Post Holiday Blues: When The Grief Comes Crashing Down

It’s a paradox really-that grieving hearts can be more anxious and more sorrowful BEFORE and AFTER a milestone day, birthday or holiday than on the day itself.

That’s not true for everyone, but it’s a frequent comment in our closed bereaved parent groups.

Fearful anticipation of how awful it MIGHT be can work me up into a frenzy.

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The day of whatever it is usually passes quicker than I thought it could especially if there is a big meal involved and lots of people milling about.

Then everyone leaves and quiet darkness ushers in space and silence.

That’s the moment my heart recounts all the places Dominic should have been but wasn’t. That’s when I think of how his baritone voice was missing from the conversation, his laugh from the chorus of merry makers, his opinion from the slightly heated volley over politics or another current event.

I guess it’s kind of a holiday hangover without the booze.

But there’s no strange concoction I can drink to rid me of these symptoms.

Instead I have to give my heart permission to take out each feeling and FEEL it. I have to acknowledge that even when I spend the day laughing and enjoying family and friends, I still miss Dominic.

So I try to build a day (or two!) of recovery into my holiday planning.

And that’s OK.

Whenever possible that’s exactly what I do.

So you won’t find me rushing out to shop the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas or any of our own family’s unique grief anniversaries.

Instead I’ll wake slowly, drink coffee and watch the sunrise.

I might take a walk, read a book or write in my journal.

I will definitely find moments of solitude to acknowledge that once again I have survived what I thought I might not.

And for that, I’m grateful.

Unsettling Dreams: Grieving In My Sleep

I’ve always had vivid dreams.

That was a problem as a young child because often I couldn’t tell where the dream ended and real life began when I woke.

Many, many nights I’d cry out from my bed, begging my parents to come save me from whatever monster followed me from my dream.

I pretty much grew out of that as I got older and learned to be very careful what I fed my mind-especially right before I fall asleep. I don’t watch horror movies, dark so-called comedies, violent dramas or anything that my brain might twist into scary or disturbing shapes in the dark.

After Dominic left for Heaven, I once again experienced a season of uncomfortable dreaming. Only one or two of my dreams were actually awful, but I would often wake feeling out of sorts, a bit “off” or vaguely aware of something just outside my consciousness that was sure to frighten me if I could see it clearly.

That season passed and only very rarely was I troubled with those kinds of dreams these past few years.

But since my mama joined Dominic, I’ve had at least one disturbing dream every single night.

I can remember some of them-like the one that woke me at two this morning-but not all of them. Even when I can’t recall the exact sequence of events, they all have a similar theme: Someone I love is in peril and I can’t save them or something I hold dear is lost and I can’t find it.

And that awful feeling of helplessness follows me when I open my eyes.

It doesn’t take a PhD to interpret these dreams.

Grief is leaking out in my sleep.

All the feelings I’ve become so good at pushing down during waking hours since Dominic left us are growing stronger again in the wake of my mother’s death.

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The lid my conscious mind keeps screwed on tight is no match for the power of the unconscious.

Off it pops and all the sad, scared, anxious, helpless, longing, fearful emotions stirred up by losing one more soul my heart loves come flying out and swirl around until they create a perfect storm of awful to parade across my mind’s eye while my body tries to rest.

I think I’ve only had one night of more than three hours uninterrupted sleep since the week Mama was hospitalized.

I’m trying all the old tricks of carefully tending what goes into my brain each day. I’m feeding myself healthy and wholesome images and words. I’m ending each day with prayer and asking God to give me sweet dreams or no dreams at all.

I may have to revisit some of those old feelings.

I would rather face my fears in the daylight.

I don’t want them to leak out at night.

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Repost: Accepting My Limitations

I’m no quitter.

I grew up with the mantra, “You can be anything you want to be if you want to be it badly enough” ringing through my childhood.

I added this one for my kids:  “Failure is not an option.”

But I’ve got to admit, while both are great motivators when motivation is the missing ingredient, they are lies.

I cannot be “anything I want to be”.  I can be the best me possible, but I cannot be anyone but me.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/09/07/accepting-my-limitations/

When I Feel Like God’s Not Listening

I think nearly every bereaved parent has a crisis of faith that takes one form or another.  

When I read scripture I see that most of the “giants” of faith had moments of doubt as well.

I have certainly felt sometimes like God wasn’t listening or if He was listening, He didn’t care.  He’s disappointed me because my prayers were not answered the way I expected them to be or they weren’t answered at all (from my perspective).

Those feelings are normal but feelings don’t always reflect truth.

If I’m to battle the lies my heart is tempted to believe, I must feed it truth until it’s able to take hold of it.

So I go to the Psalms of lament and follow the pattern laid out there:

  • Express my frustration, fear and disappointment (exhale my doubts);
  • bring my broken heart to God (position myself to receive);
  • and recite the truth that God does not lie and that every promise is “ yes” and “amen” in Christ ( inhale strength, faith, comfort and hope).

It’s not a once and done thing- sometimes I do this dozens of times a day. But I always come away stronger and better able to face my fears and doubts.  

If you currently feel like God’s not listening I pray you will take that pain straight to the Throne of grace.

Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
    Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
  Why do you hide your face
    and forget our misery and oppression?

  We are brought down to the dust;
    our bodies cling to the ground.
   Rise up and help us;
    rescue us because of your unfailing love.

Psalm 44: 23-26 NIV

 

May you choose to trust truth even when your heart doesn’t want to.

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
  yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Habakkuk 3:17, 18 NIV

And may you hear the Lord sing grace and mercy over your soul.

The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3: 17

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: Flying Lessons

I wrote this last year when thinking about how easy it is for me to get lost in the clouds on this journey.

Like a disoriented pilot flying without any visual cues, I have to make a decision:  do I trust my unworthy feelings or do I trust the utterly reliable compass found in the Word of God?

I can’t deny that I FEEL certain things, but I can choose not to ACT on every feeling.

It was a lesson I saw my father teach many young pilots as they learned to trust their instruments instead of their own faulty sense of direction.

My dad is a pilot and flight instructor.  

He’s flown everything from a single engine private plane to a fighter jet in all kinds of weather-good and bad.

When I was a little girl, he’d take me with him sometimes while he gave a flight lesson.  If he was teaching instrument flying, the student would wear a hood that restricted his vision to just the plane’s instrument panel.

No external visual cues allowed.

Read the rest here:  Flying Lessons

Sometimes I Just Want To Be Me!

Even in the very first hours after the news, my brain began instructing my heart, “Now, try to be brave.  Try not to disappoint people.  Try to say the right thing, do the right thing and be the example you should be.”

Whatever that meant.

As I made phone calls and received concerned friends and family members I was so aware that they would take a cue from me-how much can I say, how hard can I cry, should I hug or stand back, should I talk about him or be silent lest it make the tears fall harder?

And here-almost five years later-I still feel like I need to lead the way in conversations and social encounters.

Read the rest here:  Can I Just Be Me?