The Silent Scream of Pain

* Continuing through “a grace disguised” by Jerry Sittser

Chapter Four

The Silent Scream of Pain

In this chapter the author talks about the experience of pain one can experience with loss. The words “unspeakable” “unbearable” were just a few he uses to describe the pain felt by those who’ve lost a loved one. I know that pain.

Interestingly enough he goes on to reflect what pain means. The value of it, if one could find that unfathomable. The following quote puts it  into perspective and gives one some type of rationale behind why pain is experienced due to loss.

“What is true of the body is true in the soul. The pain of loss is severe because the pleasure of life is so great; it demonstrates the supreme value of what is lost.”

  

How we go about dealing with our pain is a whole different story. I found myself identifying a great deal with his examples of how we face our pain, or how we don’t. Just yesterday, Christmas, I found myself in a familiar place – avoidance. I tend to do one of two things: I either put on a happy face and pretend it’s all ok; or I withdraw into my “space” and avoid personal contact as to avoid anyone seeing my pain.

I have found over these past four years is that the pain has to be heard, faced, dealt with and acknowledged. While I understand this to be true, it’s harder to live it. To share this pain is one of the most difficult things I have experienced. Perhaps it’s because I don’t want anyone else to know how bad it hurts. Sometimes it’s because I don’t want to seem vulnerable. That could be a whole other chapter all by itself.

Another way of dealing with pain is by “drowning it” by indulging in various types of activities. For example grief and pain have many friends and for me the worst was the loneliness. The author speaks of watching endless hours of television during the hours of 10pm to 2 am for about two months. This was the time when he missed his wife the most. I found ways of avoiding that loneliness, I buried myself in my work and church. But in the darkness of the night – the loneliness returned.

I slept on the couch for three months after Brittany died because I couldn’t bring myself to pass by her room to get to mine. The nightly routine was I would pass by her room and say good night before I shut my own bedroom door. Just that simple action and memory was profoundly devastating to me. I could hardly breathe. But one day I had to face it. I could no longer sleep on the couch. What I was facing was more than just a ritual – it truly meant I had to face that she was gone. That she wasn’t coming back.

The author does speak to the problem of addiction and how it can occur after someone experiences a loss. Finding ways to avoid, derail, bypass the pain – problem is, it’s still waiting there behind all that avoidance.

“Loss disrupts and destroys the orderliness and familiarity of their world. They feel such desperation and disorientation in the face of this obliteration of order that they go berserk on binges. They saturate their senses with anything that will satisfy them in the moment because they cannot bear to think about the long-term consequences of loss.”

That quote was never more true for me than the first six months of journey. Once I returned to work, I put everything into it. It was an exhausting time and my body paid dearly for it. I found some sense of relief from the relentless attack on my heart while at work. It was once I pulled into the driveway at my home, the one I shared with my daughter, that the pain came crashing back. I had no place to hide.

I spent some time in the anger phase. It just so happened to be winter in Michigan and for those who know me know that this is not my favorite time of  year. It snows a lot in Michigan and I really don’t like snow. So when it snowed, I found myself outside shoveling, screaming at God and asking “why”. I’m sure my neighbors thought I’d gone off the deep end. But in looking back, it was a great time of healing for me. I was so angry at her doctors, her father, so many people who chose not to listen to me when I knew something wasn’t right with her.

Once I realized that the anger was just another way of dealing with the pain I was able to move on. So often people tend to get stuck in the anger phase of grief. As the author states “anger, like denial or bargaining or binges, is simply another way of deflecting the pain.” He goes on to say that pain will keep returning and will not let up until it has had it due time. I still find times I get angry, I go through the stages of grief over and over. I just don’t stay as long – I manage to go through them like a revolving door. I’ve learned to live with it.

At some point it becomes exhausting to fight it any longer. Yesterday I felt this disconnect and sense of nothingness. Devoid of emotion if you will. That is grief and pain knocking at the door. Over the years I’ve learned that I can’t run away from it. I have to let it have its moment and then in prayer I have to release it. It’s then and only then do I get some peace.

until next time,

m

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