I Am One Of You!

17351336_10154523444227297_160499704_n

It can grip you in a way that is difficult to explain unless one has experienced it. It is so painful that every part of you may agonize. The pain, oh my God, the pain

Scarred Joy posts do not shy away from painful experiences. This includes personal experiences. Pain reminds me of my own humanity, vulnerability and that my emotions are part of me.

I began this post referring to “it.” The “it” I want to present in this post is known as depression.

This post is not meant as a clinical explanation of causes or symptoms of depression etc. The post relates to how people, including myself, have experienced this illness. This post will note some things common in depression. The post will also present an idea of what experiencing depression is like. I will include a Scarred Joy point of hope. I am not offering an exhaustive explanation of depression.

I would like every person who will read this post and has lived depression to know one thing. I am one of you. We are bonded together. For that reason I will write this post in first person.

Depression is:

  • Like a tunnel
  • Dark even in the light
  • Messed up.
  • Day in and day out
  • For some it is fleeting and temporary, triggered by events in life
  • Avoiding conversations
  • If I can sleep I wake up tired
  • Depression makes my body, mind and soul feel tired.
  • Not wanting to end my life yet perceiving it as being without meaning.
  • Living in a tunnel and not seeing any light ahead
  • Wanting to go anywhere else but to work
  • Being with people yet lonely.
  • God is distant
  • God has left me
  • I let everyone down.
  • Acting as if life is great in order to hide from other people so they don’t know my truth.
  • Feeling dead inside
  • Being embarrassed or ashamed to let anyone know I am depressed
  • My smiles are a mask to hide my pain
  • Day to day living is tedious
  • Evenings are long and exhausting
  • Wanting to scream yet afraid other people will then know I am in pain.
  • Depression can be creative
  • It longs for companionship of loving people.
  • Depression mixes me up.

In depression I may watch the world go by. It may seem I am the only one trapped in this tunnel. I may add to my suffering by being petrified people will find out I’m in a depression.

I mean, it’s considered a mental illness, isn’t it? People will treat me different if they find out I have a mental illness. They may look at me and talk to me as if I am to be pitied. They may look beyond me, so to speak and focus on the illness. If people do that then I have no hope.

Even in my depression I have to somehow survive, right? I have to find the strength to move forward and not lie down and give up. That would be so easy to do. Allow the dark blanket of the tunnel to envelope me. To give up.

I want to survive the tunnel. To feel the warmth of the sun again. To embrace those who love and care for me. To reach out to those I think I can trust and let them know I need help. To know God remembers me. To recognize who I am.

I can’t survive depression by myself. I need those who care for me to come alongside me. Even if it seems I’m not paying attention to you, please don’t give up on me. Help me survive. I can’t do this on my own.

If any of you can feel my words as you read them, you understand. You know, I am one of you.

Please think the post through then comment.

Advertisements

A Child Has Died: Part Two

Part One and now Part Two have been an emotional journey for Scarred Joy. I questioned myself as I wrote. Was Part One too much for my readers? Is the death of children too emotional and sad for us to want to talk about it? Am I stirring up memories my readers would rather have left alone?

I don’t have concrete answers to my own questions. I appeal to you, my readers, if you have personal answers to such questions please answer in a comment. I appreciate your consideration.

Those Who Grieve Child Death

Over the years I have encountered numbers of people who grieve the death of a child or children. There are those who have learned to move forward with their lives taking the memory of their child with them. There are those who still revisit the death of their child and may talk about the loss in small doses. Still others live the rest of their lives in honour of their child.

Support to Grieving Parents and Grandparents.

What does one say to parents or grandparents grieving the death of a child? Do you say anything? Here are a few common sense suggestions:

Be Genuine

No one likes a phony so if you aren’t sure what to say or if you are to say anything, keep the tongue from flapping. From experience in coming alongside people for years those who grieve can sense if you are genuine. Be genuine in your care in the midst of another person’s pain.

Pain and Suffering—They are not the same

If you say something to the person just because you think you have to, you may cause the person to suffer even more. Grief causes pain. Saying the wrong thing adds to the pain and becomes suffering.

Let me unpack that for you with an example. In the case of a person grieving the death of a loved one the grief causes emotional, psychological, spiritual and even physical pain. We might come along to visit with the person. We think we have to say something but we not sure what.

A common phrase used by many people in the context of grief comes to mind. It may be something like, “well, it will be ok, you have other kids.” The well-intentioned remark may also be “ God will get you through this” or “it will get better with time, you’ll see.” Phrases like this may only burden the person with something else to process on top of the death. This is causing them to suffer.

A Caring Presence

I suggest perhaps it is best not to say anything until you have listened to the grieving person. In listening, in genuine listening, we are being present. In being present we are coming alongside the person. We may not have to say anything. Your presence shows you care.

A caring presence means after the funeral is over, after people no longer bring meals to help out, you are still willing to help where needed. You take the person for coffee. You do not forget the name of the child who died. You honor the grief of the parent or grandparent by allowing them to lead the way in it. It is their grief. Your genuine care for the person recognizes while their grief journey continues you will be with them all the way.

Concluding Remarks

The death of a child is an experience we wish we could avoid altogether. Even the thought of child death may cause us to fear. The reality of life disregards our fear and allows children to die. This may leave us feeling vulnerable and helpless. Our love for others is perhaps shown most in how we respond to the death of a child. We may want to avoid those who grieve this most ponderous loss. Let us, instead, be caring companions along this unpredictable journey of grief.

A Child Has Died–Part One

Sometimes It Hurts always

The death of children is the theme of this post.

Some parents say it is an unending nightmare. Others say their lives will never be the same again. Still others say, rather than living in the nightmare there is more merit in living life in a loving way in honour of your child.

There is so much one could say in a post like this. It will be obvious to readers that a lot more could be said about this most heartbreaking part of some people’s lives. I will confine the content of the post to a few points.

I will draw attention to a couple real life accounts of child death. I will mention some general remarks. To conclude I will note how we may respond to parents grieving the death of a child?.

A Couple of Stories

A Little Girl: A number of years ago I was talking with a woman while doing some hospital visits. She was in her early nineties. Included in our conversation was her reminiscing about her children.

She spoke about one child in particular, her youngest daughter. They loved to sit on the porch of their house on warm summer days. The little girl wore light blue dress. Her blue dress suited her blonde hair. The old lady told me “She looked so pretty and happy as can be as we sat together.”

As the lady continued with her recollection she went on to say a week later people gathered for the little blonde girl’s funeral. She had come down with an illness that spread into her lungs and she died. The old lady looked at me and said, “One day I was sitting with her and the next week my husband and family buried her.” She went on to say, “I think about her all the time. I still have her in my heart.”

A life too brief: A number of years ago an incident occurred I have never forgotten.

At that time my children were teenagers therefore my wife and I knew a lot of young people. There was one young man who sticks out in my mind. I didn’t know him well. Frequently he would come to the church we attended and sit with other teens during the service.

One day while having a discussion with a friend of the young man she informed me he had taken his own life. As the story goes, he came home from school like usual. At the dinner table he sat with his family and ate his meal. After dinner he got up from the table and left the room. After an hour or so his parents were wondering what he was up to and where he was. After calling for him and looking in various rooms his father found his son in the closed carport. The young man had hanged himself. He was seventeen.

Over the years I have encountered numbers of people who grieve the death of a child or children. There are a few things people have in common in this context of grief.

I will summarize just a few at this time.

  • It is not uncommon for a person grieving the death of a child to say, “I miss me.”
  • The death of a child changes one’s life forever.
  • One’s identity has been changed.
  • One’s world has changed.
  • You will never be who you once were

What does one say or how does one respond to parents grieving the death of a child? Do you say anything? Here are a few points to consider.

  • Listen
  • Be genuine
  • Be present
  • Do not minimize grief by comparisons
  • Listen—this is essential

I will say more about these points and continue with this discussion in my next post, A Child Has Died Part Two.

Please leave comments. Thank you.

Don’t Keep It To Yourself: Things That Matter In the Face of Cancer: Part Four

This is my final post in this series. Thank you to my readers who have followed along. Thank you also regarding the seriousness of what is said here. Cancer, of course, is no laughing matter. It can be beaten. It can also kill. I know it can also be scary.

Don’t keep it to yourself!

Here is the main point of this fourth part of my series. If your body seems to be acting out of character don’t ignore it. It may be telling you something is wrong and needs to be attended to. It may be warning you of a cancer of some kind. Please don’t say, “This couldn’t happen to me.” It can happen to you! I hate to remind you but you are human. Please don’t keep it to yourself!

I am currently reading Stephen Kings book, Stephen King: On Writing. Part of the book is autobiographical where readers are given a peek into Mr. King’s life. There is an account in the book that caused me to reflect on the importance of the early detection of cancer. His mother ignored signs that she was ill. She kept it to herself. She died of uterine cancer.

A Reflection On One Loved

Cancer is a brutal fiend. It does not discriminate between children or adults. Its job is to cause misery and pain as well as to kill. During my wife’s most recent bout with cancer I reflected on a young girl we knew a number of years ago.

Many people, including my family, loved her. She died from cancer at twelve years of age. A beautiful gentle soul who loved her family. She was only twelve at the time she died, the same age as one of my children. We all hoped and prayed she would live. We still think of her and miss her. At her memorial service there were a lot of tears shed. These many years after this young girl’s death we still remember her with great fondness.

Scars of Cancer

Terry has survived cancer without serious complications twice. I’m not saying my wife is indestructible. She bears physical scars of cancer on her body. If cancer cannot beat us it likes to leave scars as a reminder of its assault on us.

There are emotional scars as well. I shared with you in the first part of this series some of my personal response to the cancer news. Here is what I wrote.

… Although the cancer that has shown in her body is a non-aggressive type the initial shock of the news left its scars…Cancer can mess with one’s mind. Even a “non-aggressive” cancer may cause some fear. It can give your emotions a workout. These are the “scars” I am talking about (Things That Matter In the Face of Cancer: Part One, Dec. 13/17).

Survival Is Humbling

I am not a hero who laughs in the face of enemies like cancer. I do not run from such enemies either. One cannot forget or ignore the scars of cancer.

Terry dreaded the thought of having to experience chemotherapy or radiation therapy. She didn’t have to take either. She would have refused such treatments if the doctors had deemed them necessary.

Terry views her surviving from cancer as a new lease on life. She is aware that many people who experience cancer do not survive. She is one who takes life as it comes without being fatalistic. She embraces the things in life that matter in her life, her family, her faith in Jesus Christ and friends.

As her husband, the fact of Terry surviving cancer is humbling. It reminds me we are all vulnerable and fragile. Surviving cancer is a gift and not a certainty. It would have crushed me if Terry had not survived! Cancer is in reality a violator of the dreams and plans people have. To survive it is indeed humbling.

Please, if you suspect something is wrong in your body see your doctor. Don’t keep a health scare to yourself. Instead of allowing cancer to terrify you, fight it. Let cancer fear you!

NOTE: After reading this post, please comment if cancer has impacted your life.

Let Cancer Fear Us! Things That Matter In the Face of Cancer: Part Three

  

On Wed. January 24, 2018 the doctor who performed surgery on my wife informed her she is cancer free! Two weeks and one day after her surgery he told her that no further treatment was needed.

I am not naïve enough to say I am an expert on cancer. If anything I am an expert on my love for my wife. This is a main reason I decided to write this series.

There is a phrase that has been going through my mind since Terry was informed of her cancer. “Let cancer fear us!” That phrase was my response to the fear cancer causes in the hearts of people. The news of cancer caused fear in me as well. I know of few people who reply, “It’s all good” when they hear cancer news. It isn’t all good! In my experience in coming alongside people who are ill or dying sometimes the “good” seems to be missing.

Let cancer fear us means if you, dear reader, know someone you love has cancer I encourage you to support that person. Don’t let her or him suffer alone or succumb to fear.

You may have heard another more familiar phrase related to cancer. Some people say, “Cancer can be beaten.” I say this too. It obviously doesn’t mean cancer is no big deal. It also doesn’t proclaim all cancer is beaten every time. It does, however, say that even in cancer there is hope. We don’t have to give in to our fears.

Not giving into fear was Terry’s attitude even though cancer was in her body. Before we knew the results of my darling’s lab tests I asked her to give me some of her thoughts regarding her cancer journey so far. Here is what she said.

  • “It is an interesting experience”
  • “It seems surreal—it doesn’t seem real”
  • “Up to this point we don’t know if there will be more treatments”
  • “We don’t know if it has invaded more of my body”
  • “Why worry about it right now?”

Terry’s response was in no way an expression of denial or evading reality. We both knew she had cancer. She did not give in to fear. If anything she wanted cancer to fear her.

During the initial news of Terry’s cancer I realized it was time for cancer to fear us. As news spread people began to pray for her. Many sent us well wishes. Some wonderful people made meals for us for when Terry came home. Our daughter sat with me for hours during the day of surgery. Our sons and their families visited their mom while she was in hospital. Former colleagues also sat with us before and after Terry’s surgery. Our church helped us in prayer and practical gestures of love. A friend of our daughter gave us a gift certificate so we could go out for dinner.

In conclusion allow me to state again what I mean by let cancer fear us. It is the genuine and practical support of people who care for others especially in times of need like a cancer experience. This support can diminish the fear. This support can cause cancer to fear us! This support takes away or diminishes cancer’s control over our emotions.

It is time for cancer to fear us!

Things That Matter In the Face of Cancer: Part Two

“He says, Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46; 10 New International Version).

Cancer is tough. It forces a person to face one’s mortality. None of us live forever, at least in this life. We all have a shelf date, so to speak. The very word “cancer” can strike fear into the most stoic of us. It can bring a big, strong man to his knees in a matter of seconds. Cancer can force people to reflect on their lives and take stock of what really matters to them.

For years, probably decades, I have heard and seen advertisements proclaiming, “Cancer can be beaten.” This is the hope Terry and I have for the cancer in her body. This is my hope. I reported in Part One that Terry’s gynecologist said he is confident and hopeful that surgery is the only treatment she will need. His statement in turn gives us hope as well.

I asked my darling to give me some of her thoughts regarding her cancer journey so far. In her own words here is what she said.

  • “I want it over”
  • “I don’t feel any different”
  • “I’m not even worried about it like I did with skin cancer” “My babies are all grown up.”
  • “I don’t have the same anxiety”
  • “I’m almost at peace with it.”
  • “I don’t think about it”
  • “It seems more people are worried about it than I am.”

At this time probably more than anything she would like the surgery to be over. I can’t say I blame her. It seems to us the reality of the soon coming surgery is looming over our heads. Some of her thoughts reflect on her experience with skin cancer thirty-three years ago. That was a scary time in our lives. Our children were very young and a fear was that this cancer might cause Terry’s death. She was afraid of dying young and not seeing our kids grow up. It was real fear. Our family matters to us.

I have mentioned to a number of people Terry feels no pain due to the cancer and is in good spirits. She has a good attitude about this part of our journey. This attitude is genuine and meant to inform caring people that it is well with her soul. People have been and still are also genuine in their concern for her. Someone said to us, “You have taken care of people for years, now we want to care for you.” That is precious to hear. People matter to us.

A few people have asked me how I am doing at this time as I walk alongside Terry. I’ll sum it up this way. If Terry’s okay then I’m okay. This is no simplistic answer. I mean it. We have been married going on to forty years. We know each other well. If she is feeling down I know it. She doesn’t have to say a word, I sense how she is feeling. I will add that she took the news of her cancer better than I did. The news shook me.

I must admit that I am one who fears cancer. When I worked in healthcare on the spiritual care team I sat at the bedside of a number of people dying of cancer. It can be fearful. I didn’t even tell Terry about some of my experiences due to the deep sadness I felt for the patients. This causes me to be thankful for healthcare staff that helps make a person’s final days as comfortable as possible. With an illness like cancer a person needs the support from other people right to the end.

On a personal note, I am thankful for people who take the time and ask how I am doing on the journey. It is wonderful to know I am not alone and neither is Terry.

We also know we are not alone due to our mutual faith in God. We make no apologies for saying our faith rests in Jesus Christ. We know God is alive and cares for us therefore we can be still and not be overcome by fear or worry.

God calls us to “be still” in spite of the calamities of life. Even when fearful enemies of the body like cancer violate us, we can be still. We lay aside that which would rob us of joy, of truly living our lives together. Our journey continues yet we do not fear.

As I post this message it is Christmas Eve 2017. Terry and I pray a Merry Christmas for all my readers. If cancer is part of your life I pray you will the comfort of God and people who love you.

Things That Matter In the Face of Cancer: Part One

 

This is the third Scarred Joy post related to what I call “things that matter.” The first two titles are “Jerry: A Reflection On Things That Matter!” and “Scarred Christmas and Things That Matter!”

If you are a regular reader of Scarred Joy you know the blog is devoted to posts that are real and often not emotionally easy to read. If a reader wants to read warm and fuzzy content that puts a goofy grin on one’s face, you will probably not find it in Scarred Joy. It isn’t that I want to have readers walk through life seeing doom and gloom all around. It is, however, a goal of Scarred Joy to encourage readers to face up to the honest reality that pain and suffering are part of life. That is not easy to bear.

In this post I want to carry on with the theme of “things that matter” but with a more personal approach. This post captures the journey of my wife’s present experience with cancer. I am coming alongside her and assuring her she is not going through this alone. With this being an ongoing journey this is the first part of a series.

“There is never an easy way to give this news. The biopsy did reveal cancer.” That is news a gynecologist gave to my wife recently at a follow up visit from her biopsy. I was sitting with her at the time and heard the news. The news assailed my heart and mind.

I have had some intense emotional moments as I processed the reality of cancer violating my wife’s body. It is news I cannot run from. She can’t, therefore I can’t. Although the cancer that has shown in her body is a non-aggressive type the initial shock of the news left its scar.

With cancer, or I’m sure any similar health challenge, it is not just a physical threat to one’s personhood. Cancer can mess with one’s mind. Even a “non-aggressive” cancer may cause some fear. That is the “scar” I am talking about.

With fear there is also hope. That is what keeps us going. Hope is within us. Hope is essential to our faith in God and in moving forward. This hope stems from my wife’s specialist saying the surgery she will have “usually” has good results. Specifically it is often the only treatment needed to combat this non-aggressive type of cancer. It is still cancer, however.

Since we began to inform people of this news a number have said for us to contact them if there is anything they can do. What can anyone do? What does it mean when people, who are definitely well intentioned, say for us to contact them if there is anything they can do? We are heading into uncharted territory for us. What do I ask people to do? I just don’t know how to respond to them. On the other hand, I appreciate their concern and desire to support us.

Here is an alternative to the above. We would welcome it if someone offered something specific in his or her desire to support us. Something as simple as asking us out for coffee would help. It would encourage us that someone cared enough to offer to sit with us for a while. For instance, our daughter and son-in-law took Terry and I out for an evening. She had said, “if you don’t have plans on Friday evening we would like to take you out.” We were treated to dinner and a movie. What we had for dinner or what movie we saw didn’t matter. It was just being together for a few hours that mattered and is what we will remember.

You see, the companionship of caring people is a treasure. It is something that matters. Caring people are those who may check in on us regularly and who may pray for us. Caring people are also those who reach out to us through not only words but also deeds. The deeds may be as simple a phone call or email or Facebook message asking how we are doing. I guess it isn’t really the deed it is the care that motivates it.

Scarred Joy means that in the pain and suffering in life there is hope. It isn’t always easy to realize hope but it is there. Hope matters! Without hope we allow cancer to win and that is not an option.

I saw a post on Facebook recently. It said, “I wish cancer got cancer, and died.” I get that!

Until next time my friends. Hold your loved ones close.

Please do me the honour of leaving a comment after reading this post!