Monday, April 4, 2011

I Hope You Understand--I'm Not Dead

When I deactivated my Facebook account a week or so ago, I received several emails and messages asking if I was okay. Yes, I, I wasn't. 

I was okay in that I wasn't hiding because I was miserable or buried in sadness. I was okay in that the criteria for "okay" my friend and I created last summer was still working. As long as I believed tomorrow would be better, I was alright. I do, and I am.

However, I was ready to get out of the fishbowl. There were some circumstances that offered intense motivation, but really, while the circumstances made me angry, getting out of the fishbowl was a relief.

The truth is I am tired of hearing how "I can't imagine how much pain you are in" and "where you are is so hard and so tragic and so...But just be strong. I know you might not think you'll make it but you will." If that is how you think, then you really can't imagine, and you really don't know.

No, my path through this is not like anyone else' I've known. There are so many details that I simply cannot address publicly, and honestly, it isn't public business anyway. A few very close friends are completely aware of all the details, and they aren't telling either. I think what they would tell you, though, is it really isn't as bad as people seem to imagine or "know".

Contrary to what some would say, I am not speaking out of anger or pain, and I'm not just spewing because life has been so bad people are shocked I can even get out of bed. I'm simply being honest. Honestly, I'm not broken. I'm not sad all the time. I'm not miserable all the time. I'm not drowning in pain, and I don't need or want someone to coddle me, hug me, mother me, or in any other way fix me or make me better.

Frankly, a lot of the time I spend my time trying to help others feel better or telling others I really don't need to be made to feel better. It starts with that, "How are you?" that really means, "Okay, tell me how utterly miserable and sad you are because I know you are just putting on a brave face for everyone else but I can handle the truth. I can handle the real you."

The real me isn't miserable. The real me isn't sad. The real me doesn't need a brave face. The real me doesn't need to feel better nearly as much as some folks need to make me feel better, and I've lost patience with codependent people. Frankly, if you need to do something to make me feel better so you can feel better, help us both feel better by simply not talking to me. It'll give you peace of mind. You won't feel rejected by whatever the latest thing I say is, and I won't avoid you because I get a headache trying to figure out what to say that won't get me a reprimand.

And really, I don't want to hear that you understand. If you want or need to tell me your story because you need to feel like someone can relate to your pain, I'm all ears. I totally understand how hard it is to grieve alone, and I totally understand the need for your pain or loss or life to be validated, and I am honored to be that person. However, really, dear souls with beautiful hearts, you can't understand where I am or what I've been through, and I'm okay with that. I hope you are, too.

Anna had a great description. She said, "It's like people have ridden in a one man rowboat with a leak trying to say they know what it is like to be on the Titanic."

Except that, we aren't on the Titanic. We aren't sinking. A lot of people seem to think we are, but we aren't. In fact, we've changed our sailing vessel. We are on the Avenger-class ship USS Warrior. Look it up. It's groovy.

I know you want to help. Let me tell you how.

The simple fact is I don't want to hear anymore about my being in a hard place. I don't want to hear anymore about how people can't imagine the pain or the loss or gloom, despair, and agony on me.

Yes, I have emotional days. I have exhausting days. They are perfectly normal. Do not look at my emotional/mental bruise or cut and react as though I need heart surgery. Just let me have an emotional day. Roll with it and move on. Do not assume an emotional Monday makes for a trashed Tuesday. IT'S A DAY. Just a day.

And respond differently than the average human. The average human when told a day is bad starts to commiserate with how sorry they are, how they hope things get better. They don't ask why it's bad, just accept it as it is and feeds it. On the contrary, when told a day is great, they ask why, and if it is just because it is sunny and nice and all is good in the world, the person looks at you like your a bit wacky and goes on. It's like you have to convince them it's a good day.

I'm not going to expend my energy trying to convince anyone it's a good day. Frankly, I'd just as soon deactivate my account, turn off my phone, ignore my email, and put my energy elsewhere where it'll mean something, like my writing.

As I said, I'm not mad. On the contrary, I'm blessed, and I appreciate your hearts. I appreciate your love. I just need you to be supportive in a different way. Instead of understanding how miserable and sad I am, understand that I'm not. Understand that I tired of being dead. Mom died. Rob died. I didn't die, and I'm tired of dealing with all the dead stuff.

I'm ready to focus on living.
Understand that it is time to move on, be happy, and find a new life.
Understand that hard days are JUST a day. Life is great.

THAT is where I am puttin my energy. I hope you understand.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Landscape

I have read so many health insurance policy plans that when I close my eyes they overlay like old overhead sheets on a table. They blur and details are lost, and I wish there were someone to call and ask, "Could you please make this decision for me?"

Could anyone make any decision for me?

A year ago I was the follower, trusting the decisions made that were never topics of discussions, oblivious to the detailed workings of life. Now I am a single mom trying to navigate a country I've never even seen, and when I stare at the latest major thing we have to cross, I remind myself that few things in life truly destroy. They make for struggles, but as life continues, wisdom is gained, and the next crossing will be easier. It is the price of learning life.

The price of learning life.

Thursday I had lunch with Mike and Judy Brisky, and we were discussing the grief process, where I am, how the children are, and so on. I tossed out the fact that people often use the phrase, "when you get past this," as though somewhere down the line at some divine point I will wake and this will be over.

My mom might still be dead, but somehow the missing her will be over, and Rob will still be dead, but somehow the effects will be over, or I'll be over the effects.

I'm not really what "being past this" means. It's not like it is some part of the carwash that you drive through before getting to the next part. You know, you drive through the soapy part, but once you hit the rinse, there is no soapy being dumped on you. The soapy is over. You're past it, and you get to move on to the wind in your face section, and at the end of the journey, you drive into the sunshine, and the carwash is over. You're past it all.

Mike and Judy and I talked about the fact events in life are not over. They become part of the landscape, the bigger picture. The effects are still there. The influence is still visible. Maybe it isn't the whole landscape. Maybe it isn't even in the forefront, but it never completely goes away. Pain and loss is part of the landscape. It isn't something to get past. It is something that becomes a part of the whole picture, part of me, the whole me. and if it is allowed to blend in the right way, it adds to the picture, not becomes the picture. It makes the picture richer, deeper, more interesting to know.

No. I'm not on some carwash ride with parts and pieces I am getting past. I'm living the picture, letting the elements blend from glaring pieces into a stunning landscape, so when peoople look at it, they don't see a moment or an event. Instead, they see how the bright spots and dark places mesh together to become one amazing picture...they see me.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Making a Difference

I am convinced if we asked God how to make a personal difference, He'd tell us.

And I am convinced if we did what He told us to do, it really would make a difference.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Today, I Really Miss You

Dear Rob,

I miss you.

Tomorrow is Robert's birthday, and he's nervous. He's afraid your not being here is going to make him sad. He's right. And I'll do the best I can to walk with him through the pain and anger because he doesn't understand. What he doesn't realize is even if he did understand, it wouldn't help.

I understand a lot about us, about the separation, about your dying, and I've still spent the day in tears and angry.

Last night I rolled over and reached to your side of the bed to feel where you were so I could scootch up to you. I still miss the feel of you, the smell of you. I miss how I wrapped my arm around you and you would wrap your hand around mine and hold it to your chest.

Pretty silly, huh? I mean, it's not like you'd be here anyway.

Still, I miss you.

It's March Madness, and I printed out the brackets, but I haven't watched a game. It's not quite the same when I don't have someone screaming, "Did you see that?" with me. I miss your arms flying up in the air and your yelling, "OH MY GOSH!" when that last second bucket hits and overtime is either created or avoided. Your whole face lit up. I have never known anyone who could get so excited about teams they cared nothing about.

Flowers are coming up in the front flowerbed. I keep looking at the zinnia bed. I need to work on it, but I can't even make myself walk over there. In fact, the very idea of working in the yard at all exhausts me.

The kids and I do clay and paint a lot. Never was big on the clay, but even less so now. I really miss playing games, but that is something the children strongly associate with you, and  they aren't ready. I understand, so I either pinch a piece of clay and just chat with them or I read. Of course, they miss your reading to them. Me, too. I liked your voice. Your reading was always so soothing, especially when you read Winnie the Pooh. :-)

Robert decided he doesn't want streamers and balloons for decorations this year. Honestly, I'm sort of glad. You always did such a good job with the decorations. I would have done them, but it would have been so hard. Sort of like when Meg Ryan is talking to Maverick, and she says, "Goose would have flown without you. He would have hated it, but he would have done it." I would have hated it, but I would have done it.

And, yes, I know. It's not like you would be here. Not like you would be with me.  But there are things we really got right. The children and letting them know they are special and important and amazing...we definitely did well there. We certainly knew how to celebrate them, didn't we?

You were a wonderful dad.

You were a wonderful man in a kazillion ways...and today, I really miss you.

Monday, March 14, 2011

When Silence Speaks Volumes

My friend Michele sent me a sweet message last night asking my forgiveness for her silence. Except, she hasn't been silent. She just hasn't been talking to us. Instead, she's been talking for us, and that is exactly what we needed.


I just read your blog post and wanted to say...

Over and over again, I think of the different ways you have lifted me up - and I have no idea how to do the same for you. I have prayed for you, Anna, & Robert and I'm sorry that is all I have done. Truly. You are precious - to God, to me, and to so many others. You remain in my prayers and please forgive my silence.

My response:
Sweet friend,
A multitude of thanks for the prayers. Prayers for us are EVERYTHING.

Truly. I am not just saying that to make you feel better. God's faithfulness, despite my screaming pain and rage, is obvious. I know He is answering others' prayers because I do not even know what to pray now.

Do not be sorry that is "all I have done". Change your sentence around and hear the power in it. "All I have done is pray." When all you're doing is praying, all you're doing is walking into the throne room on behalf of my children and me and saying, "Lord, God Almighty, Ruler of the entire universe who holds every second, every breath, every answer in Your hand, let me ask of You for my in desperate need friend Jerri and her children."

Oh, my friend, stand in the throne room for us! Stand there! Cry out for us! Seek Him for us! Ask of Him for us!

Michele, I have no words. I somehow wander into the throne room, fall to my knees, stare at Him, and simply lift my hands in empty questions. I do not know what to ask. I have simply sat in His presence and hurt and sobbed.

Speak for us. Put words where I have none. You are doing exactly what we need. Thank you for your faithful intercession. Thank you.

"...and I have no idea how to do the same for you." Oh, my friend, simply saying that does wonders for my soul. Simply saying, "Jerri, I can't imagine the pain and have no idea how to get near it, but I'm with you," is balm.

"...Forgive my silence." Michele, what is there to say? Really? That you are stunned? Shocked? Yep. Me too. That God lvoes me? Believe me, if He didn't, He would have squished me like a bug already. That He has great plans for me? A whole email in and of itself. That...what? This sucks and you can't believe how much has happened in 9 months? Yes, it does, and I can't either.

I'm learning that sometimes silence isn't abandonment or rejection or ambivalence. Sometimes silence is the only way to acknowledge how truly HUGE the impact of something is. Sometimes silence is the only honest response...and sometimes it is the most healing because it validates the immensity of a situation for the person going through it. Silence says this is unlike anything you've ever seen before, and nothing remotely compares.

Losing my mom and Rob dying suddenly within 3 1/2 months of each other is big. Statistically, you don't hit that very often. Throw in the separation, and that shrinks it further. Toss in that our divorce would be final tomorrow, the 15th, and that really knocks it down to tiny number, and for fun, let's mix in a whole slew of details that aren't public domain, and yeah, I have pastors who are friends telling me they are walking in unchartered territory because they have NEVER heard of anything close to this situation.

Yeah, silence because nothing remotely compares...sounds like the perfectly validating response.

So, dear one, walk in freedom. You are doing exactly what you need to do. You are recognizing a situation that is FAR beyound human ability to do anything about, so you are taking it all to the One who can do anything we need.

You are doing EXACTLY what we need you to do. Please keep it up.

And if Daddy shares any words with you, please share them with me if He says you can. :-)

Love you dearly! Sending you huge hugs!!!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

When You Don't Know What to Say, Just Say...

One thing I have heard over and over in the last month is, "I don't know what to say." I totally understand. I want to share a few things people have said that really helped me.

"I have never felt more helpless or useless as a friend than I do right now."--My friend John when I called to tell him Rob was gone and I didn't understand the last eight months at all.

"I am here."--a simple text on my phone the morning Rob died. I laid it on my pillow so I could try to rest and not feel so alone.

"I can be on a plane tonight. I want to be sure you are okay."--Kevin when he offered to take time off from the Army and fly from El Paso to be with us during the funeral and the few days following.

"Reason I'm trying to locate you geographically is 'cause...I was going to see if they had a non-stupid person who might check in on my behalf."--Kenneth, a pastor after God's own heart.

"sits on ground next to you. *sighs* picks up a rock and throws it away aimlessly"--sometimes there are no words, only presence, even if it is half-of-Texas away

"Don't you think Joy and I would have been there already if the Teleporter was working?"--Yes, Kenneth, you would be.

"Ugh! (Sorry--that doesn't sound very pastoral or spiritual)."--No, but it sounded like you understood, and I needed that more than anything.

"Silver in forms...Gold Medalist in sparring..."--Two texts that allowed me to feel like I was part of a regular life. It was nice to be Jerri and not just somebody dealing with tragedy.

"Jerri, it's really okay."--It wasn't just Greg's words. It was his tone, the look in his eyes when he said it, and the subordinate truth that I was okay.

"Yes, I can."--Raeetta when asked if she could stay with the children and me the week of the funeral.

"I'll take care of..."--the list was huge, but Chris did take care of all of that, the children, and me. When he said he would take care of something, I never gave it a second thought. It would be done, and it was.

 "Okay, here are three boy toys to start...And if you want to rob the cradle, I mean be a cougar..."--Debra had me laughing out loud! And it felt good. :-)

" :-) Smile"--Bilal, just checking in.

"Just checking in on you. Love you, Dan."--Love you, too.

From Sharilyn--A picture of a car with a grill line that looked like a big smile. In my mind, I could see the tongue lolling out. I rolled

"Understandable: watch out for toxic rain."--Pam's response when she asked how I was, and I said the train hit was rough, and the big crater made by the 747 when it crashed into me was hard to climb out of, but the mushroom cloud pretty much said it all. So nice to be understood. :-)

"When do you want us?"--Debra, who knows life and grief comes in waves.

"We are with you."--Stacey, when lunch after the funeral felt like Everrest.

"I've got you, and I'm not letting go."--Stuart, when he held my hand and led me to his truck after the funeral.

Posted By Blogger to Jerri Kelley at 3/13/2011 03:43:00 PM

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Tonight there is no Gibbs. There is no shooting terrorists.

Tonight there is stillness.

I am forcing myself to be still, to allow myself to think, to allow myself to feel.

It's a hard thing, this feeling...or drowning in so much feeling that I have gone numb.

The truth is I am simply standing in the midst of carnage, turning in circles, staring at the devestation. The sword I used to wield with such ferocity hangs limp from my hand, and instead of determination, I feel very little more than shock.

And I cannot truly believe what I see around me.

For months my goal has been to keep moving forward no matter what exploded around me or in front of me, and I have done that. However, today, I don't know what "forward" means. I don't even know what movement looks like. Settling Rob's estate? Getting the legal papers signed? Picking up his ashes and figuring out where to put them until we scatter them later? Paying off bills that have accrued? Waking up in the morning, getting out of bed, showering, and brushing my teeth?

When all of this started nine months ago, I told folks we were not "fine", but we were okay. It was hard, but we were going to get to the other side and flourish anyway. I'm not sure what other side we are supposed to get to, and I don't know what "okay" is anymore.

I'm not trying to give the impression that I'm hopeless. I'm not. I'm not depressed either. I'm just...


...and dismayed...

...and waiting.

I have never felt so utterly stripped bare, undefined, and directionless.

I have never stood before God and been so completely at a loss. I have nothing, not even words. I can only stand before Him, stare confused, and shrug with a thousand unworded questions.

And all I really know is He is good.

And instead of being appalled by tears, He accepts them as worship because it is all I have to offer Him. It is what I have been reduced to...tearful trust in Him despite the pain.

and do not lean on your own (finite, pleasure seeking, comfort desiring) understanding.
In all your (broken, tear marked) ways, acknowledge Him (He is the only One who can or will make a difference),
and He will make your (seemingly devestating and dream destroying) paths straight.
This is worship.

It is not standing with hands high, songs filled with happy thoughts, and easy thankfulness for all the good things.

Worship is...

...the staring eyes filled with confusion and questions,
that choose to look to Him and not away,
even when the tears fall hot and the heart aches deep.

...the heart shattered
with nothing left of what it had hoped for
that turns to Him and whispers,
"I hope you can find me here."

Worship is not going to God because He feels good.
Worship is going to God
even when it hurts beyond one's wildest nightmares.

And I stand here...staring...aching...questioning...