I’ve spent nearly a decade grappling with Dad’s death and with the death of thoughts that I had control over my now 36-year marriage. Both losses left me feeling lifeless.
When friends said grief takes time, I nodded. However, I knew this was more than being sad that Dad was gone. It was also more than letting go of the control I tried to have over my husband. Something else died and it scared me that I didn’t know what it was or how to revive it.
I prayed every single day for more than three fourths of those years.
I prayed for energy and motivation to write and exercise and live life as it came. I prayed to focus on myself instead of staring at what others had done to me. I prayed to know what died so I could begin accepting it was gone and move beyond days that were dark and heavy.
Prayer didn’t work (meaning it didn’t make the pain go away).
Neither did gratitude lists that included seeing my first article published, celebrating our children’s wedding and engagement, and sharing a precious granddaughter with the world. The more good that happened, the darker and heavier I felt for not feeling grateful.
Neither did advice about my attitude, attempts to diminish my pain in the light of others’ more devastating pain, or my own self-contempt for not being able to shake depression.
And neither did attending church, reading positive passages, or talking to family and friends who looked sympathetic, but confused. Their expressions said, “Now, tell me one more time why you’re feeling sad and lost?”
I almost stopped trying to explain because I didn’t know myself what was happening. That was, until I tried one more time.
“Nothing’s motivated me like trying to get it right with you and Dad,” I said to my husband. “Sick as it sounds, struggling for your attention and Dad’s approval got me out of bed every morning.”
He heard me.
I heard myself.
Since burying my dad and my marriage (as I knew it), I’ve been missing my sickness. I wrote in my last post that suffering serves a purpose, but suffering is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
Instead of learning and being changed by suffering, then moving on, I’ve tried to revive it by staggering too often into the past, flirting with fear and self-doubt, and throwing pity parties. Not that I’m saying this party girl is finished, but I’m over-the-top relieved to know what died – my suffering that masqueraded as purpose. When I’m ready, life is waiting.
And so is more suffering and I’m okay with that.
Are you smack dab in the middle of your sickness, your struggles, and your suffering? Are you feeling more dead than alive? I hope this post offers some answers, some optimism, or at least lets you know you’re not alone.
WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – It takes what it takes for each of us. I’m grateful to be at another crossroad where I have insight and hope and choices, and, yes, awareness that there will be more suffering.
On the side: In hindsight, some of the things I listed – prayer, gratitude, church, reading, and sharing with family and friends – did work (meaning they made my days feel gentler, they moved me forward, they grew me up), just not as quickly or as dramatically as I wanted.
Here’s additional reading about suffering from A Holy Experience, “The 1 Unlikely Secret to Hold Onto When You’re Sad.”