We never know when hardship or tragedy will strike. We can never imagine the magnitude of the loss. We can’t say in what way it will shape or cripple us. Some never fully recover, but all are changed in its wake.
Like a thief in the night, it comes swiftly and without warning. The wounds running deep. We want to scream, to gasp for air. We want to make sense of it, demanding answers. We ask: Why me/us? We blame God for our misfortune. We lash out at those seeking to comfort us.
Yet in grief and tragedy, though all seems lost, it truly isn’t. I can’t think of a single person who hasn’t known its harsh caress. Whose life was left unscathed by its touch. Thinking on my own experiences, from the family members who passed away, the friends I’ve lost, to my parent’s divorce at a young age and even when someone I looked up to as a mentor was murdered, I can say I’m no stranger to it.
I’ve known abuse and addiction, and like any hardship, I have my scars. But through everything in my life, amid the losses and tragedies, I cannot let them define me. For some of us, the pain will run deep and like the layers of the earth’s crust, they can stay buried for years.
These moments force us to seek an escape or a release from the pain. A way to stave off the hurt or numb the pain. But these brief respites only compound the issue. They can’t make the hurting stop. The hours we spend feeding the release only leaves more wounds, the scars compound and before we know it; we don’t even recognize ourselves.
It might even be better to say that those who know us won’t recognize who we are. Our own recognition may not even come until we hit such a rock bottom that the illusion fades. Then suddenly the facade shatters. We come to our senses, can finally pick ourselves up and truly heal.
Some disconnect the from the world, often creating shells to protect themselves. We’ll say: No, never again, turtle up and push people away. We think: Now I’m safe, but in truth the isolation hurts more than any loss we can truly know. Our ‘safety’ robs us of the freedom to heal. It hardens us like stone, preventing us from feeling the things we ought to allow much needed healing to begin.
We even grow bitter sometimes. Resenting the world for moving on instead of sitting beside us and sharing in our sorrows. Then, before we know it, our shell becomes a bastion. An impenetrable fortress from which none can assail. And in our isolation, bitterness grows as massive as a redwood tree. It becomes firmly rooted.
For others, the loss makes time seem to simply stop. The events and the world remaining ever frozen in a single moment. No matter how you fight to overcome it, the moment seems inescapable. The nightmares never end, the moment replays and we even bargain or beg for change. I’ve known many people who are stuck in this place. They’re never the same. Living that single moment for what appears to be an eternity.
So what’s the answer? I think that there’s no simple answer to healing other than time. I also think we have to come to a place where we can stand beside ourselves long of enough to gain clarity and find the strength to move forward.
In my own experiences, I had to stop and look hard in the mirror. I had to say: I can’t live here.
Because living in that place of hurt is paralyzing. It’s filled with hopelessness and with comes a depression, anxiety, anger… and more. It’s a prison and there have been times I had the people in my life issue some tough love to help me recognize I can’t let it cage me. I was meant to be free, not bound. I was allowed to move forward and there’s was no guilt in that.
The people may be gone, the thing that happened did, but what’s important is how they lived and the time spent with them. What important is to not to let the event change who you are, no matter how impossible it may seem. We will be different, but we have to be different in a way that strengthens us. The event, tragedy or loss is a tool we can use to hope others cope. To be a shoulder when they need it, a hug when they can’t bear it, or a pillar that supports them through the circumstances.
Cherish the memories you had. If possible, find a way to be grateful for the time you had. Let it be your anchor. Look back at where you were and remember, that pain is in the past. It doesn’t control you, the future still lies ahead.
You are incredible. You are strong. You are amazing. Most importantly, you are still loved. I say this with all reverence and respect. We all have hurts, but hope reading this has helped in some small way.