As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. -- Isaiah 55:10-11

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Comfortless Comfort Zone

Much of her day was spent floating in the ocean of grief she thought would consume her. She lay on the couch, curled in bed, sat in the rocker and stared...into nothing...into her pain.

I watched. Ready to jump in if she went under.

The waves grew taller, more frequent. Her ability to stay afloat weakened. She grew exhausted from simply trying to keep upright.

When the waves finally toppled her, she cried for nearly an hour and a half. Hot tears. Sobs shaking her thirteen-year old body.

When air was available, she screamed, ranted, and questioned, and then the sobs came in another wave. When her head came above water again, so did the anger and pain. She thought she was drowning, but I knew I was watching her swimming the ocean of grief with beautiful precision and excellence.

Finally, she told me what had sunk her.

"Mom, they think I shouldn't be sad."


"It seems like everybody." A long list of names come forth. Youth leaders, youth pastors, friends...trusted hearts she thought would be a safe haven that had lobbed painful bombs. "They tell me I shouldn't be sad."

Within the last four months:
--her parents separated
--her long-time diving coach had lied and left her feeling disillusioned
--her traditional activities had come to an end as her age transitioned her out of them
--her grandma had been diagnosed with cancer and died
--her grandpa had imploded with anger and no longer spoke to us
--her uncle wasn't coming to Thanksgiving dinner
--her mom's uncle had died

In four months, her world had disintegrated under her feet, and she was trying to figure out where to stand...if there even existed a place to stand....But!, she had no right to be sad.

"Anna," I whispered quietly, "you are doing beautifully. I'm so proud of you."

Her breathing stopped, and her head jerked toward me. "What? Mom, I can't stop crying."

I smiled. "I know. Good for you. You should cry. This is horrible. The losses are horrible. Grandma was an amazing woman, and she left a big hole. Thanksgiving is always special, and she won't bring dressing. That stinks. And she won't make pies."

Anna laughed. "You mean the pies that she told you to make but she always brought?"

I laughed, too. "Yep. Those."

Anna shook her head. "She always told you she was only bringing dressing, and then she brought two boxes of food."

I nodded. "Yes, she did."

Quiet settled in for a bit. Then Anna said, "Mom, I'm afraid I'll cry on Thanksgiving."

"Then come sit with me, and we'll cry together."

"Mom, they said not to talk to you about Grandma because it would only make you sad."

I fought to keep the calm. "They're stupid," I said flatly.

"I don't want to make you cry."

"Anna, you are not my mom. You are not responsible for my emotions or my tears. I am so sorry anyone was so cruel and stupid as to put that load on you. That is not your job. Your job is to heal. Period. And healing often means crying and telling where you hurt, so cry and tell me. Besides, who else will understand the pain of losing Grandma as much as me?"

She was quiet a moment. Then she said, "Mom, they keep telling me Grandma is happy and better off. I know that, but I still miss her."

"Next time someone says that, just say, 'Yeah, but my heart has a giant hole, and that is what I have to deal with.'"

She ventured her heart again. "They say she is always with me. No, she's not." Her anger finally showed up for the party. "She's not here. I can't hug her. I can't call her. I won't see her Christmas. She is not with me."

I smiled, so proud of my daughter, courageous enough to speak truth others like to evade.

"Next time they say that, simply say, 'Really? Where? Cause I would like to give her a hug.' I hate when people say dumb things like that."

She stopped, seemingly surprised that she is not the only one who hates such comfortless remarks.

She stepped further into bravery. "Mom, they make me feel like I don't have a right to be sad, like I'm selfish. I'm not selfish. I hurt."

I'm not selfish. I hurt.

My heart swelled with pride.

"Anna, their comments have nothing to do with making you feel better. They are all about making them feel better. They aren't comfortable with your sadness, so they try to make themselves comfortable by making you what they are comfortable with. They are the ones being selfish."

She nodded. "Yeah. I thought they would be sad with me or be sorry Grandma was gone, but instead, they told me I had to feel better so others did, and if I didn't, I was selfish."

I smiled. "Well, I don't think you are selfish. I think you are grieving, and that is perfectly acceptable."

She became quiet. Finally she spoke. "Mom, thanks for being comfortable with my hurting."

I squeezed her tight. "Not a problem, Amazing Girl. I totally understand."

And unlike the others who say that, I really do...and she finds comfort in that.

God, thank you for all the times You have allowed me to feel what she has understand that other people don't really experience the pain of people's comfortless comfort I could learn from You the ability to create and be a safe harbor...where healing comes by making it to the other side of the hurting...where I am comfortable with her...and in me...


Leslie said...

I think you're an amazing person, an amazing mother, an amazing friend, an amazing sister, an amazing example of an amazing christian. I know from listening to Gayle when we worked together, that you were an amazing daughter too. I know that nothing, but nothing will ever replace the losses that you and Anna have suffered. Eventually the memories will comfort instead of hurt. It takes time, and undetermend about of time, before this happens. But it does happen. I'm sure, Anna, like you are and your mother was, is an amazing person. As far as I can tell, you are an amazing gift left to me by your mother, whom I loved, adored, and admired so much. My prayers are with you and Anna, that you may find comfort and healing in eachother.

Love and hugs.
Your sister,
Your sist

Jenifer (Jenny Molohon) Mahler said...

Jerri and Anna, I was 48 years old when my mom was diagnosed with acute leukemia. She was gone in 7 weeks. It was a huge shock, a big loss, and I grieved horribly for a good 5 years. It has now been 8 years since she's been gone and it does get easier as time goes on, but only because every day I submitted my emotions to God. He understands all my tears, but He offers hope that one day they will all be dried up. I can truly empathize with you both as I've been on this road before myself, as you well know, Jerri. Mom was buried on my birthday...that was almost like a cruel joke! But God brought you into my life to help me through the awfulness of it all. I really appreciate that...and I'll never forget how you made sure there was a ham, milk, bread, etc for our dinner the next day as we drove from Minnesota and got in Christmas Eve. You are in my prayers as you walk through this deep, dark valley. Reading the Psalms helps me through times like this...not the happy ones, but the sad ones where David poured out his guts to the Lord and asked for help. May you continue to find strength to rise on the wings of eagles and soar above all the problems as you walk through this valley. You are loved!
Jenifer Mahler

Melinda Demers said...

Amazing words from an AMAZING Lady!!!!!!!!