Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Acquainted with grief . . .

Thorns by's what Isaiah says about the suffering servant, whom Christians recognize as Jesus (Isa 53:3).

But grief is a companion that I for one do not want to be acquainted with. I don't like pain. I don't know anyone who does. But sometimes the only way to true freedom is to let down our defenses and make ourselves vulnerable to the very pain we are trying so desperately to avoid.

I'm not advocating masochism, nor am I advocating toleration of abuse. But what I am talking about is grief. Suffering the loss of something.

Why do I bring this up? Because God had brought it up in my life. Fifteen years ago last month my ex-wife moved out - actually it was the day the first Gulf War started in 1991. Our marriage officially ended about a year and a half later, but I still carry the scars of that. I think part of the reason is I never really grieved the loss.

And losses are funny things - they are like interest on a credit card, if you don't deal with them, they compound. That often leads - as it did in my life - to behaviors that make things worse - addictive, self-destructive behaviors.

And that is part of the price. But people don't want to hear about your grief. I don't know why. Maybe it's because they have bad things that happen in their own lives, and talking to someone else about their struggles just reminds them of their own pain. Or maybe they are lying - to themselves and to others. But I have had enough lies. It's time to get at the truth.

I remember feeling like I couldn't grieve the loss of my first marriage when it happened because I was caught in such a whirlwind of things going on. For one thing I nearly lost my job because my performance went in the toilet. I also had to move out of the house we had been renting, and I had expenses associated with that.

I also stopped going to church. I felt ashamed to be there because if someone had asked me where or how my wife was, I would have told them "we are separated; she moved out." Then, of course, you get the stammering speech, the eyes that look for the closest exit, the clammy hand on your shoulder in a feint of comfort, and some platitude like "well, I'm sorry to hear that; I'll pray for you." And WHWHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOSHHH like a ghost, they're gone.

So what did I do with it - the pain? Medicate it! Alcohol, food, cigarettes, sex, running up the credit card bill, anything that I could to distract myself. But the pain came back. So now, I am confronted with it.


But this time, thank God, I have a therapeutic environment where I can handle this crap and come out on the other side.

I love roses - I love to smell them, to look at them, to marvel at their colors. Cornelia and I went to Biltmore Mansion in Asheville, North Carolina last year and saw some of the most beautiful roses I have ever seen. I also remember how the sundial in front of Moorehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill has roses of all kinds around it.

But there is a funny thing about roses: they only bloom on new growth. So that means all the old dead stuff has to be chopped off every autumn so the new growth - and the flowers - can come forth in the spring. So in a way I am like that rose bush - I have to have the old coping mechanisms and old resentments chopped off my life in order that the new growth can come forth.

1 comment:

Cheryl said...

Just wanted to let you know.....hey, I've been where you are. And I want to tell you that the walk through that pain and grief is horrible. But it's absolutely amazing when you come out on the other side. Remember, above all, you are loved.