Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Never Ending Ache

You know the headache that doesn’t seem to go away no matter what you try…medicine, nap, essential oils. neck massage?

Or…how about the arthritis in your knee you feel with every step you take?

Perhaps for you…it’s constant reflux that aggravates your core and can only be controlled with medicine.

For me, it’s the ache of the heart. I live with it all day long, gnawing at the core of my being. Sometimes, the pain of it might soften just a bit, and other times, it throbs so deeply I don’t know how I’m still living. There isn’t a pill I can take to put an end to the ache. Naps might help temporarily, but I’ll eventually wake up, and it will still be there. Massages are great, but the effects from them are also short-lived. Essential oils do the same thing. They DO help, but they aren’t THE cure. So…what will alleviate the pain?

In short, I’ve discovered only two things that have been able to heal broken hearts. Remember…I’ve been down this road once before…the Widow Road, that is. Obviously the second time around brings an entirely new dimension of grief and (as I’ve learned), the former grief episode now attaches itself to the new grief episode and compounds the effects. But…all-in-all…time is a healer. How much time? That is a question I can’t answer. It’s individualistic and completely circumstantial.

After becoming a widow in 2011, I felt my shattered heart mended rather quickly. It didn’t feel that way at first, but when healing arrived on my doorstep, it was there to completely repair the broken mess left behind by the traumas of losing my spouse to suicide.

This time, however, it feels as if my broken heart is content to remain in its state of brokenness. I don’t like that feeling. I’m ready to see strides in the direction of healing…I know it takes time, but I want to see something…anything…to make me feel I’m heading in that direction. If the signs are there, they are very dim and haven’t made it to my line of sight just yet. And so…I wait, and I pray.

And…that takes me to only the second thing I’ve found that has ever healed a broken heart completely. Yes…time is a factor, a VERY important piece of the healing puzzle. For me, however, even more importantly has been my faith!

I don’t use the faith word lightly. As a follower of Jesus Christ, He *is* the Rock I cling to on my good days, my so-so days, and the worst days of my life. He has *never* failed me. Ever! Some may challenge that statement when looking at my life and all the tragic events I’ve experienced in my forty-five years. Jesus didn’t cause that. Sin and this broken world in which I still live caused that. Yes…God allowed it, because He will use it all for His glory, and His plan of redeeming the pain is much, much bigger than I can see right now. That’s where faith steps in.

I know Jesus. Oh…do I know Jesus. And…as I told a friend a couple days ago, going through this grief journey is all but impossible for me, however without my faith…I doubt I’d even still be here. Christ is upholding me on my darkest days. He catches every tear, He meets me where I’m at, and He sustains me when my strength is gone.

He will ultimately be the repairer of my broken heart. Until that day comes, I keep looking to Him to not only get me through this nightmare but to help me come out on the other side a much better woman, mom, and Christian than I am right now. To Him be ALL the glory!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

It’s Tough on the Body

A couple nights ago, my little Austyn asked me to lay with him while he went to sleep (in my bed, mind you) and single a few songs. I usually ask if he wants singing, humming, or just to be quiet. On this particular night, he wanted one song and then quiet. I held him in my arms as we went through this little routine. I told Damaris (our precious gift of a nanny) to just let herself out if I wasn’t back in the living room before she was ready to go.

The next thing I knew…it was 4:00 am. I was fully clothed, had jewelry on, my hair still up in a ponytail (sort of), and the lights were still on in the living room. Just as I thought about getting up to turn everything off, put on my PJs and climb back into bed, I was already asleep again. I must have been exhausted and needed the sleep.

I’m sure some of you might be wondering how in the world I could be so tired when most of my days are filled with sitting in a recliner with my foot elevated on some pillows. It sounds like a cushy job to me too. But, that’s not what’s exhausting me. Pure and simple…it’s GRIEF!

GRIEF is like fighting a terminal illness, in which I have yet to reach a point of remission. There will be those points of reprieve along the journey, but the grief illness will never go away, in and of itself. Some days will feel easier than others. Down the road, some days might even feel a bit normal, but each will still have the potential to be one of great battle.

Right now, I’m in the throws of deep war. Since, Joel’s death on February 12, I have experienced three foot surgeries (two unexpected and emergent), and I survived an almost head-on collision (that I accidentally caused). There have been other smaller defeats and setbacks along the way, but those named have been the biggest in the battlefield.

Additionally, I’m trying to parent these four small, newly adopted children of ours without neglecting our biological older children and grandchildren, and I feel I’m failing at both. I am deeply fragmented and a pitiful representation of a mother / Grandma right now. But, I feel God has given them a measure of grace to extend to me right now, and they are doing so with both a beauty and a patience not typical of children to exhibit.

This past weekend, some of my dearest friends were in town visiting, and I kept struggling to keep my eyes open. I had a full night sleep the night before, but I honestly felt exhausted…again! As the day went on, exhaustion turned into an outright cruddy feeling…almost like I was coming down with something, but I simply couldn’t pinpoint it. The end result…I lost the battle and ended up going to bed early again. I feel robbed, of sorts, when this happens, as I want to spend time with these precious people. However, I just can’t fight the battle that wages within. I know they understand, but I still struggle with the overwhelming desire to spend precious time together rather than sleeping it away. This too shall pass (I hope…).

#HeIsStillGood

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sucker Punched

I woke up alone in my bed and in my house for the first time since February 12. It was a rather eerie feeling, if I’m being completely honest…I didn’t like it at all. While I sometimes complain about my wiggly little 3-year-old bed buddy, he brings me a new level of comfort…at least for now. While I longed for some time away from my children so I could get some very important things done, distraction-free, I actually missed them…especially the sounds of their laughter, arguments, “mommy, mommy, mommy” calling, and the constant question, “May I have a snack?” I think our time apart, albeit difficult, was good for us both in many ways.

For me, I’ve been struggling to truly grieve. I’ve had a few moments, but nothing like I fear is around the corner. I don’t recall suppressing grief like I’ve done so often this time around, but I think I’m just trying to protect our children and not frighten them.

Sometime Tuesday, late in the morning, after the home health nurse had already been here for the day, I was in my home office working on our our taxes (yes – at the last possible minute), something literally gnawed at my chest. I thought I might have been having a heart attack, or a panic attack (at minimum). I couldn’t catch my breath. I literally felt I had been sucker punched and held up against the wall and couldn’t move, and then I sensed that inner voice saying quite clearly…

Let it go, Leah. Let it all go.

I knew the Holy Spirit was trying to get me to cry. I could sense the tears welling up in my eyes. I could feel a painful, burning sensation all over my body, as I tried to keep it at bay, at least for now. But, the voice wouldn’t stop.

Let it go, my child. I will catch every tear. I want you to be real with Me!

I no longer could hold back. My shoulders started heaving, the tears starting flowing at a very fast rate, I started violently shaking, and then I began to loudly moan. That was soon followed by words…questions…affirmations…doubts coupled with things I knew to be sure. I was literally screaming as I walked from room to room in this house. Things like,

“I’m almost to the 10-week mark, Lord, and I feel I’m getting nowhere.”

…heaving sobs

“I’m just so, so sad. I feel like nothing can pull me out of this deep, dark depression. You could drop a million dollars onto my lap, and I’d be happy for you to take it back, because it’s meaningless to me right now. It won’t bring my Joel back.

…dropping to the floor, banging my fist over and over onto the hardwoods

“You’ve got to help me God! I don’t know what to do next. Each step hurts.”

…laying down briefly and rolling from my back to my side over and over

“This pain is more than I can bear. You’ve asked me to endure so much, Lord. So, so much! When is it going to stop? Is this my lot in life? Just one trial after another? Please, Lord…when will you allow me to catch my breath?”

The questions stopped, and I crawled back into my recliner and sobbed, loud moaning sobs. I don’t know when they ended. But, when they did, I was spent. I crawled into bed and went sound to sleep.

I think God brought me right to the place where He wanted me. To a place of anger, hurt, and the ability to simply grieve…REAL, long-overdue grief. It’s not over. The pain is still fast upon me. I ache. I hurt all over. At times, I’m very productive. At others, I do nothing but sit. But…He knows…

“You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.”

Psalm 56:8 (NLT)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Gentle Tap

Weekday mornings were always a struggle for Joel and me to greet with great enthusiasm. We brought this dilemma upon ourselves, as we typically stayed up entirely too late the night before doing projects in our new home, unpacking (yes…I’m still doing so after six months), or watching whatever TV series we were into at the time on Netflix. Whatever the reason, we became “Night Owls”, by default which led to early morning wake-up struggles.

Joel was not a fan of the snooze button. He didn’t want to become a slave to it, so he always turned his alarm off as soon as it went off the first time and then began the “chore” of waking me up. Now…don’t get me wrong…I’m fully capable of waking up (with an alarm) on my own, but I also knew my hubby was right beside me, and it was a lot more fun being awakened by him each morning than that obnoxious noise coming from my phone.

He would begin by simply moving in closer to me and maybe put his arm around me. That always woke me up, but it certainly didn’t give me the desire to get up (although I didn’t tell him that)…it made me want to snuggle in all that much deeper and lay there for as long as I could.

If that didn’t cause me to get up (and, it rarely did), he would start gently tapping me on my shoulder. Depending on my response, the gentle taps might lead to firmer taps which would ultimately lead to annoying back-to-back taps. If I ever got to that point, I knew I pushed the limit a bit too far and better put some speed to my movements and get going. But, he never yelled at me or pushed me to get up…aways gentle. The price was always mine to pay if I chose to wait to the zero hour to actually start getting ready, but in hindsight, I can say it was always 100% worth it, because I never realized how soon I’d lose him and that precious morning ritual. I’d do almost anything to get that back and Joel, too, of course.

You can only imagine my surprise yesterday morning. My alarm went off, and I pushed snooze. I knew I had one snooze built into my time before I had to go unlock the kitchen door to let my morning helper in to come get the kids ready for school. Suddenly, I felt that gentle tapping on my shoulder. It literally took my breath away. I whispered, “Joel?” Of course, no response. I turned to look to see if Austyn was awake, and he was sound asleep with his hands nowhere near my back or shoulder.

I just had to smile. Somehow…God gave me that gift yesterday morning. The tap on my shoulder. My wake up call. It may have been totally in my mind, but He allowed what was in my mind to manifest itself in the physical, and made Joel feel so near again. Oh how I needed that gentle tap yesterday morning. Thank you Father for being in the details!

#HeIsStillGood

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Eight Weeks

It’s been eight weeks since Joel went home to Heaven. Eight weeks. I can’t believe he’s been gone that long. And yet…it’s really just been a short amount of time. I guess the days just feel so long. I haven’t reached the point in my grief journey yet where the days fly by. Oh…how I wish I were there.

Part of the reason is because of my temporary health crisis following my three foot surgeries in March. I’m still bound to a recliner for most of the day with a wound vac attached to my foot that has to remain elevated on two pillows for the bulk of the day. For some reason, God allowed this to happen and so soon after Joel’s death. I have yet to understand this. But, He is sovereign and knows the big picture. I trust Him completely. I still hurt.

I have way too much time on my hands sitting in this recliner. Too much time to think. Too many memories to drift back to, and too much time to cry. While crying can be healing, I feel like I do entirely too much of it. Every time someone comes to visit, and we start talking about my love, I can hardly get two to three words out before the tears start falling. I miss him terribly. Here they go again…I can’t write about him without crying. Unless you’ve been in similar shoes, there’s no way you can possibly understand this type of pain. I would rather someone cut off my leg…both of my legs, for that matter…than be without my best friend, my husband, my love, the daddy to our children. As harsh as that sounds, I can’t imagine how that type of pain could hurt this badly. Physical pain can heal…pain of the heart…always exists.

From experience, I know it won’t feel this painful all the time. I know there will be good days in my future. I know I’ll be able to genuinely smile and laugh again. I know my children will heal as well. I know my purpose in this pain will be established. I know God will use my pain. I know God will use Joel’s death for His glory.

While I know all of these things to be true…it doesn’t stop the ache I feel in the center of my core at this very time. I want it to go away. I hate feeling this way. I hate being this sad. I look for joy, because I long for it.

Oh God…Help me this day! Protect my bleeding and broken heart. Restore my joy! Show me something to smile about today. I desperately need You! My hurt is overwhelming me today. 

#HeIsStillGood