grief. She suffered: Foreign land. Widow. Death of children. Alone. Abandoned. Feeling forgotten.

Sometimes I think Naomi get’s a bad reputation, sort of shunned for being renamed from Naomi “pleasantness” to Mara “bitter”.

Yeah, life feels bitter in grief, in the process of grief, in the shock and pain of things you couldn’t quite prepare for, over things you could not control.

Those on the outside could probably look at her and think she lacks faith, that she’s resisting God. Perhaps even accuse her of not having an “eternal perpective” of joy and only looking at her “circumstances”. You’ve likely heard it if you’re a believer (maybe even said it yourself).. “You can’t rely on your emotions.” or “trust God”.

You see, that little toy was just a breaking point. I’ve lost a lot this past year. Sometimes the enormity of our loss leaves us open to triggers of grief, where unseemingly small things reveal large aches, longings. And those triggers reveal a place that was once filled, now dried up empty. Hollow and heavy.

But Mara, she was waiting for the redemption of God. She was in the pit and waiting, not denying the enormity of her grief. Mara wore her grief, she expressed it. She gave it room to breath in a culture that understood it, even valued grief. Sometimes it can feel like the whole world knows the facts of my grief, but no one knew of that little toy that remained just out of eye sight, me too afraid to touch it, too afraid I’d fall apart and be seen as “unfit” in for ministry. No one knew except for me. Too tired to weep again for things I can’t control. Just trying to maintain some normalcy, some rhythm, some sanity. Too afraid to start weeping again for the losses, for the grief.

Because in our world, we don’t wear grief. We are told to be “strong”, to have “faith & joy”, to “trust”. Almost as if it’s manufactured in a store and all we must do it purchase it. We don’t know how to honor our emotions. Instead we manufacture some semblance of what we think people should look and act like and we force others to do the same. But we’re missing the mark. We’re suffocating and creating cultures of loneliness instead.

Tragedy is a thief that steals our normalcy, our rhythm, our people, our way of live and living.  Nothing about despair feels orderly or methodical. Nothing about tragedy allows us to remain the same, to keep the same routines, even the same way of relating to others. Naomi got that. She was more than a woman in despair. She named what she felt. She wore it in the most tangible way, in her name. No one questioned where she was at. She could no longer relate to “pleasantness”. No one second guessed her faith. No one gave Naomi “pat” answers. She just felt it and named it and grieved.

Sometimes we sit in our circumstances and not one ounce feels right; far from fair, far from just. I imagine that’s what Mara did. She sat in. She observed. She grieved. She winced at the insensitivity of others at times and tried her very best to be gracious, even in her bitterness. Because this life, this grief, tastes awfully bitter. I imagine that Mara, like me, wept hard. And life could not be the same. Ever. She could just not go back to who she was or what she did. Impossible.

Naomi is a woman I can follow. I know Ruth is lovely. I know Ruth had a lot of faith and trusted God… but Naomi, she’s my woman. She’s like me. She can’t hide how painful it all feels, how heavy the grief is. Even when others feel it is too much for them to see or watch. She wears her grief, perhaps a grief that intimidates and frightens others. And the most astounding thing happens through it, when Mara is able to air and live out her grief. She doesn’t stay Mara. She becomes Naomi again! From pleasant, to bitter, to pleasant. AND SHE PRAISES GOD. Maybe Naomi wasn’t weak. Maybe, in the act of wearing her grief, she was one of the strongest, no a doubter, but a griever and a proclaimer of God. Maybe, just maybe, in Naomi’s bitter state, she saw and experienced God’s presence far more powerfully than she ever could have in trying to maintain “pleasantness”.

Maybe we could all use some of that in our lives. Maybe our grief and pain isn’t too much. Maybe there’s far more in store if we could just figure out how to feel our emotions and be alongside one another in theirs.

Naomi, I can’t wait to meet her.

 

On Celebrating the Other Mothers on Mother’s Day

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On Celebrating the Other Mothers on Mother’s Day:

There are parents without carseats, diapers or pacifiers. Mothers who do not have bedtime rituals or middle of the night feedings. Parents without hand-stamped necklaces or birthstone rings. These are the other mothers – the ones in our midst who are quietly hurting.

So today I tell you, parents of babies who are not in your arms. I remember you on Mother’s Day, and you are celebrated.

I celebrate you getting out of bed.

I celebrate you waiting to cry until after your newly pregnant friend leaves.

I celebrate you balling up your fist at the complaining of another parent.

I celebrate you enjoying a quiet evening with your spouse.

I celebrate you crying in the shower at the overwhelming unfairness.

I celebrate you scrolling thru Facebook, steeling yourself against adorable joyfilled photos of families.

I celebrate you going to church and the park and Target.

I celebrate you enduring tests and procedures and needles.

I celebrate you as you slump on the bathroom floor, allowing yourself to feel the cycle defeating you again.And as you rise, choosing to do it all again tomorrow, I celebrate you.

I remember your babies. They, and you, are not forgotten. They matter. You matter. And on Mother’s Day, you, mother, will be celebrated.