I had such high hopes and big dreams for 2020 - I got the job of my dreams as a Community Outreach Director and was also continuing with my Grief Recovery Groups, and I even got my Advanced Certification so I can help people from the comfort of their own home. I sit here and smile as I recall how I spent an entire day planning out my whole year.
My 2020 Vision came to a halt along with the rest of the world.
No, this is not a story about COVID-19 - I think we have all had quite enough of that. It will play itself out when the time comes. Yet, it is here and it is real. It showed up on our doorsteps along with the entire world. It has literally turned the world as we know it, upside down.
Now, with that said, I have seen the grief it has brought with it. I am certain you have as well. Maybe you are like so many who have had to cancel a wedding, birthday, graduation ceremony. Working in the death industry, my heart breaks each time I see a family who is wearing a mask, waiting outside the front of the funeral home to pay their respects and say, 'goodbye' to their loved one. I question what they may have went through during this pandemic as their loved one may have died alone.
So many unspoken words they must be carrying in their hurt pockets. Grief is a normal and natural reaction to loss. Sadly, grievers often feel lost and alone, as if no one cares or wants to listen to them. I have personally sat in front of many who have spent literally their entire lives walking through the waters of their heart, alone. Listening to their stories of how they hoped things could be different, better of more. Guilt, sadness, regret, and in some cases, shame have consumed their thoughts and kept them in shackles of sadness and remorse.
The look on their faces is astonishing when I place my hand on theirs and say, "Now, let's move things about 14 inches from your head to your heart."
Grievers always begin with their 'thoughts' when it comes to grief. They recall what they have been taught about loss. They believe they should be strong, suck it up, replace the loss, just get through it, stay busy, don't feel bad, time heals, and the list goes on and on ... Eventually, grievers will turn to short term relief such as eating, shopping, video games, alcohol, drugs, sleeping too much, excessive workouts, and work. They all agree they don't like to think about it and the pain associated with it.
Yet, as we reveal the myths and learn new ways to look at our grief, they all realize it's not their head that's broken - It's their hearts. Now we are ready to navigate through the grief as they realize they just didn't have the right tools to use to repair the hurts they've carried all their lives. None of us can change what happens, and recovery is not about not grieving or taking away someone's pain they are feeling as grief is a journey and it is personal to each person who finds themselves grieving. As you may have heard, grief is love with nowhere to go.
Now we add quarantine to the mix. It's a bit like a "silent retreat" without any social pressure. The real adventure is discussing who we truly are without all the clutter and hassles of traffic, dress your best for that important meeting, every hair in place, etc. We get so distracted from the root of our real problems. They are not going away no matter how hard we try to avoid the hurt, pain and regrets - I mean how many half gallons of ice cream is it going to take to show us that eating our way through the pain is simply adding more grief to what's been there all along?
Life is a series of losses. We lose more than the people we love and care about - and we also lose things like our safety, security and direction. We lose our self-esteem, our ability to be transparent with others, as we have put up thick walls that in our minds are there to protect us from having our hearts broken again and again. Walls keep us prisoners to our own fears. Period.
Recovery means that when you decide you are ready to take down the walls, unlearn some the myths about grief, and exchange them for real tools that can be used over and over as life will continue to hand us all loss as we move forward in life. Completing the grieving process, to heal our hearts, we need to go back and make peace with each one.
Your soul was created with a purpose - To light up the world!
Our souls can also be full of darkness due to unresolved grief. It's like when we plant a garden. We carefully begin by tilling up the soil of the earth. We disrupt the pathway where we want our garden to grow. We carefully build the mounds or rows in which we carefully place the seed that we will tend in order to reap the harvest.
As time goes by, we go out to check on our labors and witness the growth. Only to find that our carefully planned out garden is full of weeds. Insects are eating some of the fruits of our hard work. So we grab a hoe and begin the process of weeding ... and we weed again and again. Only to have the weeds return. Now take notice how it appears to be the same weeds popping up, time and time again. The only way to get rid of those weeds once and for all is to have someone who is experienced with that sort of weed and the knowledge of safely removing them - permanently.
Think of the grief you have been carrying much like those weeds - they are choking your heart and dimming your inner soul. One thing every garden needs in order to grow and produce good fruit is light. You can choose to walk away from your garden and soon realize that neglect leads to withered fruit. The weeds will continue to overgrow and eventually choke out and overrun everything within that was meant to produce good fruit. It will lay in rot and not serve any purpose at all.
You can attend a support group, which can have its benefits if you simply want to relive the stories of how defeated you feel due to the massive weeds. You can share your story over and over again along with others, who will share their garden stories. You can do this all over coffee and cookies. You will leave feeling a little relief because one thing is true, grievers need to tell their stories. You can attend the groups for weeks, months and years if you choose. I have known some who have attended these groups for more than twenty plus years - they drop in and out as they choose. Yet their heart garden remains dark, empty and full of hurts. There is no light left.
So allow me to come alongside of you and we will pull those weeds, remove the dead fruit and straighten those rows. Know that I will be here for you to you clean out your heart and hand you the tools so that as time goes on, you will know how to navigate through your garden like a pro.
Once the garden is clean, you'll stand back in awe - We all transform once the work is complete. There will be some thorns, but know that I will be here to clean the wounds the thorns have created.
It will heal, I promise.
The one thing that I discovered personally through my own recovery is that I am here to touch souls. What I offer is not therapy, but it is very therapeutic. I have seen the tears flow from women and men, as they reached the point where their chosen action to do the work broke through the walls they had build, and the masks they wore came down permanently.
It is in that very moment! That Very MOMENT the LIGHT broke through. THAT is what makes my work so beautiful. To witness the many that I have seen personally, walk in, slumped over, looking down at the ground, shoulders forward, head down, and feet dragging ... as they do the work each week, they begin the transformation process. They examine the gardens of their own lives and come to a place of vulnerability and brutal honesty. They learn it is not about placing blame ... It is about total surrender. They learn how to forgive and let go of the lifetime of pain they have been so unknowingly dragging around all their lives. It's incredible to witness how they leave with the gifts that real recovery hands them.
They leave with their heads held high, shoulders straight, standing tall and confident. Yes, they are exhausted, and yet they testify time and time again of how free they now feel. They report back at how many friends and family express, "You're different ... What did you do?" They smile back with confidence and state, "I was given a gift by a soul toucher."