How do you process pain without crying? How do you keep it all together with your eyeliner dripping down your rosy cheeks? How do you pull yourself up off of the cold floor once you’ve found solace there?
It has become apparent to me it is more courageous to process pain than to avoid it. Though my threshold and tolerance levels are high, they have breeched my capacity.
Having lived through several traumatic events, I have developed many coping mechanisms. These instincts have been faithful tools. They have allowed me to be level headed and think in situations in which others may have completely panicked and collapsed under the stress.
It has been a little over three years since my hero, my daddy passed due to cancer. And, today marks the one year anniversary of the passing of my beautiful son. He was the light of my life. His smile drew people in and filled their hearts with happiness. His almost 21 years on this planet were a blessing to me. I spent more hours with him than anyone else in my world. From the moment I conceived, to the moment he died, he depended on me for his very existence. Even now, I feel an odd satisfaction in keeping his memory alive. I want his legacy to continue to touch people and make an impact.
While I typically practice pain avoidance to survive, I am diving head first into the emotions I have suppressed, fully processing and really feeling. It is uncomfortable for me to move on in a healthy way. I find comfort in holding on to the sadness which grips my soul. It makes those I miss feel close to me. I am afraid to view my life without them. My personal resistance tells me I do not need to explore these feelings, nor do I need to open up this Pandora’s Box. Why would I? I show up everyday. I keep my obligations and responsibilities. I work hard and make sure everyone’s taken care of.
What if I cannot come back from this process? What if I am completely unable to function? What if I get so overwhelmed, I end up in shock or completely catatonic?
My friends and family are now continually expressing concern for my health & well-being. While I do not feel lonely, I feel alone. I am personally struggling. I no longer find satisfaction in life. I do not feel euphoric when something positive occurs, nor do I experience a state of joy anymore. I have gotten by this year by merely waking up and “doing” what needs to be done. My dreams tainted by a thick, dark fog. They have become goals to achieve rather than a passion and purpose for living.
I am able to talk factually about these things while detaching myself from the emotions of the event. Many people view this as strength. Up to this point, I have viewed it as necessary. However, these methods are now no longer working.
After reluctantly going to trauma therapy & grief counseling, I am working to fight for my own life.
First, I was asked to mourn the fact my father can no longer be a part of dreams we at one point shared together. We always laughed fondly as we dreamed of the day I win an Oscar. My father was going to be my chauffeur and carry my hand bag down the red carpet while I got my pictures taken and did press interviews. I have always adored this whimsical thought. This was the kind of bond we had. We did so many things together. To think of winning an Oscar and not having him there grieves my heart. The vibrant fantasy goes dark and dreary in my mind. I do not relish the thought of celebrating without him. My therapist warned me if this event truly does occur, and I do win an Oscar, without healing, I will be depressed during a true highlight of my life.
As I begin to let this fantasy go, my eyes fill with tears. My mascara smudges my face. I am torn. My heart aches.
I hear my father whispering to my spirit, “I can’t be there in person, but I will always be with you.” He continues to remind me he has always been my biggest cheerleader and will be leading the angelic celebration when this momentous moment does occur.
I am struggling to believe this and let go. I am afraid I will forget him. I miss him sooooo much!
As God as my witness in this quiet hotel, I give up my dream of having my father with me at any occasion, but especially those grand events I imagined he would have attended with me.
The second thing I was asked to do was process my life.
For twenty plus years my world revolved around my severely disabled son. His needs were my priority. His wellbeing was paramount. While I believe I did a good job making space for myself in his world, I definitely did not put myself first.
Now he is gone. So many things are easier. It is like taking leg weights off and going running. I can take a shower without removing a bathchair for the first time in my adult life. I can run to the grocery store without getting a caretaker or hauling in a heavy wheelchair. Yesterday I was able to go hiking in the Hon Rainforest with friends and discover places I would have previously sacrificed to attend to my son.
Don’t get me wrong. We had a wonderful life together. I was able to experience so many things because he was here. He had a massive impact on my character and my outlook on life. My current dilemma is now: how I do plan what I want to do and not feel selfish? How do I express want, need, expectations, and hope without considering previous constraints? How do I not get discouraged or frustrated if things do not work out as anticipated?
This may sound odd to some. For me this is painstaking and hard. Imaging my future and getting excited about it causes me guilt. I feel shameful for enjoying the freedom I now have. I love my son with every part of who I am. I don’t want to plan a future without him. I want a future with him in it.
I resist imagining my son in heaven – whole, having fun, free from pain, and experiencing things like never before. I end up focusing on the absence of his presence here. I fear casting vision without him. Even now, I never want him to feel like a burden, a bother, or like someone holding me back. Maybe I fear this because at times I did subconsciously feel that way?!? All I know is, this is challenging for me now.
As I sit here I have to open myself up to the idea my son might actually be proud of me. I completed college, mostly as a single mother. I created a fun and adventurous life for my family. I started a production company in the most unlikely of places and it not only provides jobs, but creates meaningful content for companies and entertaining stories for mass global audiences. I am a leader in my region and proficient in my line of work. I sincerely love people and foster meaningful relationships.
Maybe my son wants me to be happy. Maybe he cares about my dreams just as much as I cared about his. So we go together…
What does the future have in store for Joy?!?
To be honest, my head is spinning at this moment. I feel like I am going to vomit! 🤢🤮
My husband and I have dreamed of making feature films ever since we met. While we have both been able to work on a few, our company has not yet produced one on its own.
We are in Washington State so I can take this time to heal and connect with loved ones. We are also here working on a project with a producer friend of ours. I would like to see this project filmed this fall. I feel the pressure to raise the needed $1.5 million to film the project. I know the weight is not entirely on my shoulders. However, I have a hard releasing that dream to heaven. I have so many what if’s that roll around in my brain. I have worked so hard and diligently over so many years to get here that I do not want to be disappointed. What if the stars do not align? What if people do not follow through on their promises? What if, what if, what if?!? The list goes on. Rarely ever do “what if’s” turn into the positive when I get in this mode.
I am going to try —-
What if God is on my side? What if I have established meaningful and trusting relationships? What if my son is commissioning angels on my behalf? What if, our company has what it takes? Not only to see this through, but do it with quality and excellence? What if, this film launches us into the next chapter of our lives? What if we have all the connections and resources we need?
What if none of this happens, we don’t die, and life simply continues on as it already has been?
Lastly, my therapist made me aware of meanings we humans attach to dates. My father passed away on my wedding anniversary. Each anniversary since has been difficult for me to celebrate. My son passed the day before my birthday. I don’t have many fond memories of my birthday, and this event just exacerbated that issue.
However, armed with new perspective, I am going to choose to see these dates in a positive light. I am going to see my father dying during my anniversary date as a significant event where he celebrates love, commitment, & covenant. I am going to view my son passing the day before my birthday in an entirely different way. Sawyer’s birth into the afterlife provides him with new opportunities and also gives new opportunities to my life. I plan to celebrate the days they were born and honor the days the left this earth. I expect this is easier said than done.
I feel this may be all I can get out at the moment.
This process is requiring true strength from me. It is demanding communication and agreement between my brain, my heart, my spirit, and my soul. I have never been one who easily cries or purges though tears. I must not fear the utter feeling of weakness I tend to associate with pain. I have always seen scars as reminders of traumatic events rather than the body’s miraculous self healing abilities. Embracing the beauty of my heart scars requires the vulnerability of staining my face as the makeup drips down my cheek.
It is my sincere prayer that those reading about my process find the courage and strength to begin or continue their own journey. This is not for the faint of heart. It is for the healing of it.