Monday, January 23, 2017

Stories of Hope - Jodie's Story 26 - The tough truth I need to share...

So after my last post about anger I’m about to share how practical this information was to me…and how much I likely ignored it at times.  I am really not sure where to start with this section or how much to share. It’s pivotal to my faith journey but it’s not entirely my story to share…so if it seems vague…well that’s because it seemed to be the only fair way to present it. 

I wrote in my last post that anger is a learned response to a provoking situation. In June of 2011 I would come to experience anger on a whole new level and it was certainly brought out by a provoking situation.  As I had mentioned in my last post that Geoff was struggling with his mental health and depression and that caused anger issues for him…and in turn for me and within our marriage.  We were actively seeing a psychiatrist that also did couples counselling.  Although it seemed to be like a slow process, we did seem to be moving forward. 

And that’s why what happened completely rocked my boat and made me doubt myself and my marriage. Over the years Geoff had told me some things that seemed a bit questionable but when I asked him further his responses always eased my mind just enough.  However, without getting into too many details, I had come across some information that made me question things Geoff was doing.  When I finally had stewed long enough, and perhaps had gotten the courage to bring it up, a devastating truth was shared with me.  Once again, this part being Geoff’s story to share, I will limit what I say and will only share that what I learned shattered my trust in him.  A lot of people would not have been as upset about this event, so much of the things that were happening have become very normalized in our society but for me it made me feel betrayed and made me question what I felt the vows of our marriage meant.  It also made me question why I was even trying at all. 

Geoff was very distraught that I had discovered this and was very humble and apologetic.  I think he knew the seriousness of it for me, for my feelings towards him when I wouldn’t fight.  I mentioned last post that I would get angry I would speak my mind and get a release.  This time, however, I remained silent except to tell him how hurt, disappointed and betrayed I felt.  And to his credit, he didn’t try to excuse his actions or give any sort of justification.  I guess I didn’t totally remain silent… I spent many moments in tears.  I felt so lost, so confused, so hurt.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do but, and this is hard to share, I felt certain that I was done trying, done with my marriage. 

We happened to meet with the psychiatrist we’d been seeing just days after this had all come to light.  He sensed right away that I was full of tension and anger and things we not remotely okay between us. He asked me what was wrong and my response wasn’t at all what he expected…because usually I would tell him what was bugging me, what had happened this time to cause tension between us.  I told him that Geoff could explain what happened but that nothing could be said that would fix this.  And so Geoff, in a very humble and quiet voice, with his eyes to the floor, shared what had transpired with the doctor. 

And when it was all out in the open the doctor then completely shocked me with the question “Do you see any reason to stay married to him?” To this day I’m not sure why he asked it that way or what he thought my response was but, having trust between us shattered, having lived with the job losses and financial stress for this long and having dealt with his anger I remember saying, “No, I see no reason at all.  He’s shattered all trust I have in him and he’s a shitty dad because all he does is yell at the kids.”

It was so hard to write that…to share with the world that I had given up on my marriage and voiced it out loud.  I don’t like that we were in that place but I also know that we wouldn’t be where we are today without it happening.  God used this for good too…but again, I’ll get to that in a bit. 

The doctor’s shared his thoughts with us which actually really surprised me.  I didn’t expect anyone to validate me in this way I guess, I expected that given societies views of this subject that he would just offer some ideas for working through it.  Instead, after a few other questions, he asked me if I could think of good reasons to stay married.  I looked up at him and at Geoff and I wept… because the only answer I could give in the hurt state I was in was “the only one that I can think of is financial”.  He then asked Geoff the same question and he responded with something along the lines of ‘she’s my everything, I love her and can’t imagine life without her.’  Given my state of mind, I made some sort of sarcastic comment and told him he was full of it, that he had a very bizarre way of showing he loved me.  Remember that anger I wrote about last post…oh boy was it controlling things here!

After much discussion about what I meant by that, about the debt load we were sitting on and the expenses we had that required two incomes to cover, the psychiatrist offered his thoughts.  Given where my trust levels were at and that I didn’t feel I could afford to live without his income, he suggested we live in a more co-habitation, co-existing arrangement for a while.  He talked to Geoff a lot about rebuilding trust and offered suggestions to him.  To me he said that I could chose to give him a chance or not to, that I could and should remain in a place that I felt my heart was safe from being further hurt until I was ready.  He told Geoff that he must give me space and allow me to be angry, hurt and unwilling to trust, that it was my timeline, not his. 

And with this in mind we left his office and went home.  Life was strained, life was tough. Geoff was so apologetic and so careful around me but also gave me my space…including our bedroom, which became my safe haven. It didn’t really matter to me what he did to make it better, I was still so angry.  I moved past the sad part to just all out anger and sarcasm or all but ignoring him.  Some nights I didn’t come home from work and went and visited others instead.  I took the boys and did stuff with them on my own.  And when others were around us we faked it really well. 

About 3 days after this appointment Geoff was home with Cameron while the other two were at school.  He found a book on my nightstand and felt like he needed to read it.  It had been sent to us by my best friend and was called “ True Love begins with God”.  It was a book based on 1st Corinthians 13 and was written  to “give us a clear, concise description of what true love looks like in everyday life - in marriage, family, and in all our relationships. It is a love that comes from heaven.” It explored how to show love in relationships in a way that weren’t based on performance and it gave so many insights on how God can help with that.  I’d had the book for a year or two and tried to read it to help my own marriage but gave it because I felt like I was ‘going it alone’.  Anyway, that day Geoff picked up the book, read it cover to cover which is a miracle in itself since he rarely reads more than a few pages at a time, certainly never more than 50 per day.  He says he felt an overwhelming desire to cry out to God and ask him to come into his heart and to help him.  The following day he was driving and thinking about the book and the prayer he’d said and suddenly a calm settled over him and he felt like everything was going to be ok, no matter what happened between us. 

So of course I jumped up and down for joy that my husband had found the Lord right???  WRONG!!!  As horrible as this will sound, I felt like I was being lied to even further, that this was a ploy to get me to forgive him, to give him another chance.  I am pretty sure I laughed at him and told him he was full of crap and to leave me alone.  Dark and scary times for me for sure…anger is just so powerful!

And Geoff, with his newfound faith and the assurance it brought, seemed ok with my doubt, my anger, my sarcasm.  He told me he’d wait forever for me, that nothing would change how much he loved me and to take all the time I needed.  He began to read the bible, to listen to worship music and to pray and pray and pray. 

Initially when I had found out I had started to walk…alone or with Cameron in his stroller.  I’d walk and walk, all over town.  It was my way of coping and it was also my way of avoiding.  I didn’t want to talk to him about it, I didn’t want to hear what he had to say, didn’t want to give him a chance.  A week or so after Geoff came to Christ he asked me if he could join me.  I said no and he didn’t say anything more and let me go.  The next time he asked, I said that I needed this time by myself.  Again he let me go.  The third time he asked I told him he could but we couldn’t talk about it and if he did and I got uncomfortable, I would walk away. 

And so began our walks.  That first night we talked about mundane things and left all serious topics alone.  The next time we went we talked about God, Jesus, faith, religion etc. There seemed much to talk about on this subject and it was difficult for me to talk about faith the way Geoff did…with such a comfort level with Jesus, such a relationship and with so much curiosity. So much curiosity and so many questions…questions that I’d never really given any thought to because I’d grown up knowing a bit about God and Jesus, a bit about bible stories and biblical ideas, the concept of the trinity and, the big one for Geoff, ‘fearing God’.  For me these were just things I had accepted and never questioned so I didn’t have the answers and didn’t realize I should either have them or have the questions…not just accept it as told.     I remember after one such walk and talk session that Geoff told me he thought I was going to have a harder time with this ‘newfound faith’, with changing faith based mindsets, than he was because I had so much to unlearn so to speak.  As time has gone on I realize he was right and he was wrong.  It was harder for me to just blindly trust at the start but not so hard to change my mindset.

It wasn’t until we’d been walking together for a week or two that he brought up anything to do with us.  Gradually we talked about our relationship, about mistakes and about how I felt.  He was always so calm about it, so patient and so apologetic. Still though, I found myself holding back, unwilling to trust, unwilling to move ahead.  I don’t know if I would say that eventually he wore me down but eventually his enthusiasm for Jesus and his hopeful and peace filled attitude began to rub off on me and I found myself more willing to listen, to do things together, to spend time together.  For a number of weeks I still couldn’t be alone with him, always had a child or two along for a buffer.  In due time, however, I accepted an invitation for a date.  It was a wonderful night and it was a start to allowing him back into my life….slowly, very slowly. 

The slow pace continued for us until, ironically, loss and grief threw us back into each other’s arms. A friend we’d both known well since before we actually knew each other was killed in a tragic accident and suddenly life seemed too short to hold on to grudges, to carry unforgiveness.  It still took many, many months for trust to be regained…and we’re still working at that….but we returned fully to our life as husband and wife and began to work together to find our way with this newfound faith that seemed to have enveloped us both. 

A few weeks after our friend passed away the second BIG step in our faith journey happened as we attended our first service at an evangelical church.  There was no doubt at all that we were exactly where God wanted us to be after only a few minutes into the sermon that Pastor Rob preached.  The basis of it was on enduring trials and how they make your faith stronger despite being very difficult to get through.  It was the first time I’d ever heard James 1:2-4
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

and I knew once I heard it and heard the words there about perseverance  and the sermon on enduring trials and allowing it to work on our hearts, to change us, to bring us closer to God, that I knew I was exactly where God wanted me to be, that this was exactly the message God wanted me to hear. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Stories of Hope - Jodie's story 25

And so as my faith grew stronger and my purpose seemed so much more definite life became so much easier, so much more peaceful, so calm, so full of joy and happiness right???? Hmmmm.... well, it is often said that the enemy attacks harder and harder as he sees us grow closer and closer to God.  This is exactly what was happening in my life.  As I found peace in losing Cole and found more and more opportunities to share my faith, the enemy began to attack my family, most especially Geoff, his health and in turn, our marriage.  That spring things seemed to spiral downwards for Geoff.  His job was something he loved to do, farm, but promises that had been made to him were not being carried through on and his co-workers resisted every step of the plan his boss had mapped out when he was hired...and therefore plans went out the window.  He was exhausted, he lost a ton of weight and he was miserable to be around.  He was on edge much of the time and being around him was like walking on egg shells.  He spoke to our doctor and was put on stress leave.  Initially this seemed like a good idea....time to get healthier, time to sort through things and, perhaps, time to re-evaluate his job.  But unfortunately it put us in a very bad financial place and raised our personal stress level immensely.  Reluctantly he returned to work and quite quickly the angry moments, for both of us, grew and grew. 

I wrote about it in late May...only a month or so before things changed HUGELY for us... but I’ll get to that in a bit.  It think sharing my exploration of anger is important as it was also very key in what happened a few weeks later.  What you will read next was taken, in part, well mostly actually, from an actual blog post.  I wasn’t going to include it all but when I reread it I realized how important it was to share this message but even more so, how important it was that I hear it again.

I never felt I had an issue with anger. I knew that I had a short fuse at times… and had always been this way. Usually I got angry, I spoke my mind and then felt that release. If I didn’t do this I usually ended up stewing for hours, unable to move forward, unable to forgive and forget. I planned what I’d say the next day, plan how I’d defend myself or let the other person know how their actions made me feel. I obsessed on it and could hardly sleep. And usually I let it go after a short period…not entirely, it sat waiting to rear its ugly head sometimes but for the most part I moved on. 

But not everyone is like that. Someone close to me once told me that it’s great that I can be the way I am, great that I can blow, release, forgive and be happy all within minutes but he can’t…and it’s hard to deal with. I have such a hard time being around moody people or those who I know are angry with me. I want to fix everything, want the world to be happy and peaceful. It’s not a bad way to be but it’s not for everyone and can be pretty intrusive to those who don’t want to deal with it that way. Their way of stewing, mooding, being silent or spreading their anger around isn’t maybe the best for them but it helps them to come to grips with what has happened, helps them to find solutions. 

Finding the root of anger is one of the hardest parts of a relationship… no matter who that relationship is with. That spring I had an epiphany about something that caused me to get angry over and over again and it was great to finally see that. It related to disappointment, unmet expectations related to Geoff and my marriage.  Unfortunately I knew it would be a long road to recovery from this root but I was working on it. Being overly disappointed in some things that have happened over and over again, being hugely disappointed in what is the reality is very hard to take, very hard to move forward from. But again, I was working on it.

So with this new knowledge of my anger in my mind and just the fact that anger had been a big part of life lately, it was rather fateful that many TTTS moms had been posting about anger lately. So many were, and are, justifiably angry…and I’d definitely experienced my share of this grief and loss related anger.  I felt drawn to do some research on anger in grief….at the time that I wrote this originally I didn’t even realize that I wasn’t drawn to this subject for no reason, it didn’t just fall into my lap… the Holy Spirit put it there.  Now that I realize that, I am just so profoundly thankful that God gave me the nudge to research this…and to write about it to.  And now I’ll share it directly here. 

In my research I came across this quote from ‘On Death and Dying’, by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. She wrote that one reaction we humans have to loss is anger. She said Few people place themselves in the patient's position and wonder where this anger might come from. Maybe we too would be angry if all our life activities were interrupted so prematurely; if all the buildings we started were to go unfinished, to be completed by someone else; if we had put some hard-earned money aside to enjoy a few years of rest and enjoyment, for travel and hobbies, only to be confronted with the fact that [we are dying]. What else would we do with our anger but let it out on the people ... who rush busily around only to remind us that we cannot even stand on our two feet anymore.

Obviously this is written about someone who is dying but I think the loss of a child causes you to die inside and so many of those things you had planned for your life appear to be shattered…and really are in so many ways. And even those who’ve had drastic changes, setbacks or personal losses (of a job, of a dream, of a relationship) are dying inside too.
The author of the article I found Dr. Kubler-Ross’s quote in wrote about the intense, all consuming anger that some people have and how scary he finds it. His fear stems from fearing for his safety but also for his loss of control when he is angry and what he will say and do that he will regret later.  He shared that Dr. Kubler-Ross came to the conclusion that the small losses of our lives are the training ground where we learn the coping skills we use when we are faced with large losses. Put another way we tend to die the way we have lived. If we rely heavily on denial to help us cope with the small losses of life, we will tend to rely heavily on denial when we struggle to cope with the big losses. If we rely heavily on anger and indignation to cope with the small losses of our life, we are likely to depend on anger to get us through the big losses.

Wow….isn’t that a realization about how so many people deal with things. There are many people who do react with denial when things go wrong or when someone they know casually dies and they don’t really react at all. But I also know a great number of people who blow little things out of proportion and who get angry at the littlest things and can’t let go…remain so angry for so long. When a big upset happens, when a huge loss happens it’s catastrophic and throws their life completely off kilter. They get so angry, so bitter, and so full of negativity and it is so hard to move past that…and so much damage can be done at that time.

I decided while I was on this topic I would do some more research…especially in how anger affects relationships. What I learned is something I’d learned time again in courses I took for my job and in things I taught my students who were struggling with behaviour all the time… anger is a powerful, perfectly normal emotion that everyone feels at one time or another. Experts say that anger develops more often in the family in marriage and with children than in any other relationship. The second most common place for anger episodes… at work. Because of this, more people are injured by the violent acts of someone they live or work with than by strangers.

It is the most poorly handled emotion in society and you see it everywhere…Road rage on the roads, shouting matches and fights in the arena, violence at school and domestic abuse in homes. It is the source of many legal problems and the root of many health issues…headaches, high blood pressure and chronic pain. Science has just recently begun to recognize the contribution anger makes to these and other diseases. When coupled with workplace and family stress, unresolved anger can cause emotional, physical and spiritual health to suffer. This can lead the angry one to lash out at the nearest person.
But what so many people need to realize is that because anger can be controlled, it makes anger a choice. Anger is a learned response to a trigger in our environment. While some people may have a tendency to become angry, it's not okay to give in and simply say "That's just the way I am, and there's nothing I can do about it." Ultimately we are in charge of which behaviors we choose in response to the emotions we feel. How many times do we hear people say things like, "She/He made me angry."

That statement is inaccurate. No one is ever made to be angry. No one is forced against their will to lose their temper. Anger is a learned response to a provoking situation.

And how does that all tie back into grief and loss, you knew I’d come back to this right???. As I see it, as I’ve lived it, as I’ve watched others live it I see how controlling anger can be in your life and how hard it is to just be…to just live, to love, to laugh, to remember what life was like before ‘IT’ happened. It’s not easy. I was still so pissed off at times that I had this happen to me and to my family. I was, and still am at times, angry that I missed out on being that twin mom and Cameron won’t have his twin with him and I was still struggling with the changes that losing Cole had done to me…I wanted my old life back and yet I liked the new me at times too. I knew my family was forever changed because of Cole and, for sure, we had angrier moments and that anger had in turn affected all of us. But I knew I’d be telling the hugest lie around if I said that we didn’t have anger issues before. Thankfully we were working at these issues and had what we felt were some wonderful professionals helping us with this. I wouldn’t realize til a year or two later that these professionals, as secular workers, weren’t making the connection with us that would, ultimately, provoke us to open our eyes and change our hearts.  But at least we had help.

When I originally posted this ‘anger’ post, I read a lot of my past blog entries and in reading these things I realized how far I had come…and in doing this blog project I realize how much further we’ve come since then. I realized that for so many reasons time really does help with coping. Unlike the saying, I don’t believe at all that it heals all thing, nor will time ever cause me to forget or to devalue. But it does help to make my heart feel more put together and not so broken and it helps me to accept and move forward. I have experienced the intense anger that grief and loss bring about and I have moved forward.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Stories of Hope - Jodie's story 24

Happy New Year!!!  I took a week or two off from posting and enjoyed time with my boys over the school break.  Lots of skating, tobogganing and time with friends and family.  It was a wonderful holiday season this year and likely the first that I didn't shed any tears on Christmas Eve.  I can't say the same for Christmas Day as Geoff and the boys completely surprised me with this beautiful gift...

I have always wanted a piece of jewelry with all my boys names on it.  This brought tears to my eyes but joy to my heart!  And that joy surrounded us during all of our holiday celebrations.  What a great way to celebrate our saviour!

And now to move back to 'the rest of the story'.... (a recap, my last post ended with the peace I found after the passing of my friend Brian with a feeling that he was in heaven looking after my son)

And so with this new found peace I journeyed forward.  My posts on my blog became deeper, my exploration of faith became more purposeful and I stepped out of my comfort zone to share my feelings more and more.  The idea of the true journey of someone dying being about those left behind and not going to heaven began to really take shape in my heart and my head.  I began to share this in groups where parents who were struggling to find their way to peace were ‘hanging out’. 
One day some people commented that they felt like there couldn’t be 'a God' because why would anyone want to do this to us, what had we done to deserve this 'hell' and pain. Some people believed that it was a beautiful fairy-tale that brought comfort to those who needed it but really it was just that, a fairy-tale. But others felt the opposite, they felt like there must be a God, and that he must have really wanted their babies and had an amazing job for them. It made me ponder things and put my feelings into perspective and words. I think I may have written some of this earlier but this is what I wrote to them....

We are all entitled to our opinion and all grew up so differently. We all experienced TTTS in different ways too and it affected us differently. I grew up believing in a 'good' God...not the hellfire and brimstone kind, not the evil and sin sorta situation. More like God does amazing things for everyone and He has a purpose for us all. I had always wondered at people believing that God took those people home that He did because He had a special job for them. I, too, thought that it didn't seem right...why take a good person and leave a jerk here??? I have since come to believe, very strongly, that God's purpose in the whole grief and crisis journey is not about the person He takes, it's not about having a special job in Heaven for that person (though I do believe that He may give special jobs to people who are there). I believe that God is here, not for those that go before us but for those left behind and that the loss isn't about their job in Heaven but about our job on earth. I truly believe that Cole went ahead of us because there was a great purpose for me here on earth that I would need to feel this hurt, this pain, this brokenness to understand. I don't think God wants to cause us pain or wants to see us in pain. I don't believe, again, that it is about the person 'He takes from us' but rather about Him being here for us after that person is gone. I believe very strongly that I will see my son again...I believe very strongly that Cole and God guide me towards a goal...their goal. I am so very drawn to do and say things that I never was before and to me, this is my angel and my God speaking to me. I am sorry that others don't feel this way but I don't feel I am living in a fairy-tale...and if I am well...well at least it is a place of approaching peace and hope (I say approaching because there are still bitter moments and angry times but they grow less and less).

I spent a lot of time talking about this subject with a few people.  Some people truly supported and agreed with me, others looked at me as if I had two heads. Some thought what I said had merit (some even sent me personal messages to say thanks for this perspective) and others shot me down. And guess what...I didn't care either way. I was going to do what I felt drawn to do, I was, and still am, going to be the person I felt God was pushing me to be. Did I want others to believe what I, not really. I mean I guess I'd like to think I wasn’t alone in this thought process but what you believe is so truly personal that I did't believe we ever have a right to questions others beliefs. I did believe we had a job to share God with others and to help them see that He is there for them but was it my job to change people's minds about their religion, to convert them to way. 

Something that I stressed often though was that this was so very hard to get to, this place of peace, for some anyway. Actually it wasn't the place of peace that came first for me, it was the place of acceptance. It had taken me so long to accept that I just had no control over the major things that happened in my life. When we found out we were expecting the twins I was blown away...couldn't have seen that one coming for anything. I questioned why and how but came to a place of acceptance. When we lost Cole I questioned again and, in all honesty, I was, and am, not always done questioning. But right from the start I believed there was great purpose for this 'twinness' to come to my life, as well as for Cole to be my son in Heaven and not on earth. I believed God had a plan for me, the mommy left behind. When I was in the very early stages of the loss... the first 3 months or so after he passed away...really before he was born, I was sure I knew part of the reason... I felt it MUST be to bring our family closer, to get Geoff and I working together better as parents etc. Each time that would blow up in my face, each time I would get a call from home that left me upset, angry, frustrated etc. I would question this plan or question myself. In time (okay in a very very long time) I came to realize that I just might not EVER understand fully this plan but I could accept it, I could take God into my heart and ask Him to help me get there, help me make good choices, help me be what He wants me to guide me. I felt so drawn to helping others, so drawn to fundraising and to raising awareness.  I am very certain that I was left behind for a reason and that hasn’t changed in the 6 years since I first broached this subject. 

Once again, I am marvelling at just what the Holy Spirit was saying through me.  I mean the above writing, for the most part, was something I blogged about in January 2011... before I realized what a relationship with Jesus looked like, before I began meeting others who challenged and stretched my faith, who mentored me, who helped me find my way.  And in my mind the events that happened later in 2011 that made all of that happen, have always been where I thought my faith truly began from.  This blogging project has opened my eyes to see that I was much more in tune with God than I ever realized, that I was a vessel for the Holy Spirit before I knew that was even ‘a thing’.