Last Monday when my alarm sounded, I was still, but my heart pounded as if I was unsafe. My heart raced. I didn’t get it. Perhaps I had been having a bad dream. Why was my heart pounding so? I sat up in bed, rubbed my eyes, took a couple of deep breaths and rose to face the day ahead.
The morning seemed usual but my body felt worn, exhausted even. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing new. I thought to myself, “man, I must not have slept very well.” My neck and shoulders ached.
As a “task driven”, “push on through” lady, I pressed on into my quiet time with God determined to share my Morning Cup of Hope despite my weariness. I could have laid back down and slept in a little, but I didn’t. I chose to carry on with my day.
My drive to carry on was a good idea so long as I was all alone in the safe cocoon of my quiet time. When my quiet time was done for the day and I began to interact with others the decision to press on proved to not be in the best interest of those around me.
I became angry at the smallest things, set off by anything done differently than I would have it done. I was just down-right angry, sad and fuming. But why?
I didn’t know what caused my anger. And I didn’t know why I couldn’t seem to shake it off. The racing heart continued as my emotions rose to meet the pace of my heart through anger and tears. Standing in the kitchen, prepping my morning smoothie I heard a still small voice.
“The body doesn’t forget.”
I heard these words echo through my mind. I was familiar with them but this day I chose to ignore the invitation the words were giving me to stop what I was doing, to be still. Instead, I chose to push on with the tasks of the day. This choice proved to be miserable.
Half of my thoughts were consumed with trying to keep myself from lashing out in frustration and the other half were trying to understand why I was feeling so rough and acting out of usual character.
As I said, nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing unique or difficult about this day. I had slept well, but felt as if I hadn’t slept. This feeling of overwhelm continued until later in the afternoon when I received a text from my mom that read, “8 months ago today.😢”
When I read the text I was out running an errand. I held the phone in my hand. I sat and stared at the message. “8 months ago today…”
It’s a strange thing to walk through, though many walk through it. When you lose someone close to you, someone you have invested in or they have invested in you, it is hard to let go. It is hard to get through the hurt. It’s tempting to walk around the hurt, to numb out, to not feel it at all.
A friend once told me, “the body doesn’t forget.” This is the thought I tried to push out of my mind earlier that day, because then I would have to confront the presence of my grief. Then I would have to acknowledge my heaviness of heart was because my brother was gone.
The body doesn’t forget trauma. The body doesn’t forget the pain of grieving. I see that now. Eight months ago I lost my one and only brother. Though 8 months have passed, my body remembers the trauma of the loss like it just happened.
It wasn’t until I received the text from my mom that I understood the panic I felt that morning when I woke up. It was then I understood the weariness and the anger that had welled up in me. Cognitively I knew the body doesn’t forget but now I understood experientially.
“It’s the 20th,” I said aloud to myself. I sat in the sun warmed car and cried.
To be honest I do not know why God designed us to walk through trauma and loss like this, with physical impacts that can last for months and even years.
Every month has a 20th. Every month has a day to pause and remember my brother, now and always. Every 20th my body may react. Now I know. Now I am more aware. Now I can be prepared, that at least for seasons ahead, and give myself grace recognizing it just may be a hard day.
One of the hardest parts of grieving a loss are the 7 and 8 months and so on after. It is in this stretch of time when family and friends have gone back to life as normal. It hurts to see that. It hurts because they get to go back to normal. Normal for the grieving heart doesn’t exist anymore.
Trust me, if I had a choice to not feel the hurt, I wouldn’t. If I had the choice to not feel the pain of loss, I wouldn’t.
Or would I?
On second thought, maybe I would choose to feel the pain. Maybe I would choose to walk out the pain of loss in a real, raw and honest way. Feeling the ebbs and flows of the emotions, thoughts, memories, new realities and so on. Surely something good can come from this right, isn’t that what the Bible promises?
Romans 5:3-5 says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Suffering, as displayed in this verse is the launching pad for hope. Suffering, pain, trauma, loss and grief are the lenses through which life and faith are more deeply understood. Suffering leads us to God’s love.
Indeed, it may sound absurd, but as I try to live a life aligned to the truth of the Bible, I choose not to run away from the suffering. I have walked this journey of loss, we are eight months in, I choose to feel the pain.
It’s the pain that helps me remember why I do the ministry I do. It’s the pain that helps me cling to God as my source of hope, and the rock and solid foundation of my faith.
It is the pain, present more intensely around the anniversary dates and holidays, that keeps the memory of him close. It is the pain that has taught me empathy and compassion. It is the pain that has taught me the frailty of life and that not a breath is guaranteed.
It is the pain that taught me to tell people in my life how I feel about them, and not wait. It is the pain that has brought me to my knees, that has taught me to love prayer. It is the pain that showed me God is faithful to carry me when I don’t have the strength to carry on. It is in the pain that has shown me I am usable as God’s vessel despite my cracks, flaws and damage.
It is the pain that has taught me to surrender.
The body doesn’t forget. I could choose to ignore it – and carry on as I am tempted to do somedays. I could choose to numb it with alcohol, drugs, food, sex, shopping or anything else pleasing for the moment.
Instead I choose to feel the pain. To allow my body not to forget, so God can work out healing for my heart, mind, soul and body on his time and in his way. There is so much to learn from grieving. There is so much character to gain. So much heart of God to draw closer to and find peace and comfort in the shelter of his wings.
My challenge for you today is this: Are you walking through grief? If so, can you pause and reflect on how God is using it to produce character and hope in you? And if so, are you ignoring the impacts of the grief on your body?
If you aren’t walking through grief, but you know someone who is, would you walk a mile in their shoes, and recognize that though you have moved on and life is normal for you, their life will never be “normal” and their body may never forget. They could use a kind word, a hug, a text, a verse, a song, a memory, a back rub and or anything to help them know they are not alone in their suffering.
If you want to know God at a deeper level, check out my 8-week devotional called, Ascent to Know Him: The Quest to Discover More of God.