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

The End and the Beginning

Chapter 1 – The End and the Beginning

by Jerry Sittser

In this beginning chapter Sittser describes his loss. The horrific tragedy that fell upon him while driving home with his family. His story is gripping and leaves  you with a sense of loss that is beyond my own. But it’s the way he describes his pain that left me with a sense that someone else besides me understood what sudden loss can do to a person. How seeing the one(s) you love die right before your eyes and the feeling of helplessness that is so overwhelming you want to die.

The way he describes his initial experience was much like mine. The shock is so unbelievable that you can’t imagine that such an event has taken place. The flashbacks to the series of events leading up to the loss is excruciating to read because I too had those flashbacks. Reliving each moment over and over again until you fell to the floor in absolute exhaustion crying and wailing because the pain had to come out.

Sittser lost his wife of two decades, his mother and his third born son in a horrible automobile accident. I can’t even imagine what it was like to lose three people for me just losing one, my daughter was so incredibly difficult that the thought of losing three loved ones at once was beyond what I could comprehend.

“I was so bewildered that I was unable to voice questions or think rationally. I felt wild with fear and agitation, as if I was being stalked by some deranged killer from whom I couldn’t escape. I could not stop crying. I could not silence the deafening noise of crunching metal, screaming sirens, and wailing children. I could not rid my eyes of the vision of violence, of shattering glass or shattered bodies. All I wanted was to be dead.” – Jerry Sittser

The above description, although it not my own experience, is very much the feeling I had when I watched as my daughter was being resuscitated for the fourth and final time. I’ve written before about the experience of watching as the hospital staff surrounded her bed on numerous occasion throughout the night bringing her back to life. Yet during the early morning of October 13th 2006, I watched in horror as the nurse climbed up on the bed and was performing CPR while the doctors where shouting out orders to keep the medications going.

All the while I’m looking at the monitors, as a nurse, knowing that what was about to happen next was going to be the worst moment of my life. As my eyes met the nurse who was pumping my daughter’s chest I saw all I needed to see. Her pain, her helplessness and her compassion said it all. As the doctor said to me “she can’t take much more, it’s time to say goodbye” – the words I will never ever forget.

So as I read his description of his flashbacks and reliving the moment. I too relived that moment for so many months. But as time as gone by the violence of it has diminished. But the sorrow that it created is still profoundly real.

One other thing that Sittser reveals about his own first few weeks after his loss that I found to be parallel is that one day you wake up and realize you haven’t cried for the first time. I thought in the beginning that it was a sign I was on the mend, that I was beginning to come out of the gloomy fog I had been living in.

“The tears came for forty days, and then they stopped, at least for a few days….It was only after the forty days that my mourning became too deep for tears.” – Jerry Sittser

At the end of chapter one, Sittser describes what it is like to have your life turned upside down and the choice to move on is the only one. That there is no way to avoid the pain. He called it “suffer and adjust” which is basically what I did. And as I have said before it’s a work in progress.

until next time,

m

A Grace Disguised

I’m so excited to blog through this next book “A Grace Disguised” by Jerry Sittser. As some of my dedicated readers know I have found it rare to find a book that can come close to seeing grief through my eyes. Although our experience of loss is not the same; for his is much more tragic, he chose the right words that so creatively and accurately describes my pain.

I hope you get something out of this series as I did reading his book. I highly recommend it to anyone who has suffered a loss for it offers hope, spiritual rebirth and a new-found belief that the soul can heal and grow through loss.

“The experience of loss does not have to be the defining moment of our lives. Instead, the defining moment can be our response to the loss. It is not what happens to us that matters so much as what happens in us.” – Jerry Sittser

In the beginning of the book the author writes about the previous edition and reflected back over the years of his experience. What I related to most was on page 19 of the book where he talks about writing. I believe as he does that writing about one’s experience, thoughts, feelings, emotions can be healing.

At times during my four years I felt as  if my writing would either make me or break me. In the early days the writing was so porous one could see my pain on the pages of my blog. I allowed many of my readers to “feel” my pain as much as I could. Not because I wanted to bring everyone else down; but to allow you to see that the clichés of the past needed to go about what grieving people need to do or should do. But to allow you to see what’s real about grief.

Sittser talks about being able to read his own journals and was able to see his journey and how far he’d come. How he had changed as a person. He believes as I do that the hope is that our words can bring help to others. But in no way does it diminish our own losses. That our losses are as real and horrible as they were the day they happened.

“The good that may come out of the loss does not erase it’s badness or excuse the wrong done. Nothing can do that.” – Jerry Sittser

So much of what the author writes about in this book has been very validating for me as someone who has suffered so many losses. So it is my hope that you, my dear and cherished followers and any of you who have come upon my blog for the first time, take a moment and reflect that even though our losses have been great. The power to heal resides within  us. It is how we live on that makes the difference between living or just existing.

until next time,

m