Disclaimer: I’m in the midst of telling my story. Currently one blog post does not stand alone. To fully understand this post, I would encourage you to read a few of my past blog posts.
I spent at least two hours this morning researching about denial. I wrote a post full of facts about denial; the role it plays in our grief process and how it often manifests.
I wrote about the mother who refuses to change anything in her son’s room years after his death.
I wrote about the alcoholic who denies his addiction, claiming he could stop at any time.
I wrote about the women who is told she is on the verge of Type 1 diabetes and yet refuses to change her lifestyle.
I wrote about the man who continues to go back to the same woman, again and again…
But was reminded that I’m here to tell you about what it looked like on me…
I had just finished a conversation with my friend Chris. We were walking on campus and talking about my transplant (More about that conversation in Words.) He suggested the possibly God had orchestrated the events in my life over the last 6 months.
WHAT?!?!? The God I knew and loved would never do that….
For whatever reason, that idea took me over the edge. It was TOO MUCH! I just had a sudden liver transplant, my body had rejected my liver – now this! God could have orchestrated all of this?!?! (I’m not speaking to my current theology, but to the state of my heart at the time.)
As humans we have incredible survival instincts; both physically and emotionally. When our reality collides with something that we cannot process, our defense mechanisms kick in.
For me, that defense mechanism, was called denial.
At the time I didn’t even know I had entered denial. Defense mechanisms are incredible protectors. Denial allows us to get through the first few days after the loss of loved one. Denial is the fuel that allows us to plan funerals and get out of bed in those first few days. Denial allows us to ease into our new reality. Denial is designed to soften the blow; however, it was NOT designed to be a way of life.
The confusion, the emotions, all of it – I didn’t know how to deal with it. So I stuffed it. I stuffed my emotions. I couldn’t deal with my new reality, so I created a new one. My new one would acknowledge my transplant with my words, but would not process the emotions attached.
The hard thing about emotions, is if they aren’t properly processed and put in their place, they rise up when they aren’t welcomed.
On the outside, it may have appeared as if I were thriving. God was using me to reach high school students in ways I had never experienced. He was using me in spite of myself. I had started college and had a lot of friends.
A lot of coffee friends.
We can all rally for a few hours. I would sit down, catch up with a friend and get into the car. I would crash. I was always emotionally exhausted regardless of my external circumstances. Things would feel big, that were really small. Small tasks felt overwhelming. I was quick to judge. I lived only in the black and white, the gray felt scary; too confusing for me. I would go from 0-1,000 within seconds. Very little was thoughtful, I became very reactive.
A friend of mine explained it well. He talked about when we are in denial, it’s like we are living in two different planes. In our physical reality, we look fine. We appear to be adjusted and thriving. But if you take a moment to look below the surface, you feel the undertow. It’s as if below the surface there is current of emotion just waiting to break the fragile barrier we desperately protect. They take on a persona and recognize they do not belong there; always looking for a crack to break through.
It was so exhausting living like that. But the weird thing about grief and survival is we will do whatever we can to remain at status quo.
As I’ve shared in previous posts, I feel a calling to share about my grief journey. I believe one of the reasons is because it didn’t always look like the typical process. I was not mourning a death of a loved one. I did not deny my new reality with my words. I did not play the victim. But I grieved and I didn’t do it well. I didn’t embrace the process, I let the process overcome me. So as you look at the first part of my grief process, is there anything that resonates with you?
It’s normal to feel emotional and at times to feel exhausted. But it’s NOT normal to feel emotionally exhausted all the time.
Are you emotionally exhausted most of the time?
Do displaced emotions rise up at inconvenient times? Seemingly out of nowhere?
Have you created a fragile barrier to separate your physical and emotional reality?
Remember grief in not just necessary when you lose someone you love. Grief is the process that helps us navigate change and accept our new realities – big or small. But we need to embrace the process.
Your emotions are looking for a place, their proper place. God has a place for them. Denial is a gift in the first moments of survival; it is not a way of life. I know those emotions feel scary, overwhelming and when we face them we have to face the fact that nothing will ever be the same. Learn from my mistakes, go there. Create a space in your life to allow those emotions to surface. Sit there. Ask God to meet you. He will be there. Experience Him. Cry hard. Write about it, talk about it.
And buckle up, the journey is just beginning.
We were made for more…