Almost 25 years ago a very dear friend of mine passed away. She was more than a Grandma, different than a mother, she was so special to everyone who knew her. I had never experienced anyone that I was THAT close to dying. My great grandfather had died, a cousin who I knew a little and was my pen pal had passed, but nothing that left a gaping hole and searing pain. I wondered if I would cry forever.
My little brother was 10. He was far closer to her than I was. She was old and he was young and they were the cutest little pair. He spent every moment he could with her and everyone knew he was her special boy. They took care of each other. We all worried how he would face her passing.
He was a rock. He never cried, he hardly seemed to notice. For a little boy he was so good at “controlling his emotions.” She had insisted that he have violin lessons when he asked for them. She even bought the violin herself and paid for lessons. Every day they would sit together and listen to Itsak Perlman play the violin. At her funeral he stood and played her favorite lullaby for her and his expression never changed but tears streamed down his cheeks. When it was all over this 10 year old boy tried Marijuana for the first time to ease the pain he was feeling but not expressing.
He became heavily addicted after just one use. More and more it controlled his life until he couldn’t function without it and the other drugs that had followed. 5 years later our grandma and great grandma were hit by a truck as they were attempting to cross the street. A few weeks later another close friend of his passed away. His drug use escalated to cocaine and heroin.
Soon he was homeless, in prisoned, in and out of rehab programs, wasting away in every sense of the word. No one could trust him and no one wanted him around. He tried many times to over come it and failed. One by one his friends died from overdose or suicide.
Then one day at rock bottom he found The Other Side Academy. It changed his life and brought back my baby brother. He was fun again. Witty, so intelligent, motivated and gifted. They were teaching him a lot of life skills that he desperately needed. After almost 4 years of being clean and almost 25 years from the first drug use our Dad passed away. This was only 3 months after the devastating murder of our brother Paul and just 4 months from the passing of our oldest brother Doug from cancer. It was big…too big. He turned to drugs to dull the pain once again and after so long being clean he overdosed and passed away.
I sat in my living room after hearing the news and sobbed. All I could think was that it was too big and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t lose him and yet I had no choice. He was already gone. That night as I prepared for bed all I could think was that I wanted to take some Nyquil. Nyquil is safe. Its legal. It would make me feel numb and help me sleep and that sounded SO good. But a little voice in my head asked is that really different than what he did? Is numbing out the emotion and sleeping through it any healthier of an approach?
Something that I believe about our society in general is that we are not very emotionally mature. We don’t really know much about emotion. Most of us try to “manage” or “control” our emotions.
Before I had kids I was pretty good at controlling my emotions. I almost never cried in public, and I laughed at the sad parts in movies. I DID NOT understand people who stood to give a talk in church and cried. It wasn’t my thing.
Growing up I had a fierce temper and I learned to control that too at least to some extent by shoving those feelings of anger down so deep and dreaming of a revenge that I would never enact.
When I had my third baby, I had an experience that changed me. I had gone to the hospital to have her even though I had planned a home birth, so my midwife was there as a doula to help me through it. I was on pitocin and things were moving slowly. As labor progressed a little at a time I started to have some feelings. At first I felt frustrated at the hospital and the doctors for trying to pigeon hole me into doing things the way they always did them, then I felt angry at men for not bearing the brunt of the difficulty of pregnancy and child birth, then I felt annoyed at God for the overall plan and my limited understanding of his role for women. Next I felt a primal urge to seclude myself in preparation for what was coming, then I felt fear at something that was too big for me to accomplish and finally I felt overwhelming joy at bringing a new life into the world.
At each stage I acknowledged to my midwife what I was feeling. It felt more like an observation. As I observed each feeling it would come into focus, and then grow small and pass from my body, finished, complete, and without leaving anything behind. Later when the baby was finally coming and I started feeling the urge to push I was so afraid that I would tear and I buried my face in the mattress, I felt the need to hide the fact that I was pushing, the pain became intense and I began begging for an epidural.
Later I realized that the minute I stopped communicating my feelings those feelings became too big for me to handle. Pain and fear surpassed my abilities and the only apparent way out was to medically remove my ability to feel anything.
For 17 months I pondered that experience, learning from it, applying it to other aspects of my life and it wasn’t until I was preparing for my next birth that the full impact of what I had discovered hit me.
I was carrying twins and the pregnancy was uncomfortable. My midwife suggested doing a body code session to help. I did and enjoyed it so much I did one each week for the rest of the pregnancy. Body code is essentially finding imbalances in the energies of your body that are cause by trapped emotions and releasing them. Those imbalances can cause physical pain and discomfort. Each week I was releasing a dozen or more trapped emotions that had been cluttering up my life and my body with undo stress. Each session left me feeling like I had cleaned out my overpacked closet. I felt fresh and free. As each emotion would come up the practitioner would ask me if I was ready to release it. Sometimes it was easy to release, other times it felt too big and I would ask myself has holding on to this pain served me in anyway. When I realized that it had only caused pain and stress I would take a deep breath and let it go. Each time I felt relief.
When it came time to birth the twins I had opted for a natural birth at home. In moments of the birth where the pain felt too big, where fear entered my heart, where the babies crowning felt more than I could do, I said what I was feeling, I allowed that feeling to enter my body and my mind and I let myself feel it, endure its purpose and let it go. As I did it all fell into place and became manageable. Or rather I realized that i didn’t have to manage it, My job was just to experience it.
Since then I have thought a lot about the words we use to describe emotions. Emotions feel to me more fluid. Love is directly tied to sadness. The more you love the greater the potential for sadness. There can not be one without the other, and both are ok.
I wish that I had spent more time learning to just experience the emotion and let it pass through me rather than trying to control it. I think my emotional closet would be a lot less cluttered. So here I am with yet another experience to teach me how to experience emotions in a more healthy way. My brothers passing feels just too big. My already raw, bleeding heart can’t handle this much pain. So just like the birthing of my babies I’m trying to allow myself to feel the pain and acknowledge it and let it pass. I’m not good at it yet. But I CAN do this. I CAN move forward and even thrive. I CAN do hard things. I can let it be big.