19 Feb 2016
Last weekend I was driving down a stretch of I-81 in Virginia, it was pretty and quiet and I was several hours into a 15-hour drive.
It was a nice and quiet respite of solitude after several very social weeks. Until, suddenly, a tangle of grief and anger rose up in my gut. Tears started leaking from my eyes and a whole lotta curse words started spewing from my mouth.
My first thought was: Still?? Still this grief after 13.5 years? Jesus Effing Christ. (Apologies to those with a Christian bent. No disrespect intended to the Jesus man.).
My next thought was: Why do people leave me when I need them most?
Well, hello, little painful, unhelpful belief. Where have you been hiding?
It’s an old painful belief that has lain quietly in my brain and heart for many years now. It’s not hard to find the origin of it. The day I found out I was pregnant, my fiancé was in a car accident and taken off life support two days later. He never knew about our daughter and, obviously, he couldn’t be there with me when she also died months later.
Although rationally I know that he didn’t have much of a say in the matter, when I needed him most, he left. So did my daughter.
Emotion isn’t rational. Emotion and these kinds of sneaky hidden beliefs aren’t logical or made of common sense. They are born out of hurt and pain when, for a variety of reasons, we don’t have the skills or capacity to process that particular hurt and pain.
A similar hurt and pain had come up again recently in a situation with a friend, and unbeknownst to me at the time, so had this painful belief that people leave me when I need them most. It was a belief I’d spent the last month or so desperately avoiding with unconscious busyness, social time, and a whole lot of mental distraction.
Looking back it explains a lot. No wonder my sleep has been crap. 😉
Then came a quiet, solo, no-distractions road trip. And I couldn’t avoid it anymore. This old belief arose, triggering old and new pain, and came unavoidably spewing out my eyes and mouth.
And honestly, while it hurt, pulling that thorn of a belief out of my heart after so many years has been a relief these past few days.
Because as soon as I was aware of it, as soon as I stopped running from it, it no longer had power over me. I could see it. I could see how it poked it’s thorny head into my relationships to wreak havoc.
And, now, because I could see it, I could let it go. I could take back my power over it and prevent the damage to my relationships.
Now, I could finally also see all the times and ways I am always supported. I could see the ways that family and friends, and even strangers, have been there for me when I needed them most. Sometimes that isn’t always in the way I want or expect, but most of the time, when I need someone, someone is there.
When I let them.
When I can let them because I don’t have this painful hidden belief stirring up some rather impressive self-sabotage.
And, finally, I can be there for me when I need me most. Because that’s what I need the most – me to be on my side. Me to be there for me.
So, my question for you is this: What are you avoiding? What painful beliefs might be lurking around your brain?
And perhaps more importantly, are you fully on your own side? Are you being there for you?
Something to ponder.
28 Aug 2014
I used to whisper her name to myself over and over again. “Grace. Grace. My Grace. Grace.” Her name was a lifeline that I desperately clung to through the waves of grief and pain and rage and sorrow that swamped me.
Her name was my manta. Grace. Her name carried me through months and years of silence and grief.
See, Grace was my daughter. Her father, my fiancé, died in a car accident before he even knew that I was pregnant and having her grow inside me was the light and hope that I held onto during those first heartbroken, grief-stricken months after his death.
Then Grace died too. Drifted away for no explainable reason to be born still and silent.
I was not unfamiliar with grief or death or even the death of babies. Despite my youth (I was still in college), I’d experienced the deaths of loved ones and friends and family. I knew that one of my aunts had had a daughter who was stillborn, though no one ever talked about that baby.
Nothing, nothing prepared me for the unfathomable pain of losing my partner and our child just months apart. It was like falling into an abyss so dark and black and deep I couldn’t imagine ever finding my way out. I lost myself in it.
I silenced myself as my daughter was silenced by death. To the world around me, I appeared as your average college student, though perhaps somewhat depressed and aloof. Inside, there was just her name repeated over and over and over to carry me through the dark caverns of grief.
Grace. Grace. Grace.
It took me more than 6 years to speak her name out loud to another person. Six years to share her life with another and to break my own silence. After her father died, I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone I was pregnant when I couldn’t tell the one person I wanted to – the man who was supposed to raise her and love her with me. I hid my pregnancy, and then I hid her death and my grief.
Saying Grace’s name to myself, helped me survive through years of grief and depression and pain. Saying her name out loud to someone else and breaking my silence, well, that helped me come alive again.
The truth is I wallowed in my grief and my silence for far too long. I clung to it, because I told myself it was the only way to hold onto my daughter. It was all I had left of her. I believed that if I let her go, let myself crawl out of that dark abyss, it would mean she would disappear and it would be like she never existed.
When I broke my silence and loosened my grip on my grief, I discovered that I could never truly lose Grace. Her body died and she never drew a breath in this world. I will never know the sound of her cry or her laughter or her voice. I will never see her grow and play and learn. I will always wonder who she might have been in this world.
But she, the beautiful bright light that lived in me, will never die.
Bodies, even those of babies, die. Love, though, love never dies. I still say her name at least once a day – sometimes just to myself and sometimes to others. It’s a sound of love now, a sound that brings me peace and joy and so much love.
So Grace lives, and I finally, truly live again too, because love never dies.