Have you ever wanted something so badly that in your mind you already had it? Have you ever been so disappointed that even though you didn’t achieve what you wanted you had yourself convinced that there were perfectly good reasons as to why you didn’t? If we aren’t careful it is easy for us to fall into a state of denial regarding many things that really color our reality.
Often, when we grieve that is one of the first things we do. (Click here to read the first post in the grieving series.) We deny what has happened. That denial can take many forms, from refusing to address the loss you are experiencing to pretending that there isn’t any loss at all. When that happens you aren’t broken and it isn’t wrong to feel that way. It is part of the process you go through as you begin to let go of your loss and you begin to heal.
I have experienced many losses in my life but the most significant thus far was the loss of my marriage. Notice the words I’ve used there; the loss of my marriage, not the loss of my wife. This is an important distinction. I most likely lost my wife long before I lost my marriage. It was the concept of what marriage was that I was so desperately hanging on to and trying to save. So, for me, when I talk about loss in this series I am referring more to the loss of my marriage. I have, however, experienced all of these stages of grief in quite similar ways in other losses as well. I am just using the loss of my marriage to illustrate the process.
Before I go on, I need to make an important clarification here and that is that the failure of my marriage wasn’t one person’s fault more than the others. We both failed. There was a time when I found it easier to specifically blame my wife. It was the obvious and easy thing to do given how the marriage finally fully collapsed. The truth is, I played a part into what got us there. Someday I may write more on this but for now it is the overcoming of grief on which I want to focus.
Before my wife told me she wasn’t in love with me anymore, I already knew. I already knew! I just didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t dare tell anyone what was going on because I was embarrassed. Additionally, what if things did work out? I didn’t want anyone to know we had problems or to think less of my wife. More importantly, if I didn’t tell anyone it wouldn’t be real. In my mind, as long as I refused it as the truth, I figured I could remain immune to it. For me, the denial began before I even entered the “official” grieving period. I was in denial! As time passed, I learned a lot about what was going on and if I would have confided in anyone, they would have told me to wake up! Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I just refused to believe what was in front of me and that my marriage was over. The real truth was that I was unwilling to accept that I, we, had failed and would end up divorced.
I remained in denial for a long time. As I said, I knew before my wife told me that she didn’t love me anymore that something wasn’t right. As the months passed and I discovered heart crushing, gut wrenching facts about what was going on, more times than not I made excuses in my mind or rationalizations for what I was uncovering, what I was finding. That’s denial folks! Right there, plain as day, denial! I knew what the truth was; I just refused to believe it. I wasn’t doing what I needed to do to move through my grief and past the denial.
I knew before I ever heard those difficult, soul sucking words – “I’m not in love with you anymore.” – that there was more to it and that my wife didn’t just fall “out of love” with me. On the night that she told me she said she needed to clear her head and she left our home. I know where she went because I went there. I saw our van. I confronted the situation. Why did I know to go there that night? Because I already knew but just refused to believe. I was grieving and in denial before I even heard her say the words.
A big reason we spend so much time in denial is because when we do it gives us hope. The problem with that is that it is false hope. There is real hope out there for you when you are suffering from a loss of any kind but refusing to confront what is reality isn’t the way to get to it. Soon after I told my parents what was going on, my mother gave me a small, old fashioned key that simply has the word “Hope” printed on it. Over the years that little key has been given to others and even lost for a period of time. It always somehow found its way back to me and today it is on my keychain and I carry it with me daily. It is truly a symbol of what is inscribed on it. It serves as a constant reminder to me that we can find real hope and overcome our denial by facing our fears and accepting our reality. It’s not easy. It’s hard! It’s scary and downright terrifying at times!
I’m no expert and I don’t have all the answers but I can offer some places to start. Get a notebook and write down what you are feeling. There doesn’t have to be any structure to it. Just get your thoughts and feelings out and on a piece of paper. You may never go back and read those words again. In fact, you may never want to but it is a safe and personal way to begin to deal with what you’ve lost and will help to begin to heal.
Don’t be afraid to reach out; to talk to someone. Please don’t suffer in silence and pretend that everything is OK. Don’t deny your reality. Find someone. It can be a family member, a close friend, a professional or even God. There is nothing wrong with talking to a professional. It doesn’t make you weak or broken or less of a person. The fact is, when we are grieving we are broken. Embrace the brokenness. Surround yourself with people that love and care about you. Did you hear that? People that truly love and care about you will be honest with you and they will continue to love you even through your brokenness. You may not always like what they have to say but they will help you to face reality. They are a key in helping you face the truth.
I remember early in my process I didn’t really know where to turn and found myself in the chapel on one of the college campuses in my town. I prayed there. It may have actually been the first time I prayed, really prayed, in quite some time. I ended up contacting a priest that was there that I had been close to in high school. I remember that he listened to my hurts and comforted me with his words. When we were finished he asked if he could pray for me. He took one of my hands in his and placed his other hand behind my head and he prayed. I don’t remember the prayer or his words but I remember how I felt. The Holy Spirit was in the room that day and I could feel it blanket me. I sobbed as he held me, praying for me. For the first time since the nightmare began I felt peace, if but for a moment. I felt the hand of God touch me, letting me know that I would get through this; that I would not be alone.
If you are currently in denial of your loss, whatever it may be, your world may seem like it is falling apart. I am here to tell you that there is hope. You can get through it as long as you have faith, the strength to believe and the desire to change your circumstances. Don’t give up! Remain strong and continue to move forward. Do the work and do not give up. Day by day it will get better. All you really need to do is deal with what is immediately in front of you, just one step at a time.
Be Great! Be Strong!
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