Breathe. Just breathe. The ocean waves are rolling, the sky dark and stormy, the wind loud, with just a hint of refreshing cold to it. This is what connects with my inside right now, I thought. Crashing waves, heavy pressure, incessant rolling and crashing...
There's an excitement in your eyes, butt your shoulders are heavy, He commented. You carry more than you let on, don't you?
Yes, I do carry more than I seem to let on.
Why do I have these surges of anxiety, I asked my counsellor. Why do I always feel like my head is going to explode, like I have to hold it in my hands and put pressure on my temples to keep it from caving in or erupting like a volcano? What's wrong with me?
My counsellor gently admonished me, You don't know how to behave as a young widow. You don't know what to expect of yourself. Stop trying to take care of others. Stop trying to be Lynn. Just Be. Care for your girls as they need it and then just be. Become an observer, not a participant, in social activity while you discover how to be, and what to do, and who you are as just you.
I have had to realize many discouraging yet practical truths in the last few weeks.
1. I am nearing the end of the first year, and see that I've only just begun this journey. The first year is like a warm up. It's about surviving shock and trauma. The real grief work comes after... the reality.
2. When I get a lot of visitors, I tend to default back into old patterns, habits, and expectations that were a apart of my "old normal", that bring huge upsurges of stress and anxiety... I have to be okay with so much less... I have to change my thinking from saving the world, global justice, always ministering to others to take care of myself and my children, sit and be, heal and let God renew my mind.
3. When I get a break and want desperately to disengage and sit in front of a movie or something, I'm not doing anything inherently bad, but it often leaves me more desperate than before. Everything is permissible but everything is not beneficial (1 Cor 6:12. 10:23). I have to commit to hard grief work during my breaks and make hard but wise choices toward what is constructive and beneficial for my healing and growth.
4. The psychological effects of shock and trauma are monstrous. It takes an incredible amount of mental energy to cope through one day. Some days, it takes everything I can muster just to be aware of the present world around me...
The shock of grief seems to put in motion all these inner spinning wheels. When a life is cut off so suddenly, there are so many things left unfinished and the brain keeps circling them, over and over and over and over again... Every detail of our marriage relationship, our family, our ministry, my worldview, understanding of life, ministry, family, relationships, money, etc... All of it is left spinning, circling around and around... The old patterns are not satisfied by this new environment. Nothing in my new world brings comfort and relief, closure or peace of mind to these spinning wheels... It's like I have to intentionally go back into each one of those thoughts, patterns, and behaviours, be able to acknowledge the truths, the dysfunctions in them, the lies... and let the Holy Spirit renew my mind, revolutionize my thinking in all of these topics with new perspective and new understanding, if I want to have any peace...
I am so tired. I have no idea how I've survived these last ten and a half months. How does any widow survive?? I had posed this question to my friend Eleanor, and she had said, No one knows. We just do. A widow doesn't know what to do or how to be. And I want to say to those around us, it's ok that you don't know, but please don't expect the bereaved to know either, or to be able to effectively communicate his/her needs. I have wanted so many times to say to various people, I, as the bereaved, am not suddenly an expert on grief to be able to inform you exactly what you should do or say or expect. It's ok that you don't know, but how could I know? In shock and trauma, how am I supposed to be the one who knows???
I am discouraged looking at all the grief work that still lies ahead of me, that there is no rule book or practical guide, how much I'm still trying to cope with my reality, how hard it is to face myself when the girls are gone... Was I so unhealthily wrapped up in my husband's life that this is harder than it should be? Should I have been more independent, more separate from him, so I'd be more capable of making this horrendous transition to widowhood? And why must I persist in asking stupid questions like that??? :)
My counsellor recognizes unhealthy patterns in our life before Lynn died. She asked, Do you think those patterns and false messages are spilling over into now? The obvious answer was yes. It's hard to think critically about our dysfunctions and be willing to form new patterns on my own... Hard, but terribly necessary.
Grrrr. I hate this.