This week we continue with our three-part series on the "Cemetery of dead dreams" by Deborah Rosa. To view Part I of this series, click here, or refer to the post below. I invite you to enjoy another week of #TestimonyTuesday.
The tombstones in our cemetery: Dead Dreams
There are two categories of loss in our lives representing the tombstones in our cemetery.The first tombstone represents the “Abels” in our lives, the things that have truly died and no longer exist; the dead dreams. These dreams are usually born from some expectation that did not come to pass: what we cannot see happening, a deadline that has passed or a loss. (Now this is being used as a metaphor for life. If there was actual death in our life, the grieving process is different than what I’m writing on. This is not focused on the process of grieving the loss of a person.)
Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick ... literally!
Its the dead relationships:
- The divorce.
- The break ups that leave us broken.
- When our heart is left for dead, barely breathing.
- “I should be married by 25 but I’m turning 26 and STILL single.”
- “I thought he was the one but he cheated on me and left me.”
- “I’m single, single, single.”
- Emotionally cut off from people (friends, family, etc.) who once were dominant in our lives.
It’s the career that did not come as expected:
- Injuries that have ruled out what we wanted and planned.
- Unable to go to school due to time constraints and/or family obligations.
- Realities that cannot be met: we cannot all play pro-ball or dance in the ballet company, even if we dedicated everything to it.
Dead dreams could really be so many things but boil down to an expectation not met:
- A wound with no name.
- Prayers that were not met/answered – ever:
- Family member is still unsaved.
- Illness still claimed the life of a loved one.
- Dream house was foreclosed.
- Dreams of motherhood that bear no fruit.
- Failure, real and imagined.
Each dead thing is another tombstone in our cemetery and sometimes they add up rather quickly. Some years are stormier than others.
The tombstones in our cemetery: Exiled letdowns
The “Cains” of life are the situations that also did not turn out as expected but they exist to drain us of life. These are things that are exiled, not forgotten, and we can't move on.
It’s your job situation:
- The career we hate but spent years getting the degree or the training for.
- A dead-end job and you have no other qualifications or possibilities to move elsewhere.
Relationships that are physically or emotionally abusive that we cannot get out of:
- You’re still alone while emotionally tied to someone else.
- Husband/wife that is currently cheating on and/or abusing us.
- The other person has moved on but you did not.
- The wounds of our parents that have not healed and affect our lives and choices.
- Forgiveness that cannot be given to someone who hurt our heart and the pain is still fresh, no matter the time frame.
- Church that is spiritually wounding or starving us from any growth.
- Financial stability is unreachable, no matter how hard we work.
- The weight doesn’t come off – after many failed attempts, or comes back.
And lots of other stuff:
- Single mother with little-to-no support system.
- Out-of-wedlock children.
- A blended family not blending.
- An illness that drain us and doctors, medicine are useless.
- The realization that this is your life and it is all wrong.
And on and on the list could go.
We enter the cemetery by legitimate means.
Cain DID kill Abel, which made Eve the first woman of loss. Her grief was REAL and I’m sure beyond comfort; this loss was the first emotional tombstone. How she must have sat and wondered how she got there. God had promised her redemption through her children and yet she got death. Her promises, expectations for what her life should have been, were damaged, broken and quite literally buried.
Our loss, no matter how varied the experience or circumstances, is a legitimate loss that our hearts register and it changes who we are. We wait to feel normal again, to be back to who we once were, but this pain will change us.
Remaining bound to our loss
In the workplace they give three days bereavement for the loss of an immediate family member, and then you are expected to continue on your merry way, back to work to produce as you did before.
When we have suffered through an emotional loss, we tend do just that. We wipe away our tears, dust ourselves off and continue to show up in life. There may be some bad days, but for the most part, we function:
We get out of bed, show up where we are expected, do what is required and no one knows our heart is still buried six feet under. We may even live a full life, laugh with our friends, celebrate accomplishments and smile very nicely for the camera, tasks get completed, goals reached, but in reality, we haven't moved from that point of loss and we are still sitting in front of a grave. Many of us even go to church, sing on the praise team, pray the right prayers and say the right things. We have convinced ourselves, and others, that we are over it and that we have healed, forgiven and moved on.Some broken hearts, however, get buried so far down in the ground that all we have left are fake pieces we give away in order to never uncover the broken one. At times we don’t even realize that we buried our feelings of loss and don't talk about it. It takes a new trigger (an event, a person, a situation) or onslaught of feelings to remind us where we are sitting. These are the rare times when we fully acknowledge that we are in fact staring at tombstones.
This is usually the point when anger overcomes us at the injustice of the grave and all it represents ("It's not fair ... That I'm still here! That I'm still broken! That I haven't moved forward!"), and we literally cannot (and have not) move/d. Fear and anger have paralyzed us in the cemetery because we cannot risk making the same mistake again.
So we sit and stare at our failure ... and the years go by.
Deborah Rosa is a therapist in Orlando, Fla., where she has worked with teenage boys who have been convicted of sexual misconduct. She has years of experience working with teens and young adults and holds a master's degree from the Alliance Graduate School of Counseling from Nyack Christian college in New York.