Thursday, June 22, 2017

Lessons In Grief-Part 2

I called a widow friend to check in the day after Father's Day. Knowing how difficult the day had been for myself and my children as it was the first Father's Day since their dad passed. I'm not sure what I expected by asking this question but the honesty in her response was both shocking and refreshing. "I cried for four hours." 

That's what people who have experienced catastrophic loss do, they cry, they take long walks and long baths, they search for that outlet that helps their body and mind work through the pain. They put together jigsaw puzzle and scrapbook and read old journal entries while constantly composing new ones in their heads. They cry themselves to sleep while listening to the same two sad songs over and over again. Well, maybe that's not what everyone does but that's what I do.

Something I have learned about our society is that when it comes to tragedy we suck at dealing with it. The only consistent things we teach are that saying nothing is the only thing worse than saying/doing nothing and to hand someone a Kleenex when they cry.

I've learned over the past year that Kleenex have their place but there is that tears have power. Tears cleanse, tears have consistently been healing for me and they work better when I allow myself to feel them deeply and allow them to slowly make their way down my cheeks before dripping onto my body. The weight of my grief releases as they fall and after I have allowed time for them to flow freely there will be time to clean myself up, brush myself off and go again.

I often find myself wishing there was a Band-Aid type solution to my grief and in a society full of fast food and instant gratification there are things that offer temporary relief but the reality is we work through the big stuff a little at a time, day after day, allowing ourselves to feel day after day. We must choose a path of healing and while that choice may seem difficult, the other option is to bury it, avoid it and let it slowly take away our ability to feel.

When we choose to feel we put ourselves on a path to find healing and though it's a slow and painful process it is least that's what I have been told. It's been 11 months now and I have progressed from a feeling of drowning to feeling waves that occasionally knock me over. They are getting farther in-between and less intense as time goes on.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

When We Call God Answers

When some people think about God they envision a being far removed looking over the earth as some great thing that he's proud of yet far removed from. Others may see him as the Greeks did, a master at a chess board and we are merely pawns.  When I think of God I think of Him as a gentle, strong, kind father; someone who is interested in our individual welfare but leaves us to make the final decision as to where our life will go. He sees our strengths and our weaknesses and has in mind a plan that will play to our strengths and help us overcome our weaknesses but we choose to seek this plan or to go our own way.

There is power in seeking God's will for our lives. The first experience I had with this was in choosing where to go to college. I had decided I wanted to attend a college in a big city, a business college that had a two year program. I started the application process but couldn't shake the feeling it just wasn't quite right. I looked into other options until I found another junior college that felt right. At first I was a little upset that I wasn't getting what I wanted but felt strongly that was what God wanted for me. After a difficult first semester I had a better second semester and it was announced the college was transitioning to a four year university. I was able to complete a four year degree without relocating.

I find it fascinating that God wants to speak to us. With the understanding that He is first and foremost a loving Father it should not come as a surprise that He would desire to counsel with us but I am consistently amazed at the ways He reaches out to me. They are ever present but it is only when I am watchful that I recognize they are there. A favorite scripture of mine states, "all things denote thee is a God." When I look at the marvel of the human body, at the intricacy of how we are formed from two cells and those cells contain all the information to form an entire body forming into muscles, bone, connective tissues, organs each made to perform a specific function and that our bodies are capable of healing and growing and learning I am in awe. I think of the solar system how planets rotate around the sun arranged in majestic order and our earth being positioned just right to make conditions perfect for us to survive, I marvel. Beyond the functionality of this planet we call home I see the flowers, the ocean waves, the tall trees and the beauty of the sunrise and feel the care with which  this beauty was created for us. Why wouldn't a father want a beautiful place for His children to live, it just makes sense to me.

I know some find this concept far fetched and I can understand with the suffering many face on this earth why the concept of an all-powerful being having created all this is hard to believe but I feel it in my heart so strongly that I know it to be true.  I have faced suffering and I have felt strength beyond my own, I have felt the power of prayers said in my behalf and I have seen miracles happen within me as I have done things I know were beyond my capacity to do on my own. Some of the most amazing experiences I have had were going I to a situation not knowing what to do or say and having just the right thing come out when I open my mouth and many times being given words that teach me.  I have seen so much evidence of God's existence and His love.

What I have come to understand is that God is there through the good, the bad and the downright difficult in our lives. He is aware of us and wants to help us if we will genuinely and consistently seek His guidance and help. He is invested in our success but is limited in His ability to help us by eternal laws which give us our freedom to choose and also require us to follow the light inside us that helps us feel the difference between good and bad. When we seek good things we increase our ability to receive guidance from God and when do not we impede our ability to receive inspiration and blessings.

One of the beautiful things about the being a God is that He sent us to earth for a reason. It is this feeling that pushes me forward through tough times, that encourages me to reach out to just one more person and to fall to my knees and plead to Him when I no longer have the strength to stand. When we call, He ALWAYS answers. That is crazy amazing.

When Cancer Came

I dedicate this post to all those who really want to know what it is like. This is NOT a happy or inspiring's just real.

As I think back on this year and the two previous years it's been a WILD RIDE.  It was kind of like a roller coaster but riding it with the flu and no seat belt...yep, that pretty well describes it.  The foundations of my life have been shaken and I've had to dig deep and see what I'm really made of.

The trial of my faith began the day my husband was diagnosed with cancer.  I remember thinking, people beat cancer all the time, you hear their inspirational stories and how much they learn and grow in the process and that's going to be us.  Every challenge we face after this will be measured, to some degree, by how we faced this one and it will make us so much better and it will be amazing and we'll look back on this in our old age, sitting on our porch in our rocking chairs, and be amazed at how it shaped us.  This was what I anticipated, this was my hope.  This was my BEST CASE SCENARIO.

I have always found comfort in worst case scenarios.  It's kind of twisted buy I've found comfort in knowing that it could have always been worse that what it is.

When the cancer came back the first time I was heartbroken.  The surgeon came in and explained very matter-of-factly that it was back and we were going to repeat the previous surgery with it's week hospital stay and 6-8 week recovery at home and then we hope it doesn't come back.  He left the room and we both wept.  It was one of the handful of times I've seen my husband weep.  We thought we'd learned our lesson, fought our battle and were ready to move on with our lives.  We had a baby right after his first surgery and he was now five months old and the cancer was back?! How could this be the plan?

It was a few months later that scans showed reason for concern and we canceled our vacation plans to stay home for radiation treatments and four months after that further treatment was deemed necessary. We took a trip to visit family knowing when we returned it would be time to determine the next step.

Through all of this I was not naively hopeful.  I studied this specific type of cancer.  I read the research studies and it made me sick to my stomach.  The survival rates didn't look good and as much as I tried to have a positive outlook I felt in my heart that this would be a losing battle.  I HATE TO LOOSE. I've always thought of myself as a fighter.  It was my husband who toned me down.  He was the one who tamed me. He was the calm to my storm.  I have met very few people in my life who could see through the toughness to the tender heart inside and he broke down all my defenses with ease.  He made me WANT to be a wife and mother and even helped me see the value in leaving the workforce to raise our children. The thought of losing this battle was just TOO MUCH.

I went to therapy for a time to deal with the anxiety of life.  The counselor offered some help but ultimately came to the conclusion that my biggest issue was that I was mourning my spouse when he was still alive. I needed to hear it and it I gained some coping skills that got me through for a time. I am grateful that I let go of mourning for a time as is allowed us to enjoy the time we did have though I never could have guessed how short that time would be.

Metastasized, that's the word you never want to hear from your doctor and this one was very careful not to use it.  I both loved and hated him for it. We found ourselves traveling for a drug trial where we finally talked about the implications of that dreaded word. The months that followed were better than they could have been and I kept reassuring myself that the fact that he was still working was a good sign. He went to work every day but spent the rest of the day in a recliner often watching YouTube videos or reading books with our boys while we enjoyed quiet evenings at home. On one such evening our world changed. Within 48 hours he was gone.  No warning, no slow decline, just gone.

Now what? Go back to being the fighter? Put back up the walls that kept me safe for so many years? What now?