Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stages of Grief

There are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Take careful note that they are not numbered. There is a very good reason for that. Grief, like so many other things in our life, does not ask permission to disrupt our normal routines. It comes in like a shadow, surrounds us, and the pulls the carpet out from under our feet. Or so it seems.
I'm not sure which stage I hit first. I might petition for a sixth stage to be entered: shock. This was possibly the first emotion. It's that incredible second that feels like hours between the question (Please tell me you are joking? Not him?!?) and the answer you are so dreading but somehow know to be true (Yes. It's true. No, I'm not joking. I know. I can't believe it either.). The shock was short lived that first day and I transitioned (quickly) into anger. The whole ride to school I yelled at God. And I mean I really yelled! I "explained" things to God, told Him the way I thought things should have gone, questioned why others succeeded where I failed/ lost where I won. How was any of it fair?

Tuesday night was full of tears and comforting. What stage is that, huh? There is no name for the full out mourning we had that night. People I didn't know clung to me as sobs wracked their body. Could they feel extra tremors (mine) through the hugs and soothing pats? Friends held me close as exhaustion and dehydration set it along with utter sadness as the tears came afresh and my body started to shake. There were moments of calm, when we all took a breath and were verbally comforted by a member of the pastoral staff. Then, another wave of grief hit one person. It was like a ripple effect, slowly touching every one until we were in another group hug, soothing backs, patting heads, wiping tears, comforting teenagers like they were children. And I'm not pointing fingers at an age group; it was hard to tell where child, teen or adult stopped, so widespread was our grief.

Wednesday was bargaining day. As I watched his best friend realize all over again that his life would never be the same, I wondered if I could have done something more. If I could have done anything. Not even "more," but did I do enough? Would I ever know? Maybe I did. But if I didn't? This whole week brought back my insecurities, my failings, my pain, my depression. It seemed like he was free of that suffering now, right? For about 10 seconds, I really believed it worked. But a youth leader, with tears streaming down her face, forced me to look at her and this is what she told me: "Don't EVER think that! Do you hear me? Look around you--does it look like the pain and suffering was avoided? " No. There was pain and suffering all around me. Could I have done more? Maybe. But I know I did what I was meant to do. I didn't realize it all then. But I think I do now.

I woke up Thursday morning with at least twenty people on my heart and mind. As I'm texting them all, telling them how much they are loved an appreciated, the anger set in. Well, technically it set in after I got to class late and found they had finished early and I had to wait two hours for work. The class bit I was okay with; the sitting for hours by myself, not so much. But anyway, I'm helping people through their grief, just being there for them, and I'm so angry I could spit. (Isn't that from
Little House on the Prairie? I forget.) I won't type the words I thought or names I called him. They were not Christian. All I saw was the suffering. And I was angry at him for leaving us to deal with it. Later that night, I was babysitting and my darling girl started to cry. Usually the hip-shake-sway thing works well, but last week I tried singing to her and so I thought I'd give it another go. I opened my mouth and spoke two words and stopped. I couldn't sing. I burst out crying, upset for my loss, upset that I felt it so keenly that I lost my joy to sing. So sprinkle some depression on top of that anger, and that was the day.
Then it came. The end to a very long week. Celebration of Life, we called it. Celebrate we did. I was finally able to sing, which was a gift given at the right moment. But we also mourned. I say "we" like I was in every bit. I wasn't. Friday felt off, but it was almost like every other day. Why were my eyes puffy? Why did I feel it was a crime to laugh? And then, I would remember. And it would hurt. A member of the pastoral staff used this illustration:
"think of [it] as being immersed in a 10,000 piece jig-saw puzzle. There is no box top picture to go by, and each piece of the puzzle has razor sharp edges. They’re (the youth group/young adults/ anyone involved) trying to piece the thing together and make sense of it while they are grieving,but every piece will punish and hurt them. " Yes, those razor sharp edges. I knew them well. But today, the day of "celebration," they were dulled. And it almost felt wrong. And when the service was over, what then? We turned around and had punch and cake. Told stories. Laughed. Was this allowed? Could it be allowed?
By Sunday, I had been to the church 5 days, 6 if you included Sunday, over the course of a week. My car could very well find it's way to the church by itself, and to my gas tank, this was not a happy thought. I attended the early service. I hardly ever do that. I sang. My voice was weak, my throat scratchy, but I sang. I saw through the service, listening to our pastor tell us that Jesus does care. He's in the boat with us, he knows the struggle and he cares. But all I heard was "the events of last week," "the tragic loss of a brother." And it felt wrong. It felt wrong to talk about the life that had been lost. It was almost as if talking about it in the past, somehow made it in the past, instead of so very near to the front of my mind. Almost like I should be happy it was "in the past." What a place to be, the past. Hidden behind moth-ball smelling quilts with holes in it. I wasn't ready to put it in the past. Not yet.
I walked through the next day in a fog. A haze. I could function, but my mind kept questioning: could I have done more? I know the answer. I really do. But sometimes I doubt myself. And until I can trust what I know God wants me to know, I don't think I will fully reach acceptance. It still feels like he might walk around the corner and make a face at me. Almost.
Anger, bargaining, depression, denial, acceptance. They don't all happen at once, and they don't happen in order. The repeat of one particular emotion (denial, and perhaps depression, in my case) throws you off. It's a nice guide to follow, to remind yourself your crazy emotional roller coaster does have validation. But what do you do when the immediacy wears off?
So now I hug people tighter, kiss them when I can, tell them how valuable they are and how much I really do love them. Then I look them in the eye and say, "Don't forget. But when you do, come back and tell me you forget. And I will tell you how much I love you until you can't forget again."
And I think, that is what Grace is. That is what Holy Week is all about. Jesus says, "I love you. But when you forget, look to the cross. It's my way of making sure you never forget how much I love you."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

my grief observed

"No one ever told me grief so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep swallowing.
At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. "
~A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis~

Grief. It's the moment of disbelief and, as Lewis points out, something close to fear. It's the moment where you think, "Dear God, it can't be true." The moment when your mind goes utterly, completely and totally blank. It's the half second between acceptance and rejection, when you pray the news you heard is a really, really bad joke because you'd rather forgive someone of their morbidity than actually have to believe the devastating news. It's the moment between breaths, after you gasp in shock and then exhale in a scream. It's moment when time stops. And you pray like hell it never starts again.
But it does. And then you realize those agonizing moments that felt like eternity were mere seconds. The real pain is only just about to begin.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

satan's favourite lie

It's one thing to learn something new from a sermon. For example, did you know that even the Christian's who bear fruit still get "pruned"? Yeah, I didn't know that and yes, it's in the Bible(John 15:2). But it's another ball of wax when your sin is called out by name.
"You say you are busy...but you really aren't as busy as you say/think you are."


I've been wrestling with this for a while now and I've been meaning to post on this. But satan keeps telling me how busy I am and how much time I don't have. And you know what? It works. He keeps using it because it works. I call it his favourite lie to me. He knows it will get me and cripple me into in-action. And that started to bother me. Satan knows me well enough to have a 'favourite' lie for me? He knows me well enough that he knows which buttons to push, which ones work best/better than others? Freaky thought. More freaky is the fact that he keeps using it over and over again. They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result; satan is not insane. He knows what works...but he won't get away with it for much longer.
Hearing it, out loud, from the pulpit was a huge deal for me. It's one thing to realize it in the car driving along, but something else entirely to hear it from someone else.

It's raining today and I have loads to do: laundry, paper stuff, homework stuff, cleaning stuff plus a car-ride to pick up lil sis (!!). I don't mind the rain though. It feels right. It rained in the beginning of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and look what fantastic adventures happened! I'm going to go make tea and be about my business. Lucy found the wardrobe easily enough, but was caught off guard by finding another world. I hope to be prepared, should this happen to me today.
Enjoy today...even & especially if it is raining where you are!

(ps. I sometimes read "Stuff Christians Like" blog. This caught my eye as the grammar freak that I am. " a lowercase s on the word satan is commonly known as “the middle finger of grammar.” I feel like we should make t-shirts or something...or something super hardcore, like start a grammarian biker gang. Well, maybe not so much on the last idea...)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Self-Centered & God-Centered

The sun was out again today! It sure did wonders for my attitude. I won't even go into it now, but yesterday was a crappy day. Start to almost finish, poo. I got mad at my "every day is a good day" friend and let him know about it. (Don't worry...I'm not still mad!) Whine whine whine whine. Basically, that's what I did all day. (I can't believe I still have friends!) Anyway, I got a swift kick in the pants at bible study last night. "May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart bless your name, bless your name, Jesus." That is the song we sang and let me tell you...that was NOT what was in my heart. So I sat and thought about my day and the words I knew I needed to say. I didn't completely understand everything until I hit my "Experiencing God" stuff this morning. I did work on the "wrong section," but it sure wasn't useless. I was looking at circumstances in the Bible where people were more self-centered than God-centered. When they were self-centered, things ended poorly for them. The people who were centered on God and his way knew enough to trust God's plan, even if they weren't 100% sure they believed it or understood it. What really got me though was what God said to the people he called. God was talking to Gideon, who was hiding from the Midianites. Gideon said, God if you are really with us, why is all this stuff happening? Where are the miracles, like the ones you did back in Egypt? "The LORD said to him, 'Go in this your strength...Have I not sent you? (Judges 6.14). Wow. Gideon knew the Lord's past, but was hesitant to trust His plan. God doesn't work on past or present, though. He doesn't talk about the great miracles He performed. No. He says, I sent you! This is what you are meant to do!
In the New Testament, people are still unsure of their call. In Acts 9, Saul/Paul is receiving his call on the road to Damascus. What I found most interesting in this passage is not the conversion, but the fact that God had a plan before Saul even planned his trip. The Lord is speaking to Ananias: Go, for he [Saul] is a chosen instrument of Mine. Chosen? He was just called! Yeah, but that means God had it in His plan always.
These people were experiencing their own self-centered moments. God came along and told them, Hey! This isn't about your safety or your plans, but about mine. To some, that is controlling and a loss of will. For me, I say Thank God! If my life is God-centered, that means I am not responsible for the events in my day, can't control them or change the outcome on my own. My day yesterday? In God's book, it went exactly the way it was meant to go. I didn't like it. So what? It isn't my job to control the day.
So I guess every day is still a good day. But you know, I've left out an important piece of the puzzle. Every day is a good day because God is in it, He has ordained it, I am alive to see it and to fulfill a purpose in it. Every day isn't a great day, but God is in every day and that is what makes them good.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Spring Break (aka Catch Up week)

This week is Spring Break. Sunday night I planned out what I would work on each day. Some days, I even planned things at a specific time! Not the Laura you all know, right? Yeah, well, I think God laughed a little at my plan too. It's okay, because everything worked out in the end. Like my pastor said this Sunday while talking about the supernatural peace that Jesus brings: everything works out in the end. If it hasn't worked out yet, it's not the end!
I've been working on Convention things (which reminds me, I need to finish reading/SparkNote-ing Billy Bud), though that hasn't been my main focus. I've been working on class stuff, and thesis/research paper stuff. I probably didn't get everything done that I wanted to, but I'm pretty happy with what I have achieved. School work stuff? A clue-no. I cleaned my room.

After you've all picked yourselves up off the floor...let me just say, I know. It's been a long time coming. I've been meaning to do it all week (for weeks) but I never made time for it. I think the motivation was simply a desire to NOT do homework. Whatever it was, it worked. I'm even impressed with me.
Actually, that might not have been the only motivation for it. I've had a pretty interesting week that's got me thinking about being a parent. (Don't worry--I'm not dropping hints or 'trying' to tell you anything.) I was 'super babysitter' (not 'super' coz I'm a great babysitter, but because I spent the night so it was a 'super' long job.) last weekend for some dear friends of mine. The whole family was home, I was just providing a break for the parents. So I put on my babysitting hat and read books until my throat was dry and I got tired of reading. I helped with meals and cleaning up the kitchen. We baked cookies and cup cakes, then decorated said cup cakes. (Overheard whilst getting ready to bake, one sister to the other: You look so pretty in your apron!) We watched "Little House on the Prairie" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." It was the best weekend. Coming home, I couldn't help but imagine what a full time job of mothering would look like. Surely it wasn't as simple as a babysitting job, but how much harder was it? I got a bit more of an answer when I went back midweek for a little extra help around the house. I was greeted by the girls with the most excited "Miss Laura!" you ever will hear. That's when I got to thinking the parenting thing might not be so bad. As I helped clean the house, I saw that (obviously) mothering was more than a full time job. It's cleaning up the house, cleaning up toys, putting things back the way they are meant to be, doing laundry, etc. I started wondering where being a woman figured in to/ with being a mother and a wife. I'm sure I will find that later, but for now, Parenting (yes, it gets a capital--it's a big deal) is one of those "it takes two" jobs that I'm just not ready for.
This view was further confirmed when I started my new babysitting job yesterday. I will be watching a 4 month old one night a week. Everything went really well! I'll be the first to admit I was a little surprised. It's been a while since I've been around a baby like that, let alone since I've been in charge of someone that small. There was one small crying fit, but I remedied it by a clean diaper. (I knew it had to be food or diaper. I used my deductive reasoning skills that since she had just been fed, it was probably the latter. Go me.) Relieved is the wrong word to use to describe how I felt when her daddy came home, but it might not be too far off. It was a good first day...but today, I miss holding her in my arms. It feels odd not to have her there, since I held her most of the time I was with her.
Maybe this is all crazy talk. All you Parents reading this are probably laughing. But I can't quite figure it out: what makes a parent? What makes a good parent? There doesn't seem to be a test to take (or pass) or a book to use to study. How do you know if you are doing it right? Mostly, I'm a romantic, but here I am a realist. Tell me how it works. Show me what to do.
I have the sinking feeling that Parenting doesn't work like that.

Well, anyway, back to researching. I left the two longest articles for last. That was smart. Maybe I can figure out what makes portals to magical worlds important. Or maybe I'll figure out that I need to do more research...