Sara Winnick, MA, LMHCA
Ride the Wave: A Personal Story of Legos, Loss and Feelings
We took a whirlwind trip to visit my brother and his family last weekend after our Christmas visit was postponed due to factors outside our control. When my parents passed away, now 12 and 15 years ago, my brother, and only sibling, took over the role of spoiling my children on their birthdays and holidays. As such, my now-17-year-old has received many spectacular LEGO sets, even as recently as this past week, when he received yet another LEGO set as a belated Christmas gift from my brother’s family.
The clicking of LEGO bricks, and the whirring of small pieces being stirred in search of “a blue two-bumper” takes me back to a time when my life felt uncertain and scary. I had lost my dad to cancer, and my mom, whose own terminal illness was causing her to rapidly decline, had moved to a nearby care facility. I had a young family and mother I was now caring for. Just typing those sentences brings the physical memory back to my body. My shoulders tighten and the lump in my throat feels hard, making it difficult to swallow.
One afternoon, after taking my mother grocery shopping during my youngest’s preschool hours, I found myself perched on the second-to-last stair in our entryway. I’d sat down to catch my breath, and in the stillness, felt my emotions catch up with me. Deep sadness, fear, anger, loneliness, guilt, and shame washed over me like a tidal wave. I was tired. Exhausted, really. I had been burning my stub of a candle at both ends to care for my small family, and it was growing increasingly apparent that I wasn’t very good at it. I sat there at the bottom of the steps under that weight for a good long while, tears soaking my lashes until finally a sob broke through the lump in my throat. The feelings were heavy, but like all waves, eventually began to fade away. Soon my awareness of my surroundings began to sharpen. The sunlight streaming in windows of the front door onto the colorful rug just inches beyond my feet caught my eye and I wondered if I stretched my legs out if I might feel the warmth of the sunlight on my toes.
And then I heard the clicking from the top of the stairs.
Taking it in, I eventually got to my feet and climbed to the second floor to a very familiar and comforting scene: My youngest sitting on his knees, with his backpack still on his tiny back, surrounded by colorful bricks. He was in hot pursuit of a hat for the minifigure needed to pilot the plane he had just finished building. He caught my eye and invited me to come play, so I made a clearing on the carpet and rummaged through the nearby bricks, carving rivers with my fingers, and letting my body reclaim some safety through gentle play with my little one.
Many of us fear our emotions, so much so, that we will do anything and everything to keep those pesky feelings at bay. But here’s where we deceive ourselves. Those feelings aren’t out there (picture me extending my arms out as far as possible and making a big swooping motion). They’re actually inside us, trying desperately to get our attention. And when those feelings get ignored, they can get really loud. As Chris Byers recently shared in our weekly newsletter, Field Notes , “At Grey Sky Counseling, we believe an essential ingredient for therapy that works is, a focus on feelings. We not only encourage clients to tell the truth about their feelings, but also encourage them to grow in a belief that feelings/emotions are not something to be avoided or dreaded.” As I sat on the steps that afternoon and allowed myself to actually feel my emotions, the details of my hairy situation didn’t change much. My children were still little, my mom was still sick, and my dad was still gone, but I had a new awareness of my own needs that I could attend and respond to with care.
What are your emotions trying to tell you? Does asking that question cause your shoulders to tighten? Perhaps now is a good time to start telling the truth to yourself about what you are feeling so you can give yourself the care you deserve. And if that feels scary to do on your own, you may want to invite a trusted, compassionate, and experienced guide to help you. That’s what we're here for for.
If you are pining for the lovely sounds of clicking bricks, check out this LEGO White Noise video!