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  • Writer's pictureSue Bowles

I'm Not Going Back There! (from Dec 2020)

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

Sometimes, the hurt is beyond description. Try as I might, I am at a loss to capture, with any kind of proximity, the torrent of emotion which is my heart right now. I was talking with my counselor tonight, and used phrases like “I'm just trying to not get taken under by it”, and “The current is trying to pull me under and I just need to come up for air.” That's a start.

No one, and nothing, can prepare you for losing a parent, especially one for whom you cared for years. While those years had its fair share of challenges, all that pales in comparison. In fact, those trials are mostly forgotten. Instead, the mind turns to those last days, the abruptness of the departure, the total lack of preparation leading up to it. So many questions. So many fears. So many emotions.

Did you know? Could you hear? We said so much and shared so many things in your last days. We laughed, we cried, we said it all. I still remember when peace flooded me. It was then I knew there was nothing left to say. I only hoped you knew. I still do. Do you know – truly know – how very loved you were? How your absence has left a hole in my heart that I know God will fill, but it's going to take a long time? How much I wish I had treasured you and cherished you more when I had you? How I wish there had been opportunity for you to tell me your last words? How I know I can't keep playing this over in my head, and how my head doesn't listen?

I am just beginning to uncover the immeasurable level of pain in my heart. It's been almost 2 months, and I'm just starting to catch a glimpse from a distance. So many of the images which came to mind when I was struggling with my early recovery days flash through my mind like a haunting slide show. All of the unhealthy ways I dealt with pain whisper from the shadows. Eating disorder. Withdrawal. Shutting down, controlling my emotional expression. Even the ghost of cutting tries to step from the darkness for a brief appearance as a blurry figure in the distance. I am well aware of all the snags and traps trying to set themselves in my path. And while I struggle and am overwhelmed at times, staring off into space, I also am acutely cognizant of one thing: I will not go back there.

I have fought too hard and too long to get to where I am today. I have done the painful work of healing, and have forged a new path forward, full of anticipation, wonder, and awe...and a healthy dose of fun. I remind myself of that when it is tempting to shut down, when I see myself starting to look down a path of withdrawal which I know does not serve me, and even when stupid thoughts try to be a blip on the radar. I have learned that all of those symptoms are measurements of the depth of my anguish, and the feelings are to be acknowledged, seen, valued, and honored. Which means feeling them.

Therein lies the challenge. The mind tries to have conversations with itself. What if I lose it at work? What if I lose it in front of people and can't stop crying? How will I handle it when someone tries to be helpful and really isn't? Do I have it in me to go through this again – to let out all the tears, have a super hard cry, and pick myself back up, brush off, and take the next step? And then I remind myself of what I told others a month ago: if God was strong enough to get me through her dying, He is strong enough to get me through my living with her absence, so how DARE I live otherwise. It's a testimony issue.

I don't yet know what that means for me, or what it looks like, or when it will happen. I see the symptoms starting – the edginess, the hypersensitivity, the nervous legs. I have learned that it will come, when it is time and when it is ready. I need to not fight the process, to let the process happen, and, as my friend Michael wrote me, “Take one day at a time...Matter of fact, take one hour at a time. And let Abba guide you through it all. You are going to make it.” Because I'm not going back from where I came. Not sure where I'm headed just yet, but this much I know: I'm not going back.

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