On Being Temporarily Absent

“To love at all is to be vulnerable.

Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.

If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

To love is to be vulnerable.”

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, my heart feels wrung. And possibly broken.

My wish in sharing our story is to be a voice of hope and encouragement to other parents who are walking a difficult path. My deep desire is to come alongside those who love their struggling teens.

To do this, I feel strongly that authenticity is a non-negotiable, and vulnerability is essential. And so I have been sharing our journey; even more specifically, I have been sharing my journey. I have been reliving a heartache that I could never have anticipated, and that I know others are even now experiencing.

And my heart has been wrung. And possibly broken. Again.

Broken-Heart-Backgrounds-1

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I have shared in earlier blog posts that my daughter’s descent  into clinical depression came virtually on the heels of my husband’s death.

What I am not so sure I shared is the feeling that while my husband’s death bent me, my daughter’s ensuing suicidal depression broke me. One tragedy on the heels of another left me barely able to put one foot in front of the other. Eventually and unsurprisingly, I faced my own clinical depression.

I have shared that some of the details of my daughter’s difficulties and hospitalizations are hard for me to recall, but the emotion, the struggle, the heartache … those are ever near. Even though that dreadful chapter began six years ago and my daughter has been back home for four years. Even though my husband took his last breath nearly seven and a half years ago. Even still.

In my mind I see snapshots of moments that broke me over and over. I see my children grief-stricken and confused, and my inability to make sense of any of it for them or for myself. (If you want to torture a mother, render her incapable of helping her own children. Or at least let her live in that belief.)

I see a young widow whose grief was cut short by a need she will never regret tending to, but whose heartache upon heartache bent her low and broke her down.

depression line drawing

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It’s not that I don’t want to share our story anymore. It’s not that I am no longer passionate about walking with those whose hearts and families are breaking. It’s that I didn’t expect it to still feel so intensely raw.

As someone who believes strongly that we are created for relationship and community, story is a necessary part of the equation to me. It’s the only way we know we aren’t alone. It’s the best way to walk with each other.

Sugar coating the hard stuff is a disservice, I think. Not that we gratuitously compare stories to see whose is worse. No. That is a prostitution of the roads we each must walk.

But an honest story is a powerful and loving weapon when we are fighting for our lives and wellbeing, and for the lives and wellbeing of those we love. Honest stories build trust.

So I haven’t stopped sharing my story, our story. I have just come to a place where I need to remind myself to breathe.

My heart is so wired into the NOW that I must remind it that these things are not happening now. The emotions can return full force though. At the drop of a hat. And I know that there are consequences and costs that everyone in our family will always deal with. There’s fallout. That’s not bad. It just is.

Every now and then it simply still hurts. And I get stuck. And the past pains and current challenges in my life magnify and compound one another. It takes work for me to untangle all those things and put them back in their rightful and appropriate places. Compartmentalizing doesn’t come naturally to me. In fact, it exhausts me.

My husband has not just died. My daughter is not slicing her arms while raging about how she wants to kill herself. Those things happened a while ago. But pieces of my heart can sometimes feel like they are happening now. Again.

It’s not PTSD. It’s just the journey of grief and growing and living in the wholeness of life, the good and the painful (which can sometimes be the same thing).

My head wants to move on, but my heart wants, needs, to stop and grieve a little. Not the same intense grief of a few years ago, but a grief that must be tended to nonetheless.

Now that I am officially pushing Old Broad-hood, I have learned a thing or two about myself. I have asked friends for support in several areas of my life. I have asked for accountability, for grace, for humor, and for witness to my tears.

NeverBeAfraidAskHelp

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I have learned that if I am not gentle with myself, I return to that place of wanting to lie down in front of a bus. And since the place I now rent has a bus stop literally behind the back fence, that’s not really such a good place for me to get to.

So I’ve been temporarily absent.

The words roll through my mind, trying to coax my heart to participate.

Just write. That’s what the writing experts would say. Put your butt in the chair and write. But I’ve chosen to put my wellbeing over my word count, because I’ve spent decades ignoring what I need for what I “should”. And the bus stop behind me isn’t going anywhere.

Just write. My heart wants to. It really does. And it will.

But lately my heart feels wrung. And possibly broken. And I’ve been learning to take care of it.

© Monica Simpson and Help To Hope, 2013
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Say What?

The inside of the house still smells like a campfire today, which is fine by me. We had a lovely evening yesterday, grilling dinner and chatting around the fire in the backyard.  My kids were all here. At the same time, even.

My mom was here too. She brought The Best Three Bean Salad In The World, and she’s going to give me the recipe. Tastes just as good now as it did when I was a kid.

Eventually everyone left and I was alone. I sat in the darkness by the fire waiting for it to die down before dousing the last two crackling logs.

firepit at night

(Photo Source: Google Images)

It’s still hard for me; I admit it. There are times I feel very alone.

Ironically, alone feels most alone after having been around people, after shared laughter and lingering good-bye hugs.

Maybe that’s why I am less social than I was before my husband died. Sometimes it’s by choice, and sometimes it’s simply by default. People have lives, and they expect you to get on with yours. Their obligations and marriages haven’t ended. They just don’t understand what you’re dealing with because, thankfully, they’ve not experienced it.

They might not realize that when you do go out and partake in life, the fun may just be followed by deep exhaustion of every conceivable kind. They don’t get that sometimes crowds are the loneliest place in the world.

If you’ve never buried your spouse, please don’t presume to tell me that I haven’t moved on, that I shouldn’t be sad anymore, that I need to keep busy or be less busy, to simplify or find a hobby or go on a date.

And if you have buried your spouse, I don’t want to hear it from you, either.

There is a fine line the widowed must learn to walk, a line that involves rejoining the living, and learning – allowing for – happiness. But it also involves knowing that your loss will always be part of you, and knowing that somehow those things need to coexist. They can. It’s possible; it really is.

But please never make the mistake of telling us how to do that, how to integrate loss and life. Or that we’re not doing it right, that if we will “just _______” it would be better. For the rest of my life my husband will still be dead. And while I can and do experience happiness and fulfillment, that fact will always make me sad. There are some wounds that will never fully heal.

It seems that the ones most bothered by that are the ones without the wounds.

Those of us living it, it’s hard but we’re okay working to figure it out daily. Our sadness doesn’t scare us near as much as it seems to scare others. We have been handed the tricky task of learning to survive in a different universe than the one we thought we lived in. Sometimes, even years later, it’s still painful. Sometimes, even after finding a new love or a new life, it still stings.

It’s okay. Let us feel it. We need to. Don’t try to talk us out of our grief, even if you think it should have ended long ago. It doesn’t define us, but it’s still part of us, and we need you to allow for that. If you can’t, then it’s fine for you to keep your distance. Or at least keep quiet about it.

*****

Why oh why did I awake in such a melancholy mood today?!? I think it’s because I woke up sick. Achy. Congested. Sneezy. Dizzy. And whoever those other three dwarfs were. I woke up that way, feeling like one of them. My beard is fuller and I may even be shorter than I was yesterday, I think.

I’m so thankful we had our Memorial Day gathering an evening early because I have spent today sick in bed, except for loading the dishwasher from last night and seeing my mom who brought me a small tin of yummy pistachios, which I have already eaten. I hear they’re good for colds.

 pistachios

(Photo Source: Google Images)

I think my hearing is a bit off too. While watching mindless TV a bit ago, I heard an insurance commercial that started out like this: “Funerals are a very difficult thing for families to go through.”

But I didn’t hear funerals. I heard urinals. I’ve been through funerals, but never dealt much with urinals, especially as a family activity. It threw me for a quick minute, but then gave me a much-appreciated belly laugh, which I think is better for colds than even pistachios.

 

© Monica Simpson and Help To Hope, 2013