Zero Points for Pretending: You Can’t Hide Your Heart

Oh, sometimes I think I’m clever enough to do it.

I edit my words, costume my body and fix my face so  I can act the part.  But truth is, I never manage to fool anyone who looks closer than my plastic smile.

I can’t hide my heart.

And I don’t know why I try-I don’t get points for pretending.

There’s no prize at the end of this long road for the one who makes it with fewest tears.

No one offers me any token for the months or years or decades I make it without breaking down or cracking up.

exhausted-over-trying-to-be-stronger-than-i-feel

But I damage my own soul by shoving the feelings deep.  I clog my arteries by swallowing every angry word.  Sorrow turns to despair which turns to hopelessness if I never let it out.

And like it or not, it leaks out somewhere.

So I’m learning to speak my truth, to name my feelings and express them in healthy ways: 

  • I journal.
  • I share in safe spaces like bereavement groups and my church small group.
  • I exercise-which helps to burn off “steam” or just that awful sense of discomfort when darker feelings overwhelm my heart.
  • I build rest into my day along with silence so my mind and heart get a break from constant self-restraint and editing needed during conversation.
  • I read helpful articles and books.
  • I write this blog.
  • And when I need to, I talk to someone who is making my journey more difficult and try to work it out.

All of this takes energy and effort when I have the least of either to spare.  But the alternative is too grim to consider.  

I don’t want to walk the rest of my years carrying more heartache than that of child loss-which is heavier than I could ever have imagined. 

I choose to shed the extra pounds of emotional baggage I can leave by the roadside.

I won’t hide my heart.  

feel deal heal

 

Grief IS Love

We try to separate the two.

We want to draw a line that marks when one ended and the other began.

But it’s impossible.  Because grief and love are of one piece.

Grief isn’t what comes AFTER love, grief IS love.

Grief is love with no place to go.

grief is love with no place to go

It’s what a heart is left with when the person upon which that love would be lavished is no longer available to receive what is offered.

We celebrate lifetime love.  We make much over marriages that survive the years.  We applaud the lost pet that pads his way home in spite of miles and misery to lay at the feet of his master.

Yet we want grievers to give up their sadness and bottle their tears because it makes US uncomfortable.  It reminds us that next week WE could be the ones left with unspent love in our hearts.

But grief can never be small where love is large.  

grief like joy is holy receipt pink

 

 

 

 

Reality Check

I’ve struggled since the beginning of this journey to convey others the ongoing open-ended emptiness of burying a child.  

There is simply no way to fill the void left by my son’s leaving.  

No job, no hobby, no ministry, no person, no exercise regimen, dietary discipline or medical intervention can fix this pain.  

So when people think I will

“get over”,

or

“move past”

my son’s death,

they profoundly misunderstand my experience.  

cant-fix-it-my-family-is-always-achingly-incomplete

Anger or Sadness? Or Both?

We live in an angry society.

Social media is full of rants about this and that.  Television blares raised voices shouting over one another in what passes for news coverage.  T-shirts are emblazoned with one-liners intended to provoke others.

We tolerate and even embrace anger as a legitimate emotion.

Yet we rarely make room for mourning.  We hide our tears.  We shame those who don’t hide theirs as “weak” and “soft” and “cowardly” or worse.

But many times what we think is anger, is really sadness.

anger authentic

I’ve discovered that sometimes in this Valley of the Shadow of Death,  deep sorrow masquerades as anger.  And I’ve become sensitive to that truth in other people as well.

Sadness over loss of any kind can be spewed out as anger:

Sorrow over declining health.

Despair over lost opportunities with loved ones.

Heartache that life has not turned out the way one had hoped.

The problem with anger is that it pushes people away.  It creates an impenetrable circle that isolates a heart just when it needs to be loved, cared for and comforted.

angry-man-pointing-finger

Very few are brave enough to battle through another’s angry front to find the sorrow hidden underneath.

So I challenge myself to be more authentic in expressing what I actually feel and not dig a moat around my heart by acting angry when I’m really devastated by grief.

Because I don’t want to push people away, I want them to come close.  

I need them to take my hand and remind me that I’m not alone. 

band-aid-and-heart

 

 

 

 

Give What You’ve Got

If you had asked me four years ago where I’d be and what I’d be doing in life, I can guarantee you that writing a blog and ministering to bereaved parents wouldn’t have been in the top 1000 answers I might have given.

But here I am.  

Because it is where I have been sent.

Not where I would have gone-oh, no!-I would have taken a ship in the opposite direction like Jonah if God had given me a heads up.  Instead I was whisked away on the waves of grief right out to sea.  

Gasping for breath and trying to keep my head above water, I realized that what I had needed early on were two things:  (1) assurance that what I was experiencing/feeling/thinking was normal; and (2) encouragement from others farther along in this journey that I could endure this awful pain.

So I stepped out in faith hoping that being authentic, transparent and sharing MY journey might help another heart desperate to know she wasn’t alone.

I decided that even if others misunderstood or took issue with or didn’t like what I wrote,  I would not pull any punches.  

It was going to be the good, the bad and the ugly.  

No holds barred.

Emotional nakedness-even if it meant embarrassment.  

And I pray every single time I hit “publish” that what I send into cyberspace is what at least one heart needs for THAT day.

It’s all I’ve got, and I’m giving it away.

go where sent stay where put give what youve got

[#unblessed] If You Don’t Laugh, You’ll Cry

So my regular followers know by now my mom was lifeflighted over a week ago from her VERY rural home to the nearest large hospital due to a heart attack and complications from preexisting heart/lung disease.  (If you didn’t, you do now 🙂 )

I’ve been here with her since Thursday morning-taking night shift at the hospital so my dad can go home to the farm, get some rest and do what needs to be done.

You’d think a body might catch a break when some giant life-altering event like this happens.  But NOOOOOOO!

when i asked if life could get worse was rhetorical

In the week plus a day since Mama has been hospitalized we have had (not really, but sorta) funny one [#unblessed] moment after another.

Last Friday morning, following my dad to the hospital, he did the same sliding “stop” at a stop sign turning right onto an access road that he’s done every time he goes this way for 20 years.  But this time-you guessed it!– a very enthusiastic and attentive LEO saw him and pulled his old red farm truck over.

Following behind, I’ll just be honest, more than one salty word slipped out as I anticipated the worst possible outcome in case fatigue and stress prompted Papa to tell the officer what’s what.  Thankfully, it didn’t come to that and after running the plates and license the cop let him go.  [#unblessed]

Sunday I came to the farm by myself for the first time and left Papa at the hospital.  He had remembered to give me a house key and I had carefully put it in my purse.

Perfect.

Got inside-no problem.

I needed to add clothes to a load in the washer and stepped out on the porch to toss them in.  Being the well-trained daughter I am, I shut the house door behind me.  Locked myself out of the house.  

No phone.  

No shoes.

No car keys.

NOTHING.

locked out of house

Everyone down this way was in church.

So I did the only thing I could do.  I put on an old pair of Papa’s boat shoes (after checking for spiders) and hoofed it the two miles to my uncle’s house so he could give me the spare key.  At midday.  In the Florida sun.  No one stopped to ask if I needed a ride.  [#unblessed]

Tuesday I thought I was being very innovative in getting my critical daily medicine prescriptions filled at the local pharmacy HERE since I didn’t bring a sufficient supply from home.  Called CVS and it was a breeze except for one hiccup. A single script was out of refills so I had to call my doctor and ask for an emergency 14 day supply to be sent. Nurse took the message, said she’d get it done.  That was at 11:15.  I head to the pharmacy about 3:00 to pick everything up.  Two are ready but the one from the doctor isn’t.

Thinking that there had been a snafu-they might have called it in without thinking to my pharmacy back home-I telephone the office only to be told that the doctor was going to do it this time, but that because he wanted me to do a follow-up appointment (which I had cancelled but forgot to reschedule), he was basically doing it under duress.  (Even though this is a “don’t you dare stop it suddenly” medicine and I told the nurse my mom was lifeflighted to the hospital with a heart attack).

All the fight was out of me.  I “yes ma’amed” my way through that phone call and said “thank you so much”.  The nurse waited until the minute before their office closed to fax the script just because she could.  [#unblessed]

They are trying to move the fluid off my mom’s heart and lungs with aggressive IV diuretics.  She had one round Tuesday but by Wednesday morning her potassium was so low we had to bring that back up before the next round.  Well, the next round started at 6:30 Wednesday night.  (For those of you who don’t know about these things, IV diuretics mean trips to the bathroom about every 20-30 minutes.)  Yep!  All night long, me and Mama made that three foot trek from the bed to the potty-unhooking oxygen, unplugging the IV pole (it won’t hold a battery charge) and carefully moving her fragile self twice an hour until about 3:30 in the morning.  Apparently cardiologists figure that if they are on 24 hour call, patients should be too.  [#unblessed]

of course i sleep its exhausting keeping you up all night

Heading home Thursday morning after little sleep on Wednesday night, I see blue lights behind me.  I check my speed.  Within the limit.  I’m talking on the cell but not texting. I have no idea why I’m being pulled over.

License and registration.  He tells me that the tag I have on my truck comes back to the Toyota Camry we own.

Now, you have to understand our family has many vehicles and they issued new tags this year.  I didn’t pay close enough attention when taking them outside to put them on and got them mixed up. But “switching” tags is a serious offense.  And then, OF COURSE, I had not put the new insurance card in the glove compartment-it was floating in my purse.  (Thankfully I found it.)  For about 10 minutes my heart was racing although I had already decided that if I got off with a ticket I’d pay it without blinking an eye.  He did let me go but I’m convinced he thought I was a crazy woman who should have known better  [#unblessed]

heres another ticket for giving me imaginary id.png

Today, I tried to get my injectable RA medicine shipped to the same pharmacy since my shot is due tomorrow.  Went through the whole routine of getting the shipment set up and find out the earliest they can get it here is NEXT Thursday.  When I probably won’t be here at all.  [#unblessed]

I’m sitting here in my parents’ home, typing and taking a break.  Because my oldest son may be here tomorrow.  See, the largest, strongest and potentially deadliest hurricane is headed either for his home on the east side of Florida or for us here in the western panhandle-but we are further inland.  My truck is stocked with bottled water and other supplies “just in case”.  We don’t know if Mama will be released before Irma gets here or not but we’ll be OK. Who would have thought?  It figures.  [#unblessed]

Each incident adds stress to the system but none are really all that traumatic.

Because when you’ve buried a child, nothing short of death really rocks your world very much.

And I’ve learned to laugh (once the adrenaline wears off)-because if I don’t, I’ll just cry.

always find a reason to laugh

 

Repost: No. It’s a Complete Sentence

When news that Dominic left us spread, our yard was filled with friends and family here to help bear the burden of grief and loss.

Our house was bursting with people and food and phone calls-more coming and going than our gravel lane had seen in a lifetime of living up in the woods.

It was beautiful and terrible all at the same time.

Read the rest here:  No. It’s a Complete Sentence.