Fault Lines: Social Anxiety and Bereaved Parents

I’m no geologist, but from what I understand, earthquakes are nearly always “about to happen”.  Fault lines guarantee it.  Pressure is building underneath the surface of the earth and when it reaches a level that can no longer be contained, it spews.

Can I just let you in on a secret?

Bereaved parents are full of fault lines.

Read the rest here: Fault Lines: Bereaved Parents and Social Anxiety

It’s Still Kind of Tender Just There

I’m pretty sure most everyone older than five has suffered a bump, bruise or sprain that left them tender for more than a few minutes.

And if you have, then you know the slightest brush up against that sore spot can elicit quite the reaction.

There’s an emotional correlate to physical bruising. And when someone hits that nerve it hurts. Really, really hurts!

It’s impossible to know where all those places are on another person’s body, much less their heart. So we often cause accidental pain to one another.

Read the rest here: It’s Kind of Tender Just There

A Rough Week

Y’all! This morning marks seven days of exhausting emotional and physical effort that I absolutely, positively did not anticipate.

This time last week I was looking forward to being at home where I could finish up (way ahead, mind you!) prepping for the soon arrival of my grandjoys for a long visit.

I had nearly finished some major cleaning out and rearranging and figured I’d fiddle around the edges and do the exciting and much more rewarding tasks of gathering craft materials, organizing delicious snack recipes and rounding up fun bath time toys when I got an unexpected phone call.

My very dear friend (more like a sister) fell in her kitchen and broke her back (not her spinal cord, thank the Lord!).

Suddenly everything else was on hold, emergency protocol prevailed and I was swept up in a whirlwind of ambulance transports, emergency rooms and coordinating communication among friends and family members who couldn’t join us in the tiny cubicle while we waited for a doctor to diagnose her condition and determine her treatment.

[By the way, if you haven’t been in an emergency room lately can I just tell you they are overwhelmed, overrun and understaffed. Through no fault of their own, nurses and doctors are working with fewer resources and greater demands than ever before. So (as my Emergency RN daughter says), “Don’t do stupid things!”.]

It took multiple imaging scans and consults to determine that my friend would have to be admitted to the hospital at least for a few days but there were no available rooms. So the waiting continued.

By early Thursday morning she had a room and we began a new round of consultations and physical therapy to figure out the best way forward.

While she was there, I was back and forth.

Driving through rain and city traffic (not my favorite) an hour there and an hour back from my rural home was a real challenge. Getting up and dragging my behind out of bed while my autoimmune disease was acting up was another. Carrying bags and my friend’s prosthetic leg two and a half blocks downtown with my wonky and very painful wrist was yet one more. And can I admit I absolutely HATE face masks???

Let’s just say, it’s been an adventure.

I’m tired.

I’m once again reminded of the fact that I have far less reserve than I had before Dominic died.

Even though I’m stronger and better able to carry the load of grief and handle his absence I still experience a constant and unrelenting level of stress that means I simply do not have the ability to absorb extra demands on my emotions or physical strength like I used to.

And I am also reminded that people think because it’s been eight and a half years that I’m “back to normal”. They see me smiling, laughing, walking in the world like everyone else and assume it’s no big deal to take on additional responsibility.

But it is.

It is still very MUCH a big deal.

I can’t Spend the Same Energy Twice.

I’m not sharing to garner sympathy. I’m sharing because I hope that if you have also had a rough week you won’t feel so alone.

It’s OK to admit we don’t have the same energy or resources we once had.

It’s OK to ask for help.

It’s OK to not be OK.

Do The Next Right Thing

I’m not a fan of catch phrases that enter the popular lexicon and then take off into all directions.

Too often they reduce complex emotions or situations into a few words that folks find convenient to banter around in the hopes of sounding wise or “in the know” without any genuine attempt to understand what’s really going on.

But sometimes there IS a phrase that accurately summarizes choices or circumstances and is helpful in guiding a heart in the right direction.

“Do the next right thing” is one of those.

As far as I can tell, it was coined by someone (or many someones) who participated in twelve step programs (think AA) and meant that you don’t give in to the temptation to feed your addiction but instead head to a meeting or rendezvous with a sponsor or other safe person who will help you avoid falling back down the rabbit hole.

Grief is definitely a rabbit hole.

And there are lots of times I need someone or something to distract me from the siren call of despair that would lead me right back down to darkness-even eight and half years later.

So how do I manage to shake it off and move forward? It’s really pretty simple: I do the next right thing.

One day it might be getting up, making coffee and going for my morning walk. Another day it might be taking a shower, getting dressed and heading to a doctor’s appointment.

Most days it’s some form of the regular chores that have outlined my life on this piece of property for the past quarter century-feeding horses, cooking meals, tidying the house, sweeping porches, making necessary phone calls or tracking down some important piece of information we all store in the one location that will most likely be here long after I’m gone.

I’ve written before that just changing my physical position when I feel anxiety creeping up my back and taking hold of my brain can help ward off a full blown panic attack. If I’m sitting, I stand; if standing, I walk; if walking, I sit down. We are complex creatures and the body keeps the score (also a title of an excellent book!).

Feelings aren’t JUST feelings. They are neurotransmitters, muscular contraction, heart rate and blood pressure wrapped up in thoughts.

So when faced with a wall of overwhelming and cascading feelings, I do the next right thing-whatever that may be-and often find it breaks through that wall so I can see a sliver of light.

I follow that light like a candle in a cave until it leads me to a way out of the darkness.

Little by little, decision by decision, I move forward.

Some days it’s easy and some days it’s hard.

But it’s always possible.

Lenten Reflections: Refusing To Deny My Emotions, Submitting Them to God’s Will

I’ve written at length in this space regarding my conviction that denying pain diminishes the power of the cross.

If death isn’t awful, if life in this fallen world isn’t full of sorrow, if eternal separation from God is not Hell then why the cross?

Right here, in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus acknowledges the terrible cost of salvation, of redemption, of restoration:

Only Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit understood the unspeakable cost Jesus would pay for our sins to be forgiven. Under the crushing weight of all that was to come, Jesus offered variations of the same prayer three times: ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will but as You will.’

Alicia Britt Chole

God created me with emotions.

They are not “bad” or “good”, they simply “are”. What I do with them and whether I allow them to steer my actions is another matter.

I can make a choice to bring my feelings to the Father and allow Him to fill me with strength so I can submit to His will even when it’s not easy or painless.

Note that Jesus did not try to deny His emotions in the garden but instead expressed them honestly, respectfully, and repeatedly…Honesty is of intimacy with God and, conversely, denial is an enemy of intimacy with God….From Jesus’ example, it is clear that a misalignment between our desires and God’s will is not sin. Jesus was victorious not because He lacked uncooperative feelings but because He affirmed and reaffirmed His commitment to honor Father’s will above His emotions.

Alicia Britt Chole

What cup would you rather not drink?

Ask the Father to help you bring those feelings to the Throne of Grace so that you can receive help in your time of need.

**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.**

Grief, Emotional Overload and Relationships

There are so many ways child loss impacts relationships!

Some of the people you think will stand beside you for the long haul either never show up or disappear right after the funeral.

Some people you never expected to hang around not only come running but choose to stay.

And every. single. relationship. gets more complicated.  

When your heart is shattered, there are lots of sharp edges that end up cutting you and everyone around you.  It’s pretty much inevitable that one or more relationships will need mending at some point.

Read the rest here: Emotional Overload and T.M.I.

My Heart’s a Little Tender Just There

Many bereaved parents share some emotional bruises others might never see or think about. Lots of everyday interactions press hard against the tender places and make them hurt all the more.

I don’t expect family and friends to walk on eggshells around me, second-guessing everything they say or do. That would be awful for all of us!

But just in case you wonder, here are places my heart is tender:

Read the rest here: It’s Kind of Tender Just There

Bereaved Parents Month 2021: Grief is a Tangled Ball of Emotions

Someone posted this image yesterday on Facebook-they had received a copy in a therapy session and found it a helpful way to picture grief.  

I wanted to share it because perhaps you may find it helpful as well.  

Read the rest here: Grief-A Tangled Ball of Emotions

So…How ARE You Doing?

Sometimes it’s hard to gauge effectively and objectively how I’m really doing.

Living inside my own head often obscures tell-tale signs that maybe I’m not coping as well as I think I am.

So I depend on feedback from friends and family as an early warning safety system.

But many of us are physically isolated from others who might otherwise help us discern when we need help. A heart can fall fast into a deep pit of despair without realizing it.

A friend recently shared this infographic and I love it!

It’s an objective (though not exhaustive!) checklist anyone can use to determine if they are slipping into unhealthy or potentially harmful behaviors, attitudes and thought patterns.

I wanted to share it with my fellow broken-hearted sojourners as a tool.

Please be honest with yourself even if you can’t be honest with others.

And if you find that you are closer to the red than the green, let me (or SOMEONE) know!

You may be isolated but you are NOT alone!

Reach out.

You are irreplaceable. ❤

You are irreplaceable – Freed to Fly

Why Don’t I Feel A Thing? Sometimes Grief = Numb.

Many bereaved parents will tell you that after the initial shock of loss hits hard, a blessed numbness falls over a heart.

It happened to me.

The pain was still there, of course, but a fog descended that allowed me to maintain some distance between what I was feeling deep down and what I had to do in order to get through the decisions and days that follow death.

Nighttime was still hard because when the house went dark and quiet, all the emotion I’d managed to push away in the daylight came flooding back. I spent months falling into fitful sleep with tears on my pillow.

And then the fog lifted.

I’m not sure how long it was that I sobbed uncontrollably for some portion of every day and some days all day long.

A whiff of fresh air reminded me Dominic no longer drew breath into his lungs. A random sound upstairs or outside jolted my heart into hoping maybe, just maybe, he was coming home. Everywhere my eyes landed held a memory that screamed, “He was here! Where is he now?”

I felt everything. All the time. No respite.

It was exhausting.

But at some point-maybe in the middle or toward the end of the second year-a blanket of profound emotional silence wrapped itself around my heart and I could not feel a thing.

Really.

Not one single thing.

I could conjure up appropriate facial expressions so those around me didn’t have a clue. I could remember what I was supposed to feel. I could almost-almost-touch a spot deep inside that used to feel. But if there had been a meter on my heart it would have displayed a flat line.

This was more frightening than the prospect of living with overwhelming sorrow and pain for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to hurt like that forever but I didn’t want to give up feeling love and happiness and excitement and awe either.

I don’t really know how long that lasted.

Maybe most of a year, I think.

And then one day I realized some color had crept back into my daily life.

I was beginning to look forward just a bit to a date on the calendar. A smile crossed my lips without effort in response to a joke. Sadness once again took up residence in my heart next to the place Dominic always lived. But joy eased its way in around the edges.

I’ve thought long and hard about that season of “un-feeling”.

Why did my heart shut down? Why the long silence when no emotion pierced my soul?

I think it was necessary.

I think a body and mind and heart can’t operate for too long at warp speed. I think that just like fainting is a response to the brain needing oxygen, numbness is a response to the soul’s need for respite and time to heal.

So if you are in the season of numb, you’re neither crazy nor alone.

It, too, will pass.

Feeling will find its way once again to your heart. Pain, yes, but also joy.

When you are ready.

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