My Grief Experienced

It’s been six months since Will and I left our school and home behind to move into a new life and a new home. Marriage has been wonderful and life has been hard. Both of us bear the scars of rejection. Both of us wonder when it will happen next.

In January, I suffered a collapse due to stress and a damaged, over-worked brain. Will and I spent the next month surviving and consulting concussion experts. Recovery has been slow but steady. I’ve crossed a bucket-list item off and discovered a talent for pottery. A ladies’ Bible study occupies some of my time. Will is in a new job and gearing up for a new master’s degree. It seems as though we’re drifting in a calm harbor.

Meanwhile, I have been inundated with God’s mercy and gentle tugging towards healing—emotional and spiritual. This week he is inviting me to grieve my losses. It makes me laugh, albeit sardonically. I’ve lost so much, where should I start? And if I do, will I ever stop?

Nevertheless, loss after loss has come to mind. And somehow, God is holding back my walls as I truly feel what I no longer have. Today was a difficult loss. Possibly the worst I’ve faced. I lost my health, which is difficult enough, but it cost me something precious. Several years ago, I discovered a love for martial arts. I practiced constantly, nearly lived at the dojo, and dedicated myself to it.

I excelled. I flourished. There is nothing else that I have ever experienced that gives me such a sense of life and purpose. It was as though I was made to kick, strike, throw, parry, and grapple. I felt the presence of God as I moved through forms of strikes, blocks, and throws. Stepping onto the mat was a haven—from the world, my struggles, and spiritual estrangement. I was home. I was in His presence. And I was the person He created me to be.

Now it’s all gone. With so many concussions and injuries, I don’t know if I will ever be able to find a safe dojo where I can train consistently. I will never be able to compete. And I will never be able to teach. I have to be extremely careful of how I train and with whom. One misplaced strike, one wrong fall and I will have another concussion. My brain can’t sustain another one.

The most heart-breaking question I have is why God would let me discover such life if He was just going to take it away? Is He punishing me?

Most will think I’m overdramatic or that I should be focusing on the miracle that my brain still functions at all. To focus on the short time I got to experience such life and freedom. To recognize the gift of being able to stand and walk, much less kick. Eventually perspective will win. I will see God’s hand or I’ll just trust it’s for and not against me. But right now, I’m grieving my loss—no more and no less, not my sister’s or a stranger’s, but mine. No one has to understand. No one has to care. Because God does.

The Mountain’s Shadow

It’s frightening, really, how easily we stuff trauma under our proverbial mattresses, put on a smile, and move on with life. Even the darkest, most difficult experiences we have ever experienced can be whittled down into a “phase” that we went through. How terrifying.

Will and I obviously had a difficult summer. We are reminded of it almost every day, since we are newly relocated, working jobs that just pay the bills, and cut off from our family and friends of the past three years. Our struggles this summer are never too far from our minds.

But, since we’re trying to avoid being pariahs here in our new place, we have watered down our story, focusing on the high points and explaining away inconsistencies with vague references to illness and “bad experiences.” Will and I don’t like editing the truth. But what choice have we had? I left my teaching job in October for my fiancé. My fiancé is a teacher as well. Why did we relocate since it obviously wasn’t job-related?

So far we’ve been able to tell two people the truth in our new home. And one was a psychologist. Will is seeking counseling for the first time, hoping to deal with the trauma he has sustained from years of life and bipolar. I went with him to his first appointment, so the psychologist could grasp the context of our relationship as well as the story of the summer.

As we shared our story, anxiety constricted my chest and tears filled my eyes. I was sad and silent (truly a miraculous occurrence) for several hours. The trauma was overwhelming. The hurt and confusion, fear and anger, uncertainty and stubbornness. As we left the appointment, Will noticed my distress and as we discussed it, he suggested that I also begin counseling. Fear and anxiety spiked even higher.

We are newly married—happily married. What if we discover some deep, horrible issue that takes years to overcome? I know dealing with issues is crucial to having a healthy, functioning life, but I also know that psychology often unearths mountains of pain and trauma before it can level the ground again. My mother spent decades faithfully chipping away at her mountain. I respect her courage and determination. But, if I’m honest, I don’t want the challenge.

Suffering has been a constant theme in my life for the last few months. Everywhere I look, whether in the Bible, sermons, books, articles, life in general, suffering is discussed, dissected, and lived. The last two weeks have been downright depressing as I have dealt with a new round of therapy to recover from my multiple concussions and a recent car accident. Will’s support has encouraged and strengthened me but many days, all I want to do is curl up in bed and pretend the world no longer exists.

That is simply therapy for my body. What will therapy for my soul and psyche uncover? I’m afraid. For me and for Will. But I want to be like my mother. I want to possess the strength and perseverance to get out of bed each morning, bless the Lord for life, and confront my suffering. I don’t want to wait for trauma to sneak up on me and debilitate me with its unexpectedness. I want to be healthy for Will and for myself. I want Will to be healthy for Will and for me. I want to experience true, soul-level freedom and peace.