“It’s hard to grieve in a town where everything that happens is God’s will. It’s hard to know what to do with your emptiness when you’re not supposed to have emptiness.”
~Miriam Toews, A Complicated Kindness
This isn’t intended to bash husbands or anyone. It is not knocking faith in God or His will for one’s life. Many years have passed since I read the book this quote is taken from, so the original context is lost from my memory; however, I read this quote and agree with it and in ways that differ somewhat from grieving.
It’s hard to _______________.
I think that blank could be filled by many things. Feel pain. Be injured. Be physically sick. Be mentally unwell. Be poor. Be weak. Be lonely. Struggle with X, Y, or Z. Be sad or frustrated or angry or hurt. I am certain to have come up short on my list of potential fill-in-the-blank options, and I suspect everyone’s experience is unique.
Today has been a bad day for me as far as my pain levels go, despite having a fairly low-key day as far as activity. My eyes are leaking as I type, slow, random tears that trickle down my cheeks, which will leave a crusty salt trail in their wake. I am in pain all of the time, but I can tolerate it most of the time. Not so much today. During dinner I mentioned to my husband how much pain I was in, and he asked why that would be, what had I done to cause it?
Now I was already in a grumpy mood, but I refrained from making a sarcastic comment about herniating a disc months ago and simply said I didn’t know. That’s true…I don’t know. I hadn’t been sitting. I hadn’t spent too long standing. I hadn’t done any physical activity that I know I shouldn’t. I had done my nerve flossing and rehab exercises, but those have never resulted in this level of pain. Was it one brief moment that occurred in the middle of the night? I got up to use the bathroom and had only taken a step or two from the bed, when I felt a strong pain and “off” sensation in my lower back. I don’t think I had done anything out of the norm in getting up out of bed, but my back didn’t feel right for a few minutes. Was that the culprit for today’s increase in pain? Maybe? I don’t know.
I understand why my husband asked me that question, but it made me think of this quote in the context of my injury. I am injured, hurting, and not even close to living up to my potential. It feels like a heavy weight on my shoulders, this injury and all that has flown out of it, the good and the mostly bad. Whether intentional or subconscious, it often feels like more pressure is placed on me by others expecting me to fit into their little boxes.
When my husband asks what I did today, I feel guilty for not having cleaned the house from top to bottom or cooking a gourmet meal. I’ve been home all day, every day for months…I should be doing more. I know that is not driving his question, and my reaction to it is completely internal. But that’s where my brain goes.
When someone says they’ll pray for healing for me, I do appreciate and welcome it. Yet, I often wonder why. Some of those people barely know me, and even some of those who do know me seldom interact with me. I am a person of faith, but I can also be cynical. Is saying that you’ll pray for me to make yourself feel good or because you are genuinely concerned about my well-being? If you’re genuinely concerned, then why don’t you show more interest in who I am beyond this injury?
How do I respond when someone asks how things are going today? If it is someone I see regularly? Will they understand what I mean when I say it’s been a bad day? Will they understand what it means to have a herniated disc with all the symptoms? Will they look at me seemingly normal and healthy and question the truthfulness of my reply? Maybe I will be regaled with a sad tale of their own pain or even herniated disc. I could be lectured on all of the things I should be doing to get better.
My doctor seldom seems to actually listen to what I have to say, and I have been required to see him frequently since the injury occurred. He seems uninterested in deviating from his old-fashioned, slow approach to treating a herniated disc, which probably wouldn’t be so terrible if he would listen to me. In essence, it feels hard to heal when everything is my doctor’s will. Let’s misdiagnose. Let’s lecture on the perils of opiates. Let’s make multiple mistakes on paperwork. Let’s push a form of treatment that causes me more pain. Let’s ignore the expanding symptoms and paramedical recommendations for surgery until you decide surgery is warranted. I can’t just change doctors. I need my doctor to access pain medications, diagnostic imaging, and a surgical consult, but he isn’t making the healing process any easier.
Even in the process of grieving the repercussions of this injury, I feel the truth of this quote. I’ve lost a goal I had worked hard for two years to achieve. Four years of hard work and strength gains is being obliterated, and I know that getting back to where I was will take time and more hard work. It wasn’t an easy decision to go on medical leave, even though it was the correct decision, and that grief is still tender, knowing how much I have already missed out on. Any goals or expectations I might have had for this year have had to be discarded or held lightly, tentatively. Want to have an actual holiday this year? That depends on my ability to sit long enough for travel or potential surgery date. Want to compete in powerlifting this year? Not gonna happen! My daughter wants to make a trip to Ikea. The vacation wrenches apply to that Ikea trip, too. I am a planner. I like to know where I am going and when. I like to make my lists and cross them off. It’s hard to do that when so much uncertainty has invaded my world. Does that make sense to anyone else? Can they understand what I’m feeling about my losses? Grief is different for everyone. As a society, we don’t always know how to handle someone else’s grief, especially when the grief is not associated with death.
I don’t know where else I was going with this, but I hope I’ve made my point. Whatever that was! I did say that today has been a bad day for me…