Hope For the Unheard

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“It is not distance that keeps people apart, but lack of communication.” Unknown

Here’s the post I didn’t write last week, but meant to. It’s the one about our communication that hasn’t taken place … for three years. I started not to write it this week either, except a friend commented on last week’s post, “Sometimes, even when you say it, it’s not understood.”

I understood all too well. I also knew I needed to tell the story I’d avoided telling.

Three years of communication that hasn’t taken place in our family, even during joyous occasions, convinced me to make the same daunting decision I made as a child, “I can’t keep loving my family like this. It hurts too much.”

I was eight years old when I decided the first time around to stop loving my family. Mom cried all afternoon like she did many afternoons, probably because of communication that hadn’t taken place with Dad. I was too young to figure her out, so I decided she cried because of me. I worried and asked questions, which made me a likely scapegoat. They reprimanded me instead of talking to each other.

That evening I left a dime and two nickels on their bedroom dresser. Underneath the money, I put a note with a heart in red crayon and words in blue that said, “I’m sorry. I love you.”

They never mentioned it and neither did I. I figured it’d be easier to stop feeling than try to talk.

After our grandson’s recent first birthday party, our granddaughter, Claire, tried on a dress I bought her. She slid her hands down the silk material and ran off. She came back with 32 cents, stared at me for a few seconds, and said, “This is for you, Mammy.”

I cried telling my husband and daughter the story. It was different from my story, but somehow healing.

What’s happened the last three years with our daughter?

Claire will be three in July. I wrote a blog post three years ago about being afraid to have a granddaughter, “Girls Aren’t Safe Here.”

Emotions flooded Kelly’s and my relationship with the news we were adding a girl to our family, emotions that neither of us expected or knew how to handle. Craft days intermingle with cry days. We dress up and melt down. We hug, tear up watching Claire love us, laugh hard, but don’t talk for days because something hurt. Something scared us. We talked some during the three years, but stopped when it got too complicated.

Kelly announced at Claire’s first birthday party she was pregnant with our second grandchild. Our grandson, Wyatt, arrived into a calmer world than Claire, but still too much communication hasn’t taken place.

What’s happened the last three years with our son?

Not too long after Kelly’s announcement, our son announced he’d proposed to the love of his life. They married one year ago in May. He moved her to Oklahoma (I sobbed when they pulled out of their driveway in a U-Haul truck) and then to New York. Courting, proposing, working, moving twice, and marrying took up their time.

Distance and distractions, dislike of talking on the phone, and determining how to talk these days as opposed to how he and I used to talk has built up to communication that hasn’t taken place.

What’s happened the last three years with us?

Hannah, our basset hound/terrier mix, joined our family a couple of months before Kelly found out she was pregnant with Claire. The day after we adopted Hannah, our vet told us she needed surgery to repair two fractured hips or we could return her to the shelter.

While at our daughter’s house the day after finding out we were going to be grandparents, Hannah peed on one of their dog pillows. John spanked her. He didn’t hurt her, but I panicked because it hadn’t been long since her surgery. “I hope you don’t react the same way with our grandchildren,” I said.

I apologized and tried to explain. It’d been an emotional few weeks with Hannah and, although exciting, an equally emotional weekend finding out baby news. It wasn’t my accusation, but our five-hour argument on the way home from our daughter’s that caused a three-year rift. Our disagreement escalated the more I tried to explain why I got afraid when John reacted like he did that evening with our dog.

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“I’m so disappointed we fought like that,” he said.

“I am too, but it’s evidence of how much we need to talk and be heard,” I said.

“Why’d we have to fight for five hours?” he said.

“At least we know what we need to work on, our communication,” I said.

“It’s been so long since we’ve gone at it and for that long,” he said.

Our cyclical banter went on for six months until it was evident he couldn’t hear me, so I quit talking. I set out to stay in our marriage without being part of it. For the first time, I positioned “getting my own life” above my family and not because I wanted to write more than anything, but because I hurt more than ever. All of the change, loss, and loneliness felt too big to fix, especially since no one was communicating.

It was the second time I decided, “I can’t keep loving my family like this. It hurts too much.”

Our daughter asked if everything was okay. She wanted our family healed by Claire’s arrival. We put a band-aid on the problem, but communication still hadn’t taken place.

Fifty Years Later …  

It’s been fifty years since I tried to stop loving Dad and Mom; three since I tried the same with John and our kids. I’m happy neither one took.

I mentioned in the last post, it’s the person in the most pain who has to change. It took three years, but I’m finally speaking up and with firmness instead of an attitude of “fight or flight,” which makes me easier to hear and I believe more deserving to be heard. Since I can’t afford to not be heard anymore, I don’t stop talking until the knot in my stomach untangles.

Even though John figured I’d been heard about “the dog argument” since I brought it up 1,001 times (over the course of three years, mind you), I brought it up one and two and three more times because no matter what he thought, I didn’t feel heard. John said, “Then talk about it one more time. I’ll be quiet and listen.”

He did. I went through half a box of Kleenex in an hour.

I told him how I’d had trouble sleeping for at least two years because at night I’d lay in bed and try to figure out how I could get over needing to talk so I could stay with him. I told him about my fear of God who didn’t intercede no matter how much I prayed, journaled, and begged. But I also told him why I believed God left me alone, “I think God knew if I could get a little relief from my pain, I’d never get out of the way and let y’all figure out your own lives, but it seems he could have come up with a gentler plan.”

I told John I shut down because the kids were living their lives, but he and I weren’t living ours. I told him I felt alone because they were gone and he wasn’t showing up. He asked, “What does showing up look like to you?”

“Showing up means you let me talk and you listen. It looks like you holding me and hearing me even when I say things you don’t like and things you don’t want to hear,” I said.

He held me and he listened. Interactions like these let us know communication is taking place. It happens more often when we’re willing to stop fighting, stop “flighting” (flying out of rooms and slamming doors), and begin talking about how we feel.

Our hope is this blog post encourages you toward talking and hearing. We’d love to hear from you.

#GettingYourOwnLife #whileLovingthePeopleinIt

In This Together,
Kim

Thank you for permission to use your artwork (the woman), Kelly Rae Roberts. Beautiful, as always. Thanks to Pixabay.com for the spiral stairs.

Side note: Readers have asked if John minds my blog posts. We’re grateful for your concern and I probably should have already mentioned this. I never publish a blog post that John hasn’t first read and edited. He even adds things about himself when he thinks it may be relatable and helpful. We’re wholeheartedly “in this together.” 🙂

 

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19 responses »

    • Elizabeth, we love you and Gary. ❤ I so appreciate having you as a reader. It's comforting.

      I wish we could sit down over dinner and talk. How fun would that be? Until then, we'll keep sharing with and helping each other online. John's happy I have you as a friend. 🙂

  1. I am writing you this note to thank you for telling our story. I know it may seem strange to “air our dirty laundry” for all the world to see, but if it helps others to relate then I am all for it. I am proud of our relationship and prouder of you and your wonderful blog. Please keep writing and sharing whatever you need so that your readers can benefit from our experience, strength and hope.

    I love you,
    John

    • Awww, thank you!

      I’m proud of our relationship too and even prouder of how willing you’ve been in the past few years to show up for the hard stuff, be present in my life and the kids’ lives, and listen and go through some really tough and painful lessons that were necessary for us to get to where we are now. It’s always a journey, but I think what’s ahead is a LOT more fun than what we’ve already been through.

      I can’t quit writing now. The most important person in my life is reading and commenting. 🙂

      I love you lots! ❤

  2. Thank you Kim for sharing…and I think it is wonderful that John is so supportive of your blog. It takes a lot of courage to post such private thoughts and events. You are an amazing woman!

    • Thanks so much for stopping by my blog tonight and for the encouragement the other evening at dinner. I’m grateful for friends like you. ❤ Oh, thanks also for the opportunity to take Summer's workshops early on. What a gift.

      I'm fortunate John is supportive, so I'm not trying to tell our stories without really telling them. He's the one who came to me when I'd all but stopped writing on my blog and said he thought we were supposed to be the topic of my posts, We've both thought it for a while, but it's taken time to accept it and write about us.

      I wish courage was behind my writing, but it's not. This is obedience, which makes me uncomfortable to say because I'm thinking "I did hear God correctly, didn't I?" It doesn't feel very God-like to write boldly about what's wrong with John and our marriage. I'm okay sharing about me, but the rest seems weird. I get nervous every time I hit the publish button, afraid I'm doing something wrong, but it passes when I read comments, private messages, and emails saying it's helping readers.

      I appreciate all you've quietly done to help me get this far!

  3. Very timely post. I wish I wasn’t so stuck in the same thought pattern of “I can’t keep loving my family like this. It hurts too much.” Not for lack of trying, I can’t seem to find my way free of it… I’m 52, and still handicapped by the relationship lessons and messages taught to me by my parents, that feel like they are strangling the very life out of my soul, and joy and hope from my life. I know I’m still alive though, because I’m in so much pain! 😦 I keep wondering how long it takes to finally grow up! Thanks for your post. I’m glad you are getting free and leaving a path for others.

    • Oh my gosh, Tammy. You should write. You’ve described perfectly how I felt for years, but I couldn’t put it into words while in so much pain. I’ve had to heal, even if just a little, to be able to describe what’s gone on. “Handicapped” is a good way to describe it. Also paralyzed. I wasn’t able to get on with my own life, but I couldn’t explain why because pain like ours is invisible. We can feel it, but we can’t show it to anyone like scars from cancer or heart surgery. And we can’t describe it like a parent who’s lost a child and everyone knows that’d be painful. So we just sit with it and wonder if anyone else feels the way we do. And if you’re like me, I’ve felt guilty because I have a lot to be grateful for, but the ache overrode everything.

      Freedom is what I’ve been searching for my whole life. I am breaking free. I can feel it and it only started when I was willing to tell my story, which has only been since January. I wrote before that and had a few free days, but I was still in hiding. Not now. I hope you feel a little freer by commenting here. I’ll pray for you and I hope you’ll do the same for me. We’re in this together! ❤

  4. Kim, I read this post several nights ago but couldn’t figure out how to comment on it. There’s so much packed into it (a positive); some I can relate to and some I can’t, other than feeling pain for you. I love the rawness of it and yet it left me very unsettled, maybe because I doubt that my husband and I will ever get to the point of truly hearing each other. We have never really “fought” in the 40 years we’ve been married–just walked away when it got too painful. I believe that his health issues are related to what he has left unsaid all these years, and now it’s too late to undo all of that. All I can do is love him and know that God has heard both of us. Keep writing, please!

    • Mary, how absolutely beautiful! ❤ "All I can do is love him and know that God has heard both of us." There is so much healing in that statement. It helps me because, although John and I have a chance at fixing some of this, there are some really important people in my life (like my mom and dad) who are gone and I'll never have the conversations I hoped for. But I love them and I know God hears me now and he heard them while they were still living. I'm crying while typing this.

      I think maybe Rich's illness is a gift in an odd sort of way (yeah, easy for me to say), a chance to look at your relationship, heal what you can, and accept the rest. Everyone doesn't get that chance, but I'd certainly want it rather than one of us dying suddenly. We've needed our time of acceptance too. It's bittersweet, I know, but I'm watching you and your writing soften, which helps me so much. I can feel myself being gentler when I write about John and me, especially when I take into account all you're dealing with. You have so much to teach others.

      I'll say the same to you, keep writing, please! Much love! ❤

  5. From Facebook ~

    Stephanie Costello, Mary Ann Zumpfe and 17 others

    Sybil Lee Thank you for your honesty
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · April 21 at 8:59am

    Kim Henson Thanks for reading, Sybil Lee. heart emoticon
    Like · Reply · April 21 at 3:04pm

    Sylvia Jones The opening quote caught my eye….so true.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · April 21 at 9:42pm

    Kim Henson I’m a quote fanatic, Sylvia Jones. A lot can be said in a few words. It is true than true.
    Like · Reply · 1 · April 21 at 10:41pm · Edited

    Summer Turner Beautiful post, Kim. I love how you show us that you both can be “in it together” and that this doesn’t necessarily mean rainbows and unicorns. It’s messy and real but still “together.”
    Unlike · Reply · 2 · April 21 at 10:57pm

    Kim Henson Summer Turner, thank you. I especially love what you said at the end. That’s us.
    Like · Reply · 1 · April 21 at 11:35pm

    Karen Rice This really struck a chord with me. Wonderfully written Kim. It spoke to me and makes me, want to fix my family too.
    Unlike · Reply · 2 · April 21 at 11:54pm

    Kim Henson Oh, Karen Rice, I know what you mean. I wish I had a magic potion to make us all better. Writing about it seems to be all I can do. I’m not sure how it’ll help exactly, but I feel better and not so alone/unsteady when i hear from friends like you. heart emoticon
    Like · Reply · 2 · April 21 at 11:58pm

  6. Facebook (on Katrina D. Owen’s page)

    I love taking a moment and reading this blog

    Barbara Pugh

    Kim Henson Katrina D Owen, as always, I’m grateful you’re a reader and sharer of my blog. heart emoticon
    Like · Reply · 1 · April 21 at 3:05pm

  7. In praying the Psalms today I read in 119:71, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” There are several verses in Psalms that mention the value of affliction. It seems that when our hearts and souls are troubled we look more to God for answers. That is where I find true comfort. It is also comforting to know that others face afflictions as well, and it is good to know that God helps them, too. Thanks so much for your writing, Kim!

    God is working through you to help others. Keep letting your light shine!

    Love and Peace,
    Amelia

    • Amelia, what an uplifting comment. Ironic, right? Especially since it’s about affliction.

      It’s true in my life that affliction encourages a strong bond with God and with each other … that is, when I’m not throwing a fit or too afraid to accept His goodness. I hope in the middle of trouble, I’ll remember gratitude a lot more often than I do now.

      What I am grateful for is your kind comment. Thank you and much Love. ❤

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