Grief is a mysterious thing, isn’t it? It’s not something that goes away, but certainly, something that changes over time. I’m not sure that it even actually lessens, but perhaps shifts. There are several recognized stages or categories of grief… but I was surprised to find out that for me, these are not merely emotional. On occasion, my body seems to be trying to sink into itself with heaviness and lethargy. Other times there’s a light feathery feeling in my stomach as if I am waiting to meet someone and cannot wrap my heart around the fact that I will never lay eyes on him again. The most frequent symptom of my grief is that which commandeers my brain. That terrible thing induces an undeniable blockage in my thought processing. When I’m in the thick of it, I struggle to hear what others are saying, to respond with any thoughtfulness, to see errors or solve problems. I unintentionally chain myself so far into my own head that even a handsome knight in shining armor could not rescue me. This phenomenon has changed some, in that it does not affect me as frequently as it once did. While grief brain still hits me with great force and still cages me behind a door, I’ve gotten much better at finding the key to unlock it.
Recently, I rediscovered some words that I wrote to myself just about a year ago. When I wrote them, I was deep into grief brain. I was aching, having just seen my first anniversary after the death of my husband. I was feeling uncomfortable in my own skin and desperately trying to get the angst out of me before it sputtered onto my loved ones. While slightly humored by some of my words, I am thankful to God for this small reminder I was given again to take the key that God hands me in those moments… bits of peace and joy that are far beyond understanding. I’m thankful that he uses my children to beckon me to sit and be ok in His creation.
August 8, 2016
I just had a mental breakdown. You see, we’re camping. I have always hated camping. It’s hot, it’s dirty, it’s inconvenient. There are lots of things that could (and often do) go wrong. The bugs are everywhere. Sweat in this inevitable August humidity covers every inch of my body. My boys are tired and red. There are objects that can hurt little fingers at every turn. My oldest found a box of mouse poison. My youngest located a space heater. My anxiety was running around like a gazelle from a lioness! “Maybe it’s just time to go home,” I thought until I realized that going home would mean that I’d be entirely alone with both of my boys for a few days. My brain is not functioning at the level it should… grief overtakes me sometimes and I just can’t focus on anything else… I go too far into my head too often. No, going home is a poor choice. I don’t think my children are one hundred percent “safe” with me alone.
Sometimes I get really stuck in my head and hear a whole lot of negative self-talk. “What will people think when they read this? Would someone report me as an unfit mother? What would they do? What if they already know? What if my brain is fine in a month, but everyone expects me to be incapable of caring for my children forever? Will I ever be a good mom? …I shouldn’t worry so much because I’m never going to actually post this anywhere; I’m too scared.”
Sometimes nothing is ok with me or with the world or with anything anywhere. Sometimes I am not all right. Sometimes it’s all so very exhausting and it makes me want to just curl into a ball and fall asleep. And maybe stay asleep.
Out of nowhere, my son called to me and said, “Look, Mama! A butterfly!” He found my hand and jumped up into my lap. His little body held me down in the chair and pulled my head back into reality. I stopped to watch the butterfly with him.
As I tousled the sweat-drenched hair out of his face, he sat comfortably on my legs, his mouth agape and his eyes beautifully bright. This tiny creature had captured his wonderment, causing everything else – including his brand new bargain-buy train set – to fade into unimportance. Slowly, I realized that this is ok. To be in the moment, to breathe, to just do one thing at a time is ok. We are ok. I am ok.
“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10