Guilt.

Someone dies and we are sad, that makes sense. We miss them, life has changed. We remember the good times…but what about the bad times? What about those?

I don’t miss disease. I don’t miss the strain created between being with my husband in hospital and missing the kids. I don’t miss the hard times it put on our finances and I don’t miss the struggles we had in our marriage after 20 years…does that make me a bad person? It doesn’t sound loving or caring. It sounds selfish. It certainly makes me feel bad, and that makes me feel guilty and that makes me sad all over again.

When my husband died I fell to pieces. I missed him with every fibre of every one of those pieces. My true love was gone and l was beyond devastated. I couldn’t see a way to fit those pieces back together to form any kind of a life. There were parts missing, like an old jigsaw from last Christmas carelessly tossed into the box without all the pieces . The picture could never look like it was supposed too. It would never be right.

I had rose coloured glasses on and I couldn’t think of a single bad thing he had ever done. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, it was just a reflection of my love for him. That was real. But as the fog of grief lifted a little I began to see that life needed to be different. It had to be. I no longer had his pieces to fit with mine to complete the picture.

I had to live, parent, and work on my own. As my independence grew I began to discover things that I loved that I had either forgotten, given up on in compromise, or were new. I found laughter again, but it was different and often felt wrong, it felt like I was forgetting and that too felt like guilt. I didn’t want his family or friends to see me enjoying life, that heightened the guilt. Not because they wanted me to stay miserable or feel guilt, please know that, it was all internal. It was my perception of a life that still wasn’t quite making sense.

No marriage is perfect, if you tell me otherwise I would not believe you, I am no longer that naive. You only have to stay in one for awhile in order to see that. I think I gave too much, to my own detriment. I didn’t look after myself all the time and when I felt exhausted I chose the couch over the treadmill (not that I had a treadmill but I needed an analogy!!). I resented some of “our” choices and didn’t let go fast enough. I have a pretty tough exterior and I know I can find it hard to bend sometimes. That’s tough on a marriage. They are some of my faults, because I’m here and I can defend myself. Of course as a normal human being he had faults and made choices, some of them hurt me deeply, but he is not here, so I choose not to make a list of them.

Those hurts are hard to deal with, I can’t talk them through with him, I can’t yell at him, I can’t let him know how bruised I was, even when I pretended not to be. He will never know how I sat in the car park before work and cried. He will never know how I blamed myself and felt like I wasn’t enough. At least not to the full extent that only retrospect affords you. It makes me feel guilty to even think about, it feeds my grief.

Although I have often heard a widow use them in the same sentence, guilt and grief are not synonymous. One is a natural feeling after loss, the other leads to the decay of our heart. Guilt is a heaviness that seeks out our deepest frailties and plunges our emotions into darkness. It tells us lies about new happiness and whispers darkness into your soul. It is very real and it can destroy the goodness that you have found.

So what then? Can I hold him to account? Is there any point in bringing it up? Does it help me find pieces to complete the jigsaw? Actually yes, I think it does. If he was alive, we would say his mistakes were his to deal to deal with, not mine. The same is still true, it is not my guilt to take up now, I cannot own someone else’s mistakes. I know, I have tried it that way, but again so much guilt. These things are not easy to do, not easy to overcome. But little by little I needed to let myself off the hook of guilt. I slowly came to see that I needed to let go of his mistakes, or I would not heal. He was a good man, but I needed to grieve the whole marriage, not just the good parts. A jigsaw has the pretty colourful bits everyone loves to find but it also has the pieces that look ordinary and plain,  you need both for the whole picture.

I needed to let him know how I felt. I wrote to him, letters that I threw to him in the ocean, as if sent of to him. It was for my benefit. It’s about how I feel about what he did, not about what he actually did . He can’t change anything and even though he tried often, he couldn’t boost my self esteem above the level my own internal dialogue dictated. That’s up to me and my own beliefs. I believe God can do the impossible, move mountains etc But He can’t change what I won’t let go of.

I had to find a way through, to let go. It wasn’t pretty, it was painful. But there is freedom in letting it go, in facing it. To stare at the ugliness of guilt, what caused it and decide not to be caught in its grip any longer. To understand that I was the one instigating the guilt and holding back happiness. Whatever he had done, forgiveness is my decision and the key to letting it go. And when I didn’t have strength to forgive, the God of all forgiveness could help, wanted to help, I just had to ask.

Grief is forever, you don’t just forget one day. But happiness is forever as well. They can coincide as part of a new life… if I let grace rule over guilt.

If I let myself off the guilt hook. 

NOTE : If you are stuck you might need to talk to someone who understands, and if that means paying a counselor/Psychologist, DO IT. Do it sooner rather than later. I cannot recommend that strongly enough. They are trained to deal with the level of emotion you are feeling and are not personally involved so they are completely objective.

You are not defective if you need to talk to someone, you are normal.


It just does…

When a woman’s hand slides across her childless womb, when a widow gives in to a cold and empty bed, when life isn’t as it should have been. Is there really hope?

When grief pursues forcefully and without warning. When it catches us of guard and defenseless. When it feels cruel, unbearable and dark. Is there really hope?

When we are left feeling a deep ache that won’t go away and questioning it all. Why did it happen? Why do I feel so bad? Why is life unfair? We hope there is hope, we hope there is a light at the end of that pretty miserable tunnel. We can’t see it, can’t feel it, don’t know it. It is a grey fog pursuing and trying to overtake every sense that might pick up on hope, tricking us into thinking its an illusion or just something other people feel. “Other people feel good, what’s wrong with me?”

So where is hope?

Hope, like love, is unconditional. Not dependant on the right circumstances, feelings or good looks! It just is. It is more than what we wish for, it is how we wish it, a feeling of goodness bestowed upon something. It is something that wells up from the inside out. It can be in the darkness without having germinated into the light just yet.

It’s on the inside, it’s the good guy that fights against the darkness, pursuing the bad guy. It has the unending strength that somehow dodges all the bullets even when completely outnumbered. It is a main character that survives all else, and even if it is killed off, it finds its way back in the sequel.

Oftentimes grief is a consequence of an apparent end. The end of things is painful and hard to see beyond. No hope, no point, why bother? But know this about hope, it has no end. It can live in darkness, it does not need the right conditions to germinate, one day it just does. The roots still alive under the blackened earth of the wildfire. It blooms as half a smile, as feeling some warmth on your skin, as a small knowing there is love.

It just does…

How? I believe it happens one very teeny, tiny step at a time. By doing what you can do, not what you can’t. I can go for a walk in the sunshine, I maybe cannot run a marathon. I can get out of bed today, I maybe can’t meet someone for coffee…but maybe tomorrow I can, or maybe the next day. I can find one thing to be thankful for even if just the breath in my lungs. I can look heavenward if only with a glimmer of a prayer, that’s all it takes, just a glimmer, just a tiny bit. This is the supernatural exchange, our darkness, all of it, for God’s Hope. He lives in Hope, He lives for hope. He is in that “it just does” moment filling it with light and life.

Sure the darkness is very, very real. No arguement. But as real and deep the ache, so real and deep the hope.

Teeny, tiny steps. Teeny, tiny glimpses.

Hope lives, it just does.


Ebb and Flow

When a cool tear rolls down my cheek it takes some pain with it. It is like a release valve that lets built up sorrow, stress or anxiety escape from my heart. It’s a vulnerable, bearing-your-soul-kind-of-thing. I have to trust those around me. Lots of people cry in private, hiding their hearts, not trusting people, not trusting places or maybe not trusting God.

I have found a great comfort in my faith for many years. It’s solid, I can count on it. But it is also ever changing, like a river, and you never know what’s around the bend. Sometimes I’ve felt like I’m drowning with pressures and misunderstandings dragging me beneath the surface. Whilst other times are full of utter refreshment and cool relief.

Ebb and flow. I trust in decreasing and increasing increments, usually dependant upon what has gone on around me. Someone dies and I don’t understand why; decrease, something amazing happens beyond understanding; increase. I don’t want to lose trust , I don’t want to “appear” unfaithful, I want to stay in a good place, but sometimes I don’t. That’s the truth.

Pain can sting twice.The original wound, and then it can also lead my heart away from vulnerable, keeping freedom at bay. Faith offers my heart relief, but when I don’t understand what’s happening around me I may resist the very thing I need the most. Humans – our own worst saboteurs!

We want to know how, why and cry “It’s not fair!” But that’s the pressure that drowns. Freedom of heart, I believe, comes only when we know that we just don’t know! That we know we don’t have complete control and trust that God alone does. When I believe that He has my hand in His no matter how furious the current may become and when I’ve just had enough and can’t do it anymore, there is a lifeboat, even if I doubted, even when I don’t trust.

The offer of relief, of freedom, is not dependant on me, it’s always there. A lifeboat always alongside. Trusting is not about understanding it’s about being vulnerable. It’s about letting your heart be in another’s charge. It’s not weakness or frailty, it’s trust in something beyond what you can see. It’s faith.

It’s why I can still breathe.

 

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you…”


Sorrow

I saw another sorrow this week. I saw it in my husbands eyes, heard it in his words and felt it as he hugged me tighter. We think no one deserves that kind of pain, but that isn’t the truth. The truth is hard, it’s real life and that means if you love someone deeply, you miss them deeply.

The preacher said “It’s because you loved him, it hurts to lose him.” It’s true. Does it make it easier, I guess it doesn’t but it does mean he knew love and that is a comfort.

Does that mean if we know love we will certainly know sorrow? I think it does. I think we try to avoid sorrow, I do get it, I know it doesn’t feel nice. Lots of things do not feel nice but we have to do them anyway. If we avoid cleaning things we can get sick, but no one likes cleaning, well not the normal among us. We might like the outcome but the process is not enjoyable. This is sorrow.

The process of sorrow sucks! It rips at your stomach, pulls at your heart and causes a lump in the back of your throat that cannot be swallowed. It lets us know that we have lost something that makes us feel like our soul has been torn. The puzzle is no longer complete, the game unwinnable and left completely undone.

But as time goes by this pain assimilates into who we are, the puzzle doesn’t  look like the picture we had on the box, and there will always be a piece missing. Yet, it’s our puzzle and we think it’s beautiful. We remember all the times together, good and bad that are threaded into our fabric, woven so tightly that they cannot be separated. When we feel a tug it helps us to remember who they were and who they will always be in out hearts.

I think we need to get past worrying about who sees us cry or if they are uncomfortable with our pain. It’s in everyone’s life, why do we hide it? “I’m good thanks” we say what if we could say, “He was a bloody good man, I will miss with with every fibre within me. I might cry, but it’s OK, I will be OK, but today I am just sad”. I don’t hear that kind of thing much I wish I did though. It’s the truth. When we speak truth it helps release the pain trapped inside. It escapes anyway, the pain, it will burst through, and often in hurtful and regretful ways.

Can we try this? Can we try to listen to sorrow without fixing it? Can we listen without thinking about our uncomfortableness? Can we let our own eyes well up and let the tear slide down our cheek and not care if it’s seen? Can we really care but not care about appearances? It’s a big ask, lets see how we go.

So here’s to Vik, my hubbies Dad and my new families Gramps. He really was a good man, he was his own man and in this house he will be forever missed, loved and remembered.

Vik, mēs mīlam tevi un mūsu sirdis, lai gan dziļi nobijies, atcerēsies tevi smaidošu.

Paul and Vik


Everybody dies …

wall photoes b and w

No one likes the thought of dying, but it’s the only event we all experience . Is it that we are really bad at talking about it or can’t we face it? I guess that’s the same thing.

“Absolute silence leads to sadness. It is the image of death.” (Jean-Jacques Rousseau) Maybe he meant that loneliness is like death, or maybe it means that the silence around death leads to loneliness? Either way it certainly is sad and it’s our own fault.

Have you ever overheard two people having a conversation about you? I have,  I’ll chew on that for hours, days even. They don’t understand me! How dare they! What would they know! And they’re the G rated responses!! As time slips by the outrage grows and grows until the ugly monster within has festered into something I no longer recognize. The story has exaggerated, just a little, and has turned into a Days of Our Lives script worthy of an Oscar or two. The mountain of emotion inside is ready to erupt on whomever is game enough to cross my path. God have pity on that poor soul.

But what if it that wasn’t the whole story? What if there was more to it, or it was spoken in concern not accusation?? That would change things, but I only know that if I will talk about it and look for the truth. If I choose to be honest with my emotions and air them in front of a third party. Me, my emotions and someone sane. If I choose the vulnerable path of letting someone in on the pain I feel so they can help me see what is real as opposed to how I perceive it. It’s like cleaning out an abscess, all the goo just has to come out, and it is not pretty.  Once clean though, healing begins.

I think it’s like that with death. We don’t talk about it, or about the one who has died and all manner of emotions fester inside. We think it might upset someone, it might make them cry. I say, that’s OK, let me cry, my tears honor my loved one. With my tears I say “I loved you and love you still”. With my tears I let the world know that their life really meant something, you’ll know that if you see me cry about him. You will know it touches my heart, it has pulled something out of me that’s personal and completely overwhelming. I don’t want to be scared of that. But as a people I think we are. Crying, or at least showing some true emotion, helps heal the wound, it goes part of the way to stopping it fester. Unattended that wound can be fatal. It is absolute sadness and keeps you looking at the death. Forgetting the life, the infection gets worse until complete shut down.

Everyone who dies has lived. That life has still been lived if they die, still happened, still part of you. Although they are no longer here with you, beside you as you would prefer, all that meaningful life still and forever has a purpose. My late husband loved me and is forever a part of me, of who I am today. My husband’s late wife loved him, and the life they lived together makes up so many years of who he is, of course I want to know about them, about her. She is the mother of children I now think of as my family. She is utterly integral, both our late partners are.

Sometimes I feel a lump in my throat when I speak his name, sometimes a smile. Either way, I believe it’s better said than locked away. Memories shared help them stay alive, helps them feel closer. We will all face death, but will we all remember the life?

Please do, even if you cry.

 


No last words

We didn’t hear any last words. No words of wisdom. No declarations of everlasting love. None.

Cancer robbed us of those moments, there should have been more. There should have been time, but God had decided his time was done, he should go Home.

Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference, but I’ll never know. I had imagined it would have made it better but looking back through reason I don’t see how. How any words, no matter how heroic, loving or true could have made the moments after any more enduring. Not many I can think of.

I’ve written of this before, one entry about your hardest moment however, is not enough. No matter the amount of words, it would never be enough. Is there a word for “don’t worry, you won’t die from grief although it seems you might” or are there words when said together form some kind of magic as to take away the pain? From what I know, no there is not. Nor will there ever ever be.

I know from words spoken in life that he loved us, that he cared and didn’t want us to hurt. But when he was gone I wanted to hear them again. I have letters, I have cards and they have many loving words on them. So much so that reading them can bring tears as they help me remember their meaning. But words on a page, on this page, don’t bring anyone back to life.

Grief; a great sorrow caused by a loss. It’s not grief if there was nothing to lose. It only hurts because I loved and lost. Finding love again is wonderful, and truly a gift I never expected. But receiving a new gift, a new love, does not take all the pain of losing the other. It comes some of the way but the echoes from the crevasse can still haunt at times. Images of his pain, of my pain, of my kids’ can still sound out from the deepest places.

I think I’m one of the lucky ones. I know I can still love him, and at the same time love again. I do find comfort from other words, often those from my faith. Words that seep love, comfort and wisdom I could never dream up. Words beyond who I am, and beyond who my husband was. They help me. Within them I find an understanding, not of what I have lost, but for the pain and sadness. I find comfort in that. Loss is loss though and sometimes it just bites.

Today I was bitten when reminded. But these words help, it’s my therapy. I cried so many tears that seemed empty, but somehow this here on this page does not seem quite so empty. Nothing fills the whole gap, I am wounded. But it helps.

“For I am persuaded beyond doubt that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers, Nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:38-39‬ ‭AMPC‬‬


Still Believing

I am speaking to my own heart today, I am telling it to listen carefully, don’t shut down heart, don’t tune out this time. I’m yet not sure it’s listening, but I’m giving it a go. It wants to shy away, to sit in the back, to not be noticed as it wonders why. Why?

Why?

A long time after grief began, I found a smile on my face and I felt a sigh. It was a deep, relief filled sigh that I had indeed found hope again. Stress and anxiety lifted slowly, gratefulness for this hope grew and a respect for life heightened.

But I forgot a very important fact… Life still goes on and it’s not all happy. It’s not always as it should be, grief returns, people get sick, and hard, hard days are still part of life. It’s as if there’s some arthritis from the wound, it’s healed, I can walk, but it left some decay behind. So when conditions aren’t right, I feel it again. Agony. Cancer shouldn’t be able to touch my loved ones again, but it does. The agony of losing should be a thing of the past, but it’s not. My heart should not have to feel this again, but that’s just not realistic. Life, the good and the bad still march on whether I am prepared for it or not.

But why? 

Is God still good?

Is He a carer of my soul?

Is He really all powerful?

Can I trust Him?

Does He really want the best for me?

Is He even listening?  

I’ve learnt to answer “Yes” and yes there is sickness and death and horrid things that should never happen. Yes it doesn’t seem fair (don’t even get me started on that one!). But I still believe it through pain and when it’s hard. Why?

Why?

It’s nothing to do with a survey, it’s not a feeling, but a discipline of belief I can be sure of. Doubt surfaces for sure, and many questions race around my brain but at the end of the day I know there’s a whisper inside that knows hope will still come around the corner. There is a “however” on the end of the sentence that invites my heart to know there is something more.

There is more to death than grief, there is an eternity spent pain free in a better place. There is another side to hard times as we pull together and unite around common concern. There is another side to loss if I choose it. I can choose to add new people, new family, new love…if I choose. It’s not what I imagined in the beginning but it’s still good if I choose it.

I know by now that there are many, many questions in life that cannot be answered, won’t be answered, I don’t like that. That those “why’s” are not answered how I would like them to be and some days are just plain hard. If I make my heart listen it might bleed. If I summon it out of the fog it will need to go through reality before it can see hope. I cannot hear the whisper if I ignore the reason for hearing it. I cannot feel the relief until I know the pain.

When I walk with a limp I protect my wound, my broken limb, my pain from the blows of the world. When my heart hurts I protect it too. I put on my brave face, I distract conversation away from the pain and I keep in the shallows away from the deep stirrings that probe too much. I still don’t like the pain. I’m still a person. So I’m trying “however” on the end of lifes’ sentences. However, the treatment might be good. However, we are loved. However, there is yet hope. I’m hoping God is there in the however, planted firmly in between the pain and the hope that lies beyond. I’m not looking for new answers to all the hard questions, I’m choosing to keep believing what I began believing before grief began.

I’m praying my and my loved ones hearts understand. Understand we are loved, understand we know it hurts and understand we are all in this together. I’m praying we hear the whispers of hope over the noise of the why’s.

I’m praying. 

Hope.

MI Rainbow blessings getty


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