Tag Archive | grief

Longing for Spock-Suppressed Emotions?

spock_0

 

 

 

“Just snap out of it!” What psychiatrist would ever prescribe that treatment for depression? One did. Lucy charged Charlie Brown five cents for that advice. Sadly, we know that it’s not possible to just snap out of it.

So what do we do with our fears and frustrations, regret and remorse, guilt and grief, sorrow and shame? Can we silence those painful feelings which result from mental illness (MI)? Why can’t we just face illogical situations without reacting?

Spock did it in Star Trek. But he was a fictitious alien. That character was portrayed by a real man with human emotions. In the New York Times’ article “Leonard Nimoy, Spock of ‘Star Trek,’ Dies at 83” Virginia Heffernan shared one of Nimoy’s statements.

“‘To this day, I sense Vulcan speech patterns, Vulcan social attitudes and even Vulcan patterns of logic and emotional suppression in my behavior,’ Mr. Nimoy wrote years after the original series ended.”

Is it possible to suppress emotions? Would it be wise to wave a wand over our child’s head and magically remove all feeling? Would it be better to spare him any future pain of MI at the expense of feeling anymore joy?

When Chris had to endure his first stay in a psychiatric unit I don’t know who was in greater pain: him or me. My seventeen-year-old son’s body lay on my lap in a fetal position crying, “Why? Why can’t I go home?” The gentle strokes of my fingers on his head couldn’t wipe away his turmoil.

It took several months for Chris to become functional enough to return to school. My own heartache grew so excruciating that I became numb. I’d watch movies to escape the tragic reality of my life. Even tear-jerking story lines couldn’t cause me to shed a tear. I had already cried an ocean-full.

The book of Psalms became my comfort. I identified with the Psalmist who engaged in healthy self-talk.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Psalm 42:5, and 11).”

The Psalmist showed me a better way to escape. In the privacy of my bedroom, I could turn to God and find refuge in Him. Psalm 57:1 became my prayer.

“Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”

God led Chris to a psychiatrist and psychologist who were both Christians. Those men provided godly advice. Healing words for Chris and for me. I’ll forever be grateful for their expertise. But also feel, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans (Psalm 118:8).”

I’ve learned that, “The righteous will rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; all the upright in heart will glory in him (Psalm 64:10)!”

I found relief in the promises of Psalm 51: 10 and 12. That God would restore my joy and sustain me.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me (Psalm 51:10, 12).”

So would it be better to be like Spock, void of emotions? Having experienced the joy of the Lord and knowing His perfect peace, I say no! I’m glad I’m not like Spock.

But here’s a thought. We can actually achieve Spock’s blessing: “Live long and prosper.” Christians have been given the gift of eternal life and have access to God’s unlimited riches.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).”

Just close your eyes and picture this heavenly scene:

“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-7).”

We may not know what tomorrow holds, but we have a living hope. So we can join Peter and say, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:3-4).”

We WILL certainly live long and prosper. I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful for emotions. With the ability to love and be loved by God.

By the way, Virginia Heffernan explained why Leonard Nimoy chose his split-finger salute for Spock’s character. She wrote that, “He based it on the kohanic blessing, a manual approximation of the Hebrew letter shin, which is the first letter in Shaddai, one of the Hebrew names for God.”

What a wonderful way to greet others: by sharing God!

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Overtaken

race.overtaken

 

 

 

It’s rare when a teenager teaches his parent something. That’s what happened when our son, Rob joined the track team in seventh grade. A completely new venture for him.

“Mom, do you wanna come watch our first home meet?” Rob asked.

“Sure. I’ll be there.”

I approached the bleachers with great anticipation. Excitement filled my heart. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach. The gun signaled the start of the race. My face beamed as I watched Rob spring into action. Hope oozed through my tightly-squeezed folded hands. I rocked in pace with his step as if I could help him soar.

Gradually, the pack of runners divided into two. A bunch of fierce competitors bolted ahead with the speed of gazelles. A smaller clump of runners drifted further and further back. I found Rob in that back bunch. Runner after runner overtook him. Every competitor passed him. All but one.

My hands went limp. My heart sunk. I began searching for wise words to give Rob. How could I console him?

Oh well. He tried. But that kind of loss will surely make him want to quit. Should I let him quit?

At the end of the meet, I waited in the car to take Rob home. I spotted him approaching the car and braced myself. Then I noticed he had a bounce in his step and a smile on his face.

“Did you see that Mom? I beat out one kid!” he proudly proclaimed. Grinning as if he’d won.

His words left me speechless. I hadn’t anticipated such an upbeat response. Suddenly my heart was full of pride.

“Yes, Rob. Good job.”

The runners who had overtaken him didn’t discourage him. Because he had a different perspective. His focus wasn’t on the mass of kids who had run faster. Rob rejoiced in the one he had passed.

The next time he ran, I witnessed him pass two runners. The following meet, he passed three. Each race filled his heart with great rejoicing. Always viewing his triumphs instead of defeats.

Rob’s focus taught me how to focus. Not on trials. But on God’s blessings. Not on the cares of this earth. But on future treasures in heaven. Not on huge burdens. But on His power.

As moms raising children with mental illness (MI) we have to deal with our own emotions. Sadness for the turmoil our child experiences. Grief over the loss of our once happy-go-lucky child. Despair due to lack of effective treatments. Frustration because of others who don’t understand: teachers, mental health care workers, siblings, or husbands.

But sorrow doesn’t have to engulf us. Worry doesn’t have to overtake our thoughts. Like Rob, we can choose what to focus on. Each day we can begin with this resolution: with God’s help, I’ll look for the blessings my heavenly Father puts in my life. I’ll keep my mind’s eyes on Him. Searching for His faithfulness and provision.

Some children with mental illness (MI) can’t easily choose their outlook. Some don’t have complete control over their thoughts. Distorted thinking creates false realities. A mind filled with paranoia convinces the person that others seek to harm him. Resulting fears are very real. Their thoughts overtake them.

Darkness may surround us and attempt to overtake us. But we need not be swept away by our circumstances. We need not flail as if drowning in an emotional tsunami. We have the words in Isaiah 35 to comfort our soul. With thoughts firmly fixed on eternity, our sadness fades. Images of life in heaven squelch our sorrow. Hope returns. Once again, we’re able to envision an end to our tears. We picture new bodies without MI. Then our sadness is overtaken by gladness and joy.

“They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.

Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away (Isaiah 35:10).”

World Mental Health Day: Oct. 10th

Rick and Kay Warren

Rick and Kay Warren

Are you in secret pain? Many people with mental illness (MI) are. That includes Rick Warren’s son, Matthew. His suicide thrust the famous author (of The Purpose-Driven Life) and his wife into deep despair and grief. Pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay shared their painful story in a CNN interview with Piers Morgan.

Matthew Warren

Matthew Warren

That interview took place about a year ago, only five months after their son shot himself. Rick and Kay have mounted a campaign to raise awareness of MI. They’ve designated October 10th as World Mental Health Day. Listen to them talk about their reasons for offering the free online event. You’ll find that you’re not alone. They understand your pain. Just like Jesus.

World Mental Health Day with Rick and Kay Warren

You can read the message I posted about their tragic loss by going to ‘Surviving a Child’s Suicide.’

https://mentalillnessmom2mom.net/2013/09/18/surviving-a-childs-suicide/

Visit Kay’s site to find out more about their ‘24 hours of hope’ which they will host in two days on October 10th. You may or may not have lost a child to suicide. But if your child has MI you’re experiencing grief nonetheless. World Mental Health Day will offer you encouragement and hope. Lord willing, you’ll also find more healing as well.

http://kaywarren.com/mental-health-initiative/

 

Silence is Golden

silence

When words don’t seem to help our children with mental illness (MI), what can we do? Keep quiet. Silence is powerful. I learned that the hard way decades ago.

In college, my friend, Dave, got one of THOSE middle-of-the-night phone calls. The caller delivered heart-wrenching news.

Dave’s first reaction: he called me.

“Vicki, my best friend was killed in a car accident. I need to see you.”

Why is he calling ME? I suppose it’s because we share a strong faith in God. But I’ve never experienced the death of a loved one.

I sought advice from my roommate.

“Karen, the roommate you had for three years died suddenly last year. What should I say to Dave?”

Karen advised, “Nothing. Let him talk. Or just sit quietly with him. Share a hug and a tear.”

After college, my husband and I kept in touch with Dave and his wife, Trish. We were closer than friends— more like family. They had their first child, Ryan, around the same time we had Chris. Soon after, they had Kevin and we had Bobby.

One day, I got another call from Dave.

“Vicki, Ryan went to be with the Lord today. He drowned in our pool. We’re coming over.”

Ryan was only two years old.

My roommate’s wisdom helped once again. When they visited, we simply hugged, cried, and prayed. And listened to what they had to say. Dave shared even more disturbing information.

To add to the horror of it, we learned that Trish’s and Dave’s mother and father lost a child when they were young parents. Both sets of grandparents were reliving their own nightmare.

So when Ryan died, Dave sought advice from his father. “Dad, you’ve been through this.  What advice can you give me?”

He simply answered, “Son, you speak of your faith.  Now it’s time to use it.”

Another opportunity came for me to practice silence in the presence of someone grieving. I was the assistant director of an overnight week-long Christian summer camp for children with disabilities. One of the campers, Bruce, experienced a tragic loss just weeks before camp. His single mother died, leaving his aunt to raise him. The aunt chose to send Bruce to camp. Our staff had training and experience with children with intellectual disabilities. She hoped we could minister to Bruce.

Alex, Bruce’s counselor, sought my advice. “Bruce is having trouble getting to sleep at night. He just cries. What should I say to him?”

“Nothing. Just spend time with him. Silently pray for him.”

Those of us raising kids with MI sometimes feel helpless. We’re unsure how to help our vulnerable and fragile children. It’s comforting to know that our silence speaks volumes. It says, “I’m here for you.” Our gentle touch says, “I understand and care.”

What about our grief? It’s hard to see our loved one suffering. Why does God delay in helping our children?

The death of Lazarus provides an answer. Mary and Martha sought the Lord to heal their brother.

“Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, ‘Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.’  When Jesus heard that, He said, ‘This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. (John 11:3-6)”

The word ‘so’ can lead to some confusion about this story. The strange thing about the events in this scene is that Jesus remained where he was for two more days apparently because of His love for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. If Jesus loved them so much, why didn’t he rush off right away? Jesus gave them a hint of the great work He would do and the reason for His delay: so ‘that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’

Jesus explained his delay again to his disciples.

“Then Jesus said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him. (John 11:14-15)’”

When Jesus finally arrived on the scene, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days.  Both his sisters struggled with a common torment many of us struggle with: If only…

“Now Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’… Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. (John 11:21, 32)’”

But Jesus gently reminded them of the reason for His delay:

“Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God? (John 11:40)’”

God is working out His perfect plan in His timing. He’s still in control. Even of the weather. Eastern US has gotten record amounts of snow this winter. Each snowfall is a reminder of our forgiveness. We stand before God ‘white as snow’ because of Christ’s blood. Reflect on His love as you listen to ‘White As Snow’ by Maranatha Singers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmfwVYMu_Ow

Death of a Dream

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In a matter of days these trees will look dead. When the leaves are gone, I’ll miss their beauty.

In winter, I’ll stare at bare branches and know they’ll come alive again in the spring. Green leaves will adorn them once more. Months later, fall will return. My favorite season. So I won’t mourn the loss of autumn.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the seasons of life could be that predictable? Perhaps we could endure tough times with our child who has mental illness (MI) if we knew in three months things would get easier.

What season are you in with your child who has mental illness (MI)? Maybe you’re enjoying the springtime of an easier phase. Or perhaps it feels like you’re enduring the doldrums of winter.

Has your child’s joy withered away?  Do you long to see his eyes sparkle again? Do you wonder if his spring will ever return?

It’s as if your child is there, but not there. He’s alive, but the former happy-go-lucky child is gone.

We need to grieve the loss of our former child. We mourn because we’ve experienced the death of a dream. We envisioned a certain life for our child. Those hopes are gone.

I don’t know about you, but I can be tough on myself. Impatient with my own emotions, I chastise myself.

Snap out of it, Vicki. Deal with it. Don’t add your emotions into the mix.

Like anyone going through grief, we need assurances things will get better. We find hope in passages like Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity … a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

God has ordained a time for us to laugh again. Joy will return.

We need comforting as we go through the stages of our grief. The Bible promises God’s comfort. Isaiah is just one book of the Bible where we find reasons to be comforted.

God will restore our joy: “The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.”  (Isaiah 51:3)

God’s Word is reliable. We can depend on its promises: “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

God provides strength: “…The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary … He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”  (Isaiah 40:28-29)

God is with us: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  (Isaiah 41:10)

God’s Son knows what we’re going through: In Isaiah 53:3-4 we read, “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief … Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” (NKJV)

We look forward to the ultimate end to grief. “He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces.”   Isaiah 25:8

Be comforted dear friend.

Your grief cannot sabotage the serenity you have in the Lord as you focus on Him. Reflect on His steadfast love for you as you listen to “Steadfast Love” from Scripture Lullabies.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdT1XQ5ZRuk

What must it be like?

wonder.contemplation

What would it take for others to understand what you’re going through?

My career in education began 36 yrs. ago when I taught students with multiple handicaps. My training prepared me to provide appropriate instruction for them. Nothing could prepare me to completely understand the challenges they faced. Until I got multiple sclerosis (MS).

Nowadays, I feel the frustration of not being able to think clearly when I’m tired. I struggle with challenges encountered when out in public. Climbing stairs never used to be so exhausting.  Greater insight brings more sympathy. Now I can empathize with my former students.

I’ve found that greater insight into mental illness (MI) helps me sympathize with our son. I often wonder what it must be like for him.

A common side effect of psychotropic medications is weight gain. So Chris chose to go off his meds. He now manages his illness himself. By limiting stressful activities. By remaining physically active.

I’m amazed at how he’s able to function without his medical treatment. He’s goal-oriented, works on computer projects, and stays active in his church. All a testimony to his determination.

It helps me to reflect on the effort he must invest to engage in routine activities.

When any of us are tired, we find it difficult to be pleasant. When we feel sick, we don’t want to interact with anyone. Reminding myself of that helps me build more tolerance. Instead of getting annoyed with his behaviors, I’m able to focus more on how he must feel. Then compassion replaces frustration. Suddenly I realize how hard Chris is trying to live a normal life. Then I know how to pray for him.

We can use the same selfless thinking to understand our spouse. What must it be like for a husband to have a child with MI? Men need to fix things. But MI seems impossible to repairable at times.

We have to assume our husband is grieving. He deals with his grief differently than a woman would. Pausing to remember that helps build compassion.

Our motherly instincts compel us to care for everyone. We identify a need and meet it. We see a problem and fix it. We’re so good at caring for others. Little time is left for us to reflect on how we’re coping.  Rarely do we stop and consider our needs.

But what about me? Who understands MY needs? Does anyone care what it’s like for me?

The good news is that Christ did more than ‘walk a mile in our shoes.’ He came into our world.

Does He know what it’s like for you to have children and a husband all vying for your attention? Yes, He felt throngs clamoring for His attention.

Does He know what it’s like for you to collapse into bed at night, fully drained of all energy (physical, emotional, and mental)? He experienced physical exhaustion. He endured the pain of the cross.

Does He know what it’s like for a husband to let you down? He gave His life for the church and suffers when His bride/people deny him or refuse His unconditional love and free gift of salvation. He knows what it feels like to be betrayed by his followers, those He loved.

Christ not only knows what it’s like, He knows how you feel. He knows your every thought and sees every tear. The best part is that He has power to do something about it. To provide just what you need.

He knows what it’s like for you to have a child with MI. Let the words of Tommy Walker’s ‘He Knows my Name’ minister to you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBmtGSuw04Y

Friend

funeralcards
Does it help when people attend the funeral of a loved one? Do sympathy cards make a difference?

My husband and I were comforted by all the people who came to my mother-in-law’s funeral.

It’s amazing how much cards and flowers softened my grief. The prayers and sympathy meant so much. Because of who sent them. Sorrow was soothed by friends who care. Each gesture brought some relief from my hurt.

I reread the sympathy cards and blessings swelled my heart. How I cherish the relationships I have with godly women! Ladies I call friends.

A friend stands by us when times are hard. No words are needed. Just their presence says, “I’m here for you.” Pain dissolves at their gentle touch and warm hug. Shared tears let us know their heart weeps with ours.

Who stands by our children who have mental illness (MI)? Few people want to be around someone who is depressed. Many don’t know how to handle someone else’s anxiety.

A mother’s care is constant. She reaches out to her son when emotional pain engulfs his heart. Sometimes, he welcomes her listening ear. Other times, he recoils at the sight of her open arms. That’s when her teen would prefer a friend. A faithful companion who would console him.

Some individuals with MI are blessed to have a good friend. Others aren’t so fortunate. It’s hard for a mom to watch the isolation and loneliness. It’s difficult to hear some of the unkind names used when people refer to a person with serious MI.

Who will call our children “friend”? Jesus. We can count on Him to see the person, not just the MI.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus called Judas, His betrayer, “friend” (Matthew 26:48-50).

Satan had entered Judas (Luke 22:3). Yet, Christ’s perspective was on the person.

God knows our need for friends.

“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11). Abraham was called God’s friend (James 2:23 and Isaiah 41:8). Christ called His disciples friends (John 15:15. And He expressed His love for us when He said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). He demonstrated that love for us on the cross (1 John 3:16).

We can count on Him to be our child’s true Friend.
Dear Jesus,
Please send godly friends into my son’s life. Thank You for your ultimate expression of friendship when You willingly died for my sin. Praise You for blessing me with women who weep with me. Help me be a faithful friend to those You have placed in my life.

Let the words to this song “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” minister to you.