The thing about grief . . . Part 1
There was a momentary pause in my writings in December. I had originally intended to write one more blog in “The Long Road Home” series. Then came December 14, 2012. At our house it was Clo’s 8th birthday, but for the rest of the world it will be remembered as the day that beautiful souls entered into heaven as a result of the Newtown tragedy.
Around lunchtime, I learned of a school shooting via text message. Thankfully, I didn’t learn any real details until well into the evening. For my birthday girl’s sake, I am glad that I didn’t. The first thing I learned was parents were waiting at a local fire hall waiting for word about their sweet babies.
Those words were all it took to push a button on a trap door in my living room floor that led to an avalanche of grief. No matter how tightly I gripped and clawed to the edge of reality, I was sucked into a vortex of emotions. Instantaneously, I was transported back to the night of my darkest nightmare when I was the last mom left in the school’s Media Center on February 19, 2008 – waiting, waiting, prayerfully waiting to find out where Reed was.
I collapsed into the nearest chair and sobbed. I bawled for Reed, (and for Jesse, Emilee, and Hunter), for the dreams gone, for the children lost at Newtown, but mostly my heart ached for those parents still awaiting word. This is one cup that I desperately wished had passed me, but sadly, I knew what is was like to walk in those parents shoes.
That trap door to my emotions spiraled out of control. For days I was locked inside an emotional coma. I didn’t eat, sleep, or do anything well. If I caught a glimpse on television or internet, I sank deeper into the bottomless pit of grief. Caught in the rip current and frantically swimming parallel to the shore of my life, I wasn’t getting out of it. Inevitably, I unplugged – literally and figuratively.
Eventually, I did have to reconnect, and when I did I discovered several e-mails affirming that I wasn’t going crazy. All were from trusted grief professionals providing comfort with the same message. When challenged with something as senseless as losing a child in an unforeseen way, the brain tends to fracture all the emotions at the time of tragedy, hiding them in the deepest, darkest recesses of gray matter. It is a coping mechanism. All seems fine and then, (WHAM!), out of nowhere a switch flips – which is like your brain playing a colossal game of Hide-N-Seek – finding that splintered memory.
The messages were soothing, yes, helping me to find my footing again. But for the record, I hate that my brain still has slivers that I am inevitably going to encounter someday. I hate that for someone who usually remains composed and logical, that grief, at times, is bigger than rational thinking and even normal body rhythms. Disheartened, I know there will always be another tragedy, because after all this isn’t heaven.
During the deepest part of my emotional coma, my husband found me one day – crying and rocking, rocking and crying. I spoke about how I wanted to rush out to Connecticut just to rock and cry with the parents who babies hands they no longer held. I blathered on about the why and the how, when his gentle hand rested on my own. In his own grief, he pleaded with me to stop trying to make sense of the senseless.
That’s when it really penetrated my heart (and my brain) that the place I needed to be wasn’t relying on myself or standing on my feet. The place of healing was on my knees, asking God to fill up the hurt places in my heart and soul as well as in the hearts of anyone else, anywhere in the world, touched by tragedy. Slowly over the coming days, the fog lifted, and I swam out of that rip current of dark grief. Battle worn and weary, I knew that my prayers were answered. I still don’t like my battle scars proclaiming “how I got here”, but I know my journey has created in me a new heart – one that honestly knows that I – without God – wouldn’t have survived any of it.