Let’s Stop Pretending It Doesn’t Hurt: Dealing With the Loss of a Loved One

I was hurting. Most people couldn’t tell. I worked a lot and took care of my one year old son.  Who could know?

But inside, I was in a dark place. The pain was so great at times that it would take my breath away. Just the thought of my younger brother could send me into a panic attack. Anything that reminded me of him would send my mind spiraling and the pain would shoot through my entire body. Driving through town, I could turn a corner and remember being on that street with Johnny when we were young and the memory would suck the breath right from my chest. The radio would play a song and I would have to fight back tears as I quickly changed the station. Even the good times were hard to remember – and the bad times…well, there are just no words for the depth of my pain.  I missed him so much that anger and grief seemed like constant – and unwelcome – companions.

I carried on though. I awoke early and took my son to his babysitter. I worked late so I could only spend a precious hour or so with my son before he fell asleep. Day in and day out. Working. Caring for my son. Hiding the pain the lurked in my mind and jumped out at any given opportunity to taunt me. It tortured me with his memory. It terrorized me with his death.

One day, I was speaking with the mother of a friend and I finally confessed.  I was hoping to find some comfort and understanding. I was exhausted from the incessant pain.

“I’m not doing very well.” I said quietly.

“With what?” She asked.

“With Johnny’s suicide. I’m hurting a lot and it’s just … overwhelming at times.” I answered trying to hold back my tears.

“I’m not doing well at all.” I managed to say before the tears started to fall. The pain was so great that it was hard for me to admit out loud.

Her reply stopped me cold. “Really? You should be over that by now. It’s been six months. Something must be wrong with you if you’re still grieving over his death. You must not be giving it to God. Why are you holding onto grief?  You really need to get over that already.”

My mind was racing and my thoughts screamed. WHAT? How will I EVER be okay? My brother killed himself! My baby brother is GONE and I can’t do anything about it! How can SIX MONTHS be long enough to get over losing your brother? Or anyone?

But I didn’t say anything. I stammered a bit, but now in addition to the pain of his loss I had to deal with the idea that something was wrong with me.

Was something wrong with me? Should I be moving on with life as usual just six months after losing my brother?

I know the answers now – nearly thirteen years after losing my brother. But I went through many years of torment after his death – especially since I feel comfortable talking to anyone about the intensity of the pain and torment that I was experiencing. After that day that I confessed my pain, I didn’t dare admit to anyone the panic attacks that I experienced when the pain got to great. I couldn’t let on that my dreams were haunted by what I could have done or should have done to help my brother.  I didn’t want anyone to know that every time I laughed, I felt the sting of guilt that I shouldn’t be happy since Johnny was gone.

I suffered in silence. I suffered alone. I am sure there are people who would have listened. I had some family to speak to but they were just as hurt and confused by my brother’s suicide as I was so I didn’t want to burden them with the immensity of my personal pain and add to their own. But mostly, I endured the pain alone and when people would accuse me of living carelessly or suggest I was being lazy in life, I had no answer. Couldn’t they see that just getting up, breathing, and putting one leg in front of the other were big accomplishments for me? But no one knew. It’s not entirely their fault. I couldn’t bring myself speak of how great my pain was and most people are just trying to work through their own pain in life which makes it hard to see another’s.

God finally did reach me. I ran and I ran from Him and from my pain. I felt like I was in sin because I was hurting so much. My friend’s comments that day made me feel like I was a bad person for still hurting and that added to the guilt and confusion that comes when a relative commits suicide. I’m thankful for God’s healing touch. The fact that He has healed such a terrible wound in my heart so completely is a big part of my testimony to how good – and how REAL – God is.

Why am I writing this today? Because there are so many people out there who have lost someone and they’re hurting. Yet when they start to cry or admit their pain, they apologize or make excuses.

If that’s you, please – please, hear my heart – STOP apologizing. Loss hurts. Death leaves a void. Acting like it isn’t bothering you is not the answer.  Don’t suffer in silence.  Don’t deal with your pain alone.

My brothers and I lost our mother when we were very young. My younger brother was 7. The pain of losing his mother was one of the main things that drove him into wrong choices. That pain and confusion of growing up without a mother racked his mind with anger. But he was a tough little boy and a tougher teenager. He wasn’t supposed to hurt. He wasn’t supposed to let his lack of a mother affect him. It did though. And that pain drove him into bad decisions and haunted him to his death.

If you’re in pain from the loss of a loved one, please reach out for help. If you get rebuked or rejected for confessing your pain, move on and ask someone else, please. Don’t do like I did and just push the pain down deeper and cover it because you feel guilty or ashamed of how you feel.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t feel like you do.  Find someone who is going to help you find God’s love and receive His comfort.

I spoke with an amazing woman today. She lost her husband last year and as she spoke about him she began to cry.

She laughed nervously, wiped her tears, and apologized for crying. “I’m just a silly old woman, I guess. I shouldn’t be crying, but I can’t help myself.”

I assured her she had the right to cry. It broke my heart that she felt like she was silly. She had been married for 63 years. Missing her husband is most natural and understandable, yet she felt like she had to apologize.

If you’re hurting today, please stop thinking something is wrong with you. If you’re missing someone you love, it is natural.

I finally received the healing I so desperately sought when I started talking to God about how I felt. I stopped apologizing to God for hurting. I stopped feeling guilty.

I just cried out to Him and admitted, “I’m hurting so badly, God!  I feel like I’m dying and I CANNOT go on without Your help!”

I cried and cried in His presence and He began to heal me. He began to answer my questions and remove my guilt. He brought books and sermons to my attention that caressed my heart and comforted my soul. He caused me to see things differently and allow myself to grieve naturally.

After years of hiding the pain and suppressing how I felt, I began to pour it out to God. He faithfully healed my heart.

I know He can do the same for you if He would do it for someone like me.

Talk to a Pastor or a Counselor. Find someone understanding who knows God’s word and trusts God’s healing touch. Most of all, give yourself some breathing room to speak candidly to God and ask Him the tough questions that weigh on your mind. He wants to answer them, but the Word says we simply must ask then trust that He will answer.

He is not a God of confusion. He is a God of peace. Seek Him and He will bring the Peace and Answers you need.

My breath still gets taken away from me regularly…but now it’s when I see how much God has healed me and the blessings He has brought into my life since I have learned to be real with Him and receive His love unashamedly.  Yes, I still miss them and yes, it still hurts at times ~ but I can handle those times more easily now with God’s grace.  I’m praying for you today. Healing awaits you. Freedom from guilt and shame are found in Jesus. Please, turn to Him today.

Humbly,
Heather

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2 thoughts on “Let’s Stop Pretending It Doesn’t Hurt: Dealing With the Loss of a Loved One

  1. I cannot put into words how much I relate to your feelings. I am unbelievably sorry about Johnny and what you went through personally and spiritually….I am there now. Losing both my parents has left a hole in my life that I feel will never be filled with happiness again. How do I get through this goes through my mind on a daily basis. I am the oldest sibling so I feel like my being strong for them is the only choice I have. I try to get up with a smile each day but it is so hard when for so many years my mom was who I woke up to every morning. With a text, a call or even over breakfast, EVERY MORNING, we shared everything, talked about everything or even nothing at all, but she was my morning ritual and now it’s gone…it has been so very hard to drag myself out of bed each day and put on that smile, that smile that everyone thinks is real but brings me so much pain.
    I have strayed in the past few years with all the losses that have occurred in our family. I am trying, trying to find my soul again, you know, the happy girl who still has both of her parents but it is so hard because I feel like they were both robbed of the life I feel they deserved! I wasn’t ready for sure. I have been so angry. At God, at my parents, but mostly at myself as if I could have stopped the cancer and liver failure myself…..why didn’t you get her to the dr sooner?? Why didn’t you force your dad sooner to stop smoking so he could get a transplant?? While I know these things aren’t really my fault there is still so much underlying guilt of what I should have done…
    I am trying to find my way back, it’s just so hard when you are expected to just carry on each day, why can’t the world stop because I am sad and don’t want to get out of bed??? Or maybe that is Gods way of forcing me to heal? Putting the things in my life he knows I love so that I can try to carry on??
    I’m not sure…but there is one thing I know, you are here for a reason, YOU are helping me more than you can imagine….thank you Heather for showing me that I am not alone and it is ok for me to grieve… Ok for me to be the person I am…..

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    • This made me cry. I understand so much of this and yet cannot fully know your exact loss. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a mother after having her for so long. Losing a parent after so many years of counting on them. My loss was different yet how you describe the pain is much the same. I will keep you in my prayers and keep running to God with your pain. Don’t pretend it isn’t there – take it to Him in its rawest form and when you’re done speaking your mind and sharing your emotions with Him then just be still and allow His words to comfort your heart. Spend time in His Word daily also and let it speak to your heart like the love letter that it is. We cannot heal each other’s pain but we can point each other to the One who absolutely can.

      Thank you for sharing.
      Heather

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