I wake up, hands sweaty, heart racing and my head pounding. Guilt jabs me in the stomach, making me want to throw up. I want to escape, to undo what has happened, but I can’t. I can never go back. I can never change what has been done. I feel powerless over the future. My mind replays the scene over and over again for the thousandth time. The emotional pain seems unbearable. I fiercely grip my pillow between my fingers sobbing into its cushioned fluff hoping to drown it out and not wake up my husband.
I plead with God to take it away, to give me wisdom and discernment with what to do now. I scream out in anguish asking Him how long He will let it go on. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14 replays over and over in my mind. But I am weary Father and I don’t have the strength I complain but before I even finish Matthew 11:28-30 pops into my mind “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Oh Lord, I pray over Psalm 27 again, Hear my voice when I call O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, seek his face! Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.
Sleep slowing starts to seep in, when my mind deviously starts wondering back replaying, yet again, scene by scene everything that happened. I jolt awake, telling myself to stop going over it and to just let God have it. I start listing off things that I’m thankful for and finally, sleep comes again.
We all have things in our lives that we can feel guilty about. Traumatic experiences that have left such a scar on our lives that they will never be completely forgotten.
Sometimes, I wonder, if that’s how David felt waiting for his son to die. That empty ache in his stomach that feels like an endless black hole wishing he could undo what he had done, pleading with God to take it away, to save his son’s life, knowing that he was the cause but being powerless to do anything about it. David wrote in Psalm 38:4, 10 “My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.” “My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes.” David knew what it felt like to have guilt that threatens to destroy you. But here’s the key:
He never stayed there!
Satan wants to keep us defeated to remind us over and over again of all the things we’ve done wrong. To keep us replaying circumstances that have emotionally devastated us. But in Christ we have freedom. David wrote in Psalm 40:1-3 “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”
This is my “A” list that I have put together for things that help me when I'm dealing with a traumatic experience or struggling with feelings of "deceitful guilt" in order to gain freedom:
Acknowledge the Truth
I don’t know about you, but for me, when I’m in the midst of a hard situation where my emotions are all mixed up, it’s really difficult to be able to distinguish what’s really true and what’s a lie concealing itself as the truth. This one can take some sorting out, to really get down to what the real issue is and the truth behind it. Sometimes, it helps to talk to someone who isn’t emotionally involved, as it can be a lot clearer for them to see. Also, staying in, and searching the Word of God, is a must!
This takes humility! Getting help and letting someone into a vulnerable situation in my life, willingly admitting that I don’t have it all together, can be scary and a hard thing to do. Though, having someone to honestly talk to and wrestle through things with and even keep accountable to is a huge blessing!
The dictionary’s definition of forgiveness is "the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well." 1 John 2:9-10 “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.” It’s really easy when we’ve been hurt or feel like we’ve been unjustly treated to hold on to anger and bitterness and sometimes vengeance, wanting to make the other person pay. All this really does is bind and cripple ourselves into unhappiness. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32. There is freedom in forgiving others. It doesn't always come all at once, sometimes it's a process, where we continually have to keep forgiving.
Refuse to Dwell on it. You can’t stop thoughts from popping up in your mind, but you can refuse to let them stay by forcing yourself to think about something else. I have a tendency to try and punish myself as a false sense of control, to keep blaming myself for every little thing, whether or not it really is my fault. I continually have to remind myself that I am not responsible for the action of others, but I am responsible for not letting myself become bitter over it. Philippians 4:8 is a great verse to remember during these times “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Action plan of escape
When you go through a traumatic event or experience, there end up being things that will happen in your day-to-day life that trigger a similar response to what happened the first time. It helps knowing what those triggers are. Then, having a plan in place to know what to do or think about when a trigger does happen. For me, it helps to mentally start listing off things that I am thankful for. It doesn’t even have to be about the situation at all. Just giving thanks for anything and everything I can think of right then, helps swing my mind away from feeling sorry for myself and letting fear and anger cripple me into its downward spiral, back to the truth. Also, memorizing scripture that I can recite easily when thoughts do come into my mind is a great way to remember the truth.
I want to leave with a prayer Paul prayed in Ephesians 4:16-21, as it is always an encouragement to me and I pray it may ring true in your life as well, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
My eyes cloud over as tears threaten to break fourth from the massive dam right below the surface. My jaw tightens at the sudden feeling of being a failure and that of all things, I’m losing it over my water jug being spilled all over the carpet. I blink back hard and try and take a deep breath, reminding myself that it’s just water, a simple towel thrown over and stepped on is all that is needed. Though my head is pounding trying to see reason, the screaming voices keep flying out of control right beneath the surface. “This is the 5th time I’ve told you—don’t touch my water!” “Why can’t you just listen to me?” “Am I not being hard enough on correcting?” “What am I doing wrong?” “Will you ever just behave?” Why do you have to test the limits of every single thing?” “I don’t have the energy for this!” My anger starts rising and frustration takes over reasoning as I snatch the water from my almost two year old daughter, slam it back on the counter, hearing myself yell “Stop! Stop! NOO!” while swinging her around to sit back down on the couch. Looking back at her ready to unleash all my frustration, one look in her eyes and I realize I’ve done it again, I’m out of control. Regret and failure immediately wash over me. I reach for her hand, saying “I’m sorry! Here, let’s clean this up,” while throwing a clean towel, from the pile of laundry I had just finished folding. Gently I pull her over to step on the towel to get all the water out of the carpet. The incident is immediately forgotten by my sweet baby girl as she goes back to playing, but my mind is still raging with questions and the feeling of failure as I continue to fold clothes. Looking over I see my new baby boy quietly stretching on the floor, completely oblivious to the chaos happing right next to him. “Oh Lord,” I pray “How am I supposed to be a good mom? I feel like I am going to completely mess them up. I can’t do this!”
Being a mom is hard! No matter how many books we read, or lists of do’s and don’ts we read off Pinterest, or how hard we try to get a good night’s rest to help control our attitude and our words. There will be days (sometimes lots of days) that we don’t get enough sleep, if any, and are running on empty. It’s those times that we need to hand it over to Jesus even more. When we mess up, when we fail—which we all do--not to be too proud to go to our kids and say we’re sorry and ask their forgiveness.
That being said, here are a few tips that have helped me in my two short years of being a mom. When I find my temper is flaring, my patience is running out and all I seem to be doing is saying “no, no, no, don’t, don’t, don’t, STOP!” Here is what sometimes works for us:
Get out of the house!
Sometimes, fresh air is all that is needed, to cool off the jets for a bit and let the steam out. Not to mention the exercise for your kiddos lets them exert some of their never ending energy. Even just a short walk around the house or around the block does a great deal to improve everyone’s moods.
Invite another mom or friend over, or see if you can go to their house.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, because I constantly have this battle in my own mind. But my house is a MESS and with even more kids it’s NEVER going to get cleaned or at least will take FOREVER! Getting all my kids rounded up and into the car just to go play for a little bit before a meltdown happens is just a waste of time. You know what I find is interesting though? Once you get pass all the excuses of why it won’t work to have anyone over and just invite them anyways, even between the 3-6+ kids and only two adults it seems to always work out just fine. I know for me, my spirits are always lifted just to be able to talk to someone else you truly gets it…even if it’s just about the weather and exchanging “my kids are worse than your kid” horror stories.
Get your kids involved.
Many times, I find when I’m getting frustrated, it’s because I’m trying to get something done and my kids keep interrupting and getting in the way. I will always remember what one of my college professors taught me. Laundry, dishes, messy floors, ect. will always be there, but your kids won’t. It’s our job as parents to raise our kids up and to teach them. So, even though it may take twice as long, not get done how we might like, or how we would do it, sometimes it’s more important to teach our kids how, by doing it with them. Even if it’s just letting your two year old play in the sink water while you’re washing dishes. You will never get today back to do again, so enjoy the time with your kids while you can. Slow down, take a deep breath, or lots of deep breaths, and try and remember what it was like as a child. Let them be a part of your world and not just see them as a nuisance or a hindrance to what you want to do.
Darkness heaving down upon me, swirling around beneath me, pulling me deeper and deeper into its lifeless void, until it’s a struggle even to catch a breath. Purpose and joy is a distant shore lost within the mist. I want to scream, but my voice is plastered to the walls of my chest, slowly dying from suffocation. I look at my children before me and tears well within me like giant bottomless pits filled with aching regret. An overwhelming sense of failure fills every pore of my being and even though I can say it’s a lie, the weight of it keeps getting heavier and stronger with each passing moment. I just want to sleep and forget all the pain and the hopelessness locked inside, but even in sleep there is no relief.
Nothingness surrounds the future. I try to keep going like everything is ok, because I know my kids need me, but the passion is gone, the light is put out. It’s just motions with emptiness within. Anger and rage take the place of reason followed by despair, regret and then nothingness cycling over and over and over again. People try to help by telling me what I need to do, but they don’t understand, not really. This burden I bear, they can have all the right answers, but never do they truly touch the weight and pain of what lies within.
Fear, a lack of trust. Lies, blinding the truth. Chemical, scycological, see a counselor, take medication, it’s normal, it’s not normal, lots of people deal with it, get help, don’t deal with it yourself, you’re fine, don’t worry about it, go for a walk, get out of the house, put make-up on every day, take time for yourself, switch the tapes in your mind, don’t listen to all the negative talk in your head, just stop it. It isn’t helping. I just want someone who truly understands, not to tell me what to do, but to cry with me and to see, truly see where I am at, to wrap their arms around me and physically take me by the hand and lead me up. I don’t have the strength, and I’m tired of bringing everyone down around me.
I remember writing this, three months after my son was born, and how I was ready to completely give up. Doctors call it Postpartum Depression and though, I know many women who have had it way worse than me, it was still a very real and devastating time. I had some very traumatic issues go down with my family at that time as well as being off some medication too soon. So how did I get up and over being depressed? Honestly, it was slow healing process. So slow in fact, I didn’t even realize when it happened. Everyone is different, what helped me may or may not be the answer for what might help someone else.
I hated even the thought of this! I didn’t want something to be wrong with me. I felt weak and even more like a failure when people would suggest that I should see a doctor and get some meds for it. As if I couldn’t handle it myself, I wasn’t strong enough. Pride pride pride pride pride…. in reality I wasn’t strong enough and I did need help. True strength lies in realizing when we’re weak and need help and not being too prideful to do something about it. I ended up just going back on a small dose of my thyroid medicine which ended up being a tremendous help.
I wanted to be by myself and just wither away and die. I didn’t want to see people or deal with any of their issues. I was much more content in wallowing in my own misery and though, I didn’t want to be miserable, I couldn’t think about anything else. My husband was one of my biggest supports through this time. He never left me and even took over watching and taking care of the kids a lot of the time. I even remember, one time, the nurse at my doctor’s office calling the Crisis Care Center for me and getting my husband off work to take me in, when I was to the point where I couldn’t function. (Just to brag on my husband a little bit during that time: I was devastated that I needed to go someplace to get help, I thought I should be stronger. I was even scared that he would be mad at me for making him miss work and possible getting in trouble with his boss. He reassured me that because the nurse had called, it was considered a medical emergency and he wouldn’t get in trouble and even if he did, I was more important. It was him who didn’t make fun of me or treat me like I was a worthless mother, but gently and lovingly reassured me that everyone needs help, at some point. He continually reminded me that he thought I was a wonderful mother, I was hurting, but it wouldn’t be forever.) Surrounding myself with people who truly loved me and supported me during this time was HUGE!
Remember the Truth
Lies are so easy to believe and seem to find their way into my mind faster than my child after ice cream. So, reminding myself and having others remind me of the truth over and over and over again was crucial, even when I didn’t want to hear it at the time. Eventually, it began to sink in and take root. I ended up taping 3x5 cards with verses on them all around the house. I taped them in front of the sink where I would stand doing dishes, in the shower (recommend laminating or covering with packing tape first), and on almost all my mirrors.
Around this time in my life my husband was laid off of work for the winter. It ended up I needed to get a part-time job to help out. This ended up being a blessing in disguise, as it forced me out of the house and my mind onto something other than being depressed.
Finding an activity or a job to do when you’re feeling down, even when you don’t particularly feel like doing it, does help in the long run.
Hands down, I think this was the thing I needed most, but what I got the least. With a baby and a toddler both needing my constant attention and up all hours of the night, sleep was but a fantasy dream in the world’s best fairytale. The little sleep I was able to get was marred with turmoil and restlessness. It wasn’t until I finally let people start to help me, by taking my daughter for a time, so I could sleep when my baby slept, that my mind started to function normally again. I have my sister to thank, for pretty much demanding that I needed more sleep and I needed to do whatever was necessary to MAKE THAT HAPPEN!
Eat Healthy Mood Boosting Foods
There are many lists on what are the best mood boosting foods to eat that I’m not going to post them all here. However, some of my own favorites were: Frozen blueberries (I ate these as my sweet-treat-dessert after the kids went to bed), Nuts (especially walnuts and almonds) and dark leafy greens like Kale (I started making a lot of healthy shakes for breakfast to help out with this).
I have a friend who calls this her little “happy pill.” She recommended it to me saying it was what helped her through her PPD. Especially, with it being the winter months during the time, it really did start making a difference, as I wasn’t out in the sun as much and I’m sure was lacking that essential vitamin.
Like what you read? Know someone in need of encouragement? Feel free to share!
My heart dropped to the floor and my head filled with the sound of a raging river falling thunderously over the edge into an unforeseen mist below.
Fear and panic threatened to knock me over as my gut told me something was wrong. My husband was home early, the day after we found out my 5 month old daughter was going to need surgery. He climbed into the shower with me and I knew. His face told it all.
“I lost my job.”
Defeat, failure, desperation crying out from every pore of his being as he looked at me, his wife, wondering if I would still see him the same way. A strange peace filtered in through the roar, even as my mind sped out of control with all the, what ifs, whys and what-now’s, and I did the only thing I knew to do. Wrapping my arms around his down cast shoulders, with tears in my eyes, I whispered, “I still love you, and I still believe in you.” Then in my own mind, I offered up a silent thank you to God for the unexpected answer to prayer.
I never expected my husband to lose his job, I was terrified that he did, but at the same time there was this peace knowing that God was in control and He was going to take care of us.
Just the night before, during my husband and I’s nightly devotions, a question had come up that led us to a discussion. My husband honestly confessed to me that during the 3 months after our daughter was born, when I was such a wreck emotionally and physically, he had started becoming attracted to another woman. Though, at the time, I forgave him, my thoughts the next morning started to wander and anger, fear and the feeling of betrayal had started to form in my mind, wondering how I was going to fight for him—the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. It wasn’t but minutes after this, while I was in the shower pleading with God to show me what to do and to guard my husband’s heart and mind, that he came in announcing he had lost his job.
That answer to prayer started a chain of events that sent us tumbling, head over heels, into a two-year dark valley. In the next couple of months my husband looked for a new job he thought he might enjoy, but never found one. He sunk into a depression and we ended up moving away from all the friends we had made to a completely new city. God used so many different events in our lives to prepare us and in some ways kick us out the door, into a whole new adventure where we had to rely on each other and God, in ways that we never would have otherwise. In my husband’s life, God used him becoming very discontent and hurt by the church we were in and in ministry to prepare him to cut ties and move.
Looking back, that was an incredible hard and challenging time in our lives, where we were constantly wondering what God was going to do and where we were going. However, my husband and I were able to grow closer together, which was an incredible answer to prayer. We were also able to plug into a new church where there were people who excepted us and reached out to us in love through a very difficult and long healing process.
Life hasn’t been smooth sailings since then, my husband has been through multiple jobs, but I know, no matter what happens, God will take care of us and that we can get through it together.
I have also learned that like the lyrics to In the Valley by Sovereign Grace say:
“In the daytime there are stars in the heavens
But they only shine at night
And the deeper that I go into darkness
The more I see their radiant light
So let me learn that my losses are my gain
To be broken is to heal
That the valley’s where Your power is revealed.”
I will be the first to tell you that those dark valleys aren’t fun! There are many days I find myself wondering if we’re even going to get through at all. Even in the darkest days, when I feel like completely giving up -- it is after those moments, when I turn my eyes back to God crying and screaming out to Him, sometimes wondering if He even hears me, that I get to see His goodness, His unending love and faithfulness shine through the brightest.
So my suggestion, from what I have learned and a lot of times having to find out the hard way, for those who are going through a husband losing his job is this:
1. Don’t let fear control you!
It’s a scary thing losing your source of income. You’re wondering how you are going to live and feed your family. But the more you dwell on everything that can go wrong the more everything does go wrong. I’m not saying never be afraid and act like everything is fine and put on this big front like you have it all together, but when those moments come, when you are terrified of what tomorrow might bring, don’t focus so much on the problem -- that you blind yourself to what is going right and what God is accomplishing through the situation.
2. Keep a thankful attitude
You’re kidding right?! My husband just lost his job and you want me to be thankful?! As contrary to how it may sound, being thankful during the hardest times is one of the best remedies for a down cast soul. Here are some of the things I was thankful for: Sunshine, actually being able to spend some quality time with my husband, food on the table, a warm roof over our head, friends who cared about us, clothes to wear, smiling flowers, beautiful sunrises, green trees, working vehicles, giggling babies, …ect.
3. Have honest conversations with your husband
I will never forget our first “Date Night Thursday.” My husband and I sat down to talk and it didn’t take but two minutes before everything blew up and the tension that had been building up between us bubbled over into a giant explosion of hurt feelings and fears flying unsheathed dangerously between us. I remember my husband saying, “Look, I know what you’re going to say, I need to be looking for a job harder and don’t you think I KNOW THAT but it’s hard!”
He went on to pour his heart out to me (after I bit my tongue to keep from shouting back and to just listen). He was tired of feeling like a failure and worthless because he couldn’t hold down a job and provide for his family. He was scared and tired of applying to jobs for fear of yet another rejection. He was beating himself up, because he didn’t have any idea what he wanted to do or what he should do. Everything he tried and failed at put him another step further from actually being able to get a job, because it destroyed his resume even more. Who would hire a guy who couldn’t even hold a job for longer than a year? Though, that night was thick with emotion and we were both exhausted afterwards, it was one of the best times, because we both got on the same page and were able to see exactly where we were. A lot of times, in marriage, we start focusing on ourselves and what we want our spouse to do for us and we become discontent when that isn’t met. So don’t forget to truly LISTEN to your husband, close your mouth and hear his heart. At the same time openly share your own fears and be willing to walk through them together. It always amazes me the healing that takes place when I verbally express what I’ve been thinking, sometimes even just to audibly hear how silly the thoughts, that have paralyzed so much of my time, really are.
4. Get out of the house
This is the hardest for me when I’m down. It is so easy to just make everyday a lazy Saturday and do absolutely nothing at all. Though, all that really accomplishes, is sinking deeper and deeper into nothingness and depression. Getting out of the house forces you to get dressed, get the kids dressed and to see that there really is a world out there, besides your own misery and all the difficulties you are going through.
5. Keep people interaction
One of the biggest things that helped my husband get out of his slump, was interacting with people. He started meeting with friends over coffee and getting involved with volunteer activities again. Through which, he was able to hear of job openings and get in touch with people whom most likely would never have given his resume a second glance. It also gave him a purpose to keep going and not to shrivel up and call it quits.
6. Keep or get active
Get your blood flowing, your lungs working and your adrenaline pumping. It really does wonders for your health and your mood. You don’t have to have a membership to a gym or anything like that. Take a walk with your family to the park or around the mall. Wrestle with your children or play a crazy game of hide-n-go seek. Even mimicking your baby’s planks is way harder than it looks and can get you both laughing in no time.
7. Get together a budget
It is so important to be on the same page financially! I know money can be a very sensitive and stressful topic among couples, even more so after losing a job, but that just makes it even more important to talk about. Get together a plan of action and be willing to let go of some things and change others.
8. Keep encouraging your husband
I can get so caught up in living life, taking care of my kids and/or asking my husband to help with this or that, that I forget to really think about what he is going through and how it is effecting him. Guys can be so good at covering up their true feelings and not talking about them that it’s easy to forget that they're really hurting too. He needs you to still believe in him and to think of him as the strong, handsome man you married. So what are some ways you can encourage him? Remind him daily that you believe in him. Also, don’t continually nag him about getting a job (he knows, even when he isn’t going about doing things the way that you would). Maybe even come up with activities to do together out of the house.
9. Pray Pray Pray
This is so often overlooked or a last resort option when it should be the very first thing. God is All-Powerful and All-knowing. He already knows what you’re going through but Prayer isn’t about changing God’s mind it’s about changing your mind to align with His.
10. Be prepared and alright with change
This is always a really hard one for me, as change is always a challenge. I love my routines and consistency. Having my husband home every day, though a blessing in its own way, meant that I couldn’t do things the same way as I was used to. For some reason even doing dishes and laundry just wasn’t the same. I continually have to remind myself whenever a big change is going to take place (Like my husband getting a new job after being out of one for 3 months or losing one) to breath and to calm down. I literally tell my husband I need to take 15-30 min of quiet to process and ask if he could watch the kids for that time. Everyone deals with stress differently. For me, I need time to get away, quickly run through the worst case scenario than remind myself that God is in control and that I need to trust in Him.
Melody, a proud mother of three beautiful, adventurous children and the wife of one very loving and caring husband. Molded, daily, by the Maker of the Universe and longing to become more like Him.