Wednesday, August 17, 2011

'Good Grief'

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These past few years, thoughts and feelings I have written on my blog have had several purposes. I started writing originally because I did not want to become a burden on my family and friends by sharing my feelings of grief and pain over and over. But I still needed an outlet... a 'safe' place to be able to share my thoughts and my feelings. I was still able to get my thoughts out, but without burdening anyone. So, I shared them with the world through my written words on my blog.
But then I began wondering if I would look bitter if I continued to share my grief and my pain and my sorrow as time passed by... so I even began hiding those thoughts in my writings as well. I would write about it once in a while... but most of the time, I was not writing down my feelings anymore.

I wish I could say that I have used my blog throughout my journey and have written about all the times when I have had a breakthrough, or an 'aha' moment... and maybe I have done that once in a while... but for the most part, I have shared more of my pain in my written word than my healing.

But I am so happy to say... that is going to change. NOW.

I hit another rough patch last month. The bitter pain was back in full force and I was experiencing it all over again. During that time, I read a scripture that I mentioned in THIS posting... and since then in these past few weeks, I have done a lot of soul searching. I have been reading inspiring things, watching inspiring movies about overcoming adversity, praying a lot, and just thinking a lot...

A few postings ago, I posted this poem:

"Pain stayed so long.
I said to him today, 'I will not have you with me anymore.'
I stamped my foot and said, 'Be on your way,'
and paused there, startled at the look he wore.
'I who have been your friend,' he said to me. 'I who have been your teacher - all you know of understanding, love, of sympathy, and patience,
I have taught you. Shall I go?'
He spoke the truth, this strange unwelcome guest;
I watched him leave, and knew that he was wise.
He left a heart grown tender, he left a far, clear vision in my eyes.
I dried my tears, and lifted up a song -
even for one who'd tortured me so long."

-Spencer W. Kimball

In these past few weeks of soul searching, this poem came to my mind and I realized that this had happened to me.

Pain has become my friend. My security blanket. My safe place.

Not only that, pain has also become one of the ways that I thought I could prove my love for Aaron. Prove to those who knew him how much I love him. I have chosen to believe that the more pain I feel and the more pain I continue to feel as time goes on, I will be proving that much more to people that I love Aaron and that I hurt without him here.
But why should I have to prove that? I know it, that is what matters.

I wish I could say that the pain I have felt since Aaron passed away was solely to do with his death... but its not. I have pain that I have carried around from before that day as well. Pain that creeps in... often. The pain that I have been carrying around for years now... has become so deep and hurts so badly, and it has made this journey all the more difficult for me as I have tried to get to a place where I could forgive and also deal with my own regrets.
It is difficult to imagine my life without feeling that pain... without showing that pain... and without desiring that pain. At times, pain is the only thing that I could feel. When I felt numb... I desired to feel anything, so pain became a welcome guest.

I have spent so many years in pain, I have lost sight of and forgotten what it feels like to be truly happy.

This breaks my heart.

I remember being a happy child, a happy teenager, a happy missionary... I just had a cheerful countenance and was told such often. People who knew me back in those times of my life don't know how that happy girl from my youth could be someone who is not feeling the JOY that they saw in me back then. I am a different person... and I have denied that fact for so long, but deep down I knew it was true. It is amazing how circumstances in life just wear you down and you lose sight of who you are and why you are here.

I am not saying that I walk around sad all the time. I don't.
I still laugh and smile and feel some JOY.
I just know that my countenance is heavy and I am just not the same.

Yes, pain has been my friend. But I am ready to say goodbye to my friend. I am ready to take all that my friend has taught me and I am ready to tell my friend goodbye.

I am not unreasonable to think that my friend, pain, will not be back for visits now and again... but in these past few weeks, I have come to realize that I can be happy even if my life isn't even close to what I truly want it to be.

I don't need to carry this pain or even wear this pain around with me for another day. I am so ready to be done with it.

Sadly, I have let pain become what defines me.

In the ward we moved into last year, there is a lady who has been so cheerful and always seems so happy. I have watched her from afar and have always thought of her as a happy and cheerful person... and someone who makes others feel loved.
Recently, I found out that this lady that I have noticed from afar... is a widow. I don't know the details of it all and I don't even know how long it has been since she lost her husband... but what what I do know is this:

At that moment when I found out that she is a widow, her cheerful and happy countenance became an example to me. Because she has felt the depth of my sorrow in losing a husband and has triumphed over it, I realized right then and there that I don't need to use my pain to prove that I love Aaron. I don't need to feel pain in order to miss Aaron. I don't need to feel pain in order to show that I remember Aaron.
This lady gave me a gift without even knowing that she gave me a gift.
I don't need to have sorrow in my heart and pain in my soul.
She let me know that I could be free... free to be happy even if it still hurts to have lost Aaron.

I wish I could express how difficult it has been for me to put these thoughts into actual words because I have had such a battle going on between my head and my heart about what I truly want. Part of me wants to write this and announce to the world that I am done with pain... but the other part of me feels like I am not ready to let this friend go... and also knows that my life is still doing to have pain in it at times.

But I am glad to say that my heart is winning this battle.

This reminds me of a couple of scriptures that have been favorites of mine, but seldom in my adult life have I truly lived by these words:

'A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.'
~ Proverbs 15:13

'...let thy heart cheer thee...'
~ Ecclesiastes 11:9

It makes me cry to read these verses again.
I know that my spirit, or countenance, has been broken for a long time. I know that the sorrow, or pain, of my heart has worn me down and has dimmed my spirit, or countenance.

My heart wants to heal and feel true JOY again... to be of good cheer. I want to have my countenance scream to the world that I have JOY in my life, peace in my soul, and have been triumphant in my tribulations. I want to have my countenance show the world that I know who I am, why I am here, and whose daughter I am. I am a daughter of God.

I wish I could write down all that I have been learning and all of the amazingly inspiring things that have really propelled me these past few weeks, but this posting would be a whole novel.

This is the start of the next chapter of my journey... a positive chapter.
A chapter of healing and a chapter full of good cheer.

In the words of Charlie Brown, we will call this chapter 'Good Grief'. :)

Stay tuned...

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Momza said...

So eloquently expressed, Leslie. May the days ahead offer many opportunities for joy!

Shauna Leavitt said...

Hey girl! I love this post so much and I'm so proud of you for putting your thoughts into words. I think everyone can relate to what you wrote today, especially me. Thanks so much! I miss you :( love you!

Allred Mom said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing a little of the heartache of your journey thus far in this mortal life. May this new chapter take you to places you never imagined full of happiness and joy.

Louise said...

Hi Leslie,

I think of you so often. Thank you for sharing this part of your journey. You are an inspiration to me.

You are coming through this trial with dignity. I only hope that when it is my turn to pass through a fiery hell I do it with as much grace as you. These trials happen to us all in the end, unfortunately you had yours earlier than most.

You are a strong, courageous woman. You will reap sweet rewards for all of your endurance, this I am sure.

Sending you much love and kisses.


Kristi said...

Hooray! I loved this posting. If you and this ward member can move on and find happiness in your tribulation, we all can. It is so true, it isn't what occurs in our life time, it is how we handle those happenings.
I am excited for you to turn this leaf and start a new chapter.
(And every other cliches phrase that applies :))
I am so glad for you to see such breakthrough and healing.

Mindy said...

Great post, Leslie. Love you.

John said...

WONDERFUL!! I love to hear this. Keep up with the good inspiration and cheerfulness. Do whatever you need to do to keep that with you.
And I was probably already thought of this....with your 'spare' time....temple every week!!!! Love you leslie.

partypatt said...

I am so proud of you. You are working through your grief and wanting to feel joy again is perfectly perfect. Keep on working on it. What an example you are to us!

Tracie said...

I don't know if you have heard this song before but it has helped me through my trials. Hope you enjoy it.

Valeri said...

Love the Specer W. Kimball poem. It reminds me of another poem that is so similar. I'll have to find it and get it to you. Also, Esther Wood's poem, 'Prayer for a Daughter': Obviously this can apply to a daughter or son, or you or me.

It really is so important to have "winter" and "pain" in our lives. For without these things, there's very little purpose to life.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Leslie said...

dear anonymous,

please tell me who you are. you had some misinformation in your comment, so i had to delete it.

not sure why you had to stay anonymous if i know you well enough for you to feel comfortable writing what you wrote.

email me if you would.

Lisa said...

this is a great and momentous realization. i'm with kristi though...if you can get through ALL you have been through-not just aaron's death and since-but even everything before that- there is hope for all of us to get through anything. in fact, when i worry about certain trials happening to me, all i have to do is think of you and think "well leslie has met these great difficulties, i will be able to do it!" and it gives me perspective and hope. you have had more challenges than anyone realizes because you have largely kept them to yourself. people that read this blog, or people that know you personally probably think that they know your pain and what you've been through because you are somewhat open about some things. but no one really knows. no one. out of love, you have quietly endured more pain than anyone on earth can know.

BUT! Heavenly Father knows and is celebrating that you have had this inspiration. He wants you to have joy. If anyone I know deserves that joy, you do. remember to keep doing all of these 'right' things that are bringing you light into your life. don't stop doing them. don't let anything or anyone take that light from you. let the light grow and grow until the perfect day. i love you.

Liz said...

You can do it! Beautiful post Leslie