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Keeping Secrets Out Loud

I have a secret.

It is an image ingrained on my eyelids; with each blink I am reminded by the vision of her face. My skin is covered by the flesh of another, yet you cannot feel it. There is a stone in each lung; huge, blocking, rough edges beginning to wear smooth with each labored breath. And yet, I stand in front of you and smile sweetly. Nod my head accordingly. Pretend I hear the words you speak.

But inside, where your eyes cannot see, my seams are coming apart. The thread unraveling. I try so hard to break the thread off with my hands but it refuses to snap. I hold on tighter and tighter, fingers gripped white, shoulders aching because I cannot catch a break. I cannot rest. Or, rather, I cannot find the time to fall apart.

Grief - traumatic or not - has been described as waves in an ocean. Some days those waves are manageable, almost compellingly soothing. There is a comfort of sorts in the gentle lull of grief. Closing your eyes and remembering a smiling face feels like the warmth of the sun touching your cheek. Remembering a funny story or a tender moment can bring a smile laced with salted tears. It is in this calmness of grief that one can easily remember their faith, can easily draw strength in creating or doing something positive in honor of their lost loved one. You find you can tolerate the frigidness of the water because it only covers your ankles. While cold, it is manageable.

But then there are the moments and days when the grief is the dangerous waves that crush spirits and end lives. Breaking waves that collapse on top of themselves; swell waves that seem cruelly never ending, destructive plunging waves so powerful they drag token objects back into the unrelenting sea just because they can. Unpredictable rogue waves that seem to come out of nowhere are probably the most lethal: no one ever sees them coming.

Those days, when the battering of grief attempts to slam me against the rocks, burying my head well into the depths of the frozen, darkened sea, it takes every ounce of energy to raise my head above the surface to take a gulp of air. I just want to stop treading water. I just need someone to throw me a life vest so I can float for a minute and catch my breath. That's all.

I've tried to schedule my breakdowns. I know they're simmering beneath the surface. One doesn't mother a child for nine years and grieve only for six months. I realize fully and completely that this is just the beginning of my grief journey. I have gotten my course schedule and I'm headed off to pick up my books... but I've got an entire semester ahead of me. I need to figure out how to find my classes, how to negotiate new teachers. I have passages to read, assignments to complete and tests to take. And then I have another semester after that.

Immense Grief is not a quick and easy process.

Probably the most ironic thing that has happened - and I don't believe ironic is the proper word - is the not-so-subtle reminder that per employment policy we are only allowed 3 days off for funeral leave. Three days to bury a child and return to work as if nothing ever happened. Three days to makes sense of it all so you can focus on spreadsheets and staff meetings. Three days is not enough. I took seven.

Seven days is not enough.

I just want regular time periods to lay on the rocks. Silent or sobbing or pounding my fists against them, before I need to jump back into the ocean and give it another go. I need to remember this for when I win the lottery and create my own business: that per policy, my grieving employees will have rock time.

I'm not asking to be handed a free pass to shirk my responsibilities. I've proposed working four 10-hour days and taking Wednesdays off; a scheduled breakdown day, if you will. It hasn't worked out. I have enough strength for two days, then I seem to fall apart. Without being able to regroup, the rest of the week just gets awful. I get to work at 7:30 and leave at 5pm. Then I have to get Brody, make dinner, do household chores, attempt to effectively parent a now sibling-less child, give baths, brush teeth, read books, tuck in. And if I stay up late to grieve - to sob, to shake my fists at God and question why my daughter? Why was this part of the plan? Surely whatever you wanted me to learn I could have learned another way. Surely You could have made another way! - - if I stay awake until the birds stop singing and the train whistle blows and the only sound is the occassional siren, in order to feel the touch of God again, hear his gentle whisper, she is well; I will help you through this - - if I stay up all night to do my grieving then I am simply too exhausted the next day from lack of sleep to do any good. (Trust me. I've been doing that. It's not working.)

I believe that if I could just have Wednesday I would be able to glimpse the roadside sign offering a grieving respite. I would be able to hold out just a little bit longer until I get there. It's like when you have to go to the bathroom really, really bad and you look out your windshield and see blocks and blocks of warehouses; you convince yourself you're not going to make it, you'll explode and it will be awful, but the second you see the glow of that 7-11 up ahead you know that you're going to be okay. You'll get there. You will make it.

I'm just asking for a chance to try and make it.


Anna See said…
Oh Sweetie, I wish you Wednesdays. Wednesdays to cry and rest and rail. Love and Hugs, Anna
Meg McCormick said…
I am an HR person. And a mother. You make another case, as have many others, for why the "traditional five day, forty hour work week" just isn't always practical. I hope for many reasons that someday we will all look back and remark, how quaint it was when we all had to be In The same office at the same time every day. So old school.
Becca said…
I'll be thinking about you especially on Wednesdays. I cannot imagine how you have returned to normal life, but I am sorry that you didn't have more rock time.
Chiconky said…
I'll pray that something works out and you're able to find a way to get the time you need. And like Becca, I'll especially keep you in my thoughts on Wednesdays.
Nathan Sterken said…
Dear cuz,

I love you. With all my heart. Praying for words cuz you are right; you defenitely need a life jacket.

The ocean is brief. A grain of sand. From your spot in it, it is eternal. But it is still a grain of sand and our lives go by in the blink of an eye. Eternity will be forever. And this is why you must swim this horrific ocean, so you can spend that eternity with your Creator and children at your side, all rememberances of the cruel, cold ocean completely and utterly erased FOREVER.

I know these words do not seem tangible and soothing. But ponder and pray upon them. Beg Him for that faith, beg Him for the biggest, most giant, Spirit filled hug He ever gave, He will be more than happy to give it to you.

As far as why, I have been asking Him as I write. What I seem to hear is to consider His plan: it includes all 9 billion people on this planet. Consider the numbers of people that loved her, knew her, respected her and cherished her, that learned from her and will mourn her. Through her, He has altered every single individual's life and I pray that this event can be instrumental in every one of those individual's lives to bring them to die to self, to live in the Spirit and walk through the Narrow Gate into eternity, to be with Our Lord and Avery forevermore, in perfection.

Think of the great witness of her faith, of her testimony of such a God-filled lifestyle, openly confessed, proudly and happily, that she was a child of Yahweh, of Christ Jesus, the author of our salvation. Think of Judgement Day and the number of people accredited to her works, her fruits and her amazing eternal reward for a job well done.

That's what this place is about, what Christ was about. It's about reflecting the Light of our Creator in this dark and deserted place, for all to see, that some might come to that Light and be transformed by it, as your daughter was.

I believe one of the multitude of lessons He is showing you with this is His love, His awesomeness, His immensity, His greatness, His ways. The fact that the ocean is working so hard to defeat you is proof that your on the right track: the enemy doesn't try hard on the ones he has already conquered. Be strong in the Lord, beg Him for the rocks and He will bring them: He is the God of mercy, of grace, of love, compassion and most of all, the Comforter.

I love you with all of my heart. And one day, you will see the Beauty of His plan. Continue the war. You are dying to self. Though it is unbearable, it is wonderful in the long run. I know that sounds ludicrous now and I am so very sorry.

He has given you a remarkable talent of the command of language. Use it to glorify Him. Those are the rocks. Rejoice in affliction. Even faking it counts. Rejoice for the grief, the pain, the loss, the waves, the heartwrenching moments when your heart actually stops for a few seconds. Say, Oh, thank you Lord! for each moment. And the rocks will come. And you will see His glory.

He has great plans for you. The ripple from your daughter's faith has only begun. And every soul saved from her witness will be credited to her as fruits of her labor.

Rejoice, cousin, because help is on the way.

Be strong, never let go, keep your eyes fixed on Him.

Just as Moses raised up the staff in the desert, so the Son of Man has been lifted up that we might look to Him for our salvation. Love you sister.

May the peace of Jesus come upon you and be with you always,

Nathan Sterken
I read your next post before I read this one and so I say to you what you said to us in "A fish out of water." All you have is this very moment. It is the only thing you have any control over. When you feel thrown against a rock in the middle of the ocean, let the water take you. In that moment, choose not to fight it. Perhaps, the turbulent sea is fighting to take you to exactly where you are suppose to be.

It's hard as mothers to realize that we don't have to hold all the strings to life's balloon bouquet. When it's about to lift us off the ground, we tend to cling to every balloon feeling as if we can't let a single one go. But when we let go enough, we can share the balloons and I often find that people are happy to receive them.

Maybe that doesn't get us stumbling towards perfect. Maybe it more gets us crumbling towards OK.

I hope your job with work with you, take a balloon for you, to help you carry on.
Mary Easland said…
Bridget: love and hugs to you as you continue through your grief. I am so glad you are actually DOING it - I mean, you are letting the feelings be the feelings. Your love for Avery is so wonderful and real. I just want you to know how much I appreciate your expressions. Thanks for writing and sharing photos. Thanks for having a great sense of humor.

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