Why We Turn Away From Hurting Hearts

The news goes out over Facebook, over phone lines, over prayer chains and everyone shows up.

Crowds in the kitchen, in the living room, spilling onto the lawn.

It’s what you do.

And it’s actually the easiest part.  Lots of people, lots of talking, lots of activity keep the atmosphere focused on the deceased and the family.  The conversation rarely dips to deeper waters or digs into harder ground:  “Where was God?”;  “Why him?”;  “Why do ‘bad’ things happen to ‘good’ people?”

But eventually the busyness and noise gives way to stillness and silence.

That’s when the harder part starts.

Read the rest here:  Why Do We Turn Away?

Messed Up. Again.

I’m not sure when I’ll get the hang of this life after loss.  

Five years is long enough to have completed a college degree, so you’d think it would be long enough to explore the edges of how to walk in the world without my son, without the family I used to have, without the confidence I once enjoyed that “every little thing was gonna be alright”.  

But it’s not.  

I’m still feeling my way in the dark much of the time. 

man in woods with glowing light

 

New challenges greet me and I have to navigate them with the profoundly changed “me” that I neither understand nor like.

I make mistakes. 

I get upset and I upset others. 

If I didn’t believe that there was a Day when all this would be redeemed, I would just give up. 

But I DO believe that.  

It doesn’t take the pain away.  It doesn’t soften the feeling of failure when my sorrow stops me being what others need me to be.  It doesn’t blow soft breezes across my weary soul.

faith is not an epidural

It gives me focus and a goal.  It gets me out of bed so I persevere.  It helps my heart hold on and not give in to despair.

Today is not a good day.  

Tomorrow doesn’t look good either.  

But one day-

One. Glorious. Day.

there will be a day blue and pink jeremy camp

 

Code Words and the Jesus Juke

In the South we have our ways.  Our ways of marginalizing folks who don’t quite fit in with who we think they should be or how we expect them to act.

Mostly we use code words.  Words that seem innocent enough to the uninitiated but pack a punch if you have inside information and know what they really mean.

Any sentence that begins, “Bless her heart….” will almost surely end with a tidbit of gossip that undermines a reputation.

Sometimes we switch it up (especially in church) with “I think we need to pray for…”.  Because we all know asking for prayer is holy, even if the situation isn’t and the person mentioned would just as soon her business stay private.

Social media has its own code words too.

Vague references to someone or something we don’t like or agree with usually begin with,  “Ugh!  I just don’t understand why….” followed by a litany of thinly veiled complaints.

But sometimes the code isn’t very complicated and it’s really easy for others to figure out precisely who or what you are talking about.

And it damages reputations and hurts feelings and you may sit back in  your chair, tablet or laptop in hand, thinking, “Not my problem.  I didn’t say WHO it was”.

But it IS your problem.

Even when you cloak your complaint or comment in biblical references or godly quotes, bottom line is you are accusing or mocking or undermining someone else.

My daughter calls it “Jesus juking”-tacking on a Bible verse before or after a remark in an attempt to shut down discussion or rebuttal.

Because if someone tries to disagree with YOU, it’s set up to make them look like they are disagreeing with Scripture or God Himself.

I don’t like these games people play.  I don’t like code words.  I don’t like tactics intended to make others feel small so I can feel larger.

Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. Sometimes social media forces my hand and I have to speak publicly on what I would rather discuss privately.

But that’s rare.

If I have a problem with someone, I try to take it directly to THEM.

And I hope they will do the same with me. ❤

did I offer peace

I Don’t Get to Be Ugly

It’s easy to justify bad behavior when I am hurting.  

As the saying goes, “Hurt people, hurt people”.

But if I know Jesus, I don’t get a pass.  I don’t get to act ugly or pretend I don’t know better or have His Spirit to help me BE better.

Sometimes I AM ugly.  Sometimes I do act badly.  I am ashamed that even though I am fully aware of my own desperate need for grace and mercy I sometimes withhold it from others.

I’m also ashamed that I can be judgmental and hateful and short-tempered and short-sighted. I can exclude others and run out of patience and choose to turn away when I should be tuning in.

And I’m really, really sorry.

hands-passing-heart

I’m trying to lean more fully on the grace available to me through God’s Holy Spirit.  I am trying to pause so that the first thing that springs to mind doesn’t always fly out of my mouth.  I am learning to wait before returning phone calls, emails and text messages.

I try to take a walk when my heart is twisted ugly so that the ugly doesn’t spill out onto others and ruin THEIR day.

I don’t get to lay aside the calling to love because I’ve laid a child to rest.  

I’m working hard to remember that.  

love God love others rocks

 

 

Just Plain Hard

Today is full of tears.

No real reason-other than the obvious one-but so many things coming together to remind me this life is hard, hard, hard.

I find on this side of burying Dominic that when two or three other stressful events pile one atop the other I crumble.  Sometimes it’s other family members  doing the best they can to muddle through and sometimes it’s physical pain or disappointment or the random “ya-ya” stuff of life in community with other people  Whatever it is, the weight-in addition to grief-just absolutely overwhelms me.

I used to be stronger.  

Or at least I thought I was stronger.  But maybe the truth was the burden I was carrying wasn’t nearly as heavy as I thought it was and I just didn’t have anything to compare it to.

Now I do.

And I am oh, so weary!  I want to curl up in a ball and wish for it all to be over. I want to hide in a hole and hope the world passes me by.  I want to wait out my years unnoticed and unchallenged and pass peacefully to eternal rest and the joyful fullness of what has been promised.

Not an option.

So I hang in and hold on.  I cling to hope and I climb the mountain.  I crawl when I can’t walk. I beg for mercy when my mind grows dark and all I see is the long years stretching before me like a prison sentence.

And I cry.

I let the tears roll down my cheeks and fall into the corners of my mouth.  I taste their salty sweetness and let them remind me that Dominic matters. That even when other folks have forgotten and moved on, he’s still part of my every day. My heart is still in pieces. My family circle has been torn apart.

Some days I can push it down and forget a little.  But today I can’t.

It’s just plain hard.

 

 

 

My Heart Hurts

Oh, how my heart hurts!

Deep down where no one can touch it-it aches for my missing child, the family I used to have, the lost opportunities, the missed moments.

And there is no cure.

Yes, there is  a Balm in Gilead-there is hope in the Person of Jesus Christ.

And it soothes the pain, takes the edge off, makes it bearable.

But it does not take it away.

faith is not an epidural

I’m sorry if that tosses grit in the works of your theology.  I’m sorry if that makes you a little afraid that if this happened to you, the pain might last a lifetime.

I wish some of the books I’d read, the movies I’d seen, the sermons I’d heard had dealt more honestly and openly with the topic of loss, grief, heartache and unchangeable circumstance.  Most of them minimized the crisis and moved straightaway to the victorious ending.  That’s a convenience and device unavailable to us who are living with the reality day to day.

I can’t turn a page and get to the finale.

I can’t wrap up my experience in three points and a tidy tag line.

So as the ache began to settle in, I questioned my faith.  I questioned my relationship with Jesus.  I questioned my sanity and my strength and my sadness.

What was wrong with me????

Why can others move through and move on????

And then I reexamined the published stories and realized that the arc presented as going from devastation to declaration of God’s goodness was very selective.

If I wanted to, I could craft my narrative the same way.

I am definitely better than I was.  Definitely more confident of God’s working in this Valley than I was.  Definitely more convinced that God will redeem and restore than when I first faced the fact my son was dead.

But it is still a battle.

crisis of faith

It is still a choice that I have to make every day.  It is still something I hold onto IN SPITE of my hurting heart.  My hope has not replaced the pain.  It lives alongside it and sometimes overshadows it-but the pain is still there.

I can not pretend that “all is well” any more than I can claim I understand when Paul writes I am “seated in the heavenlies with Jesus”.

God sees it all in the “right now”.

I am trapped in time.

Yes, these things are true.  But I do not experience them as true right now.

So in the meantime, I wait to see with my eyes what has been promised to my heart.  And the distance between now and then leaves a gaping wound that hurts.

It’s simply the truth.

steadfast-love-in-the-morning

What Helps and What Hurts

I am committed to continue to trust Jesus and to look to the Word of God for my hope and direction in this life and in the one to come.

I speak truth to my heart through Scripture, worship songs, testimonies of others who have gone before and remaining in community with other believers.

But I’ve yet to reach the place where I can plan on most days being better days rather than hard ones.

I’m trying.

And I’m working to tease out the influences that make a difference-both the ones that help and the ones that hurt.

So here’s the list so far:

WHAT HELPS

  • Starting the day with Bible reading
  • Writing out a verse or two that speaks hope to my heart
  • Listening to worship music
  • Feeling well-less physical pain translates to an overall sense of well-being
  • Having a plan for the day-even if it is simple and created in broad strokes, knowing what I plan to do gives me a reason to get up and get going
  • Seeking companionship with other believers either via Facebook groups, telephone calls, in person get togethers or messaging.
  • Allowing myself a set time to grieve-cry, pray, lament, or whatever-then moving on with the day
  • Mixing up physical activity with rest-changing my body position often reorients my attitude.
  • Striving to get proper sleep, eating good food (not junk and not mindlessly), exercising and stretching.
  • Crying-if I need to cry I’ve found allowing the tears to fall is much better than fighting them off all day.
  • Retreating when necessary-if I find a situation is too much for me to handle, I give myself permission to retreat.  Most things can be done another day.  Sometimes just granting myself permission means I have the courage to press on and face it.
  • Planning for hard things.  If I know I’m going to have to face a hard thing, then I try to plan it.  I prepare myself by thinking through (as much as possible) various outcomes.  I’m more prepared and usually it goes better than I anticpated.
  • Not overscheduling my days/weeks-it is harder than it used to be to get going in the mornings so I take that into consideration when making appointments.  If I have a busy day on Monday, I will try to make Tuesday open and relaxed.  Having space between commitments gives me time to recoup and minimizes anxiety.
  • Doing as many things via Internet and telephone as possible-I can do needful things even if I’m having a bad day if I don’t have to get dressed and go out to do them.

WHAT HURTS

  • Neglecting my spiritual life-if I don’t read Scripture, don’t engage with other believers and refuse to acknowledge and thank God for the blessings He still bestows-I can quickly succumb to the dark whispers of the enemy of my soul.
  • Ignoring physical needs-when I don’t prioritize sleep, good nutrition, adequate exercise and appropriate pain control (for my RA) then sadness is multiplied and it is so much harder to climb out of the pit of despair.
  • Carrying unnecessary burdens-I cannot MAKE anyone understand the pain and ongoing challenge of child loss.  So when people outside my immediate grief circle question my feelings or try to make me conform to their expectations of what grief should look like and how long it should last, I have to shake it off. If it’s an important and ongoing relationship, I try to help them understand but if they choose not to or if it is a tangential relationship, I let it go.  I refuse to carry the burden of others’ expectations in addition to the burden of burying my child.
  • Being ignored-it hurts to be ignored.  It hurts when someone asks how I am yet doesn’t allow the space and time for me to answer.  It hurts when I answer and they ignore my pain or dismiss it with a story or platitude or Bible verse or just don’t say anything.
  • Being shamed-it hurts for others to shame me by implying that I am not strong in my faith or not trusting Jesus or not hoping hard enough for heaven when I admit I still struggle in grief and still miss my son.
  • Disregarding my triggers:  There are certain situations that I know will guarantee a breakdown, panic or a crying fit.  I avoid them when I can.  If I can’t-then I make a plan of escape (just in case).
  • Being “on display” for others-I am one woman doing the best I can to walk faithfully with Jesus through an unbelievably painful experience.  I am not the Author and Finisher of your faith-Jesus is.  It hurts when I feel like others are watching to see if I’ll make it, if I’ll say the “wrong” thing, if I’ll admit that I doubt.  I want the same freedom others have to grow in my faith and to make mistakes and learn from them.  I don’t want to be a “poster child” for anything.
  • Friends staying away.  I know it is hard to be my friend right now.  You never know what you might get when you call.  But if you ARE my friend, please don’t stay away.  Please reach out even when it makes you uncomfortable.  A good word at the right moment is often the difference between a very bad and very lonely day and a pretty good and generally hopeful one.
  • Hiding my sorrow-when I try to pretend I am stronger than I really am or when I try to hide my tears it takes so much energy and makes me so less capable to do the other things life requires.

These are just some of the things that help/hurt me in my journey.  I would love to have others share what helps/hurts them in theirs.  There’s strength in community.

Leave your thoughts in the COMMENTS below!