By Guest Writer Lane Faulkner
May 25, 2008, started out beautifully – it was the start to Memorial Day weekend, and my then-husband and I were about to set out to visit my family at the lake. We stopped on our way out of town for a gift to surprise my parents with the news that we were pregnant with our first child. We seemed to float on a cloud there, dreaming out loud what our child would be named or look like. Suddenly, a black sedan careened around the bend in the road, crossing the double-yellow lines. She wasn’t stopping.
She hit us head-on into a nearby cornfield, and while emergency personnel worked to free my pinned husband from the wreckage and Life Flight the driver to the hospital, I watched in horror, clutching my stomach and screaming, “No! No! Please don’t take my baby!” The grim truth arrived later, and just as quickly as my dream of being a mother came, it was snatched away, and I was left reeling in the wake of devastation and grief.
For months, I cried watching others carry their children to term, feeling a deep ache and yearning like I had never before experienced. I am thankful to have been blessed later that year with the news we were expecting a baby boy, who is now a kind and tender eight-year-old; but in the months following my father’s death in 2011, I endured two back-to-back miscarriages that compounded my existing grief and reopened the old wound of my first child who never was.
Mother’s Day for some is fraught with mixed emotions, and for many, it serves as a painful reminder that something – or someone – is missing, whether it’s the loss of a parent, a child, or the dreams of a family that never materialized. At Living Hope, we believe that the Practice of Grief is a crucial step to healing those wounds. A natural inclination is to numb the pain somehow, but in doing so, we prolong the soul work that is necessary to process our grief and move forward in our lives. Dear Broken One, if this is you, allow yourself to experience the pain — you must go through your grief before you can get through it. Tears are the body’s way of cleansing its emotional wounds, and once that wound is cleaned out, we can honor the space left there. Love existed there, and it was important. It still is important.
The wound is ready for the Practice of Honesty once you have fully owned your grief. You’ll vacillate between the uncomfortable emotions of sorrow, anger, or even resentment, but being honest about what you are feeling in those moments is the key to pushing past them. Like swimming in the ocean, we gain more distance when we dive into the waves rather than trying to swim against them. It’s exhausting isn’t it, all that thrashing against a force that will nevertheless come? Practicing Honesty is absorbing those painful thoughts and emotions and allowing them their moment to exist so they can pass through, making way for healing. When we give ourselves permission to freely experience discomforting feelings, we can more easily identify them for what they are – impermanent and fleeting emotions.
As a single mother of two now, I continually have to practice owning my grief honestly; otherwise, I know I will be susceptible to bitterness and resentment. I’ve realized that my guilt, anger, and sorrow for the loss of my marriage and the pain it has caused my children are only emotions, but allowing those emotions to take up permanent space by refusing to face them will force me into a state of being, which is something else entirely. This morning, I wept in my car after I spent an hour comforting my four-year-old daughter as she hysterically sobbed for her dad, knowing that, ultimately, our decisions caused her little heart to break. The overwhelming guilt soon transitioned into anger – anger about the dreams I had for my family ending, anger that I’m walking this journey alone, and anger that other people seem to be able to have what I do not anymore. And for a brief few minutes, I granted myself permission to grieve and pity that loss.
You will begin the Practice of Honesty when you are ready to objectively identify those emotions as they happen, allow yourself to feel them, and relinquish the lie of “putting on a good face” and dropping the pretense of appearing to have it together. Miranda Lambert’s hit song “Mama’s Broken Heart” facetiously presents the instructions that have been ingrained in us as women: “Hide your crazy and start actin’ like a lady ‘cause I raised you better/gotta keep it together even when you fall apart/But this ain’t my mama’s broken heart.” Say farewell to this unhealthy and conventional wisdom, and let’s own our “crazy,” because suppressing our emotions in the face of heartbreak won’t take them away. In fact, gone unchecked and unfiltered through the healthy outlet of introspection, they will eventually seep into and pollute every other area of your life.
Eventually, the space these feelings take up will lessen in size, and in their place lies an opportunity for the self-examination needed to move forward. It’s easy to wallow in the pain and grief, clutching it like a familiar security blanket. Maybe we think if it is relinquished, the love that once existed there won’t be as real. Maybe it means letting go of a dream that simply won’t be, at least not in the way you envisioned. I promise you – the love remains. And by clearing a path for Hope, we allow God to turn our ashes into beauty we couldn’t have constructed ourselves. This requires a faith that Hope has the last word, even though our limited line of sight can’t see it in the distance. When you are ready to let go of the pain and the anger, you are ready to begin the Practice Curiosity in order to envision your life and your identity now. Your wound is no longer being infected, and the scar that is about to heal over it is a beautiful reminder of your love and the strength you have. When you are able to accept the truth for what it is, you can begin to discover a new reality, not in spite of your grief, but because of it. Allow the lessons you have learned, the pain you’ve felt, and the strength required to process it cultivate a desire to make it purposeful. Perhaps this means you have the chance to speak comfort into someone else’s life or to redirect your energy into another endeavor. There might even be an open door to a purpose you never could have imagined for yourself just waiting for you to walk through it.
This Mother’s Day, honor your Grief by acknowledging what your loss meant to you with transparency and Honesty; embrace your new reality with Curiosity; and begin your path to wholeness and healing. A whole new life awaits, and it is one that can be made joyful and abundant if you are willing to muster the courage to embrace it. This is Living Hope.