I came across the above photo the other day on Instagram and it gave me an idea for a post.
The old saying is, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”, and quite frankly, that couldn’t be furthest from the truth. I remember repeating that phrase to bullies who would say mean things about me, and standing confident that I’d shown them their words meant nothing. I think most people would say they don’t let hurtful words bother them, and maybe they don’t. I’ve spent my entire life trying to convince myself that what others said or thought about me didn’t affect me. I succeeded in believing that there was nothing anyone could say that would bring me down. I believe it was the false sense of confidence I had, why would I allow someone to dictate who I was or bring me down because of their opinion of who I was? As I’ve gotten older though I realized that there’s a difference in not caring and not worrying about what others thought of me, nor allowing it to control who I was. I read once that what other people think of you is none of your business. It caught me off guard because my initial thought was, “yes it is”!. But the more I thought about it and processed what that meant, the more I began to understand the reality behind it.
They say the way you speak to your children becomes their inner voice. I’d never realized the weight of my words until I read that, and it stopped me in my tracks. Growing up, any time my sister or myself would fall or make an innocent mistake, my grandma would say something like, “what are you doing?? Pay attention”! It was never a comforting response, even as small children. One time my sister tripped and fell while we were camping. I don’t think she was seriously hurt but my grandma just insulted her for falling and made her feel like an idiot. I don’t think people realize the power behind their words or actions, especially to small children. And I can honestly say that with my first 2 children I was probably not as kind as I’ve grown to be. Granted I was never abusive, but still not the nicest. Words can build someone up, words can break someone down, the choice is up to you.
Hurtful words are only one aspect though to having wounds no one can see. For a child being bullied, words are everything. For someone who’s experienced deep, emotional trauma, it’s the pain you can’t describe. The pain you feel so deep in your heart, you’d almost rather experience the physical pain because at least flesh wounds heal relatively quickly. In my first marriage I dealt with verbal abuse, mental abuse, and emotional abuse. I never realized it at the time though, perhaps I was so used to the dysfunction. But as the years progressed I sensed that I wasn’t a happy person. I coped with it the best I could, then at some point I just stopped caring. There were random moments of physical abuse, mostly toward the end, and I remember thinking to myself that I’d rather he hit me than say hurtful things.
For so many people experiencing the loss of a loved one or being hurt by a significant other, the wounds are so deep, they may feel there is no hope in sight. Losing my mom at the age of 5 wasn’t nearly as traumatic as losing my brother at the age of 16. I’d guess it’s because as a small child you really don’t understand death. My brother and I had just gotten close about 2 years prior to his passing. He lived with his father and I rarely saw him. It wasn’t until my 8th grade year, when my sister and I ended up living with his paternal grandparents, that we established a meaningful relationship. He was finally the big brother he’d always wanted to be and I loved having someone who would protect me. The morning we found out he was killed, serving in the Air Force in Kuwait at the time, I was so shocked and overtaken by emotion that I just started bawling. I didn’t want it to be real, we had just started a friendship. It took me a long time to heal from that pain. I had several dreams about him that ultimately felt like nightmares because I’d wake up sobbing. The last dream I had of him was the worst. We were standing on a diving board above an Olympic sized swimming pool, holding hands, about to jump. We never made eye contact but with my head down I looked in his direction and said, “I miss you, David”. He said, “I miss you too”. My heart hurt so bad, I woke up with tears streaming down my face. I just laid there and cried until I fell asleep again. It was the hardest thing I’d been through, I wanted so desperately to see him one last time. I hadn’t seen him since July of that year and he was killed in October. The funeral was equally as difficult. All of the emotion I’d been dealing with in the days leading up to it spilled out of me at a faster rate as I listened to people tell their stories of my brother. Just when I thought I’d contained my tears, my sister sang one of my all-time favorite songs, On My Knees by Jaci Velasquez. I was the first one to break the silence with my sobbing, then everyone around me joined in. Funerals are meant to be a form of closure for the family. But somehow I didn’t feel that at the time, it almost magnified the pain. It took me a good year or so to not break into tears at the mention of his name.
Nothing can fully prepare you for the loss of a loved one. Even when elderly are sick and you expect the next step to be death, it’s still difficult to let go of them. Grief, depression, traumatic experiences and hurtful words are all sources of wounds deeply hidden beneath the surface. Anxiety and depression are hereditary in my family, though, I’ve struggled more with the anxiety aspect. I’m sure the traumatic events I went through as a child and negative voices throughout my life developed that. I can only recall one time where I realized after the fact that I was depressed. It was a dark journey and one I was so thankful to be free from. You don’t realize the grip it has on you, the way it controls your thoughts and actions. I never realized how I perpetuated the cycle either until I looked back on the day-to-day routine. It can be a deep pit you don’t know how to get out of until you ask for help.
At this point in my life I’ve experienced loss on so many levels. From losing a mom in a car accident, losing a father who abandoned me by my first birthday, to losing many family members in between. I have encountered all types of deep, emotional pain. However, this past weekend I sat and watched two of the bravest, most courageous people I know speak about the loss of their daughter in a way that I cannot begin to describe. I recently wrote about their daughter, Isabel, who ended her year-long battle with DIPG on May 3rd. I know I spoke a little about them, and honestly, there are no words that are sufficient or even scratch the surface of how truly amazing they are. I am in awe of their faith and optimism, because despite the fact I know they are immensely heartbroken, they know God will guide them through the healing process. No parent should have to bury their child, it goes against nature. I watched my grandparents do it and now these two amazing people. Their lives will forever be changed and their wounds may never be fully healed until they’re reunited with their precious daughter. It’s a tough situation to be in when you want so much to help someone, offer words of encouragement, anything. Yet you know there isn’t anything you can do except just be there. As a mom my instinct is to protect, I want to take the pain away because I know how I handle tough situations. And maybe that’s why God has allowed me to grieve right along with these special people, so I can be genuinely compassionate to them. I know there isn’t anything in my power that will make them feel better and being helpless is a foreign concept to me since, with my kids, a hug and kiss is all that’s needed to make the hurt go away. Sometimes there are God-sized “boo-boo’s” that require more than anything our human flesh can offer. But I know that He uses all situations for His good and I plan to stand alongside this family in faith, prayer, and love so that they know they aren’t alone—and that those unseen wounds may be hidden to the human eye, but not God’s.
My advice to everyone reading this, please take the time to be involved in the lives of those around you. A smile and a kind word are sometimes all people need to step back from the ledge, literally and metaphorically. Leave the world a better place than how you found it. Show compassion, mercy, grace. It’s funny how what you put into the world comes back to you, sometimes tenfold. One of my favorite quotes is, “no one has ever become poor by giving”. Give people your best, give money to those less fortunate, be the type of friend you’d want to have. I speak from experience when I say it’s definitely worth it and you literally have nothing to lose!