Struggle and Shock

This past Monday marked four weeks since Travis passed away.  On one hand it does not seem possible and yet on the other hand it seems much longer.  I have struggled to journal, struggled to blog.  Not because I do not have anything to say but because I have too much and it is hard to sort through.

We are struggling and yet in many ways, still in shock.  While watching a movie last week, I had this thought/feeling come upon me that Travis was going to walk in the door any minute.  In talking to the children, they seem to experience the same kind of things.  I still have to remind myself at times that he is not just off with friends for the weekend or at some event.  To some extent that shock did not just begin now, it began last October.  While 10 months seemed like a long time to us while we were living in the middle of it, it was really quick in the scheme of time.  I do not think we ever even really came to a place of acceptance in the 10 months, we struggled to stay ahead of the diagnosis and the reality.  In that sense, most of the counselors have commented to us that because of that fact, reality and acceptance may take a lot longer for us. That seems true to me at this point.

There are moments when we feel the absolute rawness of our hearts and emotions.  We feel even small things so much deeper because our hearts are just so bare and laid open.  Things that brought me comfort and solace before Travis’ diagnosis hold nothing for me know.  I struggle to find something to give me relief from the pain at times.  I have never been in that place before.  It is very unnerving on many levels.  Most often I reach a place where I just have to shut down or compartmentalize my pain to get something accomplished.  I realize that it may not always be this way but it is what gets me through the days now.

Just as “struggle” seems to define our days right now, it holds true for us with God as well.  The other day, a melt down happened with the children over a bag of popcorn (no emotional margin for any of us right now) and resulted in an episode of tears and words from their hearts.  “It feels like God hates us.  Why did He have to take our dad?”  I have no words.  No one does.  We just hold each other and cry.  I think that this is just as much childlike faith as anything else is.  Does not faith require not only a belief in what we know to be truth but also in the face of circumstances that make it hard to believe?  Faith requires a level of honesty before a God who expects nothing less from us.  We know in our heads He does not hate us but in our hearts it feels true for now.

God has not seemed to show up in the way we thought He would.  Not only in terms of healing and miracles but in terms of His presence, comfort, answers.  I read the following last week in the book Shattered Dreams, “If you are seeking God in the middle of shattered dreams, if you’ve become aware of your desire for Him but are having trouble finding Him, be encouraged that it bothers you.”  It does bother us.  Our heads know the truth but the our hearts have yet to feel or see His movement on our behalf.  Not to say that He is not moving, He probably is.  We just emotionally are not aware of His movement.

Early on in this journey, I had a friend, who has suffered her own deep personal loss, make the following statement to me.  “There are no words that I can offer you that will make any difference.  All I know is this.  God will hold onto you until you come to a place where you can hold onto Him again.”  That phrase has become my life preserver in the midst of an emotionally turbulent sea.  That is what I am holding on to for now, knowing that it is true.

An Excerpt from Sacred Romance

The following is an excerpt from John Eldridge’s book Sacred Romance (pp. 56-57).  If you have never read the book, I would encourage you to.  You will see not only God in a whole new light but your thoughts and views on relationship with Him will change dramatically.

This excerpt came through my email inbox (part of their Daily Reading email) on July 8th.  I have not been able to get the words out of my head since then.  For me, right now where I am, it depicts my struggle in my relationship with God.

Suspended over Pits of Snakes

When we were young, most of us loved adventure. There is something about the unknown that draws us, which is why we like stories so much. But I like to leave the theater at the end of the play, knowing that the dilemma of evil has been resolved by the characters on the stage or screen. Like Peter, Susan, Lucy, and Edmund, to find ourselves not as spectators but as central characters in the play itself is somewhat daunting. The stakes are truly high, sometimes literally life or death, and God rarely if ever yells, “Cut!” just as the dangerous or painful scene descends upon us. No stunt doubles come onto the set to take our places. Many of us feel that we have been playing these kinds of scenes ever since we were children. We wonder if the hero will ever show up to rescue us.

We would like to picture goodness as being synonymous with safety. When we think of God being good, we perhaps picture someone like Al on the popular TV program Home Improvement. He is someone who carefully plans out each task ahead of time and has all the proper tools and safety equipment in place; someone who has thought out every possible danger ahead of time and made allowances to ensure our safety as his workmate; someone who goes to bed early, gets plenty of rest, and wears flannel shirts as a mark of his reliability.

Being in partnership with God, though, often feels much more like being Mel Gibson’s sidekick in the movie Lethal Weapon. In his determination to deal with the bad guy, he leaps from seventh-story balconies into swimming pools, surprised that we would have any hesitation in following after him. Like Indiana Jones’s love interests in the movies, we find ourselves caught up in an adventure of heroic proportions with a God who both seduces us with his boldness and energy and repels us with his willingness to place us in mortal danger, suspended over pits of snakes.

Trying to Find Life in the Middle of Pain

I know that many of you have been wondering how we are doing. There is not a lot of positive or good things that I can say right now for where we are. I think most of you probably know that. This part of the journey, while I have dreaded it for 10 months, is much harder and painful for the children and I then I imagined it could be.

The service for Travis, while hard for us in many ways, was exactly what we felt like God had put on our hearts. We left there that day, with a peace and comfort that all involved portrayed his life well that day. The children even remarked that “dad would have been really proud of that.” And he is. We left from the service and headed out-of-town for a few days. We all felt that we needed some time to ease into coming home and the reality that Travis wasn’t there. That was very good for our hearts. All the emotion that is associated with our house was absent. It many ways, it was still hard. We would be doing something, fishing, hanging out, whatever and it wouldn’t be long before someone would say, “I wish dad were here.” or “Dad should be here” or “Dad would love this.”

We spent the last 10 years or so making our marriage and our family the priority. When I say that we did everything together, we really did. I do not think that we consciously at the time realized the importance of those decisions but we established a strong family identity as a whole and with each other individually. That was good and I don’t regret it but it makes this place that much more painful because the hole is that much more evident. It is felt in every moment and in everything we do.

We lived the last 10 months, moment by moment. We are still doing the same now. We are not requiring much of ourselves. We are struggling to figure out to “be” now in this place and that takes most of our energy. Grief itself is exhausting. Even among the 5 of us in this house, we are all processing grief differently. We are also learning to offer each other a lot of grace and mercy in this place as well. Our youngest said it best the other day when she said to me, “I walk around all day and there is always this tear in the corner of my eye that is ready to fall any moment.” That about sums it up.

There is an actual physical pain and ache in my chest that never seems to go away. Some days, that pain is intensified like on Mondays which marks the day of Travis’ passing or when I had to pick up his remains. It still seems surreal. I keep thinking that this is a nightmare and I will wake up. Acceptance seems to be hard fought for all of us at this point. I think one of the most freeing things that the grief counselor said is that there is no time limit on the stages on grief. It might take 3 weeks for me to accept Travis’ passing or it might take 3 months.

This will be the last post on Care Pages. Care Pages are meant for patients and their families and we no longer fall into that category. This is not the venue for me to use to post about our journey from this point on. I have moved all of these Care Page posts over to my blog site: https://tjmcclelland.wordpress.com/
(I apologize to those of you that keep receiving notices that a new post was up. I could not figure out a way to move them without notices being sent out.) If you wish to follow the continuation of our family’s journey then feel free through my blog.

Thank you again for all your cards, texts, FB messages, etc. While I have not been able to respond to all of them due to the emotional energy that requires on my part. They have always seemed to come at the most opportune moment. A moment when I really needed to know that there really were people lifting my name to God even though they were unaware of where I might be in that moment.