I wonder sometimes why I post or write. I suppose it’s just to help me process. It’s also to communicate things that I feel are helpful for others to know or understand. I consider it a tossing of a life preserver to others, too, those who are finding themselves in a similar spot. C.S. Lewis wrote: Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’
Sam and I were driving recently and he said, “Do you think the trauma will ever dull?” And I turned to him and thought, “You too? I thought I was the only one.” The memories still flood back and catch me off guard. Some of the memories are the sweet ones that make me smile and my eyes well up. His smile, holding him, his soft skin, little sounds. I cling to these. The pictures around the house are all of these memories.
Then there are the memories that turn my stomach, make my face pale and my eyes empty. These are the memories that I try to push past, that I try to un-remember, that keep me up at night. The ones I have to talk myself through, or have Sam talk me through. Yes, everything that we could have done was done. Yes, his body was so broken beyond repair. Yes, it was time for him to meet Jesus. Yes, he’s healed now. He’s whole.
It took me months to begin to process Clive’s passing. We were recovering from such deep trauma and fatigue from the hospital. I think it was finally on month 3, just after I’d gone back to work, that it hit very hard that he was gone and not coming back. A realization that future kids wouldn’t be HIM.
A missionary friend once shared with me that it takes missionaries as many back years home as they were gone to adjust back to life. I’m not sure that it’s true for everyone, but I understand that. Our 8 weeks gone were like being in another world. Is that how soldiers feel returning from war, too? That no one understands, that it would be cruel to make them understand by explaining it all–and then there’s all the intangibles that could never be explained.
I think we all carry unspoken burdens. Sometimes they are unspoken because of shame, or guilt. Sometimes they are unspoken because they are not our story to share. And sometimes we just feel silenced. I don’t think I can think of one friend who doesn’t have a hard story–often unspoken. If I can’t think of it, I probably don’t know them well enough yet.
It may be a ‘smaller’ burden, or a season of life that will pass. It may be a huge hole in their life, something that should have been. Addiction, life just not going as you expected, loved ones in trouble, sickness, death, strain.
Sometimes we feel so isolated in our burdens. Will anyone ever understand? Probably not completely. But if we can turn our eyes and thoughts outwardly, we can see the universal joys and pains in those around us. It’s easy to feel so alone and to think that this is as bad as it could be. And really, I often feel that losing a child is one of the worst things that can happen to someone (maybe that’s true, maybe not). But when I get there in my head, I look around me. It could be harder. I could have no support, a failing marriage, a war around me. I could be a refuge taking a boat to a safer land, and losing my child in the midst of the journey. No home, no money, no safety, a shaky future.
In the really hard moments of life, we get bitter or better. We turn inward and sink into despair thinking “no one will ever understand” or we allow our eyes to look around us and see the brokenness in the lives that surround us. Is it the same burden as me? No. But it’s still hard and heavy and often unspoken.
Cling to Jesus through it. In my crying out, I am so glad that He is the one who understand completely. Grab a life preserver and throw another one to a friend who might be just the person to talk to about it. Often we realize we’re not as alone as we feel. “You too? I thought I was the only one.”