Intense grief will, at times, require some sort of self “medication”. Not real medication in the sense of prescription drugs, but something that will numb the pain. Something that the brain can turn to where the pain isn’t present. For some this is alcohol. For others this might be gambling. For most though, there are other “sedatives”, more socially acceptable, but potentially just as destructive.
My painkillers took on two forms, both involving my computer. The first form was Facebook games, such as Farmville, Yoville, Frontierville, pet society… anything where I could create nice, tidy little worlds where every thing was in its place. I was dedicated to harvesting my crops on time and making sure that my farms were the best ones. I had the best houses, the best decorations, the best equipment. Everything in my Facebook game worlds was Perfect! Exactly the opposite of my life, where I had fallen off my wall and was still waiting for the Kings horses and men to come put me back together. Still waiting on that one.
My second form of computerized self-medication was internet shopping. My husband had left me with a pretty good life insurance policy and I was already pretty good at shopping. We used to have a running joke that the numbers we had memorized showed our priorities. Larry had his Driver License number memorized. I had my credit card number memorized. Shopping problem?…. yup. Shopping problem and grief, … not a good mix. So you take a grieving internet shopaholic, who has nowhere to go during the day and feels the need to fill the void in her life… Did I mention QVC yet?
Ok, so as the empty boxes started to pile up, and I ran out of places to put all of this new “stuff” that was supposed to fill the empty places in my heart, my stress level went up as well. My house was becoming a pit of chaos. The more chaotic the mess became the more I retreated into the Farmville type games.
I tried to tell myself that the games were harmless, that I wasn’t hurting anyone. I’m not sure when God pointed out to me that I was hurting someone, two someones. I was hurting myself and I was hurting Noah. I was drowning my sorrow and numbing my pain in addictive stimuli that were as damaging as alcohol and gambling, just more socially acceptable. I didn’t want to stop playing the games when Noah came home. Noah needed me, but I had nothing left to be needed with. All I could do was lose myself in the make-believe world of neat and tidy. I couldn’t face the messy reality of a new life that I had not chosen.
I had no idea what to do with myself outside of my old life. For 14 1/2 years I had been Larry’s wife. That was the center of my world, my focus. We worked together, parented together, worshiped together, and for the last year my world had been completely consumed with caring for Larry, searching for a possible cure for his brain cancer. Suddenly the center of my life was gone, torn from my side. And so I planted myself on the couch and ran away to tidy little cartoon worlds inside my computer. And shopped. And shopped. Ad nauseum.
It’s Christmas now. Our second Christmas without Larry. I’m happy to report that Farmville has been taken over by Noah, when he feels like it. Crops don’t always get harvested, or planted. I don’t care, because I don’t play anymore. I don’t play any of the “ville” games. The shopping has been severely curtailed!! Not totally cured. I have however closed the credit card account that I had memorized. (thank you Dave Ramsey).
Christmas will be leaner this year, but it’s not about the gifts. It’s not about who isn’t here. It is about Who he is with. The One who guided me out of the numbing sedatives of online shopping and Facebook games. The One who is daily guiding me back toward the peace that carried Larry and I through the valley of his cancer. Peace that can carry me through the valley of grief.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Not through Visa who charges me, or Facebook games that just consume my time. Christ is my refuge and my strength.