Monday, March 02, 2015

The long road of grief.

I'm sitting here, typing in bed after getting up multiple times in the night. I've had a tough infection. And as painful as it has been the past couple of days it doesn't exceed the pain in my heart.

I miss Libby. My sister. And it hurts. Hurts so bad. I still dream about her... usually once a week. I still ache for her and miss her laugh and miss her telling me something ridiculous just to get me to laugh. I miss her blue, blue eyes and her dark hair. I miss having my sister.

It's March. And I hate it. And I'm once again reminded that she's gone. I'm continually reminded by that whatever I'm doing, going, being... it's just that March makes it feel real in a way I can't explain. I feel it in my body.... all the way to my bones.

I am sure that sounds weird. It's that my body doesn't physically forget the trauma of what happened 11 years ago.

I have been told my numerous counselors, doctors and psychiatrists that I have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). I have a variety of reasons for this- sexual abuse in the past, my sister and nephew's sudden and dramatic death, watching my children almost die in front of me (on multiple occasions), Samuel's cancer... etc.

PTSD is often associated with military veterans as well as those who have experienced life/death situations and trauma from sexual assault. I found a good website that explains what PTSD is, it's symptoms, etc.

People with PTSD experience three different kinds of symptoms. The first set of symptoms involves reliving the trauma in some way such as becoming upset when confronted with a traumatic reminder or thinking about the trauma when you are trying to do something else. The second set of symptoms involves either staying away from places or people that remind you of the trauma, isolating from other people, or feeling numb. The third set of symptoms includes things such as feeling on guard, irritable, or startling easily.

For me I can be triggered by the sound of an ambulance, seeing a bad car accident on the road, things that remind me of my sister, certain smells, and some really "random" things.

I have flashbacks. I wrestle with severe anxiety and depression. I have mental issues. I have nightmares and very vivid and intense dreams.

It can be compounded when you're home with 5 kids and you feel irritable and raw. Things feel louder and bigger than they are. My irritability level is high. Things set me off that wouldn't typically.

At times over the years I have gotten very stuck in my inability to move past or beyond my anxiety and depression. At times it was so debilitating that I couldn't do a simple task without completely freaking out and shutting down. For example getting a library card when I was living in PA. It sounds funny to me now but it freaked me out. The thought of needing to fill out an application and present proof of my new address. I couldn't move a pile off the stairs. I just couldn't. I was stuck.

After Libby's death Mike sometimes had to drive me to work because I would have panic attacks so severe I could not drive safely. My heart would race so bad I felt like a heart attack was imminent. I hated being in the car and was afraid of being in a car accident. I was very paranoid about not falling asleep in the car.

After the birth of my daughter Libby I would have bad nightmares so vivid that I needed to talk to a friend on my phone and have her walk me through the steps of getting out of the house with a new baby so I wouldn't completely fall apart. She helped me pack my diaper bag, etc. and would talk to me the whole time I drove to her house.

Church was a mixed bag for me. It was the place I was married in and so was my sister. My sister's wedding was one of the first in our new church building... she was the first funeral as well. It was a place I had come to for safety and also a place where I was frightened of talking and dealing with people, dealing with questions, hearing people's at time insensitive comments, and a place where I could get hugs and comfort. I'd been a part of my church since I was 12. I grew up with these people. How can there be comfort and pain from the same place?

I have come a long way. I've been to multiple counselors and therapists and have worked hard over the past decade to process and work through my grief and loss. But I'm still in process. I'm also working through Samuel's illness and all the multiple changes we've experienced with having children with special needs, suffering severe depression and anxiety, etc. I haven't had counseling in almost over a year and recognize my need for it.

I am aware though more than my PTSD, grief and loss, and various mental issues of a much greater truth and reality. God has been with me through it all. Through the calm and through the storms. Through the nights where I can't sleep and the days where all I felt I could do is sleep. Through my brokenness and weakness and pain and turmoil. I have not been alone. I don't walk alone. God is sufficient and His loving-kindness has covered me and carried me. At times I've been afraid I would capsize and drown in despair and yet He has buoyed me. He has sheltered me when I thought I would perish. He has sustained me when all I wanted was to implode.

I don't talk about glibly or some easy cure of fix. But He is my Rock. My tower and refuge. My very present help in time of need.

So although I grieve, I don't do it without hope. I will see my sister again face to face.

I will keep walking this road of grief... sustained by Jesus, comforted by Him and by precious friends and family, safe in the knowledge that this isn't my home.







1 comment:

anne said...

I'm so sorry Jennifer. Loss is so hard, and it is so deep and profound for you. I am sad with you, it breaks my heart and I never even met your sister. just have read about her and she sounded so beautiful, so full of life.
Keep clinging to Jesus and one day you will see her again! What a joy that will be!