Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Reacting to Reactions

"Bleeding Hearts"

Being back on Maui, after a year away, brings up the inevitable question of how we are doing now. I tiptoe through the questions. I have learned in the last year to balance my grief carefully, holding it in when necessary, and releasing it only when it feels safe to do so. When I'm alone or around other grieving people, I feel safe. Around most others, I keep it in.

Sometimes like a flood, it overruns the banks, but that happens less and less. I think I look normal on the outside most of the time now. I smile and nod, and go through the paces of life. Every once in a while, something triggers me badly. I shut down when that happen, stop talking, pull inside like a turtle into its shell. That is almost a reflex now to any badly worded or insensitive comment. The pain in those moments is acute, like a knife cutting through my soul, and I just brace to dull the pain so I won't react back. I push away anything I can't handle now. Self-protection has become an unwelcome but necessary habit.

Being back on Maui is wonderful and difficult. I pick up a variety of impressions when I am here around familiar people. Most people have just embraced us with warmth and love without asking questions. They seem to understand that there are no easy answers and none needed. I'm grateful for that. These people seem to understand that we are different now and just need to be accepted and held.

A few are impatient with our process--the vibe is indifferent or worse, "get over it already". This is most disturbing to me and I avoid these people determinedly. I don't know why people want us to get over the loss of our son. I can't fathom why that's important to them. We function, we pay our bills, we obey the laws, so what's the problem? I think some of them are simply revealing their own uncomfortability with the messiness of life. They don't want to deal with any human suffering that doesn't have a quick and clean solution. And obviously, they've never been laid so low they couldn't function. Not yet, anyway.

One of our younger friends asked me on Sunday, "Are you over your grief now?". I wasn't offended by his question--it was innocent and honest. My answer, equally honest, was this: "No, we aren't over it. We miss our son every moment, and this is more difficult than anything you can imagine from the outside looking in. It is more difficult than I could ever know before I went through it and it still shocks me."

He is a devoted father himself, and he dotes on his young children. I thought later that I should have explained it to him this way: "You know how your life changed forever the moment your son was born? Nothing was ever the same again. That's exactly how completely your life changes when your child leaves. It is an equally powerful, monumental experience--only sad instead of happy. "

Perhaps he would connect with that.

Yesterday, as we walked along the beach, we passed a stranger who stopped us and introduced herself. She attends our Maui church, but we'd never met. She said she recognized us from our pictures on this blog. She thanked us for our blog and then explained why. Two of her closest friends have lost children this year, and one was widowed, and she told us that she had referred them all to our blog where they had found comfort. Hmmm. Good, good. Another friend who came to Maui after we left, had herself lost, within a few years, first her parents and then a sister who was murdered by a boyfriend. Aaargh. Unbearable deep pain. She told me she turns to our blog for comfort when she is filled with her own grief. Hmmm, good. Again.

I've heard a few other similar comments in the past ten days, and they've all touched my heart deeply. It's a fellowship of mourners that I embrace and with which I humbly and openly link myself. We need people who understand and are there with us. So I am again thankful that I have written of my pain, despite the pressure to "move on", because people need a place to go to feel it, think it, integrate it. I am renewing my commitment to continue blending the irreconcilable joys and sorrows of life on my blog. All mourners are learning a new way to live, and we need others, their ideas and example. If I can do that for someone coming behind me, then I feel privileged.

II Cor 1:4

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.


Robin said...

I am grateful that you've written about it, too. So grateful.

I have had several students from yesterday's class tell me how much they appreciated getting both insight and concrete information they'd never known about. So: it sucks, but we do have something to give. (I guess that's an adequate theological summary!)

Love you, Karen.

Jackie johnson said...

Out of the ashes of our pain comes the beauty of learning we have comforted others who mourn through our sharing. I feel it like it is a spiritual
"human" hug from God. We receive and give "hugs" of comfort while mourning. Every person who hugs me or speaks words of comfort that touch me deeply I feel is a personal "human" hug sent from God. It is a part of His divine wisdom in healing and comforting us. I feel it is "Emmanuel" For all of us who have felt the life changing pain from the loss of one we love so dear I believe put's us a little closer to the heart of God. it is a shared pain that not everyone can grasp until they have gone through it. Actually its always a part of our journey in life. There really is never just going through it. I cling to the old rugged cross! Clinging in pain and promise that brings comfort and hope. The pain that God felt in seeing His Son there coupled with the promise and hope of heaven and glorious reunion makes everything bearable in God's divine design for our humanity.
I loved the description you came up with of the life change of birth and death. It really makes a relatable sense that people can more easily relate to. Love and Hugs to you!

Jeri said...

It's wonderful that you're going to continue to pour out your heart here. You have been such an amazing blessing to many through your grief and I know it's also bringing you healing.

Thanks for sharing and touching me with your inspiring words.

Much love,

Anna Flowergardengirl said...

I never know what to do when I come here to your blog--but I know not coming---is not an option. If I can bring you any comfort at all--then I am grateful for that. I seem to be able to do that just a bit--and comfort in anyway at all is healing.

My goal is to bring flowers when I come--those that bloom on the cloudiest of days. You have more cloudy and rainy days than anyone else in my internet world---and that grieves me. I am in the business of bringing joy through flowers--and there just doesn't seem to be a real one--that is good enough for your such pain.

So I bring instead what is blooming in my heart which came from the Father--and he does have the right nurturing for your soul. So I try to listen to him and will myself with all my might---to be a good messenger.

If I lived beside you---your garden would always be in bloom--I promise....

hugs today...holding your heart in mine because that is the safest place I know.

Kay said...

This grief thing is hard to understand and even put words to. I was sitting with a group of women yesterday and 'sharing' was difficult. To have to start at the beginning and work my way through the story was HARD. And then I walked away thinking I didn't convey what I wanted to convey. (another reason I love blogging so much)

I'm glad you can be around people that you can just be with.. that don't ask a lot of questions. I have a girlfriend like that and we have been that person to each other through the years. We do share, but in our time.. but the continual, quiet presence is nice too.

karen gerstenberger said...

I'm thankful that you are writing, too. You are an important person in my life through your thoughts, prayers and words. You are part of my community, and you "get it." That brings me a lot of comfort, so I'm not surprised that it does the same for others. XOXO

Daisy said...

Wow, Karen, hard to imagine people being impatient with your grief. I certainly believe you; it's just hard to imagine. And I think you hit the nail on the head with "some of them are simply revealing their own uncomfortability with the messiness of life". Most definitely.


Anna Flowergardengirl said...

Just wondering how you are doing? Holding your heart in mine tonight. Hugs.

Steve and Janna said...

I love your raw honesty Karen. It reminds me that we need to be so careful with each other in every situation, in every vulnerability and weakness.
Love you so much, Janna

Anonymous said...

Thanks for showing us how to grieve. We love you guys. Thanks for visiting us too. Having you here was comforting to those who miss you so much. Love you guys, Kristen