Monday, May 10, 2010

The Elephant in the Room - reflections from Hannah

[Weather: The rain has begun to fall several times a week in small amounts. The weather today is 91 degrees F, with a humidity of 89%.]I have an elephant. I carry it with me everywhere I go. The weight of my elephant is immense, it’s almost unbearable at times, and yet I can’t put it down. It’s huge and it’s amazing to me how it can go everywhere I go. But what is even more stunning is how nobody seems to notice it. Every day, I go to school and I expect someone to comment on it, to talk about it or ask me about it. When the weight gets heavy, I wait for someone to notice the pain this elephant is inflicting, but they usually don’t. They avoid the topic, when all I want to do is talk about it. I don’t want their sympathy, because the thing is, I don’t need sympathy. It won’t help me. All I want is for someone to acknowledge my burden, to talk to me as an equal, not as someone who is so crippled by this weight and pain that I need what sympathy they can offer. I don’t want their sympathy- though there is a time and place for it- but I also don’t want them to avoid the issue entirely. People walk by it every day, avoiding it or maybe so consumed with their own issues and lives that they fail to notice it. Maybe they have forgotten that it’s even in the room. I don’t want my elephant to be all people think about. I just don’t want it to be ignored.

Grief is crippling. Not entirely in the physical sense, but very much in the emotional and psychological sense. The elephant is just as much that of the mind as that of the body. It is the burden of everyone, and everyone has their own elephants; be they tremendously big or very small, our elephants are key parts of our lives. They shape us and help us grow, and if the weight of the elephant doesn’t kill those on whom it inflicts pain, it certainly makes them stronger.

My elephant has become a part of my life. I don’t think that I’ll ever get rid of it. It will always be present in my life, no matter how old I get, or where I live, or who I marry. But after time, it will get smaller. The weight will decrease and become less crushing. It will help shape me and will integrate itself into my lifestyle. It will become my pet instead of my burden. But until then, I must press on. The weight feels unbearable right now, but in time, it will lessen. Day by day, the weight will slowly decrease. In the meantime I will focus on the goal- that is God and all He has to offer. He sometimes feels distant, sometimes His voice isn’t as loud, but I can’t wait to see what His plans are for me, and how He will use this elephant to make me into a child of God and a servant of others.

A brief ‘us’ update. School continues to be a challenge, as all high schools are, but now with an added burden. Each day is hard to face and each night I fall in to bed completely exhausted. Depression is present, and though its strength comes and goes, it is always there. I’m having some anxiety when it comes to school and when I think about the work I have to do. My mom has been amazing, though she would never say so. I admire her strength and her abilities more than ever, as she takes up the challenges of each day with grace and a certain strength that blows my mind. There are people supporting her who I deeply appreciate- they have given her great peace of mind and have helped her work through many a problem, such as lack of sleep, how to deal with the stress that Noah and I are experiencing, and finding time to grieve in days that are so hectic. Noah is doing similar to how I am- sad, grieving, still in shock and very stressed. We’re all holding up as good as can be expected. Which is not that great, but we don’t really expect much else.


Joy Anema said...

O Hannah, you have the gift of writing, given by God through your wonderful Dad. We pray for you and your Mom and Noah. God holds you close even when you don't know it.
Love, Joy

Anonymous said...

Hannah - you are a gifted and talented author! You could go on and write books, articles, short stories and that could be your livelihood. Thank you for this post.

I am going to share a small story that I found on the internet shortly after my mother died in 2007. She was 84 and ready to be with Jesus, but it is still hard, no matter what your age, to lose a parent.

Author Unknown

Death takes away. That's all there is to it. But grief gives back. By experiencing it, we are not simply eroded by pain, rather, we become more compassionate, more aware, more able to help others, more able to help ourselves.

Grief is powerful. It plunges us into the depths of sorrow and forces us to face the finiteness of life, the mightiness of death, and the meaning of our existence here on this earth.

It does more than enable us to change; it demands it. The way we change is up to us. It is possible to be forever bowed by grief. It is possible to be so afraid of one aspect of it that we become frozen in place, stuck in sorrow, riveted in resentment or remorse, unable to move on.

But, grief is also possible to be enlarged, to find new direction, and to allow the memory of the beloved person who has passed on, to live with us......

Not as a monument to misery, but as a source of strength, love and inspiration.

By acting on our grief, we can eventually find within ourselves a place of peace and purposefulness. It is my belief that all grievers, no matter how intense their pain, no matter how rough the terrain across which they must travel, can eventually find that place within their hearts.

Sorry for the length of that. I love you Reed family and I continue to pray for you.

Marti B.
Madison Square Church

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful and I've shared it with a friend who si also grieving. Thank you for putting words so eloquently to your pain and for reminding the rest of us to not be in such a hurry to ignore it.

Lorraine said...

Oh, Hannah . . .

I think what probably makes it harder is that you, and your mom as well, appear to handle things with such grace and strength that maybe it's easier for those around you to "pretend" that you're okay, because it helps the people who love you avoid facing the immensity of your pain and their helplessness in the face of it.

I understand about the sympathy thing, too--I think it's that sympathy almost borders on pity that is the worst. A friend and I refer to it as "the Sad Face"--as in, "I told her about"(insert sad situation here) "and she totally gave me the Sad Face". We are *not* fans of the sad face!!!

Okay . . . I should shut up now . . . but I pray that you will be surrounded by people who are willing to acknowledge that elephant and to allow you to process all of this in the way YOU need to process it . . .

hugs and prayers from Grand Rapids (where, um, yeah, it's been like 30-40 degrees every morning this week--and I *don't* mean Celsius!!!)


Anonymous said...

Dear Sweet Hannah~ Yes, it hurts so badly. Grief is a very difficult journey. I lost my dad (we were in a small-plane crash)when your dad and I were both still at Moody. God, Whom I loved so much and Who was my Best Friend, went silent during much of my grief period. It's bad to lose your dad and feel like you've lost your Heavenly Father at the same time. In retrospect, I belive He did that to show me whether I was going to trust Him in the difficult as well as the "good". He wanted me to know that He's not "Santa Claus"; He's GOD. What He does may be hard and I may not like it, but it will be good, because He is Good.
You know how often it says "Grace, Mercy, Peace and Love (in abundance)to you" in the epistles? Pastors love to call that the "salutation" and skip over it, but I think it's Much more than that. I think those are prayers for the Very things we need to go through this life and all it brings. (I wrote your dad an email about this one time.) I would ask you to think on those things and I will continue to pray those things for you. Grace~ what He gives us to carry on and carry out what He asks. Mercy~ to be able to "step over" those difficult things that trip us up; whether it's toward ourselves, others or God Himself. Peace~ that which goes beyond understanding to guard our hearts and minds. Love~ safe and secure in His grip even when the storm rages...
With love, hugs and prayers for you Hannah, as well as Noah and your lovely mom.
lori lee

Richardson Family said...

Hello Reed Family;
My husband and I were on a plane with you to Monrovia as we went to adopt our two children in the summer of 2007. You were such an inspiration to us, your children were what we hoped our children would be. I am so sorry to hear of Bob's death. Thank you for all you did for our extended family in Liberia and all you've done for everyone in Africa. God Bless you. I will be praying for you.
Scott and Sue Richardson

Anonymous said...

Hannah, You are an incredible person. If I had the burden you were carrying I would shut down. The way you and your family are coping with your pain amazes me.
I want you to know that I have seen the effects of your burden (though I might not actually have seen it persay) And that you have a friend in me. I would love to hear anything you would like to say.
I just want to encourage you to keep your faith strong and stick with it because God will pull you through. -Phillip