Group support helps, especially when I let myself be vulnerable

A gathering of fellow clergy is there for me as I finally expose my emotions

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by Joe MacDonald |

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I’m part of a clergy group that meets monthly and has seven members from several denominations. Over the years, it’s been a safe place to discuss any issue, from church to home. We formed a covenant with one another to keep our conversations confidential.

When sharing with my colleagues, I’ve discussed the hemophilia issues my youngest boy, Caeleb, faces as if I were doing a special report on the Channel 7 evening news. I’ve caught myself on more than one occasion describing only the overall situation during tough times. I never discussed how I felt, nor any other issues that forced me to get in touch with my emotions. I existed with a self-imposed mantra: “Just the facts, ma’am; just the facts.” This denial of my feelings proved so deep that I couldn’t see it.

Each time I spoke, I provided nothing but the complications of Caeleb’s treatment. Over time, I realized that this policy took an emotional toll and that I’d built a wall around my heart to prevent me from dealing with my son’s prolonged internal bleeding episodes and their consequences. I couldn’t say, “Caeleb is in the hospital again, and I’m scared because nothing seems to work. What if he must remain in a wheelchair for the rest of his life? I feel helpless.”

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My Pandora’s Box of Emotions Isn’t Completely Shut Away

Stress and my son’s health pierce the deepest part of my spirit, but I cannot accept my fears or any cracks in my armor. Even though I trusted my particular group dearly, I could not trust the space enough to be vulnerable. Instead, I continued to serve as a trial lawyer with an opening statement beating in my soul: “Keep the complications related to living with hemophilia to myself. No one needs to know that my son’s constant pain is killing me.”

The self-instruction that runs through my bones is that “if anything causes pain or an uncomfortable situation, keep it hidden. Bury your shame.” When something regarding my family hits me over the head like the proverbial ton of bricks, I tell everyone that I feel fine, even though my heart has been torn into a million tiny pieces. I feel like the psalmist when he stares at the heavens and proclaims, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Psalms 137:4 KJV).

A breakthrough, finally

Last week, I met with my group for our regular monthly meeting. I decided that I couldn’t continue to hide my heart. When it was my time to check in, I gave my report. “Caeleb continues experiencing horrific pain, and nothing seems to work,” I said. But this time I continued, explaining my fear that I cannot predict my boy’s future. I shared my frustrations with his bleeding disorder and what it tries to take from my blessed son.

As I continued speaking, I felt myself well up with emotion. Suddenly, I started crying as years of pent-up feelings overwhelmed me. I shed tears for Caeleb and how he constantly deals with the worst version of hemophilia. I shed tears for myself as the walls of fear tumbled down around me. I took advantage of this safe place to lament my heartbreak.

My group surrounded me and offered their unwavering support. They helped me put myself back together when I felt that I couldn’t stop crying. I heard gentle voices reminding me that my strength reflects love in a way that soars. They reminded me that our commitment to one another is a sacred promise and a gift to all who worship together.

As we sat together, I felt like my presence experienced holy ground. What caught me off guard was the sense of peace that overwhelmed me as my group, from many faith traditions, gathered around me and said prayers for Caeleb and the rest of my family. I didn’t want the time to end, and I tried to remain still and feel the divine presence working through my fantastic group.

My unique assortment of friends loved me back to wholeness and reminded me that I was not alone. Their strength became mine.

Caeleb has improved, but sometimes still has periodic pain in his right knee and ankle, a result of his continuous bleeding episodes. My buddies provided me with a safe place to land as I struggled with that and how best to help my boy navigate his choppy waters.

Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.


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