For weeks after Mark died, my stomach hurt. Searing pain, centered in my gut.
Then, winter turned to spring. We made a pilgrimage of sorts to California. Upon returning, I was thrust into the school umpiring season and then, it was summer and more baseball games to arbitrate.
Mary decided to embark on training to get ready for the Tri for a Cure. She returned to work. I got dumped from one of my jobs. Life continued, without Mark.
How does one normalize that which isn’t normal? Life missing a portion of your heart, a family unit in mourning, and now, it’s tourist season and everyone’s life is filled with the seasonal things we all know and love. Except it’s hard to find joy when your life is turned upside-down and you continue reeling.
Our gut is part of the nervous system, known as the “brain-gut axis.” According to an older issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter detailing the effects of stress and abdominal pain,
“our brain interacts with the rest of the body through the nervous system, which has several major components. One of them is the enteric nervous system, which helps regulate digestion. In life-or-death situations, the brain triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response. It slows digestion, or even stops it completely, so the body can focus all of its internal energy to facing the threat. But less severe types of stress, such as an argument, public speaking, or driving in traffic, also can slow or disrupt the digestive process, causing abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal symptoms.”
Stress causes disruption of the digestive process. Since Mary and I have been on stress overload continuing to deal with the details of a life sans its guiding force here during summer’s height, I guess I know why my stomach is hurting again.