Meeting with someone who is suffering deep grief is much like removing splinters from their heart.
I recall the feeling of immense fear the first time I got a splinter in my finger as a child. I was building a tree fort with some of my friends, and picked up a board to put it into place before nailing it down to the limb. It was old, and had splinters fraying out of it. As soon as I went to reach for the hammer, the board slipped. I reached out to grab it and barely caught the end of it. A huge piece of the wood slithered inside of my finger. I dropped the board, and looked down to see the dark, engrained piece of wood under my skin. It was tender and throbbing and I knew I needed to get it out, but each time I tried to remove it, the end broke off.
I ran home and told my mom what happened. She smiled and said, "Wait right here and I'll be right back. I think I can get that splinter out for you." She returned with a bottle of alcohol, a towel, a pair of tweezers and a needle. Once I saw that needle, I pulled my hand back and said, "No Way!" She assured me in her kind, gentle voice that she would not hurt me. I trusted her, and gave her my throbbing finger. She gently began cleaning the area around the splinter and then she explained what she was going to do with the needle. She said, "I'm going to use this needle to gently pull the skin away from the splinter so I can use these tweezers to lift it out. I want to make sure I get it all out so it doesn't get infected."
I took a long breath in and held it as I watched her gently use the needle to separate the skin back from the splinter. She said, "Hmmm ... This is in there deep. You may feel a pinch or a sting for a minute." I wanted to pull my finger back but feared that she would accidentally jab that needle into the area with the splinter. I feared we would have to get a bigger needle to get the needle she was using out along with the splinter. My mind was racing with all kinds of fearful images of what could possibly go wrong at this moment in time.
"THERE! I GOT IT!" To my relief, I looked down and the dark, jagged splinter that had been catapulted under my skin was gone indeed! I began to relax as she began to pour that alcohol over the open wound. It felt like fire ants were stinging me. I pulled my hand back and she gently took my hand and began to blow on the wound. It worked. The sting was begining to dessipate, and she place a band aid on my finger. I ran back to the edge of the woods where we were building our tree fort and resumed the nailing of the splintered board. I was much more careful in the way I held it.
I see and speak with grievers every day. They too share the pain, yet, their's is MUCH deeper than the splinter I had in my finger as a child. I like to write to the eyes of the reader so that you get a bit of a visual. Now that I've given you a visual, let's delve in a bit deeper, shall we?
When I witness grievers attending a group for the first time, I see that same splinter. This time, I see the splinters inside of their heart instead of their finger. The pain and fear they carry inside is devastating. Their loss comes in a variety pack but yet, the splinters of the heart have gone unattended for years. An unattended wound gets infected and we have to make certain we clean that infection out as well. So, with that said, I do my best to follow the role of my mom that day.
I have to earn their trust before I hand them the tools to heal. So, I share my stories of loss and allow them to see the same traps I fell in to, trying to heal that splintered heart. Traps don't work when trying to remove that kind of pain. Believe me when I tell you, I tried just about everything to avoid the pain of what I carried around inside my heart. Death wasn't the only loss splinter I carried. My splinters showed up in other types of losses.
I lost my ability to feel safe and protected. I lost my ability to trust. I lost my identity several times throughout life as well. I lost dreams, and a future. I lost friends and relationships that I never thought I'd lose. I lost homes that meant a lot to me. I lost finances, health, and direction in life. Each splinter lay dorment for years, festering and causing more infection inside of my own heart.
Something inside of me just clicked one day as I realized that everything that came out of my mouth was hurtful. The Bible says, "Out of the mouth, the heart speaks." I recall the day I read that verse. It's so true. I had to get some help as I was so overwhelmed as to where to even begin to pull such an array of heart splinters out. It felt a lot like open heart surgery to me. I saw all kinds of things in there and it made me sick. I saw bitterness, sadness, unforgiveness, guilt, shame, ridicule, and this huge wall that I had put into place. The wall represented my own determination to never get my heart broke again. We all know what walls do. They may make the appearance that we are safe inside, but yet, they also keep others out.
As my walls came down, I began to see that there are so many people that truly cared about me. Now that I could see them, I learned to trust again. One splinter out and on the mend. Now to the next one! I was determined to look deep within the kaleidoscope of pain that I was carrying. One by one, I got them all out. A heart no longer infected can freely love again, trust again, dream again and deeply feel life again.
I have witnessed hundreds of people who attempted to remove those splinters of the heart, be healed and go on to live a life of peace, freedom from the pain, free from regrets, and they learned the power of forgiveness. I have also witnessed others come and once they see it will require hard work, dedication, and the ability to reveal the pain inside, they leave. Still infected with deep hurt, loss and pain. They just aren't ready and that's okay. Not everyone is ready.
I have become a bit more selective with who I work with. Here's why ... Society has taught us all to simply suck it up, pull your boot straps up, isolate, eat, drink and be merry. Society has taught us to be strong for others, don't cry, pray more, and they tell us how sorry they are for the pain we are going through. Let me ask you how that's been working for you?
Many times, I speak to a group of grievers and I explain that the reason that brought you here, may not be the grief you end up working on by the time we are done. They are all amazed at how far back those splinters actually go. How deep and infected th