Which Weighs More?

Remember the childhood riddle, “Which is heavier, a ton of bricks or a ton of feathers?”

feathers

It was great fun to catch someone giving the wrong answer.

Because, of course, a ton is a ton is a ton.  Weight is an absolute measure.

But it takes fewer bricks to reach that quota although it takes just as much strength to lift the burden.

weights-dumbbells

One thing I’m learning in my grief journey is that there are so many people carrying a load.

I find my compassion radar has been fine-tuned to hear even the faintest whisper of hurt in someone’s voice, to see the tiniest gleam of a tear, to notice the smallest stoop of shoulders or the beginning of a frown.

And while some of us have had our ton of pain and sorrow delivered via bricks-suddenly, forcefully and overwhelmingly dumped-others have acquired their ton over a lifetime of disappointment, struggle and testing.

They both weigh a ton.  

And they both require great strength to carry.

It’s a challenge to resist the urge to rank my experience on a continuum of pain.

Although I bridle when people compare their loss of a pet or job to my loss of a child (as I wrote about here), I do try to extend grace when others expose their own wounds.

I want to comfort other people with the comfort I have received.  Not only the comfort from Christ-which is the ultimate comfort-but also the comfort I’ve received from wise friends and caring sisters-in-loss.

I want to be a listening ear, a compassionate heart and an outstretched hand.

Reaching Out to Help Someone in Despair

I want to be a witness, a fellow traveler on the journey, an encourager.

Grief

is grief

is grief.

A ton is a ton is a ton.

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

 

 

 

 

What To Do With All These Feelings???

Feelings, feelings and more feelings!

I’m overwhelmed with them. All. The. Time.

brene-brown-on-empathy-image

Sadness.  Longing.  Regret.  Hopelessness.

But also happiness, excitement and joy.

They bounce around in my head and heart doing battle like caged animals.

What to do? How do I keep my life in some sort of forward motion when if I give in to each and every feeling I’d be going in circles and heading nowhere?

One thing I can’t do is ignore them.

I’ve tried.

Stuffing pain down deep where I think it’ll never escape doesn’t work.

hungry

It just sneaks through whatever crack I haven’t managed to seal tight and shows up at the most inopportune moments.  And the release is often explosive-hurting me and those around me.

Journaling is the best method I’ve found to let my feelings out in a more controlled fashion.

I can say whatever I want to on paper without worrying it will harm another’s heart.  I can write things I would never be brave enough to speak aloud.  I can mark my page with anything I want to-it’s for my eyes only.

I find that letting go of the feelings I’ve been holding in for so long often results in great freedom and release even when my circumstances haven’t changed at all.

This pouring thoughts out on paper has relieved me. I feel better and full of confidence and resolution.

~Diet Eman, Things We Couldn’t Say

And writing them down, I am often better able to discern the reason behind the feelings, better able to think of what I might do to help myselfeven if no one else can help me. Seeing it in black and white I can find patterns and pinpoint unhealthy habits that are leading me down deadend alleys.

Successful journals break the deadlock of introspective obsession

~Alexandra Johnson, Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal

I might start a journal entry with a thought bouncing around in  my mind, or a quote or a Scripture verse.  I may ask a question-of myself or of God-write a memory or whisper a fear.

However it begins the page soon fills with things I wasn’t even aware were inside me.  And almost always ends in a better place than where it started.  

Not one outward circumstance altered.

Not one problem “solved”.

Not a single aspect of life “fixed”.

Journal writing is a voyage to the interior. ~Christina Baldwin

But my ability to understand my own heart and to respond to the unchanging circumstances around me has been enlarged and strengthened.

My journal is the safest space to explore the nooks and crannies of how grief is changing me from the inside out.

Writing is the only way I have to explain my own life to myself.

~ Pat Conroy, My Reading Life

i-write-because-i-dont-know

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen. Love. Repeat.

Today and tomorrow families will gather around tables and trees and television sets.

Some folks together for the first time in twelve months and maybe a few for the first time in years.

family-reunion

All the cheesy Christmas movies promise that reunion is sweet.

They roll out the fantasy that old wounds are easily patched up and the smell of turkey and apple pie casts a spell on broken hearts and broken relationships.

But that’s not usually how it goes in real life.

Instead of sweet release and precious moments, many families will experience rising tension as one person tries to bite her tongue and another fuels his anger. Politics, religion, personal lifestyle choices and old slights work to raise the temperature of the room to boiling.

And then it happens:  He storms out, she leaves in tears and another “Hap-Hap-Happy Holiday” is in the books.

angry

It doesn’t have to be that way.

It can be different.

If, instead of letting words hit our ears only long enough to form a quick rebuttal, we choose to listen-really listenwe can change everything.

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If, instead of jumping to conclusions we commit to lavish love,  we can undo the knots that form in stomachs and smooth out the furrowed brows.

If instead of making a point we choose to make a friend, we will endure fewer arguments and foster greater compassion.

Listen.

Love.

Repeat. 

As many times as it takes to wash the worry out of a room.  As often as necessary to weave a web of welcome.  

Listen.

Love.

Repeat.

love-covers-a-multitude-of-sins

 

 

 

Just Tears

No great wisdom today.  No wonderful insight.

Just tears.

woman-looking-through-rainiy-window

A day that was going pretty well ended in a conversation with someone who should have known better stomping all over my heart.

Someone who is very much aware of my loss acted like it hadn’t happened.

It really hurt.  

After all this time I was surprised by how very much it hurt.

So I cried.

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I cried because I miss Dominic.

I cried because a day that had felt victorious ended in defeat.  I cried because it feels selfish to hold people to the standard of caring about my broken heart when they are so busy with their own lives.

I cried because it feels like even those who shouldn’t forget ARE forgettingthe son that walked beside me for almost 24 years has been set aside in less than three.

My heart hurts and I don’t think I can just suck this up.  I’m not even sure that I should.

Where do I draw the line between extending grace and asking for it?

I just don’t know.

heart and wood

 

 

I Don’t Know How I’m Doing

People see me, these years and months after Dominic left us and ask, “How are you doing?”

I come up with an answer because that’s the law of conversation-you ask something and I answer, then I ask something and you answer.

are-you-ok

Gotta keep that ball rolling.  

If it drops we are both forced to stand there wondering what to do with our bodies, our faces and our thoughts.

But right now, I don’t know HOW I’m doing.

I am definitely past the crying-every-single-day stage.  The deep sense of loss still strangles me but I’ve learned to pretend it’s not there and just keep on keeping on.

I can look at his photo (most times) and not feel the sucker punch as my heart realizes-once again-he is not coming back.  

Ever.

I’ve developed routines to work around the hardest part of a week-Friday night into Saturday morning-so my mind and body follow the rut like cows headed to water.

cowpath

One-foot-in-front-of-the-other.

“A thousand mile journey begins with the first step” and all that.

I try to lean into the life I have NOW.  The life I would have never imagined or chosen for myself but the one I wake up to every day.

There is no EASY way to lose a child but I almost envy parents whose child’s death has given them a cause to fight for. Sometimes the circumstances surrounding loss lend themselves to a crusade which at least gives a parent somewhere to focus his or her sorrow.

What can I say about Dominic’s leaving?

Don’t ride motorcycles?

Sure, but that was my position before they were ever purchased.  I was always only barely able to contain my anxious thoughts as my sons went from here to there on two wheels with no protective shell.

I’ve learned to push down the pain and that means I stuff every other feeling as well.

I can’t select JUST the pain to hold inside.

So that leaves me here-not knowing how I’m doing.

Am I better?  

Healing?

Or just plain numb because to feel whatever I’m really feeling is too hard to embrace?

I have no idea.

smile-question