I had pain that nobody could see. Pain that nobody knew was there. When it first happened, I cried on a daily basis. I silently wailed in the shower. Gut-wrenching pain that I had never felt before, and, trust me, I’ve had my fair share of both physical and emotional pain.
In my 45 years, I’ve had five miscarriages, and given birth to three children, two the “normal way” and an emergency C-section with the third. I say the “normal way” with apprehension, because both of my boys were a week overdue, ending in scheduled inductions. This did not go according to plan for me. You see, my body has always been the exception to the rule when it comes to symptoms and side effects. To make a long story short, I learned that Pitocin (used to increase the strength of contractions during labor) and Cervidil (used to aid in dilating the cervix) were not the friends the doctors and nursing staff had promised. They turned out to be arch enemies I never knew I had. A collaboration was formed between the two medications, sending me into immediate, hard core labor, with full blown contractions but only a dilation of one to two centimeters. For those of you who have done it before, you know that’s a potential recipe for disaster. Well, the babies survived, I survived, and my mother’s loving hand survived, albeit a little crushed and bruised.
Emotionally, I’ve been abandoned by a few men in my life and had to learn how to carry on, move on, start over, and take life one moment at a time. For a woman who wears her heart on her sleeve, those things can be extremely difficult to do. Through it all, I’m proud that I still have the God-given ability to love and trust others and to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. That is, until they prove that they don’t deserve a fair chance.
So, now that my experience with physical and emotional pain have been somewhat validated, lets talk about this “invisible pain.” When I moved back to Texas with my two baby boys (five and two), I did so at the command of God’s voice telling me forcefully and loudly to “GO TO TEXAS!” So loud that I looked around to see whose voice it was, although I knew I was alone at the time.
My grandfather, who was known to me as Paw-Paw, had been saying for a couple of years “I sure wish I had those boys down here.” I relocated from Wisconsin to live with my grandparents here in Texas in August of 2002. Paw-Paw and I had adjoining rooms, and he and the boys bonded from the first day we arrived. They were so full of life, and so was he. On January 21, 2003, just six months after we arrived, I pulled into the garage and found my beloved Paw-Paw lying there with his foot propped in the door . . . dead. I yelled, I ran, I screamed, and called for help, but it was too late. It was his predestined date of departure. I don’t remember how I explained it to the boys, especially my youngest, Desmond. I don’t remember how I made it through, but somehow, I did.
I went to several funerals after that, some close, others distant, but experiencing the invisible pain of grief nonetheless. I don’t know about you, but every time someone dies, I think of my own inevitable demise. I sometimes even begin to experience (or so I think), the same symptoms that the newly deceased died from. It does not last long, but a twinge of pain here and there coupled with “what if” can make for an unpleasant couple of days.
I’ve skirted around the real reason for writing this piece long enough. For fear that the indescribable, invisible pain I’ve buried (no pun intended) will resurface once again . . . but here goes. On February 5, 2011, my world came crashing down. My heart stopped. I couldn’t breathe. I cried out loud. All because of a phone call, and those four dreadful words: “Tarsha didn’t make it.” So, of course my question was “Didn’t make it where?” Where did she need a ride to? Where was she stuck, and how much time did I have to get there? As I stood there, an emptiness came over me. My most cherished cousin, who felt more like a sister, had reached her final destination. One of my most candid memories of that day is how bright the sun was shining. It’s actually the reason why I woke up without the aid of an alarm that morning, and even to this day I’ve never seen it shine any brighter.
So, it’s grief that gets the unwelcome title of invisible pain. Grief can cause you to become depressed, angry, sad, mad, hopeless, and discouraged. It sent me into a downward spiral before I was aware of what was going on. My mother had to bring it to my attention. I didn’t realize I was wearing black every day for months or that I would sit staring into space, thinking about nothing.
I write this post to encourage others that may be feeling the same way. I want you to know I made it, and so can you! I want you to know it wasn’t easy and that I had to seek help. I had to go talk to someone, but it worked. I want you to know that time does heal, and even today, I still think about my departed loved ones. But the pain is less severe. Most important, I want you to be encouraged and hopeful and know that someday, you will experience the weight of grief being released from your life so that you can go on to LIVE, LAUGH, AND LOVE once again!