I probably never should have pushed the publish button at 3:00 a.m. I do not usually share these kinds of deep places…until after the fact. My usual pattern is to pull away and sit in silence, waiting for the sun to come up and the lesson to make itself known. But this time, I know that isolating myself is not healthy. Hence, my lament last week went public. Don’t you hate it when people put vague but heart wrenching stuff out there, but never explain it? I do. It caused quite a stir and I learned two things from it.
- I have a multitude of people who love me. I did not intend to scare anyone with my post. (Bill called it my suicide note…I promise it was NOT.) I rarely publish the hard places publicly because of this very thing. However, the calls and notes I received have brought a measure of healing along with the acknowledgement there are people I can call when I am in a painful place.
- There are many, many people who are hurting. Along with exposing my pain, I unknowingly exposed the pain of others who have/are walking in difficult places. They reached out with compassion, not trying to fix it for me, but just holding space to allow me to feel. Only those who have walked in brokenness can fully grasp what it means to have someone who gets it. Thank you.
Grief is an odd companion. There are stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I have found, in my life, that these stages are not linear, rather they jump around like frogs in a rainstorm. Just when I think I have found acceptance, tears reappear. Or when I know I am no longer in denial, I find another area that has been hiding in the corners of my heart. Recently, a confluence of circumstances triggered some pain I thought was long ago dealt with. I would have said I had full acceptance of this loss, but in reality, I was in denial. Funny how that works.
It seems going back is my way forward these days. Unresolved pain, from the TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) days 29 years ago, is washing over me like the waves at the sea. I walked the stormy beach last week in Fl. and watched waves crash over and over again like an aching metaphor of TBI life. The ancient pain festered and cried out reminders that there is still unfinished business of the heart back there which is effecting me, even now. It is like an onion, that is peeled back one layer at a time until the core is all that is left, and like cutting an onion, the tears flow unchecked and uninvited. Long past days of survival cry out to be heard from the depths where they have lived stuffed for years. Loss unimaginable refuses to be relegated once again to the back burner, and so every event brings pain gushing forth to overflowing. A movie rips the scab off of wounds currently tender. A change in plans undoes me. No one gets it. I don’t even get it. But I am in pieces, and all I know is that it is like beating my head against a wall over and over again. I want to curl up in the fetal position and cry for days. All the prayers in the world cannot bring back what was lost to us on that day so many years ago. All the cheerful-look-on-the-bright-side words cannot change what I am dealing with, even though I appreciate them and I wish they could.
Sarah Bessy, one of my favorite authors, put it this way,
“All of this has reminded me of how trauma sometimes sleeps in our souls, too. We can carry our trauma – whether it’s betrayal or hurt or abuse or loss or something else entirely – for a long time before it surfaces. Often it is when we feel we’re making progress that we discover reawakened old pain and then we have to deal with that now, too. I talk to a lot of people who have what we might call soul trauma. Sometimes they are so grateful to be alive that they feel it’s wrong to admit that they’re still hurt, that some days are harder than others, that they need help. They survived – the rest is details, right? But I’ve learned along with these brave souls that God is in the details.”
Soul trauma. It is a time for me to grieve the details. A time to try to find the illusive acceptance which seems always just out of reach. Somehow to let go of the shattered dreams, to stop trying to glue things together, and to recognize our lives are impaired. I cannot explain what it is like to see your barely recognizable husband tied to a hospital bed. I cannot describe days of bedside vigil praying that he would live only to wonder why I prayed that way, when he awakened as a strangely different person. I cannot define the feeling of teaching him how to walk, eat, and dress himself again. No one can understand what it is like to live 30 years trying to regain your dreams, only to realize they are unattainable. The frustration, the heartache of watching the man you love, try so very hard to recover all that he lost, on one day, in one minute. Walking beside him for years and watching the struggle that is so very real every day. We have lived with the residual issues of a damaged frontal lobe from the day of the accident till now. My charming, gregarious, fun-loving, hilarious husband is too wonderful for words, but he has some limitations. TBI is a stealer of stability, and I hate it for that. Jobs come and go, and because of the frequency of that fact, they are also hard for him to find. There is no understanding of how many friends fall by the wayside, how many jobs slip through the fingers, how many attempts it takes to do the most basic things like making decisions, or remembering where you put your stuff. Unless you have done so, you cannot know what it is like to live in a before and after world.
Nevertheless, there is a fierce love which does not give up. It is deeply rooted in stubbornness and tenacity, and we have it…have always had it, through TBI, miscarriage, cancer, fire, illness/death of a parent, and surgeries. Nothing bonds hearts together like shared trauma. Our relationship is like steel. But recently a straw broke my camel’s back and my brittle heart is fragile. The contrast between past and present is difficult to reconcile. I seem to have a foot in each. The NOW part of me struggles with a faltering faith that is shaken to the core. Going around the same jobless mountain, back in survival mode yet again. The PAST part of me knows that holding on to God is the only way through the tough stuff. The broken part of me sits down and cries, “Where are you God?” The part who has walked through hellish times before knows he is never far.
I am like a child having a temper tantrum because I do not get what I want. The grief is in realizing I will not get it. Meanwhile, God waits quietly for me to cry myself out. All I know is that he might be waiting a while, because nearly 30 years of survival mode has pushed me to the brink. All the pent up, buried, painful grief I have silenced for years is demanding to be heard. I have people who listen and guide me in these kind of times. My family has carried me so many times, we would not have survived without them. There are others who have walked along side us for years and know just what to say and how to pray. I do not want it to sound as if I am not grateful for my life…I am. I have been blessed beyond measure, I am just very tired.