God Wins…but can I ?

A Mother's Journey


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Wearing emotional lenses

 

It’s not easy being visually impaired. I haven’t had perfect vision since I was around 12. As with many kids, I realized my eyes were failing when I couldn’t see the writing on the classroom blackboard. Diagnosis – nearsighted. I had to get glasses when they weren’t “in” or “cool.” But I coped and got contact lenses as quickly as my parents would allow them.

And, I’m at the stage in life where I wear monovision contacts. One eye sees up close and one sees far.

The ability to see up close and far at the same time takes a special ability. What an amazing feat for our brains accomplish.

As I think about it, my experience with complicated grief has given me emotional monovision.

Prior to losing my daughter, I was farsighted about grief. Although I lost a few, dear friends to cancer, ALS and old age, I experienced my losses without emotional complications. The people who left my life were dear to me, yet not in my daily inner circle. I could see the long, landscape of positive impact that they had on me and was grateful for them. As an adult friend, I was fortunate to have loving and deep relationships with each woman and had no regrets of any type. I miss them, yet there is peace when I think of them.

Losing Leah, my grief lens zoomed into a super close-up view. For this season of time, I am wearing a nearsighted lens. The pain is so intimate that I can only see it as though looking through a magnifying glass. Even two years later, I experience so many emotions – love, appreciation, compassion, sadness, anger, sorrow, some regret – so closely, and at the same time, that it is hard to differentiate which feelings are which.

The grief I am describing is similar to standing really close to a Monet painting. Up close, you only see little dots. It’s not until you step back do you see the beauty of the entire landscape.

Because Leah was so connected to me and our relationship personal and daily, the loss of her presence makes it difficult to see a big picture perspective. It is hard to step back far enough to see the full impact she had on my life.

I can think more objectively about my parents who passed away the same year as Leah. But harder with my child.

Getting through each day, week and month is the goal. I am grateful God gave me Leah for the time He did. Even two years later, it’s a painful reality to plan a future without her.

How does emotional monovision change my view of the world?

Losing a child gives me the emotional experience and awareness about the differences between these two forms of grief. In our culture, fortunately most people will never lose a child. Losing someone so close is growing me in understanding, empathy, patience, generosity, compassion and perseverance. I see things that I can only experience by having a myopic perspective.

Today, I can relate to other parents who have lost children. I must say – I was totally clueless before losing Leah about childhood cancer or fatalities of children. Child loss was an experience out there – on the far horizon. It happened to other people – not me.

I cringe at things that I may have said or thought about life threatening illness in children or the death of a child before losing Leah. Today, my hope is that I am more sensitive.

What emotional lenses do you wear?

Are you nearsighted, farsighted or have you chosen monovision? Having emotional monovision is a choice. You can make this choice. You will never see the world as I do, but you can chose to take the emotional energy necessary to focus in on the trials of the parents who are dealing with life threatening illness or death of a child.

I don’t believe you have to lose a child to grow in empathy and compassion toward those of us who are in the midst of a trial or have lost children.

Watch and listen.

Be present.

Be gracious.

Ask questions.

Please don’t expect anyone who is dealing with a child’s illness or has lost a child, or spouse for that matter, to ever “get over it.”

When you start with an open heart, you’ll be amazed at what you see – and the compassion that grows in you – as you look through another person’s grief lens.

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It’s Ok to not Cry

Today, I read this message in a Facebook quote; it really bothers me.

When you can tell your story and it doesn’t make you cry, that’s when you know you’ve healed.

Simple Reminders

My immediate reaction was “No way, that’s NOT true” and “WAY oversimplified.”

I appreciate many of the posts by Simple Reminders, but I almost feel offended by this statement. I turned the words over and over in my mind – sautéing them until they were burnt. Wondering – why would anyone even think this comment is true? Why would the person sharing this post even think an outward appearance reflects the state of someone’s inner heart?

It made me think about my experiences with loss and extreme grief. So, I walk away today with these two thoughts:

  1. The lack of tears doesn’t indicate someone is “over” a loss or healed. I can share this confidently because I hurt deeply over my daughter’s death, but don’t cry outwardly very much. When Leah was struggling with cancer and its treatment, I had to hold lots of emotions inside. It bothered her if I appeared sad. After she passed away, my crying was done privately – typically in the shower. Symbolically, I think I became enveloped in one big tear of flowing water. It was very freeing. I don’t cry very often  in front of other people when talking about her. Often, the other person cries when I share Leah’s story or talk about my memories of her. I am totally fine with their emotions. Sometimes I wonder what other people think about this apparent lack of emotion on my part…if they expect me to cry.  The truth is that the pain is deep and tears don’t even begin to express the agony of my loss. If someone based my emotional state on my lack of tears, they’d think I have no feelings or I am “healed.”
  2. Healing is a relative term. The two definitions of healing are a) to become sound or healthy again and b) to alleviate a person’s distress or anguish. There’s an assumption with grief and pain that healing is the desired eventual outcome. In our culture, it seems there is an obsession with the concept of healing after a major loss. I personally don’t understand this line of thinking. Our grief goes as deep as our love and I don’t ever expect to be fully healed in this life time. How does one fully recover after losing someone as precious as a child? I do agree that it is possible to alleviate the pain of a loss. But to me, healing means restoration. I’m not looking for full restoration. In my heart, it is dishonoring to Leah to think that I can go back to being the person I was when Leah was with me. I’m changed. I’m not looking for complete “healing” until heaven. If I was, I think my life would be full of disappointment each and every day.

Grief is very complex and different for each person. When I read these types of quotes, they impact me much more after losing my daughter, mother and father. My perspective has been dramatically sensitized. As a result, I am emboldened to speak up and comment about what the experience is like for a grieving person – advocating for more acceptance, kindness and understanding. I did chime in on the Facebook post above. My comment, “I like your posts a lot typically, but this statement is way too oversimplified. It’s just not a true statement and minimizes the pain of a dramatic loss. Just because I can tell my story without crying doesn’t mean that I am fully healed. Too simplistic.”

As grievers, we need support – we don’t need to be made to feel guilty or awkward as we walk the grief path…or to be pressured to arrive at a destination when we aren’t ready to land.  I’ll keep advocating for the acceptance of grief as a normal part of losing someone who we love.

I will cry when I am moved to tears…and if I don’t cry, I give myself permission that it’s ok to not show my grief in that way. Hopefully, you’ll understand.

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The Waiting Room

We walk through the door together.

I’m agitated; I don’t want to be here.

The soothing “elevator music”  and colorful, counter-top bouquet

are slightly calming.

Everything in the room looks clean and sterile – almost too perfect.

Taking a deep breath, I exhale a sigh.

The receptionist’s smile provides a distraction.

I give her my daughter’s name.

She plops into a chair, lined up against the wall, clearly anxious.

I sign the necessary medical releases – and then I sit down too.

And we wait.

And wait.

Feels like forever.

Other “waiters” in the 10’x20′ room murmur and chatter nervously.

One patient, in deep thought, stares ahead. She seems to look inward rather than outward.

The annoying television plays either a cartoon, movie or game show.

This room is the same as so many other waiting rooms.

What are we waiting for – really?

For someone to give us either good news or bad news?

Tests or treatments that will change our days, weeks or lives?

Information that either creates comfort, hope or peace? Or fear, disappointment or anxiety?

Minutes feel like hours and hours like days in this room.

My girl’s name is finally called.

We get up and walk to another room.

There, we have a little more freedom to be ourselves.

To ask questions. To be heard – hopefully.

When our visit is over, I nearly race out the door – seeking fresh air.

Grateful this visit is over. Knowing another one is planned and the cycle will repeat.

Fast forward:

Today, outside these waiting rooms, I think about my experiences there.

The memories are hard.

I realize that sometimes I am back in the “waiting room” when I’m in my car, my house or out for a walk.

At times, life feels like one big, endless waiting room.

There are days when I’m stuck on one side of the waiting room door.

What am I waiting for? Maybe either a change to happen, someone else’s approval, a new opportunity or insight, peace about my losses or healing from disappointment?

I have the revelation that, some days, I place myself in this room unintentionally. When I do so, it creates a feeling of being trapped and prevents me from moving forward.

Although waiting rooms are an inevitable part of life, I don’t need to place myself in one when I don’t need to be there.

Putting my hand on the door handle, turning it and exiting the room are just a few steps away.

Fresh air, excitement, opportunity and freedom are available to me on the other side.

I want to live more days as though I just stepped outside the waiting room.

What about you? Are you visiting more “waiting rooms” than your heart needs to or desires?Blog_Waiting Room

***Foot Note: For the last several years, I’ve spent much time in these small places. Walking my daughter through terminal illness found us in many, many waiting rooms. Memories of challenging doctor and hospital visits are part of my story. I realize that waiting rooms can be a metaphor to the aspects of life that can take hold of me mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  And my desire is to break free more days than not.