Healing to Growth

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.

Spirit,

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

Sharon D. Dillon, energywriter@cox.net, http://energywriter.me “Laugh your way to peace, love and joy”

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.

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I am not alone

 Since my mother passed several people have asked if my siblings helped take care of her and make funeral arrangements. When they discovered I am an only child they look shocked and say, “You went through all that alone! I’m so sorry!”

While I know these comments are offered in love, I have no idea how to respond. I was not and am not alone. Although my parents were supportive, some things were mine to handle. I learned early how to entertain myself and handle difficult situations.

One advantage of being an only child was that I had no “discussions” with siblings about what Mom would want. She rejected delaying actions such as surgery and chemotherapy. She had a living will and a prepaid funeral and burial. Her wishes were clear.

Family and good friends called or texted me frequently during the two months I was many miles from home. They offered love as well as advice and care packages that brightened those weeks. A special Mother’s Day gift was a video my daughters made of mom’s great-great grandsons.

Other visiting friends provided laughs and comfort. My best friend from our school years still lived in the area. She listened to my woes and shared what she had learned when her dear ones passed.

During the last couple weeks at her apartment three cousins and a volunteer sat with Mom while I went shopping or did laundry. Her neighbors visited and did small favors to make Mom’s last days easier. This support gave me the opportunity to do what needed to be done. My home meditation group supported us through prayers and assurances that life on the other side will be wonderful. Two pastors answered questions about the afterlife. Mom listened while I humbly offered my beliefs about that subject. It seemed to comfort her.

I can never express enough gratitude for the fantastic Hospice staff both at Mom’s apartment and at Hospice House. They listened to my worries and offered comfort as they provided optimal care for Mom. When she breathed her last Earthly breath, they were there with hugs and kind words. They and the funeral directors took care of all the details. All I had to do was to notify family and sort Mom’s belongings, a daunting task.

My school friend went along to make final arrangements. On Memorial Day she made sure I was busy and entertained. Other friends and cousins provided their loving presence and delicious food. My children drove several hundred miles to attend the visitation and funeral. They helped sort Mom’s belongings and gave lots of hugs.

The morning following the funeral my daughters and son-in-law left with the mementos they had selected. The next morning my son left with his car full of chosen items.

Then I felt alone. I couldn’t wait to leave that tiny, empty apartment and be home. The apartment complex manager agreed to handle what was left.

The next morning I hopped into my overstuffed car and headed home. Once here I was able to relax and enjoy hugs from my family and friends. I feel sad that my mother is no longer with us, but I am too surrounded by love to ever feel alone.

 © by Sharon Dillon, August 1, 2010