Journeying through grief and loss has often rendered me silent. I have surrendered my heart more times than I care to count. A few months back when my blog crashed I didn’t give up writing. Instead, I found other outlets (below) while I waited, with the hope of restoration. Then, my website crashed. Then, my computer hard-drive got corrupted. The idea of restoration began to feel crushingly hopeless. I surrender! Grief wash over me!
Years’ worth of photos, documents, and ideas suddenly gone. I know what you’re thinking: you had a back-up, right? Salvaging may land in the 50th percentile, with 50 lost and 50 not so lost after all. This was a hard lesson; there are more to come, I am sure. As I sift through remaining files, I am hit with waves of new loss. It is as if a fire swept through without leaving ash in its wake. I thought my outstretched arms might touch the sky as my knees hit the ground. I called out to God. The situation had shed light on deeper losses aching for a voice in my heart.
I have a habit of praying for God to turn the mirror around when I need to see something more clearly, especially when my heart needs cleansing. Well, He did it again. The reality is, I can get back some of those “things” by tapping the digital places where I have shared. Aha! The cyber world has its blessings, besides the memories I can count on for the time being.
My mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s illuminated quite another perspective. My pity-party stopped right there in its tracks. I was hit square in the face with remnants of my parents’ 63-year love story; including five children, nine grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. There is no salvaging what’s been lost for her – Alzheimer’s has stolen it. The data is inaccessible. Her mind has become unequivocally corrupted. It has rendered her mostly silent and unaware of these losses (perhaps a blessing in disguise there). My eyes filled with tears again, for those forgotten and for the mother who has already left me in so many ways.
The heart of Anticipatory grief had just hit the child tucked inside of me. It is common among caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s disease, terminal cancer, and other fatal conditions. It had caught me completely off-guard. I felt embarrassed for grieving and grasping for mere things. Yet, I couldn’t discount this opportunity sadness had given me. I was completely vulnerable and present before God. I cannot put words to that feeling. I was overdue to be this tender to myself.
I am doing my best to give grief space to breathe (click to attend the workshop) – an empowering concept duly noted by my friend Mike Good. Layers of loss and grief had obviously parked in my heart despite processing and wellness checks. So, I began to delve deeper. Then … I found my father on the floor in his apartment, on Christmas Day.
I arrived to pick dad up for outpatient infusion treatment to fight a bone infection. That fall turned the “fight” in a whole other direction, throwing holiday festivities to the curb. Two hospital stays and a rehab attempt later – on the same unit I had just been with Team Martina teammates loving on cancer patients – my dad entered a fight for restoration. A myriad of complications, near depleted platelets and the loss of his dominant arm, all while giving thanks for spontaneous healing of the bone in his foot. Bittersweet moments are evolving. He is resting and rehabilitating, parked beside my mother, under the same roof after two long years apart. Life has a way of bringing us full circle.
They say, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” Don’t believe it. I say, “God does give you more than you can handle.” Otherwise what need would you have for Him, or others? When life becomes too hard to stand kneel. Margaret Feinberg describes it well. “Prayer is an altar for surrender, a place we go to hand everything over to God.” I must admit, however, such surrender does not come easy.
The method – the means to that end if you will – comes from without. Each time I surrender my heart, I am reminded of those who are also hurting and those who carry burdens greater than mine. God gives me an opportunity to heal by doing something for someone else. I am convinced, you always come out more blessed than you went in. Giving grief space to breathe clarifies where I should be rather than where I want to be.
My husband and I are shifting from caring for my parents to more caring about my parents. There is love in holding on … and there is love in letting go. Three years of building an “army of helps” without being cognizant it would lead us to surrender, before death. “By my hands not yours,” resonated in my heart two years ago when I prayed in placing my mother in long-term care after her fall; it is resonating again. I must put my trust in God and others. Don’t mistake what I am saying. We will still rally, advocate, and love them through it until they meet heaven’s gates. Yet, this “surrender” shift shook the core of me. I bet those cancer patients we visited before Christmas share similar emotion.
Compassion is a muscle that must be exercised. That kind of muscle is also at the core of letting go. In taking the opportunity to be still and tender to myself it has given me permission to pause, and let go where necessary. Give of your time, energy and love – but be sure to reserve some for yourself too. Surrender; let grief wash over you; welcome the empowering space to breathe and let go.
A little side note: I am sculpting an article for The Anti-Cancer Club about the “5 C’s of crisis.” I figure I can share some good points in that arena. Here are a few others I have released into cyberspace lately –
What Are We Doing Today to Prepare Tomorrow’s Caregivers?
(contributions at mariashriver.com)
Healing the Heart of Cancer
(contributions at The Anti-Cancer Club.com)
The Gift of Healing Through the Music of Christmas
(contributions at Medium.com)