I’ve been thinking a lot about my biggest fear and greatest loss through this. And with so very much loss it seems I have a lot to choose from. And as hard as it is to believe, the clear winner is the loss of my faith as I knew it.
Some days are better than others but I have to admit I still struggle and any one of you that choose to judge – I challenge you to walk a mile in my shoes – if you dare - before you say it could never happen to you.
I feel terrible for it – certainly. And I worry that I won’t be forgiven for the doubts and anger that have plagued my days for nine months now. The anger has let up some – thank goodness but now I live with the constant guilt left in its wake.
What has taken the place of that anger is a cavern of emptiness. I have days when I feel better about things and there are days when I look at the way I used to “know” God and realize that there is no way that could have ever worked. But what is worrying me is that I seem to have had far more clarity on that months ago. There are days when I see clearly that God had to destroy the self-centered, worldly image that I had of Him in order for me to know His real, true nature – but I also know that we’re only half-way there. He destroyed the image that I had – that’s for sure. But I haven’t found the replacement image as yet to know who He really is because He seems very far away right now. And I’m a little afraid of rebuilding that “house of cards” as C.S. Lewis put it. Like if you tried handing me another baby and saying “Here fall in love with this child and let’s see how this one works out.”
Not going to happen.
And I’m not sure I can build another belief system out of the shreds of faith I have left either. I hope and pray that I can and that though I am not there yet – in time I will be –but at this point, I honestly do not know.
As I look back over the months and I reread here what I’ve written along this horrific journey, it appears that in many ways I seem to be going backwards.
I was in counseling. I was reading a lot of grief books, self-help books and inspirational books. I was watching videos. I was going to Grief Share. I had my sister to talk to a lot and had daily responsibilities that kept me out of the closet and after nine months you’d assume I’d be on my way up out of the depths of despair.
When the numbness wore off and I was so devastated and so broken and so fragile I was running 90 MPH trying to “do” everything I could think of, to keep me from wanting to die every minute of every day.
I lived with the daily fear that I would succumb and wreak more havoc on my already devastated family. I wrote on the blog the first entry that I was not sure I could live through this but this was my attempt to at least postpone “not living through it” as long as possible. Even I, thought if I could just postpone it for some reasonable amount of time that I would be kind of past the danger period. Not over it -- I knew better than that -- but dealing with it enough that I was comfortable that I would not do anything stupid.
So I bombarded myself with every avenue that I thought may help. Everything anyone suggested – I tried. I devoured everything anyone sent me – books, articles, videos, inspirational quotes cards and letters. I was doing what I do -- being obsessive about it and hitting it with everything I had in my arsenal.
Still I went to bed at night hoping and praying that I would not wake up. I didn’t want to be the actual cause myself of any more pain to my family but if it happened ---well I’d have been perfectly happy. And when I woke up every morning I was pissed off. But human nature is such that I still continued to fight. If I wasn’t going to die then I was going to have to find whatever it took to give me the will to live.
So I prepared for the battle. I have never known this kind of profound grief and despair and I had to literally learn how to survive it. So I found out what to do and what not to do in order to heal. I learned grief was messy and had no defined timeline. I learned that you lean into the grief and you do not hide it or run from it or attempt to cover it up if you want to heal and not get stuck. I learned you should feel and express your emotions. I learned the language and what to expect: “melt downs” and “ambushes” and “triggers”. I learned we all grieve differently and on different timelines. I learned it was work and that you needed to talk about your loss and acknowledge your loved ones.
I attacked it like I would any other project. It was here. I couldn’t avoid it. So I would research it, find out all I could about it and just deal with it head on. I was fighting; fighting to survive it though I didn’t even want to – I was doing it for the rest of my family and my few closest friends. As it turns out two thirds of the family and friends I was so concerned about “sparing” any additional pain, have chosen to walk away and cut all ties so there was very little need to worry. I'm kind of thinking they would have been just fine.
My sister has gone to her own home now. I am back at work fulltime. I am out of the rental house and back home where all of their memories were (and still are) and where every weekend I had breakdown after breakdown as the triggers here slapped me in the face the minute I arrived and stayed long after I left.
I can no longer attend Grief Share since it is not close and my spare time is now spent in a nearly four hour daily commute.
All the books began to run together and all the information I'd read was pretty well internalized so I felt I was ready to let go of all of the external efforts and obsessing and put what I learned to practice so I could finally begin to heal.
I knew the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, sadness & acceptance) I was aware of the danger signs of depression and I was prepared so as not to fall off a cliff there. I knew to steer clear of temporary “feel better” fixes like alcohol, drugs, shopping, over-eating or having an affair. I knew not to make major changes in my life or make major decisions while still in this state.
The plan was to fix it in whatever way was in my control – I guess I was going to “Type A” it into submission. And apparently while I thought I was facing it head-on – it was just another way to throw the focus on my "obsession with dealing with it" and avoid the obvious. And now here I am nine months down the road...wondering if I am any better or actually worse --again?
In looking back over the previous nine months of posts – which is also what I was supposed to do in order to “realize growth” – I'm not sure that is what I’m seeing...There are no longer sweet baby stories, or amusing anecdotes of our time together, no more inspirational epiphanies about life or love or God; no more accounts of miracles in the face of this tragedy.
My mind keeps drifting to thoughts of a shipwreck. Someone stranded in a lifeboat on the high seas. The first few days they fight with blind determination to make it through. That is of course when they still have plenty of food and water. They pray. They cling to hope. They look diligently for the rescue boats to come. But then as days stretch into weeks, the food runs out, the fresh water runs low and they see hope draining out of the bottom of the near-empty water source. Then come the rains and hope is rekindled. They have a measure of relief. They praise God for the gift of the fresh Heaven sent water. Suddenly the gentle welcome rain takes an evil turn as swirling, menacing darks clouds appear; lightening begins popping all around; thunder roars, gale-force winds whip and the waves become huge and raging. The little boat is tossed and battered as is the struggling soul on board. Finally, the storm subsides and hope springs forth - a little slower this time and not quite as high. The sun comes out - a welcome sight then it begins to beat down relentlessly until the suffering soul on board starts to hallucinate; slipping in and out of consciousness. "Surviving" has lost its momentum. Then one day without any foresight or fanfare - he just slips quietly under the water…