This is a heavy post. Fair warning. If it gets too deep or troubling, merely click on out and go search for a fluffy blog topic. No hard feelings. My long-time blogging friends know that I have a helpful spirit. Sometimes, I succeed. Other times, my efforts fall flat. It’s like target practicing. Hits and misses.
If there is only one hit out there in blogland with this post, then my mission is accomplished…
It’s no secret that I am broken. Broken in heart. Broken in spirit. And I have been struggling to put the pieces back together. Some pieces stick when I glue them back. Some fall off, taunting me, and shattering some more. This chapter of my life values
stubbornness tenacity as a virtue!
When one loves deeply, they allow themselves to be vulnerable. Open to pain and sorrow. However, one is also open to supreme joy. To understand the depth of my sorrow is to understand the depth of my love and devotion to my sweetie and best friend in the world, Mr. Jim.
I created this photographic self-portrait on June 10, 2014. It tells the story in no uncertain terms. I was in the grips of confronting a shattered reality. Jim had already resumed a brutal chemotherapy regime to battle his metastasized pancreatic cancer. Two days later, exactly one year ago today, I was rushing him to the hospital emergency room because he developed his first case of sepsis. It was one of several times that I thought he might die on the way to get medical help. (Jim did not accept the notion that ambulances were an acceptable mode of transportation.)
We were sharing moments of sheer terror while the rest of the world revolved, as usual, and carried on with everyday life. Friends kept their distance during our times of anguish. There were no relatives. I took care of him. I stayed by his side. I gave him my all. It was a journey that we both shared. There were times of abundant grace. Most of the emotional burdens that I shouldered during Jim’s illness were borne in silence. Those sorrows linger, many frightful and heartbreaking moments replaying in my head. I will be carrying them to my grave. If there is such a thing of PTSD for caregiver widows of cancer victims, I’ve got it.
It is now all part of my life story. I deeply wish that it wasn’t, but it is. And I accept it. I’m forever changed by the events of the past two years. And it’s been difficult to translate them into a positive light. But there is one recent gift that I have received, in answer to a prayer. I’ve gained some needed insight and clarity.
You see, I have been so very puzzled why so many people we knew backed away. It happened as soon as they found out that Jim was sick. And it continues on to this day, as I adjust to a singular life. Emotional invalidation runs rampant. Abandonment is also a popular response. The overall strategy is to ignore the elephant in the room in hopes that it will go away.
The hard truth is that we simply don’t know what we don’t know. We don’t have good points of reference for relating to somebody else’s pain. Each journey is unique. It should be acknowledged as such, but rarely is. And, I willingly raise my hand and admit to numerous mistakes in the past when confronted with brokenness of grief. Guilty. No doubt about it.
There comes a time when we will all experience grief from the passing of a loved one. The only ones who will be spared such trauma will be those poor souls who refuse to love someone more than themselves.
So why is it difficult for us to provide meaningful comfort in the midst of someone else’s heartache and brokenness?
I think the answer is because we are also broken. We allow our own sense of vulnerability to get in the way. Physical and emotional distance makes us feel safer. There is an imaginary line that separates a tidy life from a messy one. It’s far easier to utter empty platitudes than to actually listen, acknowledge, and respect the broken experience that another has endured. It’s not easy to seek to understand. And in this world of instant gratification, the easy way usually wins out.
A person who is uninvolved in your life and intends to stay that way says: “let me know if you ever need anything.” A person who actually has compassion and cares about you as an individual says: “what exactly can I do for you at this moment?” There is a huge difference. One offer is empty. The other is not. The nuance is glaringly obvious to the grieving individual.
I was dismayed and dumbfounded that only two people (beside me, of course) had the courage to say goodbye to Jim before he passed away. They thanked him for being in their lives. What a beautiful, priceless gift they gave him!
Why did the rest stay silent when they had an opportunity? Was it because they had brokenness that could not or would not be surpassed? Did they miss the chance because they didn't keep in touch?
Now we get to the hard questions of self-inquiry. Feel free take an intermission or else click out of this post permanently. Only you, your computer, and God will know.
If you ever have a God-given opportunity to say goodbye to someone who touched your life and thank them, will you seize it? Will you recognize that it is a gift for you as much as it is for them?
If you have a chance to comfort someone who is broken with grief, will you push past your own brokenness and go out of your way to show compassion? Will you show up at times of chaos and crisis, or will you retreat into the comfort of your own world? Will you listen? And, will you bite your tongue until it bleeds before uttering meaningless platitudes and problem solving suggestions?
If you have been grief-stricken and on the receiving end of transgressions, will you forgive people? Will you pray for their understanding and a healing of their brokenness?
Whew. Maybe a temporary intermission might be a good idea while all of that is pondered…
After walking my own personal path, I can clearly identify those who demonstrate love in action. They have the courage and conviction to not allow their own brokenness to be in control. These revelations will help me be a better person. I am also more equipped to guard myself against toxic relationships where brokenness has not been addressed. I am learning hard, but necessary, lessons.
God puts others in our lives for a reason. I can only hope and pray that my story can diminish someone else’s emotional pain, somewhere along their life path.
May God bless you...