December 17, 2015
“The more we try to keep our wounds concealed,
the more they will emerge into the areas of our life that do not pertain to our wound.”
Window of Wisdom 985*
That single sentence says in a few words what it takes most of us years of talk therapy, 12-step meetings and journaling to understand. Some of us just go about our business hoping no one guesses what we have endured or cope with in our daily lives. We think our bravado and competence erase all traces of pain, but we’re wrong. It slips out in little ways.
We may lose our tempers when a situation really doesn’t warrant that reaction. We may accuse a person of being an alcoholic, thief or slacker. We may demand punctuality without excuse, valid or not.
We may laugh too much at jokes or maintain a jolly demeanor. We may overly dramatize an unpleasant situation when relating the story to others. We might act like a hurtful event had no impact.
We’ve all experienced wounds and have learned to cope in various ways. The most effective way that I’ve found, and is recommended by most therapists, is to feel the pain in the moment, even if the hurt is just a rude word. Take whatever time necessary to feel the feelings, but not wallow in it. Continue going to work and follow your regular schedule as much as possible. Don’t use it as an excuse nor try to overcompensate.
Here is one example. My father who had lived the horrors of Alzheimer’s Disease for many years transitioned three days before his birthday in December 1993. I had watched him slide from a strong, humorous man to a frail body lying in a nursing home. I was so relieved that he was out of his misery that I had little reaction to his leaving Earth. When anyone asked I said, “He’s out of pain and confusion now. I’m glad he’s in a better place.”
In May 2010 my mother who had lived with the discomfort of colon cancer and chosen not to treat it, departed the Earthly plane. Again I was relieved that she was out of pain and her own personal sadness. After a few tears, I took affairs in hand and did what had to be done. Soon after returning home I called work and said I was ready to return. My supervisor questioned that decision, but I insisted all was well.
The next year my son passed of a heart attack on the anniversary of his grandfather’s funeral. I took the news fairly calmly to not upset his partner who was still grieving the loss of her son. After hanging up the phone I descended into hysterics. Fortunately, a friend came to my rescue. She told me to breathe, breathe again and yet again. When I was mostly coherent she told me how to notify his sisters and each thing I had to do to prepare for the three day drive to Minnesota to handle his affairs. As I began to pull myself together I put my pain in a safe place and soldiered on. Soon I was back at work and participating in all my normal activities.
The following December the grief of all three losses hit me like a brick. I was working at a place where Christmas is the busiest, happiest time of year. Fortunately, I’d learned a little about myself and how to deal with life. I told my supervisor what was happening and that I was going to allow myself to feel my feelings and at the same time try to be a pleasant helper to our guests. He, of course, kept a close eye on me.
After Christmas our business closed to prepare for the next season. That gave me time to allow the feelings about all three passings to flood over me. If I felt like crying, I cried. If I felt like swearing at them for abandoning me, I swore. If I felt like talking about them as if they were saints, I did that. By the time work resumed I was ready to be back to work. I had done what I needed to do to heal myself.
I realize not everyone has the gift of a three-month quiet time to heal their wounds. However, everyone has a few minutes each day to feel their feelings. They can honestly evaluate where they are in the process of healing pain, dealing with an angry situation or just slogging through daily events. Taking this time is the key to healing. It is a vital step. It sets the tone for the rest of their lives. We can say, “It’s all behind us,” but only this quiet time will tell us the truth.
Beyond healing our pain there is another upside to surviving personal devastation. It’s called Post-traumatic Growth (PTG).** “Growth results from an active, engaged process of dealing with a stressor – not the stressor itself.”***
This occurs when we have accepted and learned to live with our personal disasters. For example: from my dad I learned to be sad, angry and fearful when I’m with a safe friend. The rest of the time I can look at life’s foibles with a sense of humor. My mom taught me in a backwards way, that it’s okay to feel sad but not to let it dominate my days and years. I learned from my son to be more adventuresome and willing to try new experiences. What a gift they’ve given me.
Thank you for this opportunity to heal everything and anything that weighs us down. We know that releasing our pain is the only way to heal. We know that we will continue to have periods of sadness, but because we have done the healing work we need not worry that the pain tumor will burst at an inopportune time. Thank you, again.
And, so it is.
*”A Window of Wisdom,” December 14, 2015, https://awindowofwisdom.wordpress.com/2015/12/14/window-985-stop-suffering-and -release-the-pain
**”Is There and Upside to Tragedy?”, Ginny Graves, quoting Richard Tedeschi, PhD, University of North Carolina-Charlotte and Lawrence Calhoun, PhD., O the Oprah Magazine, July 2015
***Suzanne, Danhauser, PhD, Wake Forest School of Medicine, “Is There and Upside to Tragedy?”, O the Oprah Magazine, July 2015
© by Sharon D. Dillon, December 17, 2015
Chesapeake Bay Writers, Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop, Southern Humorists, National Society of Newspaper Columnists
Author of “Twins! Oh no!,” one of 14 stories in The Book of Mom: Reflections of Motherhood with Love, Hope and Faith, published by booksyoucantrust.com. Available in print and e-format at Amazon.com.