Breaking the Silence

"Second Home," Bobby Strickland

"Second Home," Bobby Strickland

If there's one thing I've learned in the last week, it's that talking about divorce is the hardest thing I've done since the experience of going through it.

I wrote a post about the loss of my marriage, and the onset of loneliness that followed in its wake. I was overwhelmed with the responses, not just of support and kindness, but of gratitude that there was a voice to name what so many were suffering in isolation.

My experience of loneliness and depression were prompted by an event, a loss. This event was specific and heartbreaking. But, the emotional response to the event of divorce is more universal. The emotional response, simply, was grief.

I have realized that processing grief meant I had be able to name what I loved, and I had to crawl through the muck of losing what was dear. What I lost wasn't just a relationship, it was the assumption of my future and my children's future. It was the portrait of how I imagined our lives. (I don't even use this as a metaphor; we literally have a portrait hanging in the dining room that represents our former life. I love it, but I look at it now with the awareness of what used to be.)

It was a daily and perpetual challenge to find the words to speak about the loss. The words stick with thick reluctance in my throat because to say them out loud is to make it all real. And, until recently, it was too much to acknowledge the reality of this loss.

Silence became the salve to my wound. It wasn't a cure. It was simply the deep pool into which I waded to cushion myself from the anguish, much like a laboring mother in a birth-tub allows the water to surround her aching body during contractions. This is what silence did for me in the wake of my grief. And, what is birthed is yet to be fully seen.

In the past year, I have had friends who have lost children. Mothers and fathers who have sent parts of their very souls back to God. Siblings who will endure in this life with the perpetual explanation of the brother who went on before them. I cannot fathom this sort of sorrow.

In the past year, I've watched as friends have endured surprising and difficult medical challenges. I've read about their struggles, and bowed my head with the grief of knowing that our mortality is all too real.

What we love will die.

Who we are will die.

This is not good news.

But, there is something astonishing about our need to perpetuate life. Our lives. New lives.

I've always joked that if there's a real zombie apocalypse, then I'll be sure to tap out first. It seems so unlikely that one could exist in a death-beleaguered world and think, "Yes! Let's keep doing this! I'm gonna go find some meat that hasn't turned!"

But, the unrelenting persistence of the Spirit is what keeps us going. It's what pulls us out of bed each day, even with the knowledge that our lives our finite, and says, "Go. You have work to do. You have a life to build. You have a day to create."

In the wake of losing my marriage, I lost my children half the time. Nothing has altered my identity more than becoming a mother, and to see these marvelous people half as often as I was used to seeing them is something I'll never get over.

Some of my silence was due to the fact that I couldn't take anything for granted. My life in an intact family unit was one that was lived publicly. I shared everything with the world, because there was nothing to hide. I wrote about the mess on the coffee table, the un-done dishes, the endless days of baseball practices and games. In many ways, life was blissfully mundane, and I shared the minutiae without concern.

Now, I feel more protective and private. My grief manifested as the reluctance to do or say anything. I wanted to guard and protect my children from the eyes of the world, knowing that they represent the evidence of how things are going on this end. They needed their own time to grieve, wonder, adjust. I also needed that time to be ours. I needed to watch and wonder and adjust, too.

I went from having a public life to having a very private one. I had stories I didn't feel I could share. I had emotions I didn't feel I could announce. I scrolled through stories of lives carrying on as per usual with wistful longing, and I prayed for the day I felt I could share openly again. To have my reality be one that I could share without concern.

I am trying to live into that reality now. As I write, my kids are home for mid-winter break. They are with me all week, and I have made minimal effort to pick up the messes that we are creating. Because it is the sweet and wonderful reminder that our life together is still our life together.

We are persisting. New life is being made. I appreciate now the delicacy of all of it, the precious gift of each second. I appreciate being able to talk about it honestly, with care and hope.

And, I am grateful to find a place to speak about my grief. Unspoken grief can become a prison of isolation. For a time, I needed the solitude. But now, it's time to break free of the confines, to name what was lost, and to persevere in our hope for what is to come. This is true personally, pastorally, politically. This world needs our hope, now more than ever.

Here's to breaking the silence, friends. We have so much yet to say and do.