Repost: The Inestimable Value of Rest

Have you ever been on a long car trip and looked anxiously for the “Rest Area Ahead” sign?

If you have, you know the wonderfully restorative power of even a few moments to get out of the car, stretch your legs, smell fresh air and change your point of view.

Sometimes it’s tempting to pass by without stopping because you can save a few minutes. But it’s always worth taking time to rest. It makes it easier to keep going.

It’s not the same as just doing nothing.

Sitting still doesn’t guarantee that the mind remains quiet or the spirit settled.

I know, because sometimes I’ve been forced to stay perched in a chair like a toddler in time out and it was not restful.

Read the rest here:  The Inestimable Value of Rest

Worn Slap Out

The best remedy for my heart on the days when grief rolls in like morning fog and refuses to burn off with sunshine is hard work.

If weather permits I go outside and move hay bales, pick up limbs, cut weeds or do anything that requires large muscles to accomplish the task.  The goal is exhaustion so I can sleep.

If the weather doesn’t cooperate, I’ll try to tackle jobs inside that I otherwise tend to ignore.  If you ever see me cleaning the bathroom or kitchen sink fixtures with a toothbrush, just leave me alone-I’m working something out.

So these past days leading up to Dominic’s birthday, that’s what I’ve done.

I sheared sheep, raked out a hay shed, moved hay, medicated horses, dogs and goats, picked up limbs brought down by rain and high winds, vacuumed, washed clothes, cleaned bathrooms and organized (sort of) my closet.

The ungrateful sheep and the silly cat kneading his paws while I’m bent over shearing her. 

photo (44)

Skinks are some of the happier surprises when moving hay.  Snakes and ants not so much.

 

The good thing about so many critters that eat grass is that I rarely cut it.

Now I’m worn slap out!

I think I’ll hit the sack.

fatigue is the best pillow

Daily Battle: Tempted to Give Up

So many things raced through my mind in the first five minutes of hearing the news:

Oh, God!  Is it true? (I have to authenticate his identity);

How do I tell everyone? (I have to make phone calls);

What do you do when your child dies? (I have no idea how to plan a funeral);

and on

and on

and on.

Of course, that doesn’t touch the FEELINGS flooding my heart.

I don’t really have words for that, even now.

But as the days of crazy activity and people everywhere gave way to the weeks and months of silent sorrow, all I wanted to do was to give up and give in.

What was the point of carrying on if it meant carrying this weight of sadness until I was also in the grave?

At first, my motivation was to help my husband and children through these crisis moments.  My training gave me tools to give them words and ways to frame the pain. Hours of home “therapy” drained me but also gave me a sense of purpose and  direction.

It was a couple of months into this journey when  I faced my first test:  I suffer from a gastrointestinal condition that predisposes me to catastrophic GI bleeds.  Combined with the medications I take for RA, I woke one morning to find I was losing large amounts of blood.

It was nearly welcome news.

As weakness overtook my body, I could feel the lure of simply drifting away into eternity.  I was tempted to lie down on the bed and allow my heart rate to decrease, my blood pressure to dive and my soul to break free from this body of death.

But I didn’t-because I could not knowingly add to my family’s heartache.

No one was home so I drove myself to the emergency room and was admitted to the ICU. Several days and units of blood later I came home, restored to life but not unburdened of grief.

And so it goes.   Each day brings its own temptations.

I will be honest:  I am still motivated more strongly by love of my family than a sense of mission or purpose this side of burying Dominic.

Perhaps that is sin.  I don’t know.

But for right now, that’s enough.

Every day, even almost three years later, I wake up and must choose to go on.

I’m not suicidal!

I’m willing to stick around.  But I am no longer afraid to die.

I can say, like Paul,  “To live is Christ, to die is gain”.

doesnt-get-better-gets-different

 

 

 

 

Exhausted

Exhausted

Worn out

Bone-tired

Ready to drop

Drained

Fatigued

War-weary.

I wasn’t created to carry this burden.   I cannot do it.

Jesus invites me to lay it down:

Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Put My yoke upon your shoulders—it might appear heavy at first, but it is perfectly fitted to your curves. Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. When you are yoked to Me, your weary souls will find rest. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30 VOICE

yoke-of-oxen

 

 

 

Subtitles

My husband is the child of immigrants.  And even thirty years after coming to America, my in-laws preferred their native Italian to English.

italian-village

So when we would be in a crowded room, comments flying, I struggled to keep up with what was being said because I didn’t speak the same language.

As the years went by and our relationship deepened, I realized they had the same struggle when I would try to communicate complex truth in English.  It wasn’t their heart language and some things just didn’t translate well.

Sometimes feelings got hurt because what one of us thought we were saying was not what the other person heard.

Subtitles would have been useful.

The other day in an attempt to keep my unwell body in a chair, I pulled up Amazon and picked a movie.  It was in French with subtitles.

I thought, “I’ll try it.”

But as the movie went on, I realized that I was unable to give full attention to either the action of the movie or the subtitles that interpreted the dialogue.

It took way more effort than I was willing to commit to what was supposed to be a relaxing couple of hours.

So I turned it off.

Today someone in a bereaved parents group to which I belong asked if anyone else found holidays exhausting.

The comments were a resounding “yes”!

The more I thought about it the more I realized that a big part of what makes it so exhausting is a communication gap.

1538R-61348

I am not the same as I was before burying a child.  

My family is not the same.  

Nothing is the same.

Some of the “not the same” is the gap between my understanding of how I have changed and the lack of understanding by others about how I have changed.

Many friends, extended family members and acquaintances continue to relate to me as if I’m the “old” me. That creates tension and requires energy to deal with-I either have to overlook it, try to help them understand or figure out how to deal with it some other way.

We’re just not speaking the same language anymore.

Sometimes I think subtitles would be helpful.

But even then it would still be exhausting.   

 

 

 

Can I Quit Now?

Yesterday was one of those days-a mixed bag.  I enjoyed an unseasonably cool yet sunny day but sorrow was sighing in the blowing breeze.

I’ll be honest:

I want to quit.

I want to give up.

I’m tired of hauling the extra weight of grief while trying to do the everyday.

charlie brown too tired to cry

Every. single. thing. is harder and takes more effort than it used to.

I want a time-out!  

I’d take even two minutes of absolute unadulterated rest and joy.

I am stronger and more capable than I was, but today, this minute-I’m just plain tired.

I’m often teetering on the brink of despair and forced to throw out my arms in a desperate attempt to maintain my  balance.

Six months ago, in one of my first posts, I wrote:

One reason grief is so exhausting is that every step I take is on a balance beam of faith and hope.

I must navigate every necessary task without falling off.

Read the rest here:  Walking The Balance Beam

 

 

 

 

Not Quite So Dry Bones: Learning to Dance Again

I wrote this post several months ago–when falling autumn leaves turned my mind to how every living thing dies.  When the thought of another holiday season without a complete family circle pressed hard against my eyeballs and threatened to undo me.

I felt so very tired.  Some days I still do.  Some days are “dry bone” days.  But there are days when I hear laughter–look around and realize it flows from my own mouth.

I believe God is healing me.  He is restoring life to my bones.  He is redeeming my pain and resurrecting my hope.

It is a process.  So if you have only recently begun a grief journey, don’t despair.  It is hard and it is long.  But there is hope.

Grief has sapped the strength from my body and the life from my bones.  It has turned this forward-thinking planner into someone who rarely ponders even an hour from now.

I was a visionary.  

Now I’m a survivor.

I understand why Naomi changed her name to Mara-“bitter”.

When I read her story in the book of Ruth, I’m tempted to challenge her across time to “look on the bright side” and to “think of the future”.  But she felt her hope and her future had died and been buried with her husband and sons.  She was old.  She was spent.  She couldn’t understand what God was doing or imagine life beyond this moment or this day.

She was dried up all the way down to the bone.  

The breath of the promise of God had left her heart and she was barely there.

But God brought joy back into her life, He breathed life into her dry bones.

The book of Ezekiel records an amazing vision.  God shows the prophet a valley of dry bones.

Very dry bones.

No-life-even-in-the-marrow bones.  

And He challenges Ezekiel to prophesy to them:

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.  I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” (Ezekiel 37: 4-6 NIV)

I long to have the LORD make His breath enter once again into my own dry bones, so I read His word and prophesy to my dry bones.

He is the God of the resurrection, and He will redeem my sorrow and pain.  

He IS the breath of life.   

I am clinging to His promises and trusting His heart.

One day, these dry bones will dance!

Fragile

If you’ve ever had major surgery you know that the outside looks whole way before the inside is healed.

That’s how it is with grief–those of us who have lost a child appear to be strong–we have to be, because life doesn’t stop.

Not even for burying a child.

No matter how tightly I strap on my armor, grief sends arrows through the tiniest unprotected chink and pierces my heart.

There is no defense against the sound, the smell, the wayward memory that sends me back in time to when Dominic was alive and with me.  And once there, to drag myself forward to today—where he is neither—is torture. 

Sometimes the process can be a matter of seconds, the only evidence a blank stare or a single tear.  Other times the memories and the forceful return to the here and now unleashes a flood from my eyes and ends my usefulness for that day.

Either way, it’s exhausting. 

I think that might be one of the most surprising aspects of grief for me.  When it strikes hard (as it still does sometimes) it robs me of energy and the desire to do anything.

I am a “get-it-done” kind of person.  But there’s no way to get grief “done”.  It works itself out in its own time and in its own way.

I can position my mind and my heart to heal by focusing on the promises of God in Scripture.  But I cannot hurry along the healing.

And healing, when it comes, will always be incomplete this side of heaven.

Please don’t mistake the fact that I can stand straight and look strong as proof that I am recovered. 

I am often frightened and sometimes I want to hide.

But vulnerable and wounded, I remain until God calls me home.

“In His feathers He shall deliver you and under His wings you shall have refuge; His truth shall surround you as a supply of armor.”

Psalm 91:4

grief and sleep

Boy, do I envy my cats’ ability to fall asleep any place, any time.

I’ve lived with chronic physical pain for over a decade and there are nights when it is hard to go to sleep-when it is impossible to ignore the pain.  But I have never thought of myself as having trouble sleeping.

Until now.

When grieving a child, you are oh, so very tired.  Yet often sleep eludes you.

“He who learns must suffer.  And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”

Aeschylus

Lying in bed, in the dark, my mind kicks in to hyper-drive.  With no external stimulation to provide distraction, images come unbidden and unwelcome to taunt me.  I work hard to guide the train of thought to a less tortuous route.

So I thought I would share some ways that help me make it through the long nights:

  • Only lie down when you are tired enough to expect that you can fall asleep.  I am physically active each day so that at least my body is ready for rest.
  • Don’t drink caffeinated beverages after 12 noon and don’t eat heavy foods past mid-afternoon.
  • Be selective about what you listen to, watch or read in the hours leading up to bedtime.  I try to feed my mind images and information that will help me focus on more positive themes when I close my eyes.
  • Keep a pad and pencil next to the bed to jot down last minute reminders of things you might need to remember tomorrow.  I try to think ahead and have a rough plan of action for the next day so that my mind can rest.
  • Make sure you are physically comfortable–room temperature and bed clothes appropriate to the season, pajamas in soft fabrics, well-hydrated, take analgesics as needed for physical pain, etc.
  • Make whatever concessions are needed to hold anxiety at bay.  I have a nightlight in my bathroom that casts a soft glow into my bedroom.  I keep my cell phone and home phone next to me because once you get “that call” you feel like you must be instantly accessible to loved ones.  My cat sleeps with me–purring is a great comforter.
  • When I turn out the light and turn over, I purposely focus my mind’s attention and heart’s affection on trusting God to help me drift off to sleep.

“I can lie down and go to sleep, and I will wake up again, because the Lord ·gives me strength [sustains/upholds me].”

Psalm 3:5 EXB

  • If you wake up in the middle of the night, try reciting Scripture or humming hymns and try to lull yourself back to sleep. I will sometimes do mental work like planning a project or trying to recall a childhood memory–anything that might make me tired.
  • If  you can’t go back to sleep in 30 minutes or so, get up and get on with the new day–even if it is only hours old.  There’s no use lying in bed and tossing and turning. While I may be exhausted for that day, I’m almost certain to be able to sleep better the next night.

Sleep is important.

If you find that you are unable to get more than a few hours sleep for longer than two weeks–talk to your doctor.  There is NO SHAME in asking for help. And there are many products available that are non-habit forming and suitable for short-term use.

It is impossible to do the work grief requires if you are worn out from lack of sleep in addition to carrying the pain of losing your child.

“We sleep, but the loom of life never stops, and the pattern which was weaving when the sun went down is weaving when it comes up in the morning.”

Henry Ward Beecher

If we can help ourselves get the rest we need, we are better able to face the challenge of each new day.

 

Weary, but Still Fighting

These thoughts first came to me a few months ago–and since then I felt like I had “progressed” in my grief journey and left anxiety behind.  But for a number of reasons, this past week found me crushed beneath the weight of sorrow and pain and I felt vulnerable and defeated.  

I had to redouble my efforts to resist the enemy and stand firm in the truth that Christ is victorious.

And I was reminded again that this will be a battle I fight as long as I live…

Grief doesn’t travel alone, it brings anxiety along for the ride.

I live by the mantra, “Don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow!” and I don’t struggle to fend off worry.

But this vague feeling of impending doom that follows grief is invasive and pervasive and relentless.  I can’t stop it, find its edges or outrun it.

If I could just pin it down, I’d toss it out…

I have never been in combat but I am daily doing battle.  The enemy of my soul wants me to give in and give up.  So I push back, dig in and soldier on.

I am worn out and worn down.  

This is the hardest work I have ever done.  No breaks, no vacations, no time-outs or pauses.  And no forward progress.

BUT I REFUSE TO GIVE UP GROUND.

My struggle is not against flesh and blood and my weapons are not physical.  The only hope I have is to remain rooted in the Word of God and to cling to this truth:

Therefore, put on the complete armor of God,

so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger],

and having done everything [that the crisis demands],

to stand firm [in our place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious].

Ephesians 6:13 AMP