Today for motivation I am sharing his latest column about dealing with anger through poetry that appeared in the Grand Rapids Press.
|Our daughter, Eliza|
This is the first part of “Anger. Joy. Forgiveness,” a three-part series that offers a very personal account of the emotional experience of raising my three children, two of whom have disabilities.
In 2010, the youngest of my three daughters, Eliza, suffered a traumatic brain injury due to a medical error.
Up until that point, I was already the father of two children, Gwen, who had cerebral palsy due to difficulties of a twin pregnancy and Violet, a rambunctious toddler.
Eliza was diagnosed with cerebral palsy by the time she was 1 year old. This event not only was one of the toughest tests I’ve faced in my life, but it was also an opportunity for me to learn the tools for navigating life.
As I began caring for my three daughters in a full-time capacity, my life changed in so many ways. I left my job of nine years - a job I loved. I started going to see a psychologist to help me cope (something I wish I could continue). I began a mediation practice to help me steer through the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.
I also sought the help of a poetry therapist. I began reading, writing and reciting poems as way to reconnect with the world. It was important for me to understand the emotions of others who had suffered, albeit differently than I did.
In my healing I began to understand the importance of experiencing and expressing all of my emotions regarding my daughter, Eliza. It took me three years to write about my anger of the event, in the poem that follows:
After the Pyre (named after an original poem by Li-Young-Le)
It turns out, what keeps you alive as a parent at mid-life
following your child from Isolette caves to surgery rooms to a household at war with a hospital and any other parent who looks like you,
what allows you to pass through scratched-out,
yellow-bricked halls, through stations of nurses
smiling about the merits of a new children’s hospital,
15 floors, brick-by-brick of better medicine by better technology,
and doctors thinking they’re contenders for Sainthood, and
will tell it to your face, coup d'etat to all of the other medical facilities in town, brand-new mothers going home with their children, and pigeons on the burned-out helipad, fire-retardant dried on the windows of the seventh floor where it all came crashing down, the overdosed kid with a tracheostomy that can’t be reversed, the doctor who turned a valve the wrong way causing brain-damage - the child who’s a perfect sister for her siblings - to devastated parents in the cancer ward next door, knowing medicine couldn’t douse the pyre before it's updraft took their children, a stuffed penguin left behind,
what keeps your children safe even among the others, some like them, some more like you, some numb, some crippled by pain, some barely alive, some always smiling, some never saying a word,
tricks you learned to become impervious,
knowledge-keeping you perfected, playing nurse, playing
doctor, playing devil’s advocate, stupid, weak, strong,
playing communications expert, playing student, playing poor-little child, playing Dutch-reformed, playing Methodist, playing caregiver, in love, parent-of-the-year, playing crazy, healthy, blessed, immoral,
playing terrified, playing fearless, happy, sad, sleep-deprived,
over-caffeinated, puzzled, playing interested,
playing bored, playing unfair, playing post-traumatic stress disorder
playing "I'm just so blessed with this life," it turns out,
. . .
now that you're older
nearing the beginning of a different life,
what kept you alive
all that time kept you from living.
After writing this poem, I was able to process that difficult time of carrying anger inside me. While I still have emotional moments, writing down exactly how I felt helped embrace anger instead of living with it negatively each and every day.