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Feelings; The Bane of my Existence

28 Sep

Counseling-theories“How do you feel about that?”, Ruth, my grief counselor asked.

Tears filled my eyes and choked my throat as I desperately tried to prevent them from falling, to prevent a sob from escaping, while my mind grappled for words to define my feelings.

For such a wordy person I find it ironic how completely inadequate I find words to be.

“It makes me sad, incredibly sad”, I choked out.

Sad? What kind of word is that? It’s so shallow, so tame, so far from describing the intense wave of emotion that swells and rolls over my heart, that sucks the air from my lungs, pinches every muscle in my neck and shoulders, and shoots quaking tremors through my body as I struggle to maintain control.

I can’t speak without control.

I realized after I left my counselor’s office that I rarely cry. In the two and a half plus years since Bethany and Katie died, since Gracen’s health was irrevocably changed, I’ve not shed the ocean of tears I would have imagined had someone told me how things would unfold for our family that fateful day.

My therapy sessions are pretty much the only place I cry.

My counselors are the only people who ask me how I feel about anything. I’m not sure if everyone else assumes they know how I feel (based upon how they think they’d feel in my place) or if they are too afraid of the answer to ask.

And conversationally people in general use deflective phrases when we describe our feelings. “I feel like . . .” or “I feel as if . . .” are frequent precursors to deflective phrases.

“I feel as if I’ve lost everything.”

“I feel like hitting something.”

Where are the adjectives that describe the actual feelings in those sentences?

That’s how I talk to people. Those phrases distance me from the descriptive words for emotions we are often told are inappropriate or just plain wrong. They allow me to talk about facts instead of feelings. I can expound upon the events that occurred, the facts, all day long without shedding a tear. But don’t expect me to directly address my feelings because I can’t do that without breaking down.

Society seems to think it’s wrong to say,

“I feel betrayed,

abandoned,

unloved,

unworthy,

inadequate,

enraged,

sad,

despondent,

discouraged,

defeated,

diminished,

detached,

numb”

and so on.

Every one of those words deemed inappropriate and negative are really just replacements for this simple two word sentence:

“I hurt.”

We like to toss out the phrase, “No pain, no gain.” in relation to exercise, but that short sentence is equally applicable to emotional healing. It’s helpful to be able to put your feelings into words because we have an inherent desire to be understood and for our feelings to be validated. But understanding and validation are not enough. We have to experience our emotional pain in order to vent it, process it and find our way past it.

onlygrieving                    

 

                     

We don’t heal—we aren’t restored to full emotional health—until we work our way through our painful emotions. We can’t ignore them, hide from them, bury them, rationalize them, or intellectualize them away. Those are all avoidance measures. Our hearts must heave and keen out our grief in order to heal.

 

 

                     

 

Counting it all joy is fine, as long as we don’t expect the grieving to skip the passage from the onset of the trial to the spiritual maturity and inner peace developed as a believer’s faith is tested and proven. Read the verses below and it’s pretty clear that the benefits of having one’s faith tested requires passage through a process:

 

“Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing.” ~ James 1:2-4 (Amplified Bible)

I told Ruth recently, “You know how everyone wants you to find the silver lining around every dark cloud? Well I can’t even find the outside borders of the cloud. Have you ever looked at a dark and stormy sky and the clouds just stretch out before you covering every bit of sky your eye can see? You can make a 360 degree turn and still all you see are dark clouds stretching across the sky. That’s what it’s like. Looking at my losses and the prognosis for Gracen’s disease is like looking up and seeing a single sheet of dark, stormy, roiling clouds. I can’t get far enough away to see where the storm clouds begin and end. How am I suppose to draw a silver lining around the negative circumstances of my life when I can’t find the borders?”

experience.png

 

 

Regardless, the ability to find the positive in adverse situations doesn’t make difficult circumstances easier to endure or work through. Brené Brown, in her book Rising Strong said,

 

 

“Experience and success don’t give you easy passage through the middle space of struggle. They only grant you a little grace, a grace that whispers, “This is part of the process. Stay the course.” Experience doesn’t create even a single spark of light in the darkness of the middle space. It only instills in you a little bit of faith in your ability to navigate the dark. The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens.”

Apparently, as a result of my most recent trials, I have become extremely adept at the art of numbing hurt. Distraction and avoidance maneuvers are ways people numb pain. To top off Brené Brown’s list of emotional numbing behaviors which include alcohol, drugs, food, sex, shopping, work and religion among others she adds:

“And just so we don’t miss it in this long list of all the ways we can numb ourselves, there’s always staying busy: living so hard and fast that the truths of our lives can’t catch up with us. We fill every ounce of white space with something so there’s no room or time for emotion to make itself known.”

I find it interesting that the practice of religion and staying busy are included in Brown’s list of numbing behaviors, because those are two things that I’m constantly encouraged to practice. Although to be fair, I do believe she is referring to over doing any of these things individually, or completely filling your days with a combination of these coping behaviors.

As she said above, “We fill every ounce of white space with something so there’s no room or time for emotion to make itself known.” This is what I do. I read. I sleep. I think. I even write about emotions in order to avoid actually experiencing them. This is what the late great C.S. Lewis said in A Grief Observed:

“Feelings, and feelings, and feelings. Let me try thinking instead. . . Do I hope that if feeling disguises itself as thought I shall feel less? . . . Aren’t all these notes the senseless writings of a man who won’t accept the fact that there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it?”

 

Maybe he [Lewis] tried to think and write his way around experiencing the emotions of grief too. Maybe his work, A Grief Observed, is the physical manifestation of his own efforts at numbing the pain.

brave_brokenhearted

 

 
I’ve been struggling for two and a half years to find a way to cope with the pain of death and degenerative disease. But maybe I’m doing little more than intellectualizing my grief as opposed to experiencing or feeling it.  Maybe I’m deceiving myself by thinking I’m confronting my feelings and circumstances in relation to God’s Word when really I’m just making myself a character in my own story as opposed to writing my story (see the manifesto on your left). Maybe I’m not “crafting love from heartbreak, compassion from shame, grace from disappointment [or] courage from failure.” Maybe I’m just chasing my tail instead of becoming one of the brave and brokenhearted and rising strong.
        

 

How does that make you feel?

Confused,

Scared,

Sad,

Ashamed,

Weak,

Weary,

And very, very broken.

Lost.

I’m still lost.

All those emotions, and many more, are shoved down and shuttled aside as I continue to struggle to find the courage to process my emotions. I need to find a way to experience my feelings or healing will continue to elude me.

If anyone has any sage advice to help me through my magical mystery tour of life, please share it. Otherwise, I think the book of Jude contains the answer in verses 20 & 21:

” . . . you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.”

And Jude tells us how we go about building each other up in verses 22 & 23:

“And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.”

 

 

 
14 Comments

Posted by on September 28, 2016 in Faith, Grief

 

Tags: , , ,

14 responses to “Feelings; The Bane of my Existence

  1. Melanie

    September 29, 2016 at 6:34 am

    No way through but through. No shortcuts, no matter how much we long for them. And this is where it gets messy, and where we want to leave off the work because it IS messy, and unpredictable and definitely seems never-ending. Thank you for honesty. Thank you for not smoothing over this awful experience so that it’s palatable to others. We do NO ONE a favor by pretending it’s easy. In fact, I think by propagating the lie that is can be easy, we make it that much harder for others. When their experience is that it is hard, nearly impossible, they think something is wrong with THEM. There’s nothing wrong with them. It IS HARD. Praying that you find the words and the strength to name and face the feelings.

    Liked by 2 people

     
    • Janet Boxx

      September 29, 2016 at 8:45 am

      Thank you, Melanie. I just hope I’m making progress! And, yes, hiding or while-washing grief does myself and others a disservice.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  2. Nancy

    September 29, 2016 at 7:30 am

    Exactly, almost. To the list of avoidance behaviors I would add exercise, cooking, not eating (me) over eating (my husband), traveling (anywhere but home). I remember hurting so bad ( I am getting used to living with emotional agony – I think that is the only healing available) and trying to explain to someone that I wasn’t talking about physical pain. That neither Motrin nor Aleve would help. Your posts help. I am sending you Hugs and Prayers.

    Liked by 1 person

     
    • Janet Boxx

      September 29, 2016 at 10:06 am

      Thank you, Nancy. I can add all those other avoidance measures to my list as well. I wish I could exchange over eating for not eating (purely a tongue-in-cheek response as I know there can be serious complication to failing to eat as well). I withdrawal so, traveling anywhere is stressful – distance travel is especially hard, in spite of the fact that the collision occurred 20 miles from our home. We’d been returning from visiting family out of state. Cooking, cleaning, etc., all enable my mind to wander wherever it will. So yes, I certainly understand.

      It’s funny how narrowly our culture defines suffering. Short of physical pain, it is not suffering. Instead it’s perceived as wallowing or having a pity party. But, we need only consider Christ in the Garden prior to his arrest and betrayal to understand that suffering includes mental and emotional anguish as well. Neither God the Father, nor Jesus Christ discount our emotional agony. They both understand it from an experiential perspective! Feel free to gently remind the naysayers of that.

      I would not wish you to remain in that state of agony forever. And I don’t think you have to either. I believe we will always live with the awareness that someone of great value is missing from our presence. That will always linger in our conscious and subconscious minds. Yet I also believe that God binds up and heals our wounds. We live with the scars, but the intense minute by minute pain recedes like waves hitting the shoreline. The tide will continue to rush in with birthdays, loss anniversaries, family gatherings and celebrations and other unanticipated events that trigger intense feelings of sorrow and loss. But the tide will then recede allowing you to catch your breath, to relish memories of living life together, to rest in the hope of reunion, and to enjoy the good things and people that still surround you. I experienced it after the death of my son 24 years ago. I know it can happen for me again as the Holy Spirit does His work in my heart. And He can work that miracle (could any loss parent describe it as anything else?) in your heart.

      May God bless you Nancy as you and those you love grieve. I think healthy grieving involves wrestling well with God. As much as it is in your power to do so, ignore those who are blessedly ignorant and foolishly judgmental. Wrestle well with God. Don’t exclude Him from the process. Contend with Him! He is strong and loving and faithful and He grieves with you and for your broken heart. He doesn’t condemn you for your anger and sorrow, instead He pulls up a chair and sits with you through it longing to draw you into His arms and comfort you. One day, I hope you find yourself there, in His waiting arms, sobbing out your anguish and frustration and when the tears and shuddering gasps of sorrow release you, I hope you will find your heart to be safe in His care. That’s my hope for you, my hope for myself, and my hope for all the brokenhearted believers who are struggling to put one foot in front of the other.

      Thank you for taking time to read my blog and especially for the encouragement you’ve extended to me. I appreciate it far more than feeble words can possibly communicate.

      Love and hugs, Nancy. You are not alone!

      Like

       
      • Nancy

        September 29, 2016 at 10:35 am

        Thank you. I needed you today.

        Liked by 1 person

         
      • Janet Boxx

        September 29, 2016 at 10:40 am

        Glad I could be there for you!

        Like

         
  3. Anne

    September 29, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Oh my dear dear friend , thank you for your expressing your honest feelings. There is no easy way through your journey. I thank you dor this outpouring of your heart. Love you

    Liked by 1 person

     
  4. Tammy

    October 2, 2016 at 8:17 am

    Thank you so much for your beautiful writing and honest analysis of this awful brand of grief. I am 379 days into this unwanted journey of living without my son, and all I can offer is this: getting up, showing up, choosing to live after such a loss is victory. I know I can load up on pills or alcohol, or I could stay in my bed day and night. There would be no disputing that grief had driven me to self-destruction and I would be excused. But God, the weaver of my soul, gives me reasons to put one foot in front of the other and soldier on. I look at my husband (who works, works, works to keep from thinking and feeling too much) and my three earthly children who need me to live as hard as I can, and I know I have to find a way to want to keep breathing. I know you do the same for your husband and Gracen. I do not presume that I will ever overcome this grief or experience complete healing. In my mind I am living wounded, handicapped of sorts. I am limited but not useless. And sisters like you inspire me to carry on, so thank you.

    Like

     
    • Janet Boxx

      October 2, 2016 at 9:22 pm

      Thank you for your kind words, Tammy. I’ve met a lot of bereaved parents over the years and I think we all get by for a very long time just putting one foot in front of the other. Our spouses and living children need us and we need them. How we need them! And you are right, every day we get up and show up is a victory. I think I will choose to think of each new day as a great big ‘In your face!’ to the enemy of our souls. What Satan meant to defeat and destroy us has backfired. It hasn’t destroyed our faith so much as it has caused us to wrestle with the Lord contending for our faith. We are looking for His promises, our misunderstandings and misinterpretations, because we desperately need Him to be all He claims to be. Our questioning is clinging is disguise when the Word of God is our source.

      Like

       
      • Tammy

        October 4, 2016 at 7:28 am

        Oh, the wrestling and the clinging! Maybe that is why my body aches all over and I am always tired. Thank you so much for sharing your fight with all of us. I will continue to pray for you.

        Liked by 1 person

         
      • Janet Boxx

        October 4, 2016 at 3:00 pm

        Tammy,

        Come to find out my fatigue wasn’t all grief related but I had become very anemic as well. A CBC,Igbo be a good idea! (This from Dr. Know Nothing). Take it with a grain of salt and a sense of humor!

        Like

         

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