Stillness

Anxiety plus despair is a dangerous combination.  

Anxiety whispers questions and distress in my ear.

Why isn’t God with me anymore?  Did he take Samuel away on purpose?  Is this punishment?  Can I regain his favor or has he turned his back on me forever?  Is he good, or am I learning something new and frightening about God that I would rather not know?  I don’t like who I’ve become.  How will I find my footing again?  I might be unstable like this forever.  I can’t feel safe anymore. Is God going to take the rest of my family away too?

Despair slips in, making a comfortable home in the questions.

My sadness is so heavy, it’s overwhelming for the people around us.  It’s too much to expect anyone to walk this with me.  I’m so angry I’m going to hurt everyone around me anyway.  There is no end to this grief, no relief.  My memories of Samuel will stay painful. I can’t get to a place where those memories also bring me joy.  It’s not worth trying, because there is no way out. Nothing will change. I am forever trapped in a sinking ship, terrified of drowning, feeling like I’m going under, desperate to either be rescued or die, but neither happens.  I just keep sinking.

Despair shows me the ugly, unavoidable future, and anxiety tells me to rush the process so I don’t have to experience every painful moment of it.  Back away from friendships. Leave God, move on.  Give in to this new fearful person I am. Trying only leads to disappointment and more heartache.  Trying leads to more pain.

It’s a rising panic.  I will do anything to make the hurting slow down, even a little bit.  

Hush…  Be still…

It’s not much, but I need to wait.  Wait for what?  I don’t know.  Maybe that part doesn’t matter as much as it seems to.

There might not be any answers.  Just be still…

Rushing decisions can make things worse.  Hurts might be forgiven, but the damage can’t always be undone.  

Breathe.  Slow down.  Be still…

I won’t be able to hear with all of this chaos in my head.

Peace…  Be still.

Jerks on the Road

Some of my worst moments come when I’m driving.  My tears flow freely in the car.  And on the road is where I’ve been confronted with some blatant ugliness in others.  It’s where my anger is more volatile, harder to control.  I’m not fearful every time I drive, but I suspect some of this is trauma-related.

This morning we were sitting in standing traffic.  Not moving at all.  I decided to take a back road, and had to cross over a lane of traffic to make the turn I wanted.  There was space, and as I started to merge over I made eye contact with the driver that I was cutting in front of–he was sitting at a complete stop.  I was indicating to him that I was going to cross all the way over and be out of his way.  When he noticed what I was doing he threw up his hands in exasperation and I saw his mouth shout what my ears couldn’t hear… “What the hell?!!”  I was wronging him by needing to cross in front of him.

I pulled in front of him anyway.  And then on to the next lane, and made my turn.  Shaking.  Tears pouring down my face.  Hurt, angry.  Why are people so unkind?  I don’t understand.

I watched a pickup truck speed up behind another car, tailing with only 5ish feet between them.  Going 65mph.  I watched a driver having an argument on her phone as she drove behind me.  I wanted to scream at them all that my child is dead, that these things might seem harmless, but it’s not worth the risk.  To plead with them to be courteous and pay attention.

Most of the time I can control my temper when the kids are in the car.  When I’m by myself, it’s harder to stay calm.  Someone drives too close, or comes behind me too fast, and I’m left shaking and crying from either fear or fury.  I’ve shouted and cursed at cars that race past me.  I’ve screamed so hard that my throat hurts for the rest of the day.  I wish there was something practical to hit in the car, because I want to pound on something, and the steering wheel isn’t quite solid enough for that.  I weep, the flood of tears blinding my eyes.  It’s not safe, but it happens often.

So many times in the last 7 months I’ve stepped back and watched myself, and wondered what in the world has happened to me.  All of this is out of character.  I’m like the explosive neighbor you wish would move out of the next-door apartment. I’m lost and I don’t like the fragile and unstable excuse of a person that’s replaced me.

Fighting for Control

I’m far enough into this that I know it’s real. Samuel is not coming back and we cannot change what’s happened. But I still find myself resisting it. As if fighting against it will somehow reduce the consequences or the pain.

It does for a little.

I still want control.

Apparently the control I had over my life was a delusion, but it was a comfortable one. It gave me security. Looking back I realize it was a shaky security. I must have known, deep inside, that it was pretense, otherwise why would I have been afraid? I worked diligently to keep my family safe, but still worried about something bad happening. I’d tell the kids things like, “don’t play at the top of the stairs” and “don’t jump on the top bunk, you could fall and break your neck.” Through proactive mothering I tried to increase my control and ensure the safety of my family.

I also used faith to protect our lives. I knew that God didn’t protect us from all bad things, but I still prayed that way. Keep us safe, guard us from this or that calamity, heal our illnesses, bring peace to our stressful situations. Maybe God would protect us from most bad things, even if he didn’t protect us from all of them. And when those moderate bad things came, it was simple to trust God. Food allergies, celiac disease, complete overhaul of how we cook and eat…a burden for sure, but God is sovereign, and we trust him. The stress of raising young children, including one with some attachment issues…God is in control and will give us what we need. Even when the tree fell on our house and destroyed half of it, we praised God for protecting us and were eager to see his faithfulness. The whole top half of our house was rebuilt and remodeled and paid for by insurance. See, it was really a blessing in disguise. I had faith. “All things work together for the good of those who love him…” God was in control, so I felt in control.

I’ve lost that now.

God might still be in control, but he has absolutely and completely taken the last little bit of control away from me. And yet I keep trying to get it back by not giving in. This is not something I can accept, and I don’t want to find the silver lining. It isn’t fair that Samuel died. He won’t grow up, fall in love, have kids. He won’t even graduate from kindergarten. Not even that. And it’s so wrong I can’t stand it.

My life is all wrong now too. I don’t want to be a grieving mother. I don’t want to go to a grief group. I don’t want to be one of them. I don’t want to be sad and disheveled or for anyone to see that my house is becoming a cluttered mess. I know it’s normal in my situation, and that’s the problem. I don’t want to get flustered and red-eyed when someone asks how many kids I have, and I don’t want to be the woman, 20 years from now, that blurts out to strangers something about having a kid in heaven. I am so tired of crying. I’m tired of being so tired. This is not my life. I reject it all. I want control back.

I’m like a child, refusing to get in the car. I’m going to kick and scream as I’m dragged to the car and snapped into my car seat. And even as we drive down the road, I’m glaring, arms crossed, furious, refusing to go. I’m aware that it’s futile. I can’t stop.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

I didn’t expect it, but this afternoon I met “one of them.” I met another mother who lost a child. Her son died years ago, when he was 26. Today this mother was laying on her couch, recovering from knee surgery. She didn’t spill out the story of her son in an awkward way. She told me to let me know that she’s on the same road, she understands. And she seemed lovely to me, with a beautiful heart. She spoke with joy and contentment. I didn’t want to leave. It gave me a piece of hope.