Coming face to face with the darkness
The fire had died out. The beach was now empty, everyone had gone back to the comfort of their homes. The sun hadn’t really come back out & yet life seemed to be carrying on as if none of this had even happened. Life was carrying on as if there was a way to come back from this tragedy. Life was ticking along in every space that I had been in before, in every space my sister had been in before. It was ticking along & my mind couldn’t even begin to fathom what might come next? Did one EVER recover from something like this? Could life just go back to normal or would this haphazard bouncing around always be a part of my reality. For your reference, I include the stages below again & the link to the first 3 inserts of this 7 step process. I survived & this is my harrowing account of this stage of the grieving process.
Stage 1-Shock & denial
Stage 2-Pain & guilt
Stage 3-Anger & bargaining
Stage 4-Depression (Reflection/ Loneliness)
Stage 5- Surrender & Release
Stage 7-Choosing Life (acceptance & hope)
Stage 4: Depression (Reflection/Loneliness)
At level 4 you may experience a long period of sadness & a process of reflection. This phase is normal & necessary, so don’t allow yourself to be persuaded that it does not do you any good to wallow in your grief. Yes, we must actively choose to lift ourselves BUT we are allowed to feel & its absolutely OK. During this stage, you may find that well meaning advice or encouragement may be helpful. Some feelings you might experience at this time could include the need to isolate yourself, feelings of emptiness, despair & hopelessness.
Psalm 43:5 Why are you in despair my soul? Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God because I will praise Him once again, since His presence saves me & He is my God.”
I was feeling bewildered. Completely off balance & haphazardly bouncing between emotions. A wide array of feels per day had become my reality. Up & down & sideways I veered, from one moment to the next. There was no way of knowing what emotion might surface next. There was no way of controlling it, planning around it, avoiding it. Even if I tried to mask it or run from it… to feel sane… it fought with every fibre of my being. I could not say I was fine because I was not fine! It fought with my intrinsic authenticity. My openess… so it forced me back to face it. I shared it, I still share it. I see people feeling uncomfortable with my pain. They avoided it, they avoid it still. They avoid me. Especially when they may not know what to say. How to deal. I wanted to process it… but as soon as I decided what it was that I needed to do… it shape shifted into something new. There was no building around it, over it, above it, below it… I could only move through it. Moving through it was hard. Because it was exhausting. My body ached as I writhed around in discomfort. All control unwillingly released…
And I fought it. God knows I fought it. I saw counsellors & coaches & friends. I was crying out to God to help me by taking it. Taking it from me so that I didn’t need to face it, so that I didn’t need to fight it. But I needed to be asking Him to help me deal with it, because I could not escape it. It was part of my path. It was part of my story. IT IS part of my becoming. I needed to run through it. Not from it. Which is what I think I may have been doing in moments.
My usual status quo is to build a vision & create an action plan. To create something to work towards. Right then however, my brain was going at a million miles a minute & I could not talk myself through it. I could not reframe thoughts for myself or repeat things back to myself or dissect my thoughts for myself. My brain was in a panic & my body was fighting to survive the trauma that threatened to topple my very sanity.
It was like a dark dark tunnel. I sat alongside the tunnel peering in. Afraid that if I went inside, I might never return. Crying & then quickly asking myself when will the tears dry up. Not really fully allowing myself to cry. Not bringing the sadness towards myself. I held it at a distance. I felt like I was staring at myself. Not comfortable with the tears. I had to face up to the fact that in this case, my strength might be the problem. It might be preventing me from fully embracing the sadness, the anxiety, the loss, the grief, the regret, the confusion, the questions, the anger, the struggle, the loathing, the longing. Preventing me from holding all THE EMOTIONS close to me like a child needing a warm embrace. Preventing me from holding MYSELF close… like a child needing a warm embrace.
Does anyone understand this? It certainly felt like I was alone. There wasn’t the strength to try to find enough literary material or podcasts to support myself. Inspirational sermons about hope, survival & overcoming fear temporarily lifted me but as swiftly as I was taken up, I plummeted back down. The despair held me down like a weighted blanket. Thick, heavy, suffocating. My body struggled under the density of the sludge of varied emotions that intoxicated me. I felt drugged. Smothered by my own awareness. There was an acute sense of solitude. It was both welcome & unwanted simultaneously. It enveloped me, suffocated me & revived me. I felt like I was stuck in a nightmare. And voices were muffled. There were not very many voices but the few that were there were muffled. People had moved on. I was trusting in God to send me His soldiers. Warriors. Those brave enough to face this with me. There were not many but they were there. Thankfully THEY were there.
In that space of deliberation with myself, supported by momentary realisations through reflective conversations with a therapist, a counsellor, my husband, friends, family, God… I was brought eye to eye with some of the trauma I had been running from & it felt like an awakening. Coming home to the trauma, my body released very slowly some of the poisonous anguish it had held in its very cells. Thoughts reverberated through every fibre of me. Reminders. Words, phrases, realisations repeated for reassessment. Retrospective perusal & hopefully acceptance or at least acknowledgement. There were realities brought to light. Outside of the emotions. Realities that made sense. They didn’t bring peace but they had a balming effect. With every wave, it felt as if my soul was being soothed. A curative, therapeutic process. I stumbled around deliriously gathering these realisations & truths, some hard to face. I stumbled around & often fell exhaustedly into an unconsciousness that allowed my body to recoup for the next wave to ensue.
I submitted to the process, because I could no longer run. I may have tried to shield myself momentarily from certain aspects but I could no longer escape. I striked a match against the cinders of my soul & I watched the tiny flicker rise as I breathed air into the emotions that threatened to incinerate me. For in the hearth of my neurosis lay the truth. My only sister took her life, at the age of 26 by hanging herself from a rope. It smouldered & then ignited into flames again. This time I sat quietly alone & the tears flowed from deep within me.