Monday, April 22, 2013

Disfigurement, Insecurity, and Grieving Apart


"The search for God begins at the point of need."

                                                                                      Catherine Marshall

           The outward sign of my loss was the ever-present C-section scar—a physical devastation to me. This fiery red, tender scar reduced me to a state of rage. I’d stand awash in a sick feeling that I’d been mutilated, for nothing.
            I now bore a permanent mark, with nothing, absolutely nothing, to show for it. No reward for hours of labor. No happy ending. No prize making the pain and suffering profitable, forgettable, or even enjoyable. My vociferous ego incessantly reminded me that before surgery the only part of my body that hadn’t yet succumbed to the negative effects of aging was my abdomen—a firm, flat stomach I didn’t have to work very hard to maintain. Now it hung puckered and puffy, a marsupial-like pouch.
            There were moments I actually envisioned horrid cackling erupting from its staple-marked edges. The unavoidable, repulsive vision taunted and jeered at me from my unforgiving, honest mirror, and I repeatedly restrained myself from giving it a good punch. I wanted to excise the scar; amputate the hideous reminder. The last of my physical attributes had been decimated, and ugly resentment directed toward Victoria and everyone else remotely responsible or connected with defecting my body this way crept into my damaged psyche. I fueled the anger by refusing to let it go. I rooted myself in it.
            One night during a rather intense episode of blemish obsession, Chris and I entered into one of our ever-more-frequent confrontations. Lying in bed, staring at the ceiling and rapidly drowning myself in the disfigurement, I tossed back and forth then deliberately heaved several audible sighs, hoping, expecting Chris to roll over and tenderly ask what was wrong. Instead of tenderness an angry burst of “What did I do this time?” exploded from his lips as he slammed his fists into the mattress before rising abruptly from the bed.
            “What makes you think this anything to do with you!?” I shouted back, my anger spewing forth like violently erupting lava. “Are you so self-centered that you think all of my pain has anything to do with you!? Why can’t I be mad—really angry—about what surgery has done to my body? Why can’t I just share that with you? I have a permanent scar and nothing to show for it! It’s a constant reminder to me of my loss!”   
            Oh, how badly I needed someone to tell me it was okay; I needed my husband to give me some sign that I was still okay, that he still needed and wanted me. That he didn’t blame me for what happened. I craved assurance that it wasn’t my fault. As horrible as the scar seemed at that moment, it was merely a distraction from the larger, more critical issue: I just needed someone to listen to me, to hold me. To quiet my anguished soul. But Chris was unwilling or incapable of responding favorably to my camouflaged desire. And I was so steeped in my own pain that I couldn’t see his; and I’d conveniently, selfishly forgotten that it was our loss, not just mine.
             “I don’t know what you want from me; what you expect from me! Do you think you are the only one hurting? I can’t do anything for you!” he fired back as he exited our
            I recognized his hurt, but I was convinced I suffered more than he. After all, he wasn’t the one recovering from emergency surgery; he wasn’t the one who came so dangerously close to dying. He certainly wasn’t displaying any great waves of sorrow, in my presence anyway. His only public display of grief occurred that fateful morning in the hospital.
            In my mind I, alone, lay abandoned among the wreckage, deserted and deteriorating amidst a sea of people. Absorbed in self-pity, I’d blossomed into a self-imposed martyr and disregarded the fact that Chris had been a helpless spectator to his wife nearly hemorrhaging to death, not once, but twice, and been forced to make that gut-wrenching choice between the life of his dying wife and letting his daughter go.
            There was, indeed, plenty Chris could do for me, and volumes I could do for him. I needed reassurance; and he refused to talk about it. He needed understanding and patience, and I remained oblivious of his personal pain. Looking back on it, I know I should have explained to him what I was experiencing and asked for his help, told him what I needed instead of just waiting for and expecting him to automatically know and provide it. And I could have just held him in silence, without expecting that he grieve at the same pace as I, or quickly divulge his deepest fears and pains.
            But there we were, stubbornly stacking ugly, isolating bricks between us, wallowing in self-imposed emotional exile.
            Yet there was Someone who could help me relinquish my self-absorption and to finally heal. He stood ready to take my hand and remake me, inside out. He waited, patiently watching me unravel. But He wouldn’t make His next move until I came to the absolute end of myself.
            Unfortunately, I wasn’t there yet.


NEXT WEEK: I send out baby announcements, hear words of encouragement from some, silence from others; and Parker asks some difficult questions…

Thanks for joining me.

Until next week!



In light of the horrible bombings and senseless death that occurred on American soil last Monday, and because wars and rumors of wars continue to ebb and flow around the world, I’d like to give you some thoughts from the late Scottish-American preacher and former United States Senate Chaplain, Peter Marshall, who wrote these words during the Second World War:
            “There is no use trying to evade the issue.
            There are times God does not intervene—
            The fact that He does nothing is one of the most baffling mysteries in
            Christian life.
            It was H. G. Wells who voiced the dilemma that many troubled hearts
            have faced in war time:

                        ‘Either God has the power to stop all this carnage and
                        killing and He doesn’t care,
                        or else He does care, and He doesn’t have the
                        power to stop it.’
            “But that is not the answer…
            As long as there is sin in the world.
            As long as there is greed
                 hate in the hearts of men
            there will be war….
            It is only because God is God that He is reckless enough to allow
            human beings such free will as has led the world into this
            present catastrophe.

            God could have prevented war!
            Do you doubt for a moment that God has not the power?
            But suppose He had used it?
            Men would then have lost their free agency…
            They would no longer be souls endowed with the ability to choose…
            They would then become puppets
                                    toy soldiers instead.
            No, God is playing a much bigger game.
            He is awaiting an awakened sense of the responsibility of brotherhood
            in the hearts of men and women everywhere.
            He will not do for us the things that we can do for ourselves….”

(Taken from Catherine Marshall’s book, Beyond Our Selves: a woman’s pilgrimage
in faith; 1961.)