I’m getting personal today, and personal is good. I was going to delay writing this blog another week. However, I think it’s pertinent given the headlines of the world today and what many people go through without most of us knowing – the suffering in silence.
Last weekend, I was given back something of sentiment that belonged to my late husband, Jeff. He had placed all of his US Airforce metals and pins in a shadowbox. It was not unlike him to collect such things and put them on display. As I sat staring at it, memories flooded by brain – memories both good and bad.
For those that don’t know my story, my late husband, Jeff, took his own life 5 years ago. He had been in a very dark place a long time. He was also abusive which would complicate my emotions I would learn, after his death. He was both loved and hated by me. I know that won’t make sense to you if you have not experienced a relationship with abuse and violence, but it is a common dichotomy. A dichotomy I’ve spent the last five years working through to understand and to heal. Although I have done much healing, this shadowbox of Airforce pins and awards pricked a place in my heart I didn’t even know was still there – an unhealed place, a dark place.
As I sat there and sobbed over this shadowbox, the first time I had cried like that in a long time, that hurt place began to heal. I cried off and on most of that day just remembering and speaking out loud things long buried. I tear up now just remembering the process God walked me through that weekend. I know this sounds a bit strange but stay with me. I don’t know where you are on your spiritual journey or what you believe as you read this (nor is this a treatise telling you that you have to believe what I believe), but I can tell you this for certain, if you ask God to show you something, He will. It may not be pleasant, and it may not come quickly, but He will show it to you. I was ready last weekend to finally see what I had not wanted to see for a long time. In so doing, I was able to see my late husband as God saw him – a broken, confused, miserable, hurting person. I am not giving Jeff an excuse for his abuse; he could have made different choices. I am saying that I understand now where it came from and that was so very freeing – more freeing than I realized I needed at the time. It is this understanding and this freedom that I want to share with you now.
Jeff came a from a background of both physical, verbal, and mental abuse. His father handed it out like prized candy. His mother, too afraid for both of them to confront his father, was unable to deal with this madness. As a result, Jeff was not taught nor modeled healthy relationships. In fact, God would show me that organizing and putting things in boxes came so easy for him because he had some control over these things, and they were not in chaos nor did they harm him. What he did not know and what he was not taught, of no fault of his own, is this; he couldn’t put his relationships in boxes or photo frames like he could his medals and accomplishments. People don’t fit in boxes. They are not meant to be controlled; yet “relationship by control” was all he had known. His father’s actions had destroyed his sense of security and he had never learned how to care for relationships without control. He was never taught how to “frame” relationships in the sense of humans as free agents and love as sacrifice, not love as control. You do not know, what you do not know; and my late husband was honestly ignorant of such things. He chose not to learn about them and that is the saddest part for me on this side of Heaven.
I now know why he treated such possessions with pride and care yet cared so little for those he was in relationship with. People who experience abuse feel unloved, unwanted, unimportant and many times believe they are failures. Their sense of purpose is stolen from them. They simple can’t relate as those of us from healthy backgrounds can. When they do something that someone, anyone, is proud of, they fixate on that work or that time. They finally feel loved, wanted, and important. They finally feel accepted. They don’t feel so bad about themselves anymore or ashamed. And this, readers, is why he loved his achievements in his shadowboxes so much. They were prizes that meant he was accepted, someone was proud of him, he had a reason to not feel so bad about himself, and lastly, he felt like he had made a difference and had a purpose. I had never understood what I perceived as an obsession with such things, and in one weekend God changed all of that. He gave me the why with tears and memories. He did not excuse my husband’s actions or choices, but he did show me the why. That why has brought tremendous peace.
I know Jeff has been with Jesus now for 5 years. I miss him but I know he is safe, well, and no darkness clouds his mind. He is also forgiven. How good is must be for him to finally know without a shadow of a doubt that he is okay, and he is loved. I implore you to understand that things are more complicated with people than they may seem. I also want you to know that suicide does not mean a person is without hope. Jesus extends his hope to all. This is for someone. You are reading my words now and hope that was extinguished as been rekindled. It is a hope that you can change. It is a hope that someone you loved who is now gone from this planet has not been abandoned. You have not been abandoned.
Call to the One who knows all things, to the One who reasons all things and to the One who loves all humankind. He will answer you. He will heal you. Light will be your companion and darkness will trouble you no more. Test Him and see for yourselves.
Isaiah 1:18; “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord.
Jeremiah 33:3; “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
With much hope for your healing,
**To hear more about my story, see my book The Road Less Traveled: A Story of Love, Pain, Hope and Everything In-Between. Available on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble and Audible.com