Since 2013, October has been my least favorite month of the entire year. It was the month everything changed. Everything. That change was heart crushingly painful. I can tell you four years later, October and I are still working out our discord. That’s how healing works though, with time and effort. Maybe in a few more healing cycles we will be able to come to an agreement with things. I can already see the beginnings of that breakthrough.
Facebook has a wonderful way of reminding you of things with that “Memories” feature. Sometimes that feature invokes aww moments, sad tears, happy tears, and moments of wow.
These past few days I’ve been struck with many moments of wow. Those moments remind me of my progress in this healing journey. Living in the past is not a useful tool; however, revisiting it from time to time has become a tool of great encouragement. It has allowed me to give myself perspective on my interior self and all the ways I’ve changed inside and how those changes reflect on the outside.
What have I learned about healing and the healing process?
- The healing process doesn’t stop. This can be seen as encouraging as much as it is irritating. If you have the overachiever disease like me or if you tend to lean on the side of impatience, this can sometimes drive you batty! (Halloween pun totally intended.)
Confession: I’m very competitive and get incredibly irritated when I don’t feel like I’ve hit the level of supreme awesomeness. I’m always aiming for a few ticks above the bar.
This can be a good thing or this can be a really bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be the best version of yourself and to strive for growth and success BUT there is a problem when you set unrealistic expectations and then berate yourself for not hitting the mark. This overachiever disease as I call it, is how I’m wired internally. This “disease” has kept me moving forward when I wanted to quit and has also sent me back into the throes of darkness more times than I prefer to count. It pushes me forward, propels me backwards, and at times keeps me from moving at all. The whole fear of failure issue (which sometimes can be referred to the fear of doing the wrong thing) can have quite the crippling effect on your life.
But the good news is the healing process continues as long as we keep engaging in it, even if it’s not as quickly as we prefer or as easy as we’d wish for it to be.
- Sometimes you have to feel the pain. No one wants to be in pain let alone acknowledge the depth of his or her throbbing wound but it’s necessary. Think about it. If you fall and scrape your knees, do you walk around with blood running down your leg pretending like nothing ever happened? Maybe you do BUT if you don’t acknowledge the wound and clean it, infection sets in. Acknowledging your pain is one difficult task but then cleaning the wound, actually working through the hurt is a whole other level. BUT if you don’t do it, the infection sets in and the pain lingers showing up at unexpected moments. It can cripple you. Cause you to feel like you’re completely losing your mind. You start blaming other situations on your pain rather than the root of your “infection.”
I’ve come to learn my wounds are far more numerous than just the loss of my husband including but not limited to hurts from my childhood. Digging through the trail of bloodstains and scars has been tough but as each pain begins to heal it has grown me, released me, and allowed me to polish my shine. Seriously, if this keeps up one day you guys are going to need sunglasses to talk to me. Hahaha! 😉
- The right relationships can expedite the process. Most likely you’ve heard me repetitively say how grateful I am for the people in my life. I am blessed beyond measure in my acquaintances, my friends, my family, and in my secret circle of favorites. Collectively this group has prayed for me, cried with me, laughed with me, and pulled me up consistently. They’ve taught me how to have a better relationship with others, myself, and most importantly how to have a better relationship with the Man Upstairs.
I’ve learned how to surrender my vulnerabilities in a relationship and how to trust, forgive, and love to new heights because of this. The more I give of myself, the more I get in return. God continues to amaze me with the connections, healing, and growth that has come from the amazing people around me.
- Patience, compassion, and understanding are gifts you MUST give yourself. It is so much easier for me to give these gifts to others rather than to myself BUT healing moves faster if you learn how to exercise these virtues with your own heart as well. The worst thing we can do is to beat ourselves up over our mistakes. We must acknowledge the mistake, why we made it, and resolve that we were either making our best decision at the time with the given facts or that we flat out messed up. Then we have to move forward. We can’t walk around in circles fearing we will make those same mistakes again. We should be cautious and aware but not frightened and crippled by it.
And patience, well I can’t think of many people who enjoy that word. Patience implies waiting and as I’ve learned its root meaning is to suffer. No one wants to wait or suffer. I think part of this is that we have this negative connotation that patience always equals waiting for a LONG time. It’s true sometimes patience means waiting for significant periods of time BUT not always. Sometimes being patient is just waiting for a few moments, a few days, a few hours, or even a few minutes.
When we grant ourselves patience, compassion, and understanding it allows the healing process to flow more freely and quickly through our systems because we aren’t sitting there pulling at stitches or picking at scabs.
Case and point: Years after getting wrapped up with a guy who wasn’t right for me, I was still berating myself for it. Randomly, from time to time I would drown myself in guilt and anger. Making myself feel dirty, stupid, and disgusting. I knew God had forgiven my sins but I couldn’t forgive myself. I felt unclean and damaged and this time I’d been the one who willingly inflicted that on myself. It wasn’t until a couple months ago that I was finally able to forgive myself. I was able to have compassion and understanding for a vulnerable woman who was doing the best she could at the time. I didn’t realize how much that was weighing on me until the heaviness was released.
- Progress is measured in many ways but the changes within are the most compelling. I’m constantly surprised at myself. I don’t mean that to sound egotistical or self-centered. What I mean is I’m consistently surprised at how I handle new obstacles and how I find new methods to maneuver around them. My self-image constantly changes. Just when I start to believe that I can’t do something or I’ll always be carrying a certain cross, things shift. Old crosses are left behind and others are uncovered but that’s not a bad thing. Instead I see it as the constant process of losing the shackles life binds us in and putting on shining garments and sparkling gemstones instead. Or maybe that’s just my attraction to shiny, glittery things surfacing. 😉
I repeatedly say this because I truly mean it. I wish I could hand you my heart so you could feel the pain it’s endured and the joyful consolation that has taken its place. I want you to hold the evidence, feel it, and know it is true. Healing happens beyond belief.
This year I’ve been battling a dark empty feeling. It started this past winter and has consistently ebbed and flowed. Bringing me to my knees at times. I knew it wasn’t a feeling of grief over the loss of my husband but of something else. I thought it was from my empty house. I thought it was the missing family I so desire that seemed so far off in the distance and often an impossible dream. I was trying to find the culprit so I could deal with it. Last month while talking to one of my secret circle friends, the truth came out. It was me–not my missing family although that’s certainly something I desire for my life. Instead it was my own personal family wounds I hadn’t tended to.
Through the process of joining the Catholic Church (through my First Reconciliation and my Confirmation), my deeper development with my relationship with God, and the beautiful people in my life those wounds have been tended to and the emptiness has left me. Praise God for that! I feel lighter even with the heaviness surrounding me and the lives of those I love. The emptiness is gone. I can sit at home alone and be content and not in tears or gut wrenching pain. This astounds me. A prime example of how compelling the healing process continues to be.
Tomorrow will be four years since I lost my husband and my entire life was redirected. Tomorrow will also be a year since I published How I Learned to Shine Again and the ripple of healing from my life started to touch others. In everything, no matter how dark, there’s a blessing beneath the surface. Remember healing happens, you are never truly alone, and to never give up on your always and forever!
And so the healing journey continues…
Love, Hugs, & Sunshine