Grief: Why Hiding Isn’t a Long Term Solution

We’ve all done it-chosen to swallow words instead of share them.  

Or we’ve chosen to fake a smile instead of giving another person an honest peek into our hearts.  

Or we’ve pretended, pretended, pretended in the hopes folks sniffing around will go away.  

But it’s not a long term solution to the pain we carry, the scars we bear or the stories that need telling.

Hiding often seems a good idea at the time.  Conflict avoided.  Inconvenient conversations postponed.  Hard issues ignored.  Respite from harsh words, hard feelings and hopeless discussions obtained.

I’ve hidden for a fair share of my life.  

As a child it seemed that the best way to hover just under the parental radar was to go along to get along.  Don’t hold too many preferences too tightly.  Say “yes” even when your heart says “no”.  Let the loud ones prevail.  Stay quiet, stay small and stay out of trouble.

As a young married to a significantly older husband, it served me well.  Don’t rock the boat.  Silent assent keeps things smoother.  Say “yes” even when your heart says “no”.  It’s really not worth the hassle to do otherwise.  Stay quiet, stay small and stay out of trouble.

In a multitude of leadership positions within the church community, it served me well.  Don’t overstep-remember you aren’t a salaried employee.  Check your spirit and make sure your own heart is right.  Let it go and get over it.  Say “yes” even when your heart says “no”.  Stay quiet, stay small and stay out of trouble.

The problem with hiding from feelings and hiding from hard things and hiding from messy relationships is that I can’t hide forever.  Eventually someone or something will force those things to the top.  And if I haven’t been dealing with them all along, they gain strength and intensity in the waiting.

I don’t hide anymore.  

Dominic’s death unleashed a thousand unspoken words, a thousand unexpressed feelings. 

Suddenly I had a lot to say.  

And it didn’t all have a direct connection to Dominic’s leaving but it was his leaving that made them impossible to hide anymore.  Once the dam broke in my heart it ALL flooded out.

Or trickled. 

Or dripped.  

Decades of uncomfortable conversations I had avoided became unavoidable.  Years of relationship patterns that served no one were examined and remade.  I’m still finding bits that need attention, things I really need to speak aloud.  I will sometimes try to hide.  It doesn’t last long though.

What I’m learning from refusing to hide is that it’s so much healthier!  It’s so much better to speak my truth (always, hopefully!) in love.

When I silence my heart, I only postpone and prolong and pile up hurt.  

It doesn’t go away.  

It burrows in and makes a home, pushing out everything else.  

It’s no solution.  

Our hearts and minds are resistant to change and if you, like me, are one who hid to avoid conflict, who swallowed words and wounds and worry, it will be hard.

But try. 

Try to find ways (even if it’s writing letters to some folks) to express your true feelings.  Make sure you are speaking lovingly as well as truthfully.  Get a friend to read your note or hear you out and give you feedback.  

Then offer the important people in your life your heart-your true heart-instead of hiding. 

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Repost: Learning Limits

An exchange with a Facebook friend got me thinking.

How much of my struggle in life is a result of ignoring my own limits?

How much pain do I inflict on myself because I won’t admit I need help?  Why do I insist on living to the edge of endurance and emotional capacity?

Why, why, why do I try so hard to keep up a front of invincibility?

Pride.

Pride goads me like a whip.

Pride makes me say, “yes” when I should say, “no”.

Read the rest here:  Learning Limits

Random Sunday Thoughts

Church is hard for me.  

Not because I am angry with God, His people or His Word. 

But because my experience is an outlier for Western “Sunshine” Christianity.  

I don’t fit in with the folks who smile and wave and pretend that they have all they ever wanted, heaven is a nice place to look forward to, and they are “living their best life now”.  

With so much effort being poured into church growth, so much press being given to the benefits of faith, and so much flexing of religious muscle in the public square, the poor in spirit have no one but Jesus to call them blessed anymore.
― Barbara Brown Taylor

My eyes are open to the desperate reality that this world is not as God intended.  My heart knows that even though my hope in Christ is a lifeline, it isn’t anesthesia.

My soul is battered and bruised.  

My “hallelujah” is definitely broken.  

love is a cold and broken hallelujah

I have a hard time with Sunday School lessons that draw one-liner takeaways from difficult to understand scriptures.  I cannot give assent to simple life lessons designed to give congregants a mantra for the coming week.

Life is more complex than that. 

And if you listen closely to Jesus’ own words you can hear it.  

will-have-trouble-but-i-have-overcome

So sometimes I can’t gather in the halls with folks who insist life is simple, faith erases all pain and the hope of Heaven makes everything alright.  

I sit home with my Bible, my selection of honest worship songs and my God.  

He has invited me to bring my hurt to Him, so I do.  

He is a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.  

I can trust my heart to Him.

you who are weary come to me

Why Didn’t I Think of That?

I know (really, I do!) that people MEAN well.

I understand the temptation to share cute little sayings like these in response to a bereaved parent’s Facebook post.

shed tears or love

What runs through my mind, even five years later when I read this isn’t, “Oh my!  Why didn’t I think of that? Why didn’t I just turn that frown upside down and CHOOSE to be happy instead of sad.”

Instead it’s, “If I could, don’t you think I WOULD?”

If I could just make a mental adjustment and wash away all my sorrow, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

Often those who have been spared think that those who haven’t are holding grief too close, refusing to let it go.  They think we are using it as an attention getting prop.  They rest certain that if it were them, THEY would rise above, get over or overcome grief.

You will never know how thankful I am that YOU. DON’T. REALLY. KNOW.

So when you’re tempted to subtly correct me and (out of the goodness of your heart) try to steer me toward a “cure” for my grief, think about it.  Think about how hollow these words might sound in the ear of a mother or father who will never, ever hear or see or touch their child again. Think about how ridiculous it would be to suggest that all it takes to “be happy” is to “choose” correctly.

Think about which one of your children you could live without.  

child-loss-overcome

 

 

You Can’t Hold It In, So Let It Out

We CAN hold some of it in.

For awhile.

In certain circumstances.

And barring additional stress.

But not forever.

your-story-could-be-the-key

So let it out.

Speak your truth and tell your story.

If others don’t understand or turn away or give you the evil eye, ignore them.

This isn’t their story-to tell or to live.

It’s yours.

owning-our-story-and-loving-ourselves-through-the-process

 

Please Don’t Ask My Kids How I Am Doing

It may seem like the easiest way to get an inside scoop on how I’m REALLY doing-but don’t do it.

Please don’t ask my kids how I’m doing.

Respect the fact that they have their own grief burden.  Respect family privacy and understand you are putting them in an impossible position.

If you want to know-to REALLY know-how I’m doing, ask me.

Life for us is no different than life for you except every decision, every event, every single thing requires more effort and energy because we carry the additional burden of death and loss.

It’s easy to assume children and young people-even adults in their 20’s and 30’s-are somehow more resilient than they really might be. 

They are often in seasons of activity that serve as cover for deeper, more difficult feelings.  Many beautiful celebrations typically mark these years.  Graduations, weddings, births are wonderful!   But they are complicated for grieving siblings as well as grieving parents.

So be a friend to my kids.  Love them.  Celebrate them.  

And please, please, please treat them as fellow grievers and not simply bystanders to their parents’ grief.

If you want to know about me, just ask.  

Me. 

Not them.  

Repost: Don’t Let It Fool You

Whether the burden is child loss, abuse, chronic illness or some other ongoing and unchangeable hard circumstance, it’s easy to get so good at acting “OK” you can almost fool yourself.

But all that stress and struggle exacts a cost.

Pretending that it doesn’t is not helpful at all.

Read the rest here:  Don’t Let It Fool You