Living in the face of unspoken pain

In her recent book The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life, Ann Voskamp shares the shattered pieces of her own life, her particular brokenness.  As a sixteen-year-old, she took a shard of glass and cut her wrist.  The cutting continued throughout her teens. It was a silent scream for bloody answers, a desperate attempt to drain away the pain. It was a coming out, a determination to hide no more.

As a child, she had watched helplessly as her little sister’s skull was crushed by a delivery truck. She remembers the blood seeping into the gravel. It is the trauma of that moment that endures, an image of brokenness.

Brokenness can feel like a tomb you can’t quite claw yourself out of.

We recognise our brokenness. It was the death of our son Adam six years ago that tore us apart.  I was called upon to identify his body. I observed the abrasions on his face. I touched his hand. I kissed his forehead. I didn’t contemplate the brokenness below the white sheet. Like Ann’s sister Aimee, Adam was crushed.  His life was silenced by the carriages of an empty coal train.

Suicide has a way of dismantling the strongest, the most resilient, and the most together.  We know that we are different. Trauma redefines, changing the fabric of a person. We have discovered that jagged pieces don’t always fit neatly together. Ann Voskamp provides a welcome perspective. She says,

“There’s a brokenness that’s not about blame. There’s brokenness that makes a canvas for God’s light. There’s brokenness that makes windows straight into souls.”

It is the cracks that expose our vulnerability. It is the cracks that allow the light in. It is the cracks that open a way for the penetrating light to bring comfort and healing to the wounded soul.

We are parents with a tragic past: whose hopes were dashed; who struggle with loss; who are burdened by facts; who search for answers; whose joy is compromised; who wonder at the ‘reasonableness’ of life; who sit in silence; who fear disclosure.

This is our dilemma. When is it right to open up about our pain? Do people need to know our great sadness?  And what will they do with such knowledge?  Is it the sort of titbit they will feel compelled to tell every unsuspecting person?  We have discovered the importance of owning our pain, of allowing others to witness our brokenness and share in our sorrow. Again, Ann Voskamp says it best.

“There’s a deeper intimacy when we’re generous in sharing our brokenness.”

We are celebrating the most important week in the Christian calendar. It is a week of mixed emotions. There is the excitement of Palm Sunday, the intimacy of the Upper Room, the weariness of Gethsemane, the loneliness of Golgotha, the wonder of the Empty Tomb.

Our remembering involves hot cross buns, Easter egg hunts, and chocolate Bilbies. One could be forgiven for thinking there is a disconnect. Do these family-friendly traditions have any relevance to the events of two thousand years ago? Our remembering also includes the tragic circumstances of Adam’s death on Easter Tuesday.

Easter is about a broken body on a gnarled cross. It is about sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice. It is about hope for a broken people in a broken world. It is about the Healer who was broken that the broken might be healed.

Author: Bruce Rickard

Reflections on Suicide and Staying Alive: My son's suicide changed everything. I felt an obligation to understand why anyone would want to end their life. My regular blog posts explore the causes and prevalence of suicide and what is needed to sustain a healthy mind and a hope-filled future.

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