Seen my bereavement therapist. She said I was emotionally exhausted and to take sometime off work to recover. Which I have done. Of course this grief is very different to John’s grief for all the obvious reasons that they were different people, played different parts in my life etc etc. The issue comes is that I’m still grieving for John and because the griefs are so different I feel like I’m being pulled in all different directions. For instance- with John’s grief it makes me want to get up but stay at home and be quiet and I had to learn to be content in that which I did just let it do it’s thing, but with this grief I don’t want to be at home at all, or if I am I want to sleep, so at various points of the day I have a tuck to stay at home and be quiet but awake then simultaneously be either asleep or out of the house. I’m also slightly worried about how I can’t quiet differentiate between what is real or not… I know this sounds weird but I just don’t believe I’m experiencing reality and think I’m dreaming. It’s actually quite frightening, I have no idea whether the things that are happening are dreams or reality. My mind feels so fragile, I really don’t like it. I want to be able to read so I can get my head ready for my uni residential but I’ve tried to read and I just can’t. Booked in to a quiet day tomorrow so I’m hoping that will be helpful. I actually feel I need to go away alone for a time but when? I have dogs and need to go back to work at some stage. And all that keeps running through my head is “This can’t be real? Is this real? I’m not sure whether it is.”
On way back home now from being with my family and having my sister funeral yesterday, have pulled over into the services as I was crying so much I couldn’t drive. This blog post may be a complete mess however I realise I have no idea how I am going to be over the next few days or weeks and might not post again.
Firstly I am so proud of my nephews. The eldest was so strong and even wanted to carry the coffin which was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to witness. Just seeing the coffin alone was tragic but watching him carry it was almost unbearable. I so wish I could take their pain away. I would do anything, but I know I cannot. My youngest nephew had a panic attack and had to go out during the service blesss him. I very nearly had a full melt down in the service and started to hyperventilate but at the last second managed to get it under control, by thinking about the hope I have that I will see my dear sister again some day. That chilled me out then, doesn’t chill me out now though, makes me worse as I have to wait to see her and I really don’t want to. There’s so many things left undone and questions left unanswered. This is so cruel. For me personally this is like salt in my wounds from John passing away… I know it’s totally different however it is just as tragic. I literally feel like the rugs been pulled from under me when I was just getting back on it… and I’m still in shock and I’m so scared about the realisation setting in. Best get home as soon as I can to my little doggies.
The time in between a bereavement and the funeral is what I call limbo time. You haven’t processed it all, your still in shock and the awfully sobering visual imagery and experience of the finality of the funeral hasn’t happened so you are left in a weird state of limbo where regardless of what has happened or not happened you still are not sure whether it’s all real and happened at all or you are in a horrible nightmare that just can’t be true. Went to Bereavement counselling & therapy on Tuesday my therapist was kind and yet went in hard too when she needed to. Came home exhausted and slept for 2 hours solid. Went to work Thursday but only lasted a few hours. Couldn’t remember any of my log in numbers whatsoever. Ended up sat in church in a weird zoned out state broken intermittently with bouts of crying. Was in bed by 9:30pm just wanted the day to end. Drifted through yesterday, cried a little but honestly not sure I have any tears left. Spent some time in the evening with my Pastors. Love them so much. I can feel the fact that John’s Birthday should be on Tuesday gnawing away at my soul but I feel like I don’t have the energy or emotion to deal with it. I’m a sssooo tired. I know I have to get prepared and packed for the funeral on weds but I just feel overwhelmed with everything and like a rabbit caught in headlights unable to move, so for today, I’m not gonna move. I’ve walked and fed the dogs and now the only thing I feel I can do is sit and watch some mindless tv while my brain tries to process and prepare in the background. What I’m worried about is that phase when I lost John went on for SO long. The only upside of it is, all the things I watched during that time I can’t remember any of them. I watched the entire collection of Lewis and can’t remember a single one! All I want to do is fast forward to my Theology Degree residential in September. That’s the only thing that’s keeping me getting up in the mornings if I’m honest. If I can just get there, some how I feel I’ll be able to ride a bit further, cause then I can press on till the January residential. I realise living from one resi to the next is crazy speak but I literally can’t deal with the thought of all the life that needs to happen before them and in between them. Just being honest. Only God and prayers have kept me this far.
Reading through yesterday’s post there are two sentences that stand out to me. First, “This loneliness is a deeper level of haunting.” That sentence completely nails it. That’s exactly how it is. The second is my finishing line: “These are the cards that have been dealt to me and I do not want to play.” Strikingly accurate. This sums up the whole of yesterday’s blog and how I am generally feeling. Later on yesterday a good friend whose known me for possibly all of my life, messaged me and said “God has you Vick.” And those words were like balm to my wounded and frightened soul. Because that is the truth that I had let get lost in the mess of everything. I one hundred percent feel (despite everything) like God has me. I can’t explain it but that’s the underlining feeling. So with those words echoing in my head and heart I went and finished off reading a book by Greg Boyd on imaginative prayer and then drifted in and out of a mixture of sleep and imaginative prayer for the rest of the night. It wasn’t exciting imaginative prayer. Jesus never appeared. I never heard God speak. I borrowed someone’s ‘meeting place of the heart’ that I had read a description of in another book that I’ve strangely not been able to stop thinking about since I read it. And Gods presence was there but no manifestation of Jesus, and I am ok waiting in that place till He appears or speaks or whatever really. Feel a lot calmer today but still ridiculously tired. Have got up, got dressed, walked the dogs and just finished breakfast, however it feels like that is all I shall manage today. It’s 8:38am and I feel like I’ve done all I possibly can. What a horrible feeling. God has me though, so whether I do anything else today or not, He has me. And at the moment that is all I truly need.
I was gonna wait to write this blog post… so it might come out as a load of drivel. More than likely. One of my Sisters past away very suddenly last week. The pain is so awful. When I say it’s horrific I do actually mean that word. I won’t go into details out of respect for my family. I have no idea how to cope with it. I feel like I was just starting to lift my head after John died, I have a job at a supermarket and was getting into a routine and now I feel like I’ve been wiped out again. I know in my head I’m not really as I have built a life here in Manchester and my sister lives far away and we saw each other when we could, but I really loved her so much and respected her so much for all she had come through in her life… and now I just don’t know what to think, or do. I have no desire to do anything…ever again. I literally don’t see the point. The moment John died there has been a longing I’ve had to ‘go home’ which I’ve spoken about, as even when I am at home I don’t feel like I’m at home, now that feeling has doubled. I don’t know where home is so how the hell am I going to get there? And the killer question which is knackering me up once again, how am I going to keep my relationship with God when things keep happening that just don’t make any sense? Do I only want God when everything is going right? But that can’t be the case as I have desperately wanted God even after the worst thing in my life happened. So what does that all mean? 3 weeks ago I had a moral failing that was so out of character for me and I really felt completely out of control but at the same time felt God was very much by my side and ‘with me’ in it. And speaking to me through it. How could that have been? I just don’t understand at all. When I’m deliberately kicking Him in the face he’s right there with me, when I need Him desperately more than ever He seems to disappear? Or am I just a complete whack-job? I thought I knew what loneliness felt like, turns out I didn’t, cause this is a whole different level. This loneliness is a deeper haunting. I literally don’t have the energy for another round of ‘dark night of the soul’ and yet I seem to be hurtling towards it and I can’t stop it. Some people will say, ‘Pack it in. Pick yourself up and get on with it.’ I now understand there are sometimes when people just can’t do that. Even when John died I got up every morning and made sure I was dressed and the like. It’s 11:38am and I’m still in my pj’s. No desire to even get dressed. Lying on the sofa crying intermittently, watching podcasts about space. And I have this feeling that people expect me to carry on as normal, as after all ‘She was only your sister.’ My gosh. I truly hope people don’t think that, but it feels that way. And seeing as the funeral isn’t for a few weeks I’m in the limbo period where the full force hasn’t even hit me yet and that scares the living daylight out of me. Will I ‘get up’ today? It’s not looking good right now. Will I function tomorrow? Who knows? How will I cope with the funeral when it is the day after what would be John’s birthday? These are the cards that have been dealt me, and I really do not want to play.
Today feels like a strange day. Had to go the Accountants to sort some stuff out and hopefully the end is now in sight but there’s still a few hiccups that need sorting out. Got up early and walked the dogs, sorted out paper work and went Accountants and came back, there’s a wedding on today for two of my friends but because I was waiting to hear about a job I didn’t RSVP in time, so I am not going. Everyone in my house are and they are excited, one is a bridesmaid and they were getting ready when I got back and after spending time this morning talking about John to the Accountants it made me feel so empty when I arrived home. The sun is blazing today and sometimes sunshine doesn’t make you feel better, sometimes it highlights the sadness and the loneliness. So took myself off to my favourite cafe that some people who we used to know from running a stall on the local market run, and it is fab. Had some breakfast and they have been very sensitive and kind. Reading a book while I sit here and this line came out and grabbed me “what we learn in Hell is that we want out.” But I read it wrong at first and read it as “what we learn in Hell is want we really want.” But I think both are true. What I learnt when John died which for me is a type of hell, is what I really wanted. And that was The Lord. The Lord in as much fullness as I can get. That’s what I really want. Obviously I wanted ‘out’ of the situation and I still desperately wish this was just a weird nightmare that I can wake up from. But if I can’t have that, I shall have The Lord in as much fullness as I can get. It is the only way for me. In the words of a song – “One way, Jesus, your the only one that I could live for.”
I’m going to begin this post with a quote from a 90’s girl band.
“Water’s running in the wrong direction
Got a feeling it’s a mixed up sign,
I can see it in my own reflection
Something funny’s going on inside my mind.”
I’ve thought long and hard about writing this post but have only recently felt able to. If you have read my blog since John passed away you will kind of be able to trace the thread of this through some other posts.
The moment John died it was like someone had put an atomic bomb inside of every thought I ever had about everything. There was total devastation in my mind. It’s not an exaggeration to say it touched every part of my thinking, but there was one part that I couldn’t handle whatsoever, and I was scared, really scared. It came to a head in the following post, which you may wish to read or not.
I went to Manchester Cathedral, and I had it out with God. I told Him I had no idea where we went from here. Even just thinking about that time sends a cold shiver over me. I don’t think I have ever been so brutally honest with God before and it was so painful. I am now on a fascinating faith journey, one which I have discovered has a title, and it can happen to different people, for all kinds of reasons. It’s called deconstruction. Deconstruction is a bit of a buzzword at the moment in certain circles so let me clarify what I mean. I do not mean I am abandoning my faith or becoming cynical. That is not what is happening. However, my faith (and my whole life) was blown apart in every which way when John died and so I have to go over it piece by piece. Some parts are no longer there or are so broken they don’t fit together anymore so I have to deconstruct bits that may still be together to be able to reconstruct it in a way that means God and I can work this through. I was very fearful of this cause I had no idea what I was going to or should do. I just told the Lord I didn’t understand anything anymore but I did still want to believe in Him and I still loved Him despite all that had happened.
I held tight for a good few months through the summer and towards the end of last year just dealing with the shock of losing John wearing slowly off and all that came with that and found myself at the start of 2018 finally able to acknowledge the state of my heart and faith. I discovered that God had put people in my path that knew precisely what was happening with me. Firstly I had a conversation back in sept 2017 with my favourite lecturer at my college residential who had said a number of things I wasn’t expecting from him. These got me thinking in a different way. Another thing that prepared the way for this back in the autumn was I did an essay on Penal Substitution (a theory of what happened on the cross. Too long to explain here, try google :0). After reading Brad Jersak’s chapter in the book Stricken by God? which made all the hairs on my arms stand up, I cried and sat in silence for about 45 mins, as I realised this was answering a multitude of questions I wanted to articulate but couldn’t for so many years. I went on to write my essay and concluded that I had rejected penal substitution. On reflection, this seems essential to my faith journey as I found that there was a way of looking at things that I could ‘handle’ again, and this helped me incredibly.
By the time January hit I was ready for who God had in store for me, they were 2 very different lecturers, and the things they taught and the advice they gave after listening to my story was exactly what I needed. They didn’t give me any answers they just pointed me to different teachings and exercises and material. They reassured me and told me it was ok, and I didn’t need to be afraid. I thank God for them, cause they made me see a way through the devastation.
Come to the end of January a few weeks after the residential, and I probably had cognitive fatigue as I had watched a crazy amount of youtube videos and read a crazy amount of books from Brad Jersak, Brian Zahnd, Bruxy Cavey, Paul Young, Baxter Kruger and I had terrible Jaw tension. Looking back I know exactly what that was over, it was a weird expression of fear for all physical things that might change for me (they still might even as I write) but also the upheaval of dissecting my faith in so much detail so quickly, I was left in a state. In Feb there was a theology evening with my college at a local church and it took me half an hour to get out the car as my head was spinning with everything and my heart felt so heavy as I just didn’t know spiritually where I was headed. Thankfully God provided a song, and the lyrics said: “If you can calm the raging sea, you can calm the storm in me.”
It is still true there are many areas to pick over, and I haven’t made my mind up about a lot, but I have found some amazing things as well. Paul Young and Baxter Kruger’s teaching on the Trinity has totally transformed my spiritual life and has given me a fantastic way to connect with God. Brian Zahnd’s books and teachings and Brad Jersak’s ‘A more Christlike God’ book helped my relationship with God and Jesus more than I could explain in this blog. Nomad podcast, The (De)constructionists podcast, teachings from Greg Boyd and Bruxy Cavey have all been so helpful, along with many of Brad’s lessons in college and my therapist who has had to listen to me drivel on and on about everything but made some helpful observations and gave me a few pointers but turns out she was in line with my lecturers and the stuff I was reading all along.
So what does all this have to do with a quote from Girl’s Aloud? When I was listening to that song today these words hit a chord (no pun intended) within me. I felt like how they describe for a very long time. Thankfully I am much much more at peace now and very relieved. I’ve embraced my deconstruction.
More to follow in the next few blogs…