Thursday, October 18, 2012

Really hurting.

"I didn't think it would end this way."
"End? No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path, one we must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it."
"What, Gandalf? See what?"
"White shores - and beyond - a far green country under a swift sunrise."
"Well that isn't so bad."
"No. No, it isn't."
-Pippin and Gandalf
in JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Return of the King movie


I have grown up around grief.
I have grown up around death.
The fear of pain and emotions.
The constant and constricting battle between self pride and the deep need to express emotions.
Death has been a part of my life.
It is never easy.

Some of my most present memories consist of attending funerals.
Friends. Relatives. Family. Grandparents. Family of close friends.
Church family. Children. Pets.

When I was twelve I witnessed a dear church friend die in front of me.
When I was thirteen, my closest grandparents died 2 months apart from one another.
One year later I began work at a small-town animal hospital. Death was a part of my job. Our clinic was fortunate to have a crematorium on site, a luxury in the veterinary world... but this also meant we consistently had bodies and ashes in the back areas of the clinic. I learned what death looked like. What it smelled like. What it sounded like - for the dying individual and the surrounding persons. I remember whispering silent prayers to myself as I circled the back kennels while hot tears streamed down my swollen cheeks. Hoping for justice, mercy, love, and compassion... but mostly for life. I would spend the rest of my time at work fighting to hold back tears for the requirements of "the job."
When I was fifteen my violin teacher and orchestra conductor was rolled out of a concert on a stretcher... she passed away a few weeks later. I cried at every one of my future auditions when asked about my past teachers. I can't open my violin case without thinking of her; wishing she could have seen my college music career, wishing to tell her about my successes at music camp, and learn dramatic and moody German concertos with her.
When I was 16 we put down my 5-year-old Golden Retriever - and best friend. I left the room. The look on his face as I left the room is burned into my memory like a venomous sting. I will never do that again. I realize pets are just animals - but we put them under our wing, make them trust us for all their needs so that they truly become our companions... but when their need is an expensive health bill for "just an animal" we dismiss it with hardly a tearful glance because we are afraid... afraid to feel, to have a heartfelt emotion for the very creature God created to give us unconditional love and affection when we need it most.
A few weeks ago my new family lost a dear loved one. Kyle's aunt lost her battle with cancer. My heart burns for her dedicated husband and three beautiful, talented, and amazing daughters she left behind.
Around the same time, I learned that one of my dear high school students, whom I personally helped and encouraged on a daily basis for months of my student teaching experience died in a car accident - at 18.

I started losing count of funeral attendance when I was 16... after I'd been to well over a dozen.

They were all the same:
Muted colors
Soft music
Familiar faces
Home-cooked food
Chilled air
Dewey grass
Sweet memories
Soft breezes
Hushed voices
Emotional stories
Rushed laughs
Withheld emotions

Being that I was around death so much I had become familiar with the stages of grief. I could see myself go through them. Be it years, months, weeks, days, hours, or minutes. I knew where I was. I learned what it would take for me to move on.
I would rush it.
I would avoid it.
I would go through one and move on to the next only to take three steps backwards and start all over again.


I deal with my pain through music, dancing, warm beverages, kitty snuggles, staring aimlessly outside -or at anything, long hot showers, absorbing myself into aimless television and movie watching, cooking and baking, cleaning and organizing.
But it just dulls it.
Numbs me to the brutal truth that I am really hurting.

Part of this, I believe, is because I'm afraid
to allow myself to feel....
to love....
to have emotional pain...
to consciously provide a way of healing.

I have been told I am a fool for crying.
I have been told I never loved.
I have been told I never cared.
I have been told there was no option.
I have been told that I am ridiculous for getting emotional.

How can we expect anyone to heal if we constantly tell one another (and ourselves) not to care so much? Isn't part of grieving because we do care so much?

The need to heal is different for everyone.
Vastly different.
Some let it right out.
Others keep it hushed and quiet.
Still others are so lost in their pain that they cover it and avoid it at all costs.
Learning to grieve with different people, different friends, different family members has been a journey. A journey that I am continuing on. It is never the same. It is never easy. It is a challenge, but one that cannot be taken lightly or rushed. People are different, but they are all the same: Human. With human needs and desires to love and be loved - people who fear their own pain and emotions.

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to 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. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from the perturbations of love is Hell."
- CS Lewis

"People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that's [crap]. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they're afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they're wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a [tangible object]. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It's all in how you carry it. That's what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you're letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain."
- Jim Morrison

Express your fear. Your love. Your pain. Don't hold it in...

"Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it."
- JK Rowling

"And as he spoke he no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read; which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before."
- CS Lewis, The Last Battle

I honestly don 't have any profound concluding thoughts, which is why this post has been so long in the finalization stage... I know death really isn't the end. Especially for those who know Jesus and follow him. I don't want to end on a cheesy note, and I definitely don't want to come off as Christianese, or super orthodox, because that's not who I am, nor what I represent. All I know is that there is hope. Amid all our grief, all our pain, all our suffering. There is a better world coming, something - someONE - who really has our best in mind. Reasons to not give up are super hard to see, and super hard to understand at times; but simply the lack of ability to see or understand affords no reason to keep fighting, keep living, and keep loving.


  1. Grief... strangely, has become my friend in life. I know that it is healthy and I recognize that most people in our culture are uncomfortable with it. I don't know why exactly they're uncomfortable, I guess there's a pretense we live under in America that says "everyone needs to put on a happy face" even if it's fake. People say things to "help you get over" your grief, not realizing that that's not how it works. I've been to countless funerals over the years and I've lost 3 babies, 2 of my best friends and my own dear mother. these were the most acute griefs I've been through (am still going through)But grief is my friend. I love the phrase "good grief" in place of @!%*. It calms me slightly reminding me that grief is indeed good for me (of any kind) I do wish that we were taught to "mourn with those who mourn" like other cultures have been taught and not just try to get people to get over it. the words "I'm Sorry" even-with nothing else added, would be so much more sufficient than, "It's supposed to be this way" or "It's really common for that to happen", or the one that really spikes my blood pressure: "cheer up" These are sometimes meant in sincerity, but really they're just platitudes and when we are grieving they feel like someone's just slapped you (or make you want to do the slapping). Sympathy has it's place, but most people just don't know what true sympathy or mutual grief looks like. It's unfortunate. It seems to make the sting worse. I have learned over the years that people don't mean to make me feel that way no matter what phrase they offer. I've learned that when I am hurting I simply respond with a silent nod or a thank you. and turn to Jesus for my comfort, because even my husband can't feel my pain, he can only sympathize right... Jesus knows my pain and He desires that I go to him with it. But as in other things... I think of that verse that says He gives sleep to his beloved (or something like that) I think He gives grief to His beloved as well.

  2. I just came across that post when i logged into blogger to find something (which I never do)and I know the post was older, but just thought I'd respond anyway :)