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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To Live and Mourn Simultaneously

Continuing my journey as I blog through Jerry Sitter’s “a grace disguised”. Chapter Three: Darkness Closes In

I used the phrase “To Live and Mourn Simultaneously” for the title of this post because I truly think Sitter could have labeled this chapter that way. As we go through this chapter you will see why as I believe it became very apparent there is a theme in this chapter that will bring light on this very delicate topic.

“Sudden and tragic loss leads to terrible darkness. It is an inescapable as nightmares during a high fever. The darkness comes, no matter how hard we try to hold it off. However threatening, we must face it, and we must face it alone.”

Sitters speaks of the darkness that came over his life after the tragic loss of his mother, wife and daughter during an automobile accident that left him, and three children to live on with this burden of grief. I have related to this book on so many levels because I believe the author writes and believes what I feel and what I know to be true about grief. It validates if you will my own struggles with how I grieved and where I grieved.

The darkness is a topic I’ve written about before and it’s primarily because it’s a place I resided for a long time after Brittany’s death. In fact, it’s a place I’ve resided for a very long time. Throughout my life of what I’ve coined as “unfortunate events” I have found myself to become a familiar resident in the darkness.

When I say darkness, I don’t mean black, I mean like murky water – sometimes unable to see my way through to the light. To find any good in what has happened to me. However as Sitter reveals – darkness is unavoidable and necessary to face one’s grief. Because you really have to face it. You cannot put it off nor can you dismiss it away to face another day – it will haunt you and it will keep haunting you until you face it squarely and walk through it. This is what I know to be true.

My walk through the darkness has had some good days and some not so good days. In the early weeks and months after my daughter’s death darkness was a scary place. I wanted to run away from it. I wanted it to go away because I didn’t like what I saw or couldn’t see but only felt. The pain was so gut-wrenching that I felt I couldn’t bear it another moment more. But I did. And I still do today. It’s just different.

Sitters believes, as I do, that we have a choice in how we grieve. How we look at our journey and how we can exist in the darkness and still see the light. The power remains within us to take the walk in the right direction. To face the pain and the sorrow right where you are in that moment can bring you to a place where light begins to crack through and the life you see before you can and will be joyful. Just different.

I have to say that facing your grief in the darkness can be exhausting. I continue to fight exhaustion to this very day. Why? Because the battle isn’t over. My struggle, anyone’s struggle with loss lasts a lifetime. It’s not over in a year, a couple of years or a decade. The loss changes you. It re-molds who you are right down to your very core. Life looks different, it feels different and some days it just doesn’t feel right. But you keep moving forward because it’s the only way to let the light shine through.

Sittser says “loss itself does not have to be the defining moment of our lives”. He goes on to say, “the defining moment can be our response to the loss.” I am in total agreement with the author here. I have written about this numerous times and I stand by it – we have a choice. The choice we make during these moments in life, whether it is personal tragedy or horrific loss – will define our future. It will mold you into who you are to become. Because, as I’ve said before, you are never the same after a loss. No matter how hard your friends and family wish that you are that same person, you are not. You can not.

“I absorbed the loss into my life, like soil receives decaying matter, until it became a part of who I am. Sorrow took up permanent residence in my soul and enlarged it.”

That quote from Sitter really spoke to me as I have lived that and breathed that for the past four years. I have grown from my loss(s). I am a new person, one that sees life from a different perspective. The world didn’t stop revolving when I lost Brittany, although many times I wanted it to. Life kept moving on and I had to move with it or remain stuck in it. It was a choice I made then and I continue to make now. To live and to mourn simultaneously.

Until next time,

m