Love Loss and Losing It All Under the Weight of Grief
“I’d rather be in physical pain than emotional pain,” I’ve quipped several times during my healing journey. My new normal seems to be a series of tidal waves of grief that keep knocking me down. Despair, loss and the pain of grief just didn’t want to let up. My assumption that physical pain can be dealt with using pain killers went right out the window when my emotional pain manifested into physical pain.
Be careful what you wish for came to mind echoed in my mind.
The image I’ve used in this post, “Rising Cairn,” – is a 4,000-pound stone sculpture by Celeste Roberge – and wasn’t originally intended to depict the weight of grief. And yet, that is exactly how many of us feel when seeing this sculpture. I can truly feel the crushing pain of loss.
A few years ago, as I started on the road to healing from trauma, each time I would reach a critical point in my healing, I would sustain another loss. Cancer hit three members of my family in a very short time period; my oldest brother passed away. My trauma work stopped in order to process these losses in “real time.”
The losses didn’t stop, culminating in the shocking death of my first grandchild, Sarah, who was on the cusp of her 13th birthday. A few months later, the COVID pandemic emerged, and in the middle of that, my self-declared “therapy dog,” Remi, died.
The losses continued to add up.
A few months into 2021, my sciatica nerve pain began to act up. I wasn’t too concerned, as it usually goes away on its own. Yet, this time it didn’t. As I hobbled in to see my chiropractor, I learned it wasn’t just my sciatica nerve. My sacroiliac joint was out of place, and the pain was caused from this and my piriformis muscle putting pressure on the nerve. She gently worked on me and referred me to see her colleague, a physical therapist/bodywork specialist who has personal and professional experience with this problem.
I shared with her that during one of my meditations, I envisioned giving my body permission to let go the trauma that was the result of sexual abuse and trauma. I was wishing it away. I felt empowered and free! So why did this happen to my hips? She explained her theory: that my grief and trauma were stuck in my hips. And I needed to get the anger and grief out.
Didn’t I already mention, “be careful what you wish,” for above??
I would like to say that soon after I started physical therapy (PT) that I was healing rapidly and back to normal. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. In fact, the injury got much worse, because I turned the wrong way one morning, and my muscles went into a horrific spasm. Pain shot down my leg in a degree that I didn’t know was even possible. I needed assistance with everything – bathing, getting into bed, out of bed, eating – I mean everything. I screamed into pillows just moving. The best description of that pain was flames shooting down my leg – and white-hot lightning bolts at more severe times.
I couldn’t sit to eat, journal, pay bills. I couldn’t stand to wash my hands, make a meal. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t sleep. One morning when I was sitting on the edge of the bed, sobbing in pain at 5:30 in the morning, my spouse asked how he could help. I said, “Shoot me and put me out of my misery.” Never in my life had I felt so low. I was in severe physical, emotional and spiritual pain – a trifecta for wondering what in the hell were God’s plans for me – plans to not harm me and plans to prosper me.
Trust me when I tell you that I dropped more F-bombs than I could ever count while yelling at God.
My therapist was concerned that I have such I high threshold for pain. While I thought it was a badge of courage, it actually is not. It is actually a defense mechanism for coping with the physical and emotional pain of sexual abuse. My PT guy said the same. And the more research I do on how to heal, the more I learn about trapped trauma.
The more I read, the more I am convinced what I innately knew all along. My body literally collapsed under the weight of the grief.The more I read, the more I am convinced what I innately knew all along. My body literally collapsed under the weight of the grief. Click To Tweet
I also learned that my therapist, PT guy and chiropractor are all correct: I need to release the anger and grief that are trapped. And each time I have let the anger bubble up and release itself in the form of tears – tears of sadness, fear, frustration, loss – it is literally like some of the weight is being lifted.
One stone at a time.
A dear friend asked me what do you think the pain is trying to tell you? I had to really reflect about the gifts and lessons of this trifecta of pain. How can pain and gift even be in the same sentence? It forced me to cry – ugly-tear, snot-producing kind of crying. It forced me to stop doing and start being. It forced me to redefine normal. It forced me to deal with the pain of grief and not run from it. It forced me to learn what I was feeling. Grief is a catch-all for many emotions. Trust me, I’m becoming quite emotionally literate. My body gave me a gift – it knew exactly what I needed. And when I didn’t listen to the subtle hints of slowing down and listening, my body literally and figuratively forced me to stop.
I have had almost four months now of self-reflection and self-care to heal. It took a long time to get here. I didn’t know if I was trying too hard, or not trying hard enough. From the outside, it may not look like there has been any healing. But I know there is. Those closest to me see it, too.
As I allow myself to grieve the tremendous losses, I see a direct correlation to my physical, spiritual and emotional healing. In the past three weeks, I have started to rebound. I have driven a little bit – the first time in months. I can walk five-to-six feet unassisted. I can sit in my office chair. Using my walker, I am walking straighter. I can sleep sitting up. I am laughing more. I am wanting to be creative. I am able to take more photos. I have been experimenting with colors and patterns. I have been writing. I can experience joy and pain at the same time. I am closer to My Creator in my spiritual walk. I’m learning to discern.
Just when I wanted to give up… Just when I was wondering why God took Sarah when, clearly, He is all-knowing and knew I’d soon be not in a good place in my “pain trifecta…” Just when I thought my life was going to be a miserable existence… something woke me up. That something was anger. The anger of life passing me by, because of the pain. The injustice of the losses. The pain of the losses. The trauma of the losses.
And three weeks ago, on a beautiful, sunny summer day, when I was in excruciating physical pain, that led to excruciating emotional pain, that mixed in with excruciating spiritual pain, I hit (pardon the pun) rock bottom. I spent the day exploring that grief, that anger, that injustice, that sadness. I grieved all the moving components in my life – losses that were so big and so back-to-back that none of them had been properly felt.
On that day, the weight of the grief had become lighter. And the more time I spend with grief, the less heavy it becomes. It’s not over, but it’s lessening.
One stone at a time.
© 2021 – Lynne Cobb
Have you felt the weight of grief? Feel free to share in the comments below.