I won't blame you if you're getting sick of reading about grief. I'm getting sick of going through it.
I can't write about Al's grief. I don't understand it.
All I know is my own grief. I touched on it in my last post. But it's becoming more intense now, so I'm trying to process it more fully.
It may seem odd to some people that there is still grieving to be done three years after the stroke. Some of it is new grief. Some of it is continuing grief.
Within the past few months, I've had an incredible new inspiration to write. I started writing a book in January. I am very much convinced that it is inspired by God. I believe that He has given me a talent and unique insight to be able to write effectively.
But what I also discovered was, that the more I wrote, the more I got lost in my writing. This has been a classic defense mechanism for me all my life: escapism.
Let me clarify here: Writing is not a bad thing. It is especially therapeutic for me. In fact, my dear friend who is a social worker tells me regularly that journaling for 15 minutes is equivalent to one half hour of therapy. However, when I choose to live in my fantasy world, then it becomes a problem.
If I wasn't escaping into my writing, I would be escaping into YouTube videos or funny Vines or even senseless sitcoms on TV. I sometimes escape by sleeping.
When I have any presence of mind to face what is really bothering me, I sometimes turn to self-pity instead of actual, healthy grief.
This past week, I had a wonderfully cathartic conversation with one of my closest friends. I told her that I was escaping too much, indulging in self-pity, and giving in to jealousy about everyone else's seemingly perfect lives.
All I wanted to do was to fix my sin and move on. I didn't want to get to the root of it.
But, God in His mercy, finally revealed this to me: I have to face all my hurt and walk through it with Him. I have to grieve, and now is the time to start a new season of grief.
So, what is it that causes me so much grief, you may wonder? Al's alive, our kids are excelling in school, we're continually provided for, financially, spiritually, materially.
But it still hurts when this realization sinks in: Al will never, ever, ever be the same as he was before the stroke. Barring a miracle, Al will never go sledding with us again. He may come to the beach, but he won't swim. Our favorite vacation spot ever is the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City. We could go back, but it won't be nearly as much fun for Al if he can only wade in the kiddie pool. We might go to the mall together, but we won't walk very far. (This was one of our regular "date" activities, to go out to eat, and then just wander the mall, window shopping.)
Al's brain is being challenged to recover and work on problem-solving in his job. This is a very good thing, and I think it will provide a lot of therapy in its own right. But his short-term memory has been compromised. I don't think it will ever be the same. I'm slowly figuring out how to be a team with someone who forgets much of what I tell him.
Our relationship is quite different than it used to be. Granted, most married couples will say their marriages change over seventeen years, so some of it is due simply to the passage of time. But some of it is obviously stroke-related, since Al's realm of emotions was compromised by the damage to his brain. Some physical things were also impacted, aside from his arm and leg. There are serious repercussions on our husband-wife relationship. That. Really. Stinks.
In the last post, I said it would be hard for me to write about the things that were too personal. This is the tip of the iceberg. I'm starting somewhere, and I don't intend to share every ugly, painful detail here. But besides the fact that I have to take God at His word when He says He is near to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18), I also think the Lord wants me to share some of my struggle openly so that others can take heart when they suffer a loss.
I want to convey the message, "You're not alone. You can get through this with God's help."
I am longing for the day when I can look back and write a book about all the wisdom I've gleaned during these challenging years.
But for now, I have to be content with facing the issues and stumbling through them, no matter how ungraceful I am or how humbling it is for me.