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.

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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.

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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.

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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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