It's NOT going to be okay.
[Embroidery and photo by Sew-Charmed]
I remember one turning point in a single phrase uttered by a trusted friend. One statement that made a difference and cut through the fog of the period between when I realized my husband was dying and the time, after he died, when I really understood he wasn't coming back. It was not a comfort. (Warning: this is not advice. Do NOT try this at home.) She said:
Wait a minute. It's NOT going to be "okay." You won't come out of this experience just fine, and neither will your little girl. This will have a huge effect on your lives. It will change you both and you will never be entirely "better."
Hearing this, from someone who knows me well and who I trust as an authority, hurt my ears. How dare she tell me that the platitudes I'd been spouting a moment before, the hard work I was doing to keep myself afloat, was not valid? We won't be okay?
But she'd been there. I sat there, eyes smarting, shocked silent.
Yup, a smack in the face sure makes you listen.
What I mean is, this is a major loss. It's not simple and it's never going to go away. But you can affect how you'll come out of the experience. You can develop the tools to survive and even flourish, you're already far along in creating and using them. And at this point, you have to do it for yourself and for your child. But it's not going to happen on its own.
You'll have to do it, and from now on, you'll have to do it on your own.
But I'm sure we'll be okay, I mean... surely we'll heal...? Things have to get better.
They will get better. Your life will go on, and you will probably be happy again. You might even be stronger and better off. But nothing will be the same. An event like this will leave scars. It's been hurting you for years. You can't just undo it all. Don't you have some scars now -- don't you have a big one on your arm?
Can you remember how you got that one?
Does it still hurt? Does it hold you back now?
(I laugh). No.
This momentary exchange was a fulcrum, one of several tiny thought shifts that changed everything. My friend's first words shattered all my comforting rationalizations, forcing me to see that our future would be shaped by my choices and my actions. I became conscious, for the first time, that I deeply believed someone would stride up one morning (but after coffee) on a great white horse and save us.
I hear this from my bereaved and lost sisters and brothers all the time, too. I think it is connected to a great deal of the pain and helplessness we feel in the depths of our loss.
I really wanted everything to be easy, but I couldn't remember anyone ever saying recovery would come on its own. Didn't someone promise me a rose garden, sometime long ago? Perhaps I told myself as a child, when, like my own child, I had no other tools but hope. The idea took root. And it probably held me well for a long time.
Remembering what a scar means and how it lasts -- hearing that there was no way out without injury -- helped me drop my blind faith in the hero on the white horse. I started to imagine what I could do if I stopped waiting.
Sometimes, you do need to rest in order to heal. But that time was over for me. I could feel myself starting to climb the hill, neglected calf muscles again pumping good blood to my heart. I didn't know where I was going, but it hurt so much that I knew I was moving up.
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