Scars

There is a quote that I love that always makes me think. I have a big ugly scar on my leg. That’s what I think when I look at it. Ugly. In the past I have been really self conscious about it. Most summers I wore long pants to cover it. I hated when I noticed people notice it. I didn’t want people to see it. So I hid it.

But I realize some things…

• We all have scars; both physical and emotional

• We typically hide our scars, I know that I hide mine

• Our scars make other people uncomfortable so, we don’t show them; for fear of what others will think, fear of seeming weak, of being judged, being misunderstood, _______________________.

But our scars tell a story. Mine tells a story.

Scars originate with pain, whether it be physical or emotional. Sometimes, and in my case, the origin is both. My scar began as open wound. A literal, physical open wound. The instant I received that physical wound was the instant my heart became an open wound; both resulting in the most unexplainable pain I had ever felt.

The wound on my leg took a long time to heal. I use the word heal lightly because I wouldn’t say that it actually healed.  After a long and painful period of time, it closed up.  But it left a big “ugly” mark on my leg that will never go away. It has changed and improved over these last 5 years; it has faded, although it is still very visible to the eye.

The story behind that scar is one that tells the story of the open wound in my heart, the wound that is not visible to the eye.  This wound is much more painful. It is a story of loss and sorrow, of suffering and grief, sadness and anger, fear and isolation…

This wound isn’t so easily “closed.”

Neither will ever fully heal. They will never go away.

You see, for whatever reason, I am supposed to be here. I’ve often wrestled with the burning question, why?? That is a question that I will never truly understand on this side of heaven. I do know that there are two young people that almost lost two parents in the same day. They needed me. I also know that my work here isn’t done. I don’t fully know what that entails but I do believe we all have a purpose. I also know that life is precious. I know that our days are numbered, tomorrow is not promised.

We can choose to let the pain behind our scars keep our wounds from closing. We can choose to hide our “ugly” scars and live in fear; fear of judgment, fear of being misunderstood, fear of being seen as weak and vulnerable. We can let the pain overtake us and keep us from fulfilling our purpose.

Whatever pain and scars you are trying to hide, may not ever fully heal. But, when you face them, when you show them, when you overcome them; there will be a story, a testimony of what you have made it through. That story just might help someone else who would otherwise be overtaken by the pain, that otherwise might choose to lay down and quit living.

I’m don’t hide my visible scar anymore. It is a constant reminder of loss and pain for sure. But, it is also a reminder of where I’ve been, what I have made it through and of what should have, could have, but did not end me.

“My scars remind me that I did indeed survive my deepest wounds. That in itself is an accomplishment. And they bring to mind something else, too. They remind me that the damage life has inflicted on me has, in many places, left me stronger and more resilient. What hurt me in the past has actually made me better equipped to face the present.” ~ Steve Goodier

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falling into grief

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-3,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

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I wrote the following a year ago in April 2017. Little did I know that three months after typing these words my most horrendous grief experience would crash down around me like a relentless and unstoppable tsunami:

“Grief is ever-changing like the moving water in a river or ocean, never stagnant or completely still. There is always something happening, something stirring under the surface or above, or both. Sometimes grief is a like a river in how it winds and twists and turns. Sometimes grief is like an ocean with its strong currents, undertows, and merciless waves coming again and again and again. Sometimes grief is like a ferocious hurricane over the waters, gathering force and spinning out of control, bent on destruction of some sort or another, affecting whatever is in its path. Sometimes grief is like the constant drip drip drip of a leaky faucet, always there and annoying in an innocent dutiful naive manner. Sometimes grief is like a rainstorm on a tin roof that sings a comforting song with its melody.

I hate grief. And yet. It is cleansing and clarifying, and altogether terrible and sweet and relentess, all rolled up into a world of its own. Like water can be, at times it is comforting and warm; but it can also be jarring and dangerous, even life-threatening. It is a world I never feel I belong in, yet when I visit I no longer feel a stranger there, I feel like it is a place I have been before and know well, yet wish I never had to visit again. And yet. I often feel connected in ways in the throes of grief that somehow feel solid, that allow me to feel close to what and who I have lost. That closeness seems at times to fade or go in and out of focus, like a tether to that long lost loved one, or a camera that just cannot seem to find its sweet focus spot anymore, the connection changes as the grief changes. Some days it is undeniably strong and unavoidable like the pain of a fresh burn; others it is a faded other-world-ness dream of a life lived in an alternate space, a space that often seems just out of reach if I try to touch it. Grief crashes, drowns, tricks, surprises, contorts, burns and cracks, and yet it also envelopes, hugs, clears, strengthens, and straightens. Grief is ever-changing.” (Zoe Turner, April 2017)

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Present day: Well fuck me. Holy fucking shit. Yeah, I guess I thought I knew a thing or two about grief a year ago. I did know something on some level, but now it’s like walking along the streets of a town and feeling the wind and air hit your body versus reading about traveling to that particular town and what it must be like to visit there. Worlds apart, at least this is my lived experience. Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing, prepared me for the suicide of my beloved person, my spouse. None of the former griefs, they all paled in comparison. My missing then dead spouse trumped them all, hands down. My world literally exploded. There were no patches large enough, no way to keep everything put together.

I’m learning to engage with grief better. I’m learning her ways, her tricks, her truths, her shortcuts, and her long winding paths. I’m going to keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how hard, because I don’t get a do-over, there are no replays, this is it, this is my life and I will live it.

Grief, I’m falling into you.

{zt}

No man ever steps in the same river twice. For it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.

{Heraclitus}

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We have this physical experience in loss of falling toward something. It’s like falling in love except it’s falling into grief.

And you’re falling towards the foundation that they held for you in your life that you didn’t realize they were holding. And you fall and fall and fall and you don’t find it for the longest time. And so the shock of the loss to begin with, and the hermetic sealing off, is necessary in grief. But then there comes a time when you finally actually start to touch the ground that they were holding for you.

~ David Whyte
On Being with Krista Tippett, 4/7/16

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#suicide

wall of suicide

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-3,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

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I feel like my heart has been jerked from my body and thrown out into the cosmos. I thought it would never return to me, that it, that I, was lost forever. Lost not only to myself but those others still here who relate to me and love me. Having your person die is a tearing away of cosmic proportions. There is no small part of you left unaffected or untouched.

Little by little, piece by piece, I am returning to myself and the pieces are rearranged. Nothing is what it was before. That wall between before he left and after he left, it is impenetrable, unscaleable, and unable to be busted through. The wall is not even an actual wall, it is though it is another time, another place, another dimension, and there is absolutely no getting back there, no matter how hard I try. This wall is final. It represents an ending, an ending of so many things. But the truth is no matter how much at times I just want to continue to wail at the wall, it is also a beginning point. Every step I take away from the ending point is a step towards what is to come and what is the now. It is something we scream against yet fight to accept all at the same damn time.

I don’t want the changes, yet I must have the changes to survive. I don’t want to love again, yet I actually really do. The emotional whiplash caused by your partner dying is almost indescribable. I’ve never experienced anything as horrific as finding out they died by their own hand and having to sit your children down and tell them their Dad is dead and why he is dead. Suicide is its own brand of horrible, it’s own breed of monster. It rips you to shreds until you yourself feel dead inside, yet slowly life begins to arrive at the door and, as blood does, it seeps back into every crack and crevice.

{zt}

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#suicide

 

Where Did They Go?

I have been a “W” word for almost 6 years now.  In that time, I have had the opportunity to connect with many others who have experienced loss.  About a year after Jonathan passed away, I started a group for people who were grieving.  It wasn’t just for people who had experienced the same loss as me, but had lost someone very important to them.  My heart behind starting that group was this…

I felt very, very alone trying to adjust to the new world I was thrown into when I suddenly lost my husband.  I won’t say that people didn’t care but after the “dust settled” most everyone went on about their normal lives while I was completely stuck.  Do I blame people for living their lives? Absolutely not.  Although there were so many people also grieving the loss of my husband and my children’s father, we were the ones whose everyday life was affected horribly.  In connecting with other people who were grieving, particularly those who lost a spouse of whose children lost their parent, I learned the saddest part of grief… I found that many people felt like I did.  Alone.  So, I’m not singling myself out here.  Most people would not think this to be the case but, believe it or not, it is all too common.

There are so many reasons why people tend to distance themselves from someone after they have lost like I did. I couldn’t name them all if I tried.  Some assume you are surrounded by family and friends and don’t want to overwhelm you. But guess what?? If everyone assumes the same thing?? You guessed it.  No one is there.  Some people just don’t know how to “be” around you.  They worry about what to say or what to not say. So guess what?? Often they say nothing.  Some are so overwhelmed with their own grief that it is just too difficult to be around you.  THEIR grief.  I’m not trivializing the loss of others, don’t get me wrong.  I hope you get what I’m saying… Some just don’t want to face the reality that you aren’t the same person and they don’t know how you will fit into their lives anymore.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I listened to others’ talk to me or in front of me and my kids about their grief.  I’m not saying they aren’t allowed their grief but, it was extremely difficult to be the one to shoulder others’ pain when you are already carrying so much of your own.  Some people made it, most likely not intentional, almost like a contest.  Who missed him the most? Who was affected the most?  Who was closest to him?  This was my husband and even I didn’t make it all about me.  My focus was my kids and how they were affected. They were almost 10 and almost 12.  They lost their Daddy and almost lost both of their parents in the blink of an eye. On top of that, their Mother was hurt (car accident) and they had to watch me in pain, endure daily (very painful) in home healthcare, not being able to walk, two surgeries, not being in their home that they never returned to, going back to school just over a month after, getting drug to grief counseling, and losing connections with a lot of people that they were extremely close to.  I could go on and on but even if I continued, those not experiencing that with them day in and out, just wouldn’t understand.  They lost so much.

The last (almost) 6 years have been more difficult and painful than I can even begin to say.  But, we are still here.  We have a long way to go still in the journey of learning how to live again without the one who meant so much but, we are pushing through and doing our best.

In the last year or so I have connected specifically with other people like me.  Amazing groups of people that have lost a spouse and (most of them) raising grieving children.  Oh, what a blessing!  How amazing it has been to finally have relationships with people who truly get what I have been going through.  I have also formed super strong friendships with smaller groups of people that have lost their spouses.  These people now mean the world to me.  We are doing life together every day.  All of us in different states even.  But, we are each other’s lifelines.

As I’ve heard other open up about their lives, their struggles, their grief and their relationships… I have learned something that is more disheartening than anything else.  The judgment they receive from others.  It seems everyone has an opinion on how they are “dealing with” their grief.  They aren’t moving forward fast enough.  They are moving forward too quickly. I could go on and on… Some of my friends have started to move forward in the areas of opening themselves up to try and find love again.  Oh, how many have opinions on that! Some are judged on how they are living, how they are parenting, etc.  Well, guess what?? It is plain nobody else’s business!  Don’t get me wrong, some people are very well intentioned and don’t mean to come across the way they do but, regardless, it’s just not okay!  I can’t speak for anyone of them but for me…. I am raising two (now) teenagers all on my own without the help of anyone else.  I have a home.  With that comes expense, maintenance and just plain burden! It’s hard!  I would love to say that I have done it all without struggle.  But I can say that I have done a good job.  I’m far from perfect but I am doing the best that I know how. That is more than enough for my kids and that is all that matters.  Set aside the fact that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jonathan would so proud of me. Nobody else, especially people that have been on the outside of our lives, should even have the right to weigh in.  The worst part is that people weigh in anyway (a lot of times, not even to you) and armed with information that just isn’t accurate.

The moral of the story… Who are you to judge??  You don’t live my life.  You don’t pay my bills.  Most of you have someone to go home to, someone to aid you in making the tough decisions life throws at you daily. You aren’t dealing with grieving kids, teenagers at that. Blah blah blah…

Quite honestly, I have been quiet for too long, always making excuses for people’s hurtful behaviors, always pretending that everything is okay.  Well, I’m proud to say that those days are over.  Am I going to go rogue and catapult myself to the other side of that spectrum?  Absolutely not, because that’s not who I am.  But, I am going to speak up for myself.  I’m going to speak up for my kids. I’m going to help my friends who are dealing with similar issues, find their voice too.

If you weren’t around during the most difficult times, please don’t judge me now.