August 10, 2011 – We walk into Trey’s room after his surgery. The surgery went very bad. We are told that he looks good. I clarified with the surgeon that he, in fact, looks good in general not just better than he did during the worst of the surgery. He was very, very wrong. It was horrible. We weren’t ready for the vaseline shine around his lips and eyes, he was swollen all over, the tubes were all over. No, he did not look good at all, at all…
If you don’t know by now, I’m all in for emotional/relational needs being met through trusted loved ones. Open, honest, and vulnerable communication with mutual giving from each person in the relationship. One of the most important components of that is comfort, real comfort attached to grief that enables the person to heal and move on in healthy fashion. This is true of hurts that happen each day but also (and very importantly) hurts from the past especially from your formative years.
Granted, easier said than done. In order to truly receive comfort you have to communicate vulnerably. What that means is that you have to “go there”. If you are not comforting a pain that is currently happening you have to go back and feel that pain again. That gives your trusted loved one the opportunity to join you in that pain. Most people learn to not entertain pain (kind of why you don’t keep your hand over fire or under a car tire for very long). However, to attach comfort to pain…well, the pain has to be there.
I lead off this post with a horrific pain Rachel and experienced just about a year and a half ago. I stumbled back into that pain while talking about something else completely. That conversation lead us to mentioning going in to see Rachel’s dad just after he had passed and how the nurse said that he looked “good”…you know, for someone who had just died. That lead me to remembering Trey in the ICU. Their version of “he looks good” and ours was dramatically different. As I stumbled into that room that night (this time, inside my head) I felt that all too familiar pain in my stomach. That heavy acidic searing nauseous grief. I caught myself quickly and thought, “oh oh, there isn’t a drop of comfort attached to THAT pain.” What normally happens when you have been comforted is you remember a pain and quickly remember who comforted you and how they shared in your emotion. Realizing I hadn’t “processed this pain” I quickly thought, “How do I do this?” I have therapeutic letters as a tool for pains from specific people, genograms (we haven’t talked about these yet), for other family related pains but something that happened 18 months ago? Hmmmm.
I shared this dilemma with my good friend Ryan Lowe. He is my #1 emotional needs sponge/student/cohort/whatever. He validated that this was a tricky one and like a great pupil started his reply by saying how horrific that moment must have been. I realized talking to Lowe that this pain was like any other. I had to feel that pain in the presence of someone I trusted who knew how to comfort me. Lowe had begun to comfort me which helped me figure this all out. A few days later I shared my quandary with a guy who has gone through some time learning from me and those who trained me. Before I even shared my question, as I was just explaining the hurt (in my head more than my heart) his eyes welled up. I reacted to his pain of hearing my story. I wanted to shield myself and him from the pain but I let the pain of the memory back in, and his comfort. Granted, we were out to lunch and this moment lasted 20 seconds at most. Yet, he went there, he stood in the room with me that night…18 months later.
I have thought about that lunch several times since that day just over a week or so ago. Each time I do I feel the comfort again. Now, even as I typed the top of this post, I remember his eyes filling with tears at my describing my boy propped up in a hospital bed hours removed from the doorstep of death. That searing feeling of grief is not what it was, though there is still some pain there…I’m sure. However, to have some comfort there already gives me much hope for more healing down the road.
When you have those moments of pain come back to your heart…not just your head, realize that they need comfort, they just do. The only other option is to leave them there for another day. Throughout a lifetime they will fester and affect so much more and do a lot of damage. Ask God to provide for you that special someone and that significant moment to open your heart and have someone join you in your pain. He will provide.