Monday, March 10, 2014

Don't Bury Your Heart

I watched Once Upon a Time on Sunday evening, and during the course of the show the evil queen, played by Lana Parilla, decided to bury her heart (in case you haven't seen this series, some of the characters can magically remove their own hearts and those of others).  The queen was in a great deal of emotional pain because she had been separated from her son and would never see him again.  She decided it was easier to feel nothing than to endure the pain of grief.

The symbolism is obvious isn't it?  Most of us prefer to bury hurt rather than face it, but I suspect that emotional detachment may be a contributing factor in the development of dementia. I am thus very interested in learning to cope with emotional pain in the healthiest possible way.

Apathy is one of the early warning signs of Alzheimer's, and in the year before her diagnosis, my mother did indeed become reclusive.  This isn't unusual behavior for dementia patients and may be due mostly to the confusion and embarrassment of memory loss, but another force was at work for my mom.  She had been shattered by the emotional blow of nursing my dad through his battle with lung cancer, and his death signaled the beginning of her downward spiral into dementia.  I'm convinced there was a connection between emotional trauma and Mom's decline. 

We can't avoid life trauma, but I wonder if there is a way to keep from burying our hearts in order to escape from the pain?

As a Christian it is too easy to be trite: keep your eyes on the Lord, don't turn away, and He will see you through.  But when God has allowed heartache and grief, it is instinctive to close our hearts to Him.  We can't accuse the Almighty, but how are we to cope with a God who allows such excruciating sorrow?  It is a difficult truth that our only hope of deliverance from the pain of grief lies in the arms of the One who allowed us that grief.

In the face of my own tendency to withdraw from painful emotional events, it may seem odd that my best comfort comes through a quote from Mom, "I used to try and let go of Him, but He never let go of me."  It is a great comfort for me to observe the Lord's faithfulness to my mother.  He has provided for her compassionately, faithfully, and abundantly through her long journey through Alzheimer's, and though I hope and pray it is not necessary, I am confident He would do the same for me. 

I believe it is worth a fair amount of effort to face grief head-on and resist the desire to withdraw into detachment.  However, it is a blessed relief to understand that although the world and it's sorrows may cause me to let go of the Lord, there is nothing that can break His hold on me.

"...if we are faithless,
    he remains faithful,
    for he cannot disown himself"
(2 Timothy 2:13).

"What can come between us and the love of God’s Anointed? 
Can troubles, hardships, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger, or even death?  
The answer is, absolutely nothing" (Romans 8:35). 


 

2 comments:

Beth Bailey said...

Hello Linda. As the mother of 2 special needs children, I completely understand the irony in allowing God to comfort me in what He has given me. It took me a long time to get rid of my anger, but when God does a work in our hearts it is a thorough and complete work. It is then that I fully realized His great love ... a love that never lets me go. I am so grateful for this revolation, and the situation with my children I now see as one of the greatest blessings in my life.
My father passed away from lung cancer last May. My mom was diagnosed with dementia in July. She was already showing signs but has definitely grown worse since my dad's passing.
May God bless you and your mom in this journey that you have chosen to be open about. Thank you for letting others know they are not alone.

Linda Born said...

Beth, thank you. My dad also died of lung cancer; we are running parallel paths here. Praying blessing and he Lord's gracious comfort for you now.