Stumbling Toward the Light

"We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly" -- Madeleine L'Engle

A collection of thoughts and messages I wrote after my daughter died May 17, 2000. Primarily this blog is concerned with grief, bereavement, the death of a child, hope, courage and a tough faith journey.

Location: Kansas, United States

Husband, father of four, friend, dog owner, owned by a cat, Episcopalian, last liberal Republican left in the U.S.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Running away

[written for the Racine/Kenosha WI Compassionate Friends December, 2010 newsletter]

How many of us as kids stomped into our bedrooms, sick and tired of our young lives and our overbearing parents, ready to pack it up and hop on the first freight train out of town? It's a common feeling among kids, especially teenagers... and at times understandable. Life can be a bear.

Fast forward a decade or three. How many of us as bereaved parents have gotten into the car heading home from work or on our way to the grocery store and just wanted to keep driving? We suddenly have this urge inside to pass by the places we need to go to and drive away from it all... searching with that terrible emptiness inside, just wanting to find a place where we won't hurt anymore.

We can no longer bear to pass by the school he attended, the church where she was baptized, the cemetery where he now lies. We want to roll down the window, toss out the "I'm fine" mask and roar down the street into the sunset screaming at the world, God and anybody else with "a plan" whose been telling us to just move on and get over it... "I'm moving on, sucker!"

Probably a bit melodramatic, but that was me the first couple years after Rachel died. Some days life weighed in on me and I would feel closed in as though I couldn't breathe. The heavy mask would fall clanking to the floor, loosened by tears, and there I was approaching my street ready to gun the engine and drive on.

So, as a bereaved parent what could I do about these pedal-to-the-metal feelings?

Years ago my Mom said something to me as I was preparing to go off to college which I've never forgotten: "You can change your sky, but not your heart." No matter where I went what was in my heart would still be with me. It's an old saying that makes a lot of sense, though I didn't appreciate hearing it much at 18 or remembering it at 47! Running was a quick fix that in the end would fail.

First I had to take off my mask, turn it around facing me and say, "No more." I was tired of pretending to be "just fine." I wasn't. I then had to name my pain. What was causing this intense emptiness in my life? Beyond the anger, guilt and sorrow it all boiled down to one word: Love. As my TCF chapter leader has said many times, "It wouldn't hurt so much if we hadn't loved so much." Finally I had to voice how I felt... speak the pain out loud to others... and that was hard because most folks didn't want to listen. They wanted my mask back up. I suppose that's where a group like The Compassionate Friends helped out. I could say her name and show the Love (i.e. pain) and nobody judged me.

I still do run away now and then. I can go for a drive in the country, take a weekend away, get lost in a book or DVD. Running away can be very healthy as long as I bring my heart, that Love, along for the ride and remember to come back home afterwards... with the mask grumbling in the trunk.