Monday, June 19, 2017

Hurting Heart

The Bible says to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Back in 1999 my younger brother Bruce was mortally injured in an accident that crushed him between two vehicles. My family and I were told that he experienced no physical pain as he lay trapped in a coma in that hospital bed. And yet, I distinctly felt in my soul that he was in spiritual pain.

To be present with the Lord would be a joy, a comfort, a place of complete rest. Seeing him held hostage in a brain-dead body looked and felt like torture to me.

The obtrusive machines sustaining his life pointed out that he was not even in control of his own breath. Yes, I would have loved to witness the miracle of him rising from that bed to go on to live a full and complete life. What a testament to the power of God that would have been! His tragic death changed me as a person. It changed our family. It impacted the trajectory of my spiritual life. It caused me to reevaluate priorities. It compelled me to face the fact that life is not to be taken for granted.

Life is a gift. A fragile piece of artwork to be cherished.

With each milestone worthy of celebration I long for his presence. Recently as my siblings and I gathered to commemorate our parents’ 60th wedding anniversary his absence was palpably felt. Beholding my three remaining brothers with their wives and chatting over childhood memories I longed for Bruce to have experienced that moment with us.

As I contemplated my most intimate losses I considered the stillbirth of my first child, Patricia Kaye. I could hardly bear to  dwell on her brief life and the fact that a second stillbirth, our first son, Cameron Preston, followed ten short months later. Grieving my brother dredged up each memory.

Each loss was dissected, evaluated, weighed, and processed in my heart and in my journal.

I ripped out and burned journal pages, spilling out rage, hurt, and the rawness of my heart until I could not face it anymore. I made an appointment with a grief counselor and began to work on healing. Angry at the past, devastated by God, and yet trying hard to hold on to reality so as to be able to care for my children, my husband, and our home, my body was exhausted and filled with pain. My home and my heart were cluttered.

I couldn’t let go of my emotional hurts and I could not let go of items that were littering my home.  I longed for relief. A clean house seemed impossible and a clear head even more so. A few months after Bruce’s death I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

No longer localized as heartache from mourning, pain was ravaging my body and affecting the quality of my life.

Through therapy I realized that I was existing under a lifetime of burdens. I finally pinpointed the day that I was no longer allowed to unashamedly display emotion. It was at that moment that my childhood officially ended.

I was playing Barbie dolls with a friend. I thought I was being good. My schoolwork was done and my chores were complete. I didn’t invite Tracey inside because my parents were gone to visit my grandfather at the hospital. We were playing on the porch when my father arrived home visibly upset. I had no idea what I had done wrong. The first thing he said was that my friend had to go home and I had to come inside. We put away the dolls and she ran off. I timidly entered the house not knowing what was coming next.

His words are forever seared into my brain.

“Your PawPaw’s dead. And don’t you cry cause your Mama needs you!”

I don’t believe his intent was that I could never show emotion over my grandfather’s death. I believe he was simply asking me to help out with my little brothers. I think it was an attempt to lighten her load after losing her father. He could not have known that I would carry those words for the rest of my life. From that point on public tears of grief or sadness felt wrong but I didn’t fully understand why. Even when tears were appropriate to situations I faced as an adult, my brain clung to the instruction I’d heard at 12 years old, “Don’t you cry”.  

At age 50, I put all of the grief, hurt, and pain into a song. A song I’ve recorded, performed once, and have been unable to do again. Just like singing at Bruce’s funeral it emptied me of strength and reduced me to tears that took days to get under control.

Click on the arrow to listen

Healing came in stages. Rolling in and out like waves hitting tide pools found at the shoreline before high tide. As the tide wanes life is revealed and precious wonders within are free to be explored. I understand that the importance and the impact of words spoken to us and by us should never be underestimated. Emotions need to be expressed.

Even Jesus cried over the death of his friend Lazarus. Jesus knew he could and would raise Lazarus from the dead and yet he cried. Jesus wept.

I see that scripture acknowledges emotions and therefore so should I. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. Weeping may remain for a night but joy comes in the morning. I can testify that sometimes the nights of weeping stretch into decades when you don’t fully give yourself permission to heal. The morning is a long ways off for those of us who cannot weep in community.

I have the right to experience anointed times of weeping, mourning, and wailing with safe people unencumbered with shame. I have the right to feel my feelings. And I would advise others to feel their feelings to the fullest. To learn from them, to let tears fall nurturing new growth from within, and then to stand up and boldly move on towards healing!


  1. Very moving testimony Alida. What a powerful witness, thank you so much for sharing

    1. Thank you so much for reading! Blessings to you!

  2. Alida, this is so amazing! Thank you for sharing from the depths of your loving heart! -Layna Joy

    1. Thank you for reading, Layna! Blessings to you!

  3. Joy comes in the morning. Joy comes!

    Thank you for sharing your heart; I consider it a privilege.

    1. Thank you for your comments! Blessings to you!