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Grief vs. Fear

Monday, April 25, 2011
Today, I picked up the book, A Grief Observed, by C.S. Lewis,  given to me by a friend to read.  I read the first paragraph and suddenly stopped and thought, "That is exactly it."  C.S. Lewis begins with these words,
"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.  I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.  The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the same yawning.  I keep swallowing.  At other times, it feels like being mildly drunk or concussed.  There is sort of an invisible blanket between the world and me.  I find it hard to take in what anyone says.  Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in.  It is so uninteresting.  Yet, I want to the others to be about me."

I have been trying to sort out all of the physical symptoms that I have been feeling these past two months.  It feels like fear but not one hundred percent.  My body feels like it is stricken with fear but without an object of which to be fearful. When I read C.S. Lewis mention the swallowing, I was relieved to know that it was not just me.  Sometimes my tongue will keep swallowing and I can't make it stop.  Other times, I feel the need to swallow but my throat feels paralyzed and cannot move a muscle.  The stronger the feeling of grief, the more paralyzed my throat.  I first experienced this on February 23 at 3:30 in the morning.  (Understand that what I am about to share was the absolute hardest moment of all of this and thinking about it creates the same feelings.  I want to get beyond that memory.  I want to not remember every detail.  I want to forget the faces of the officials at my door.  I want to forget the sound of the dog barking in the early morning hours.  As with everything else that I have written, I am hoping that by writing about it, it will help with that process.)

I was sleeping with my windows open because the weather was so pleasant.  My son was sleeping in bed with me, as he did occasionally when Michael was out of town.  Michael was only going to be gone one night.  We both awoke to the dog barking.  We ignored it for a few minutes but she kept on barking.  We then heard voices outside, since our windows were open.  I jumped up and looked out the window that overlooks the front patio and saw an unfamiliar car parked in front of my house.  I grabbed the phone and dialed 911 while I was checking my security pad to make sure the alarm was on.  The pad had been malfunctioning and I could not get it to set or get the emergency alarm to go off.  With 911 on the phone, I looked out the window and noticed two people standing at my front door.  One of them was an officer.  While talking to the operator, I asked them to identify themselves.  The man told me he was with the Hinds county sheriff's department.  The woman identified herself as someone representing Tunica county.  I immediately could not swallow.  Michael was spending the night in Tunica doing marketing calls in north Mississippi that evening and was continuing on the next morning before coming home for dinner the next evening.... we were going to be taking our foster child's parents out to dinner since it was the night before his custody hearing.   I told the operator that I did not need her, told my son to stay in bed, grabbed my robe, and flew down to the front door.  As I opened the door, my ears began to burn.  I opened it to see their faces staring blankly back at me.  They confirmed that I was Jene' Barranco and that they were at the correct address.  Their faces were blank with fear of speaking themselves.  They did not want to speak as much as I did not want to hear.  The woman spoke first, "We have a fatality to report."  From that point on, I felt all of my blood drop down to my feet.  My whole body felt paralyzed, just like it does under extreme fear.  I could not move a muscle on my face.  The inability to swallow was strong.  I felt like I had to focus my whole body just to make my throat muscles do what they usually do instinctively.  I felt the need to swallow but, at the same time, my mouth had gone suddenly completely dry.  I was suffocating.  I immediately thought it was a mistake and that someone had stolen his new car.  Then they asked me, "Are there any children in the house?"  The fear feeling intensified as I realized all that was at stake.  I replied while looking into their eyes with desperation for help, "Four... Three of our own and a 5 year old foster child."  They asked if they could come in while I made a phone call to the police commander in the Tunica office and also called a family member. I could not think. I could not speak. I could not swallow.  I did not feel like I was even breathing.  When asked a question, all I could seem to say was, "Um".  Those feelings continued for the rest of that day and have lingered on through out all of my days since at different levels of intensity.

I was amazed at how all of my physical symptoms had lined up so completely with the description by C.S. Lewis.  I have periods during the day when I am able to focus on the life that needs to continue moving on and other moments when the feelings completely wash over me.  The restlessness and the fluttering of the stomach occur mostly at night, but also during business meetings about the accident or insurance, and sometimes in unexpected moments.... like spotting a photograph of the two of us when I was not looking for it.  I have quoted  2 Timothy 1:7 frequently during these times.  "For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind."  I taught these words to my children from the time they could talk.  It is a good reminder that , "greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world."  I don't know how people walk this road without an understanding and a relationship with a Saviour  in Jesus Christ, a Comforter in the Holy Spirit, and an all powerful God in the heavens who has a plan for our lives.


Anonymous Says:
April 25, 2011 at 8:59 PM

"The LORD is my strength, and He is my shield. My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped."

Anonymous Says:
April 26, 2011 at 8:36 AM

Praying God's grace upon you every moment of every day.

You are loved.

Anonymous Says:
April 27, 2011 at 10:44 AM

I am a stranger and a temporary resident on the earth. Psalm 119:19(a)

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