Tuesday, March 31, 2015

On Grief


It's a tidal wave of emotions, a pool you can't seem to swim out of. You seem to have forgotten your life vest, and you do your best to just float.

Some days are good. You accept things, you realize why things are that way and the hurt is minimal. But other days...it hits you like a ton of bricks. It's so incredibly difficult and no matter what you do, you can't seem to get out of your funk. You question why repeatedly, and you just can't seem to understand. The hurt cuts so deep that you would do anything to get away from the pain.

I was watching Grey's Anatomy a few weeks ago they said a line about one of the characters who was undergoing a surgery and not expected to live.

"She's in my head, but I'm not ready for my head to be the only place where she exists." 

yeah, that. Do you think anyone is EVER ready for that? I can make a safe assumption here to say that in most cases, no. People aren't ready for that. I can think of all of the friends, family and co-workers of my dear Andi, and I can tell you in that instance? Beyond a shadow of a doubt, NO. Definitely not.

I've done a lot of reading lately, Bible devotionals, books, really anything. A few on the specific topic of grief and healthy grief. One thing that seems to come up repeatedly is that if you don't talk about it and deal with it from the beginning, it manifests in unhealthy ways and will continue to be a bother for years, even messing with your own personal health.

I read this particular exerpt in one of my Bible reading plans on YouVersion. It's called Deep Grief and is by Lysa TerKeurst:

Deep Grief

I stood at the side of a casket too small to accept. Pink roses were draped everywhere. And I watched my mom as she lay across the casket. Within that casket laid part of her heart, so quiet and so still. Her little girl was gone.

It was the type of loss that cuts a heart so viciously it forever defines you. A loss called "deep grief'.

I remember standing paralyzed at the funeral. Just days before we were doing everyday things; suddently it all stopped. People were everywhere. Soft chatter filled in the gaps of our stunned silence. Eventually people went back to their own lives, and we carried on with ours, bound in deep grief.

I desperately longed for God to fix things. To take away my bloodshot eyes. To take away my anger toward him. To take away my guilt for being the one that lived. I felt I didn't deserve to be happy, ever.

This is the reality of deep grief. Even when you love God and believe in his promises, healing takes time.

It takes wading through an ocean of tears.

It takes discovering one day that the sun still shines and it's okay to smile.

It takes prayer, and a decison to stop asking for answers and to start asking for perspective.

Then one day you take off the blanket of deep grief. You fold it neatly and tuck it away. You no longer hate or resist it. For underneath it, wondrous things have happened. Things that can only come about when Divine hope intersects with a broken world.

And finally you can see years stretching before you once again. You look up, blow a kiss, wipe a tear and find it's still possible to dance.

I just love how she worded this. It is so honest and true. Those are all of the initial feelings that one might feel, and it is just so hard to accept. She goes on to the part where she talks about taking off the blanket of deep grief. The first thing I noticed is that she didn't mention a time frame. Because, there is no time frame. It takes as long as it takes. You may wear that blanket for a LONG time. It may take a while before you feel comfortable without it. You get to a love/hate relationship with that blanket. It's almost like a security blanket, but at the same time it's not healthy. Because what grown adult takes their blanket with them everywhere? But that doesn't mean that it's a bad thing. In that moment, at that time, you do what you need to do to cope. To grieve. She gives hope, saying that eventually one day you will be able to step away from it. You won't have such a love/hate relationship with grief. The part where she mentioned that you will "see years stretching before you once again"? That part is SO comforting to read. When you lose a loved one, and especially unexpectedly, it seems like you can barely see until tomorrow. The thought of looking ahead is an impossible task. There is just no way to even think of seeing years ahead. It is just unfathomable.

It's good to know that one day it will be.

Even in the Bible, Jesus wept over the death of his dear friend, Lazarus.

It says in John 11:33-36; (we pick up where Jesus is speaking to Mary - who was the sister of Lazarus)

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. "Where have you laid him?" he asked. "Come and see, Lord," they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"

How beautiful is this scripture? Jesus wept right along with them. Jesus was not above the painful and crushing emotion. Jesus wept. And so can we. It's perfectly normal. God wants to hear your heart, and by letting it all out he can slowly begin the process of helping you heal. God weeps along side us as we grieve our loved ones. He feels our hurt and knows our pain. And when we start to heal, he can give us hope and comfort. We may begin to realize what a beautiful place our loved ones have reached. To have all the things the Lord can bless them with in heaven, and to be perfectly healed and well, and rejoicing in His greatness.

But for now, it's okay to cry. Its okay to hurt, to be mad and sad. To be homesick to join those loved ones in heaven. Because they are experiencing one of the most beautiful things that anyone has ever been given, and to join them one day in heaven will be a glorious meeting. Our time will come, but for now we must carry on their legacy here on earth. And what an honor it is, to have the chance to do that!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What you need to know about.... PTSD.


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

Most people don't know what that is, or the different levels of severity. I'm here to say that just about everyone out there has likely had some sort of experience with a traumatic event in their life. PTSD is all about those traumatic events and how we cope. Keep in mind, it can also be a reaction to a traumatic life stressor, and everyones stressors and how they handle them are different.

After my experience with Caysen, the last few weeks of pregnancy, the first few -- oh 10 months of his life -- I would say that I have a touch of PTSD. I always considered myself the opposite of a helicopter parent. I was laid back with Camden, letting him eat dirt based off the philosophy, "God made dirt, dirt don't hurt". I let him cry it out, a little bump on his head never hurt anyone, and once when he split his forehead open a little bit - I just super glued it together instead of rushing to ER.

Then Caysen came along, changed up my whole parenting style. Suddenly, I became a germ sanitizing freak, carrying a cart cover and hand sanitizer everywhere. I hover, and when he sniffles and I tend to worry about hospital stays, needing oxygen and watching for prolonged blue spells. Why? Because in the past when he tanked, it would happen so fast. And having watched your child fight for his life on more than one occasion, it tends to mark you.

Most of you all know that I work in the health field, specifically mental health. In all of my years of experience if I have learned anything, its that no one is spared from this area. Mental health is an interesting thing, really leaving no one untouched. PTSD from events can effect you and shape your future.

Life events can leave you scarred and scared. Scared to break down walls, to unnumb yourself, to share your feelings. They can leave you feeling isolated and alone, leaving you clammed up and in bed, not wanting to face the world.

People need to know that there is no shame in getting help when you need it. About talking about your stressors. Talking to friends, to counselors. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you can't do it alone. In fact, there is more strength in admitting you can't do it alone. That is admirable, admitting you need support and taking things in stride with your head up, determined to not let it win.

And most importantly, I hope people use this time to know that their one true helper and healer - is God. He's always on your side, he will never leave or forsake you. I read in a book about a golfer - and how they look to make shots. Do they focus on the trees they are trying to shoot through, or do they focus on the gap and what's beyond it? The gap. That. That's what we have to remember. Keep your eyes on him. Keep your eyes on the gap and what is beyond.

I have seen PTSD come in so many ways, shapes and forms. I have seen it attack loved ones in the form of sick family members or illnesses, to physical attacks, to a variety of emotional situations.

It can rear it's ugly head at any second. Caysen quits tolerating his feeds for two days and naturally I want to start getting jittery and analyze every waking move, take notes on every missed or vomited feed and try to figure what the root of the cause is. I tend to pray for fevers and diarrhea so I can chalk it up to a virus - and not something like poor heart function/heart failure. My life is so drastically different with child number 2, I never expected to pray for a virus to ease my mind.

This is just my own personal experience. But in my world, I have witnessed many different people battle PTSD and each battle is unique. Just remember, that you never know what someone is fighting. Be compassionate, live kindly. Encourage others. And when someone wants to open up to you to talk? Listen. Share. Encourage them to seek help however they may need. And remind them of their Heavenly Father who loves them so deeply, and so intensely and is the comforter to us all.

And finally - the why. Why does PTSD exist? I have no answers for you except that we live in a broken, broken world. And that is why our hope lies in Him.

Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." - John 13:7

The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yes I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. -Lamentations 3:19-23

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. -Luke 6:21

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Time Heals All Wounds...or Not.

Yesterday was tough. A month has passed, and Andi just seems so incredibly far. I don't want to be further away. The further away from that day we go, it almost seems to make it worse.

The saying goes, "Time heals all wounds".

That saying makes me wrinkle my nose in frustration. 

Why, you might ask? Simply because, the wounds remain. Eventually, like you would have with a real life wound, it will scab over and be covered with scar tissue but visible scarring remains. On top of that, you also have the emotional pain associated with the injury.

No matter how you are hurt, scars remain. Those scars remind us that the past is, indeed, incredibly real. 

Unfortunately, as time goes on from such a great loss, the pain remains fresh for those close. The wounds they bear seem to be cut that much deeper, wider and the injury is just so intensely and consistently present. To those that weren't as close, they seem to carry on without as much pain or hurt. It's as if their scars heal so much quicker, and those of us trying to slowly heal get left behind and forgotten about. We seem to sit behind stuck in a dimly lit hospital room attached to a wound vac because our non-healing and stubborn wound has left us hospital bound, unable to free ourselves from cords to get out to the fresh air and everyday routine. (sorry for the hospital reference there..)

The hard part about losing a loved one? The scars aren't visible to just a passer by. To co workers, to strangers, or even on a day by day basis. You can't know the injury by looking, there is no attached wound vac, no zipper scar, no visible chest tube scarring. When others look at me, they don't know the scars on my heart and soul, the pain of my loss, or that I have only acknowledged that loss no less than a hundred times already in the span of six hours upon waking for my day.

Sure, time will help to heal the wound of loss, but there will always be reminders. 

But at the same time, I almost don't want to heal. I want those reminders. I want them repeatedly, so that the legacy of my beautiful friend lives on. I don't want it to heal completely and be like our friendship never happened, our support of each other, our disagreements, and our amazing triumphs over difficulties and trials. I want to be marked, forever. People need to know what I knew about her as a person. They need to know how she changed lives. They need to know about her compassion for others, how genuine her love was for her patients and families, and the way she served others. They need to know how she saved lives. 

In the same way, I want to be sure that I live my life so it is known that I have been marked by Christ. I want reminders of his goodness, his grace, how he has walked me through the hard times and how I can prove it by my scars. People need to know Him. I need to share with others His goodness, His encompassing love that surrounds me and gives me peace when I feel like there is just no hope. They need to know how He changes lives, how He cares for us.  In the same way that Andi helped saved Caysen's life, others need to know He saves lives. They need to know that we get to see her again, because of Him. That she is safe and healthy and with those who went before her - because of Him. They need to know by His grace, we are saved through faith. They need to know that He saved her.

Wounds suck. Especially the slow healing ones. As time goes on, it seems as if others have forgotten, but I have not. I'm still deeply changed by the loss of Andi, and always will be.

Thankfully, God has given me new interactions to try to help me with healing. Friends and family of Andi's that are with me as we walk through this healing process. I will always speak of Andi and share about what she did for us. I will always try to live my life in the way she did, serving others and being so incredibly selfless. (I remember when she told me that she couldn't drive through a McDonalds without donating EVERY TIME to Ronald McDonald House because she knew how many people were served by those - including some of her very dear friends.) She spent more time thinking about others than herself. She always went the extra step, whether she had the time or energy for it, she did it anyway because she cared. She was dedicated to helping those in need - and the more I think about it, that is very Christ-like in itself. 

I want to be sure I live that way. Caring for others, devoted to them, and most importantly sharing the love of Christ. Andi is happy and healed and well in heaven, and we can all have that too! We all have that to look forward to. We have that because of God's deep love for us. All we have to do is accept it.

It's a place that is so beautifully perfect, we don't need time to heal wounds. We will already be healed. Perfectly. 

There will be no scars. 

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who has seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these things are trustworthy and true'". - Revelation 21: 4-5

“Listen to God with a broken heart. He is not only the doctor who mends it, but also the father who wipes away the tears.”