It has been explained in multiple places, that grief is not a straight shot through the stages. No one does Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance, and then it’s done. It never happens like that. Instead, as many have explained, you can get to one and go back to another and then skip to one and then go back to the beginning. It all depends. What it depends on is as vague as the notion that some time in the future, the trauma victim will recover.
I forgot that.
I thought that after I opened up about Zelena’s lies, that I was truly healing. I thought that after I was baptized, that things had gotten better.
And, while it is different, and while there is something spiritual to baptism, the grief, it turns out, is possibly never ending.
I never thought that way before last week. It never occurred to me that this pain would be carried with me to the grave. It was while I was processing the book Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife, and all the vitriol conservatives have attacked the author with, that it hit me.
As I read the book I found myself uncomfortable with the way she wrote certain things. As a writer and a reader, it seemed to me that in some cases she was holding back. I had approached the book as a person who was just beginning her journey to healing learning from someone who had arrived. What I learned is that we never arrive. Not after this much trauma.
It is uncomfortable to me to know that I will always carry this with me, it is made more so because there is an outside, and inside, pressure to get over it.
I’m not the kind to sit around and feel sorry for myself. I write what I write here not because I am bemoaning my fate, no, that’s my mother and my father and my ex. The only reason I lived through the hell that is my life is because I can look forward and hope for something better.
And I’m aware that grief takes a long time. I tell my friends to take their time grieving, not to rush it.
But I don’t have time for grief. I have five kids. I have a job now. I have a house I need to fix. I have people I need to support and advocate for. I can’t grieve.
But that isn’t my voice, and that isn’t God’s voice.
It’s the voice of my mother who told me that nobody cared about my pain, not her, not my relatives, not my friends. It’s the voice of my father telling me that his needs (they were actually wants) were more important than mine. It’s the silence of my ex as I suffer through the pain of facing the possible death of my unborn son, it’s him ignoring me as I struggle to keep our family afloat and get the kids the help they need, it’s his cruelty toward me as I cried for my friend’s loss of her infant son.
I am often asked by various people, what else could the church possibly do that it’s not doing already for people like you? Sometimes they are genuinely interested, often times it’s said with an eye roll.
The number one thing that victims of all trauma need is time to grieve. And they need as long as it takes them. And they need people to stop telling them to get over it, to stop ignoring their pain, to stop being uncomfortable with the less than perfect.
Grief is ugly. It is messy. It is angry and weepy and painful. And most people in the church are not on board with that. They didn’t sign on for the love it takes to actually allow a person to grieve in their presence, especially their physical presence. They can’t deal with the anger, or the depression. And the grieving person is abandoned, or, worse, smothered with platitudes. (I hate platitudes without action behind them…but I digress.)
Until the church, beginning with the pastors, can get down in the ash heap with the grieving and do more than act like Job’s friends, trauma victims will continue to feel like the un-wanted step-child, second best and never fully measuring up to the standards falsely raised that define a successful Christian life as one of smiles and happy feelings, or as one of closed off emotions and right theology.
Until the church does this, it will not be the church. Because almost everyone walking through the doors on Sunday morning has some sort of trauma in their lives. If church leadership continues to insist that one can be healed by following right living or getting their theology right, these people will be forced into the shadows, afraid; the lack of understanding simply adding to their trauma.