So I don't suppose it's uncommon to dream about your dead spouse. I've had more than a few dreams about Emmett over the past year, but in all of them, one thing remain the same. He always has something he wants to give me but is always prevented from doing so for various reasons. Now I don't really think it takes a Freud to figure out why I'm having those dreams, but a couple nights ago I dreamt that Emmett was a fish. Analyze that one, Freud. Not one of those hunky mermaids with tails, but a straight up human sized slimy fish with gills, but completely human too. Don't ask me how that works. I can also swim through the air and change my superpowers in my dreams. It's a dream, therefore it always makes sense except that in this dream we couldn't communicate because, ironically, that part of my dream had to follow the laws of common sense.
A lot I people like to talk about the stages of grief. I briefly read about them at some point but never found that description helpful because it felt too shallow and linear. Honestly, grief feels more like a hurricane to me. A friend, who also happens to be a counselor, though happened to mention that she sees two types/stages (not sure which word is more appropriate there) of grief, a beautiful grief and an ugly grief. Quickly after that we got off topic, so I wasn't able to grill her on the specifics and get all sorts of nifty counselor jargon to add to my vocabulary which I plan to do at the next possible chance.
My soul immediately jumped up and said, "Eureka, that's it!" I have felt something change in my spirit these last few months, and I don't even know how to describe it except to say that my grief is transitioning from beautiful to ugly. And not the kind of kind of ugly you see in preteen girly movies where they take someone beautiful and put glasses on her and dress her in clothes too large and give her bushy eyebrows. You know, the "you-just-need-a-little-makeover-to-be-gorgeous" kind of ugly. No. This is slimy, sweaty, warty mythical troll, "ain't-nuthin-in-all-creation-gonna-help-this-poor-guy" kind of ugly, and no spiritual or emotional makeover is going to take away the ugliness.
The best way I can describe it, and I promise to confess later if I'm taking this illustration out of context, is that initially grief provided freedom and a sense of empowerment. As odd as it may seem, for a long time after Emmett passed away grief was easy. It was so big that it carried me almost without effort or thought; it was so huge I felt insulated from everyday discouragements and concerns. In some ways, grief was a sweet companion that helped me along the road. But now grief is oppressive, suffocating, debilitating. Because it is smaller and more hidden it latches on to normal fears and insecurities and negative emotions, attempting to magnify their power over me.It worms its way into my heart and tells me there is something wrong with me, that I can't keep going, that I shouldn't even try. It feels like my helpful companion has now become my fiercest enemy trying to destroy me. While I understand that everybody struggles with fear and insecurity and discouragement, not only does grief no longer insulate me from these struggles, it seems to have switched allegiances and is now actively trying to destroy me.
As a side note, I am not talking about depression. Recently I heard a helpful NPR discussion between psychologists about the difference between grief and depression. The most helpful illustration someone gave was the people who grieve can still experience joy and may do so on a daily basis, while people who are depressed have lost the ability to experience joy. I can still feel joy and fulfillment and thankfulness. I still know and believe the truth, but grief no longer carries me forward and insulates me. I can see how this type of grief, when suffered without the grace of God, could lead to depression.
I've wondered what I've been doing wrong these past couple months, as if something I did suddenly made life so much harder. Everything I have read or felt from the Spirit has pointed me towards this darkness, this desert as I have described in previous posts. No matter how much I've prayed or read, it seems certain that God will lead me here, most likely to fulfill his purpose to make me more like Christ, though I've promised to be all kinds of good if he will let me skip over this part of my sanctification. For whatever reason, though, I need to experience this kind of warfare. I need to do battle against myself and all the lying voices in my head, not so that I can be famous or rich or powerful or successful, but so that I can be free. So that I may, as Psalm 119 puts it, "run in the paths of your commands for you have set my heart free."
But the Lord has given me a promise in my struggle. Normally when I struggle, I do not particularly enjoy reading Psalms about victory. They tend to make me bitterly annoyed with people in general, but my heart is currently drawn to Psalm 116, which I quoted in a previous blog but will quote again below. When I wrap up Romans 8 and Hebrews 12, I am planning to move on and memorize this Psalm because it will be my victory cry.