Wretchedly Familiar: When Life Feels Unfair


diana trautwein -wretchedly familiar3

Wasn’t it just two months ago that I wrote about lament in this space? I checked, friends, and yes, it was. In September. Today, I find myself needing to return to those songs-in-a-minor-key for a while longer. October’s theme opened my sad heart to a season of rejoicing, for remembering all of the gracious things in my life for which I can joyfully and loudly thank God.

But at this moment in time, as I sit down to write for November, I find the syllables of lament are oh-so-necessary. I am returning to the language that lets me enter my own sadness, that gives me permission to fully experience the pain of this moment on the journey that is my life.

One month ago yesterday, an ER doctor told me that I had blood clots in both lungs. One of the clots had caused an infarction—which means tissue death!!—thus causing the sudden, severe back pain I’d been experiencing for the previous 30 hours. He sent me home that evening with a new blood thinning medication, to be taken twice a day for the next month. I was also told to visit a long list of specialists, including the hematologist who had been working with me for the last seven years. He would prescribe a new drug at a new dosage to try and prevent this from happening again.

Because, you see, it had already happened once. Which is exactly why this particular ‘returning’ was not on my bucket list. The first event in 2010 put me on the only blood thinner available back then—Coumadin—a difficult drug to manage and one that complicated my life for five years. In 2015, I managed to tear a muscle in my abdomen, causing significant internal bleeding and sending me to the hospital for two days. At that point, they reversed the effects of the Coumadin and took me off blood thinning meds, hopefully forever. Hooray!

Now, I am back on them—this time, for good. There are newer versions of the drug available today. They are easier to manage, but not without risk. That is sobering. I am seeing a long list of specialists to rule out any other kind of damage to heart or kidneys and must take it easy for another couple of months. And all of it feels so wretchedly familiar. I did not want this to happen again, but . . . it has.

So now, what do I do about this particular ‘return’ in my life? Part of me wants to put on my big-girl pants and suck it up. That’s my go-to, life-long pattern. It feels familiar and even a little comforting. But the reality is, I am now seven years older than I was the last time this happened. And I’m in a season of grief and loss. SEVEN people close to me have died since my mom’s death in April. Two others (three, if I include myself) have received difficult medical news, all involving ongoing treatment, one with a terminal diagnosis, most likely in the next few years.

I feel inundated by sadness, overwhelmed by all the pain in the world at large and in my circle of family and friends in particular. And far more than action, or even re-action, I find that what I need is words. Words that give me space and permission to feel what must be felt. Words that hold the groans and the fatigue. Words that will move me to the tears my body and my spirit need to spill.

How does the prophet put it? “In returning and rest, you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15) In the midst of the returning I did not want and did not choose, I am re-discovering that the returning I need is in one direction only: toward the God who made me, who knows my flesh (and my blood!), who walks with me through every unhappy and difficult piece of this puzzle that is my life right now.

So I read the Psalms. Every day. And I am re-reading that book of blessings I mentioned in September—Jan Richardson’s The Cure for Sorrow: a Book of Blessings in Times of Grief. I also read the old prayers of the church in a small collection I own and have used for memorial services and graveside liturgies.

These are the words of lament and to them I return. In them, I rest. And through them, I am being saved. Thanks be to God.


Diana Trautwein
Married to her college sweetheart for over 40 years, Diana is always wondering about things. She answers to Mom from their three adult kids and spouses and to Nana from their 8 grandkids, ranging in age from 3 to 22. For 17 years, after a mid-life call to ministry, she answered to Pastor Diana in two churches where she served as Associate Pastor. Since retiring at the end of 2010, she spends her time working as a spiritual director and writes on her blog, Just Wondering. For as long as she can remember, Jesus has been central to her story and the church an extension of her family. Not that either church or family is exactly perfect . . . but then, that’s what makes life interesting, right?
Diana Trautwein

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  1. DeanneMoore says:

    When Dad’s cancer relapsed back in May and the battle returned, I turned to words to help me through. I wrote my own little book for my own little eyes from inspiration from Madeline L’Engles’ The Summer of The Greatmother— though I switched my title to “grandfather.” Thank God, it didn’t end like ME’s book but it didn’t help me face new issues that arose with the returning—new feelings to process and to wrestle out. So I get this! I do, and you know I care so very deeply for you in your sadness. Please know I’m thanking God for you and asking Him for his great and gentle care as you continue to heal and to grieve.

    • You do get this, Dea, in ways many people probably never will. Thank you so much for your encouragement along the way.

  2. Diana, I’m sorry for this return that’s not of your choosing. Please find comfort in knowing your words speak hope to others. Praying for God to surround you with his promise of love.

  3. I’m so sorry to hear of this bad news, Diana. Praying for health and wholeness in the midst of this diagnosis and new reality. I’m so thankful for these words–coming on the heel of an On Being Ta-Nehisi Coates interview where he talked about not wrapping things up in tidy bows. I’ve been thinking a lot about the American (and US CHristian) love for optimism, which isn’t all bad but is also incomplete. And the truth is our bodies are frail, and grow more so with age, and no amount of cheerfulness (or big girl pants) changes that. Praying that when the story we are living is not a march towards ‘progress’ we stay faithful and centered in the One who knows suffering and redemption.

  4. Diana, so sorry for this unwelcome return to doctors and medicines. I lament alongside you, friend. I just was gifted Jan Richardson’s book, and will read and pray with you in mind. Sending love and solidarity from the desert.

  5. smoothstones says:

    So sorry to learn of these health concerns. I will be praying for you. You are loved, Sister!

  6. Gwen Acres says:

    Your words bring healing to me, Diana. And may the fact that you share them with others in pain help in your own healing. Across miles they connect us. They hold my hand as my losses are counted. Your sadness is carried by those who hear you and love you. I hope you can feel it… Thank you for your honesty and openness. May the everlasting arms hold you very close. 💕

  7. I’ve been on coumadin for 30 years, and will be on it for the rest of my life (thanks to a mechanical heart valve). I understand the fear of dealing with these things, but want to offer my encouragement that it is something that can be lived with – it is part of my normal (not without some irritation). I pray for patience, courage and blessings as you sit in doctor’s offices and waiting rooms and for peace and rest in those places and the places you would choose to be.

    • Diana Trautwein says:

      Thanks so much, Morag. Coumadin did not work well for me after I had to go off and then back on for foot surgery. Hopefully, Eliqis will be tolerated well. Just switched to it from Xarelto last night.

  8. I love Jan’s book. And I love you. That’s all I’ve got.

  9. Oh, Diana, I’m so sorry to hear about your health status and where you are right now in your life. Yes, God’s Word can give so much comfort, grace and healing in our spirit if not yet in our bodies. Your faith and courage in the face of all your recent trials is like a rainbow arching above the storm clouds. You know His love, beyond a doubt, and even in times of trials, you share it wondrously.
    Blessings to you, dear one, for continued healing and strength!

  10. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Oh, yes, “saved by words.” Praise God for the gift of language, for the ability to write and read and soothe our souls as the mind processes meaning. I pray the upcoming Advent season and the new year to follow will be filled with peace, joy, wellness, and hope. In my view you deserve all those wonderful qualities of life!

  11. Diana, the words describing where you find yourself in these months are familiar to me., Grief sometimes it feels very dark and heavy. And adding the on-going physical situation you find yourself in again is yet another loss to be grieved. While I cannot say I know how you feel, I do know the feeling of my own grief and I would like to help carry some of yours by caring, and keep entrusting you to Jesus to work on your behalf. You have often said words my heart would have liked to say and didn’t have the words yet. I hear you.

    • Thanks so much, Carol. I know you know this journey! It continues to amaze me how the sadness will suddenly just smack me upside the head! Today, I turned left into the mall parking lot on an errand, driving by a Panera restaurant. And I burst into sobs, remembering taking my mom there for lunch and how she fell down coming out the back door the last time we went there. I was behind her, could see her going down and was absolutely helpless to stop it, though I did manage to cushion it just a bit. Such a helpless feeling! Sorta like the stealth attacks of grief, right??

      We are interesting creatures — powerful memories can be triggered by the slightest thing. I remember checking out of a Home Depot a few years ago and watching a guy in his 50s being kind to each customer as he helped pack their bags. “My brother could have done this job and loved it,” I thought. And then he turned around and his name badge said, “Kenneth,” which was my brother’s name! Ken had been gone for over 5 years at this point, yet the tears welled and I made my way quickly to the car and let them run. These events don’t last long, but they are very telling, I think. We carry those we love with us all.the.time, whether they’re breathing earth’s oxygen or not.

  12. Jody Ohlsen Collins says:

    Oh Diana, what a season of difficulty indeed. Aging is a sobering process but your reminders about where to go for solace are spot on… May God be closer than ever before.

  13. HisFireFly says:

    With you, dear friend
    holding each other’s hand through the distance
    pointing each other to The Way
    the only way
    love and prayers

  14. I am so sorry for this news and all of your loss. Thank you for reminding those of us in seasons of loss, there is time for sadness, time for lament. It is necessary. Thank you.

  15. Helen Burns Helene Burns says:

    Diana… I am so sorry to hear about this familiar and very difficult journey you are on. I pray you find God’s relentless grace and His sustaining strength upon your life – body, soul and spirit for every single moment of every single day. So much love to you today. xo

    • Thanks so much, Helene (or do you prefer Helen?) Your kindness is a balm today.

      • Helen Burns Helene Burns says:

        Your words have been a balm to my soul so often and I am so grateful if my words could speak to your heart today. Thank you for your brave sharing today Diana.

        I love Helene which is my legal name…my German speaking parents anglicized it when I started elementary school. I use it for all things legal, etc ever since 911 when all documentation had to be exact on every form. However, every one knows me as Helen, so that is the name I answer to most readily.


  16. Margie Berry says:

    I love the Psalms at times like these; the gentle rhythm, the words, yes the words so restorative and beautiful and promising. Even as you mourn the loss of too many loved ones and failing health, the scriptures, so succinct, so timeless, are also so TRUE and God-given. Bless you, Dear One, and I know for certain God has heard my prayers for you and He will sustain you in the best way possible because He loves us like that. Thank you for sharing this private part of your life. Hugs.and prayers.

  17. Yes, thanks be to God, in all seasons, but sometimes those words come to the lips with a little more effort. I’m so sorry for this betrayal by your body in the midst of other pressing losses. Know that you are in my prayers during this upcoming season of celebration and lament.

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