If I were to break my leg - really bad, bone sticking out and everything - and just go on about my business, expecting time to heal it, I would probably die of gangrene (or pain!) pretty soon. No one would do that, no one would recommend it!
Instead, you have to tend to the wound. The immediate need is to stop the bleeding. If you loose too much blood, you will die. The next thing is to set the bone as right as you can, then stabilize it. Then you have to repair the broken skin, cleaning it thoroughly and stitching it back together. After this, you need to cover it to protect it - germs are the enemy, they cause infection and then the wound would have to be reopened. Now finally you have to brace the whole leg so the bone will heal, then stay off of it and give yourself plenty of time and rest for it to heal.
This is how it is when you are in deep grief. For me, it was the loss of my son, Ian, 4 and a half years ago. There was that instant reaction - stopping the bleeding. We made it through the funeral planning, shopping for an outfit to bury him in, the first night in our home without him, the burial, binding my breasts to stop the milk... The bleeding had stopped, but we were still broken.
Next we tried to find our "new normal" - setting the bone right. We painted the living room, closed the door to his bedroom, canceled the "how your baby's doing at ____ months" e-mails, coupons and catalogs, bowed out of many social and church obligations.
For me, information is my friend. I did tireless research on this new enemy SIDS. This cleaned my wound, but it was painful. I found out many things I did "right" and others I could have done better. I met many other grieving moms and dads, reading their stories made me angry, sad, helpless, lonely - I also felt united with them, a part of a club I wanted no membership in.
To close the wound and cover it to protect it, I joined several online forums and support groups. This was uncomfortable in so many ways! I was sharing my pain with people who understood and cared. That was great! The flip-side was that I was now participating in their story, loving and losing their children, feeling fresh grief and anger and new questions. That was hard. The best thing though was hearing the stories from parents further down the road in their grief journey. Seeing them LIVING, loving, laughing... I don't know if I truly believed one day I would reach that point, but the fact that they had gave me HOPE. These stitches of hope held my wounded heart together when all else threatened to tear it in two. Their love extended to me was the cover that protected me when I was afraid that I would die from heartbreak.
The last part is the hardest - stabilizing and resting. This is where the true healing takes place. The problem is it takes time. Lots and lots of time. I remember praying "HOW LONG? How long must I suffer? How long until you heal my wounded heart? You said you came to "bind the brokenhearted' - surely I qualify?!?!?!" Slowly I began to have better days. Days that I was able to get out of bed, able to go to lunch with friends.
One day I overdid it by attending a party where one family member had a child that was one day older than Ian. She was wearing tennis shoes, Ian never got to wear real shoes. It wasn't fair! I wanted tennis shoes on my boy, I wanted him back! I closed myself in the master bathroom and had a panic attack. Friends joined me to hug and listen and give me a cold cloth for my face. But I didn't give up on my healing. I took that time to rest, enjoy the stability of my friends as they propped me up and cared for me. After 15 minutes I rejoined the party, sitting elsewhere so I couldn't see the little girl.
Eventually I was aware that I had gone an entire day without crying. I still thought about him all the time, still wanted him back, still would have done almost anything to change those days... but I didn't cry. That's when I knew that I could try to do more. I started grocery shopping again. I volunteered for a small project. I reached out to another mom who had just lost a child. (I should mention that I NEVER planned to do this! People kept saying "just think about all the lives you'll be able to touch and people you'll be able to help because of this experience." I told my husband that I was going to break the arm of the next person who said that!)
So, time does not heal all wounds. It is what you do with your time that brings healing. If you are trying to heal, consider what you have been doing with your time. If you have spent too much time on what-ifs, blaming yourself, blaming someone else, wishing for something different - may I suggest you try something else? Trust. For me it was trust that God had a plan, and somehow this must be part of it. I didn't understand it, I didn't like it, I wouldn't recommend or endorse it, but I could try to trust it. I knew that "that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger" and though some days I wondered which direction it would go, I pressed on. I knew that I would be a stronger and better person. I owed that to Ian, I owed it to myself and my family.
Maybe you can't trust God (yet). Then trust that you WILL survive. You WILL be stronger. Here's a link to another article I wrote on overcoming the "What-ifs" that plague you. It's how I survived and grew stronger.
This contemplation was brought on by hearing of Maddie, a 4 month old little girl who went to Heaven via SIDS last week. Her momma writes at "It all started when two people fell in love".
Polka Dot Junkie is holding a benefit auction that starts tomorrow, February 28th.
I have donated the following items, please stop by and place a bid to help support the Staat family and their expenses incurred as a result of Maddie's death and funeral.
|Bumble Bees Microwave Cooking bags for Baked Potatoes|
|Fairy Dust in vintage bottle|
|"Under His Wings" Butterfly Coaster|