Healing happens when I change my perspective and wonder what it would be like seeing myself through someone else’s eyes.
“What if you could see you through someone else’s eyes?”
My eyes go a little bit squinty and I blink slowly with the blank stare of the obviously deflated. What if it happened to someone else? How would I see it then?
She’s right. The story, if told about anyone else, would well up in me waves of heartfelt compassion.
There once was a woman who began to experience deaths of those close to her en masse within a short period of time. Her mother, just shy of 80 years, succumbed suddenly and unexpectedly to a stroke. Her 31-year old sister in law lost a brave battle with breast cancer. Her 49 year old brother in law was lost to a variety of cancers. Her ex-boyfriend was killed in a head-on collision on his motorcycle. Her sister passed away at 58 with lung cancer. Several other relatives and friends passed away with an assortment of cancers, dementia, accidents and the likes. Her cousin was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. And all of these in the span of 2.5 years.
One month after the last death, and scoping out the local women’s shelter and other community resources, she fled from violence in her home with her young daughter.
Getting herself and her daughter into a new home in safety, the woman discovered not one month later that she had skin cancer herself, and endured two surgeries over the following few months.
As stories go, this one can’t help but tug at the heartstrings. So much grief, fear, loss in such a short time. This woman must be made of steel.
No, not steel. Wood.
Yes. Like a tree in the wind, if the wood is hard and solid, it will snap and break in the wind. But if it is soft and bends with the weight of the gale, it will survive to stand tall again when the wind stops blowing.
When I listen in the context of it possibly happening to someone else, I have every bit of sympathy and empathy for this woman. I would expect that her grieving and recovery would be an ongoing process that could conceivably dibilitate her for years. I would marvel at her strength and courage to simply keep the basics going on a daily basis.
That woman is me. It is my life that is replayed back to me in this unbelievable tale of grief and loss. And yet, not even a year and a half later, I sit here today and chide myself for not being over it yet. Every day I find myself in frustration that I cannot simply return to the life I had before as it was before. I cannot perform the same tasks with the same level of productivity. In fact, I cannot perform some of those tasks at all.
I debase and ridicule myself, secretly feeling stupid and unreliable as I’m not able to function at the same level that I used to be as an intelligent, strong, dynamic woman. I feel so broken. My spirit keeps me moving forward, but even that is dwindling as the months tick by with only slow progress.
I want healing from this grief and I want it now.
I know it doesn’t work that way, but I still have these hyper-overachieving expectations of myself and they won’t go away.
Through someone else’s eyes
So when I hear the story from someone else’s lips, I am stunned into silence and humility. I feel a loosening and softening from somewhere deep within me. The counseling and friendships that have supported me all this time have taken root, and I hear my own voice echoing the words reassured to me so often:
Darling, you are not flawed or broken. You are not stupid nor unreliable. You have withstood a huge amount of trauma in a very short time. You’ve done it with grace. You’ve done what needed to be done, making good decisions along the way. Many weren’t easy, but you did it. You are doing it. And you have remained mindful all the way through.
Again, I stare blankly, but this time blinking back tears from my eyes. It’s time to give myself a break. Let go of the unrealistic and unreasonable expectations of myself. Because there are no ‘shoulds’ in healing from grieving. Healing happens the way it happens.
A long, defeated sigh of relief. Yes, let them go and let myself continue healing. Mindfully.