There is a heaviness that drags on my heart, like mourning a death, like mourning a thousand invisible deaths.
I am being “eliminated”— at least that’s the official process we are beginning in order for me to receive disability and help relieve some of the financial strain that our family has been under since my illness. Although its just a technical term for my employment status, it seems like an appropriate word: eliminated. Like being erased. And that’s what it feels like— as though parts of me were slowly being erased.
For the last six weeks, my health has been really poor. Most weeks I barely leave the house, and most days are spent laying in bed, trying to save up what little energy I might have for when everyone comes home. I feel small, only existing in the few hours during the day when I help get the kids out the door, welcome them home, or put them to bed; and in the in between times, it can often feel as though I’m not there at all.
I grieve a thousand deaths— deaths that no one else sees or feels, deaths that happen quietly inside. The death of my identity, my work, my importance and usefulness, being able to contribute to the world around me. I grieve the death of independence and of belonging, of community, of being remembered. I grieve the death of conversation, of collaboration, of thought and creativity. I grieve adventure, exploration, risk, and I grieve both spontaneity and the ability to make plans. I grieve the days and years I have missed with my boys, and I grieve for the vision and energy that has been slowly sapped from my husband. I grieve for the relationships that have slipped away, the lives I am no longer an intimate part of, the beauty of living alongside others.
On the outside, I look the same. Everything that has been erased has happened on the inside, behind the curtain. The deaths that I grieve have been small, but together they add up, leaving me feel…well, somewhat eliminated. The thought of filling out actual paperwork to officially be “eliminated”— to have my status changed from a local director to “disabled staff”, with a different account number, different rules and rights— it feels both fitting and much too real.
I know that my identity, my true worth and value do not lie in my job title or status. I know that, although I grieve for the many things I have lost, I still have more to celebrate than I could ever count. I know that I will not be in this season forever, that my symptoms fluctuate, and that there is some hope that one day I will return to health and work and life. I know that there is still much that I can give and do and be, even if it’s not what it was before.
And on good days, I believe that death leads to rebirth— that after winter comes spring, that “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” In my better moments, I trust that all of this letting go, all of this death and grieving and all of these thousands of little losses will be made new, will bring new life, will turn into something beautiful. In those moments, I can feel my Creator nearby, and my fear— of uselessness, of not earning my keep, of not being loved— fades. And to be loved when there is nothing I can give or earn or do is an extraordinary thing, the most beautiful thing I have known.
I try, the best I can, to hold my hands open— to let go of the things that are being taken from me and grieve them honestly, and to receive the gifts that come in packages I never wanted, but are beautiful just the same. I don’t always do it graciously or gracefully, but for now, it’s my job, and I try to do it well.