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The Hard Things

This past week has been a roller coaster of sadness, fear, contemplation, and soul-searching. I’ve had to step back and look at the last seven years of my life and reconnect with feelings that I thought were buried.

On August 29, 2016, I sat at my dining room table and wondered how I would get through life as a disabled person in a country where I didn’t have family or many friends. The fact is that I was traumatized, in shock, and trying to make sense of everything with no way to make sense of anything. And so, a journey began. 

I began to read and learn and discard the useless junk books. People spout Elizabeth Kübler Ross’s stages, workbooks on working through it. They said that if you do this, that, or the other thing, you’ll work through your grief, and all will be well.

I call BS. Grief can’t be fixed or cured. I stumbled on one book that I will recommend. The author went through traumatic loss and did what she needed to do to come through things. It’s OK That You’re Not OK by Megan Devine is an excellent book that portrays the awful, the trauma, and the struggle to stand up again when grief and loss enter our lives. Death, unlike other life events, presents unique challenges for each of us. Someone’s death by suicide adds to our saying goodbye in unique ways. 

Devine’s experience was different from mine, and yet she touched on similarities: the inability to feed myself, to sleep, to drag myself into a new day or to know what to do. I’d had to shut work off and allow for healing time. I was compromised. 

The only thing I fully understood on August 29, 2016, was that for the next year I would not be making any major life decisions that could be put off. My father had taught me this, and it served me well during a time of tears, fear, trauma, and uncertainty. 

I was able to visit the US in the summer of 2017. It felt like I was in a foreign country. It wasn’t home. Europe was home. Going to the States was a chance to explore and connect with family, and to realize that I needed to find my own path. It was time to begin to do the deeper work of change. 

I needed to let go, and to trust that the process of healing would occur as it needed to happen in my life. I let go and engaged in trusting the universe and myself. I had to trust that I would walk a path that needed to be walked. At the end of two years, the type of tears I was crying had begun to change. My life was changing, and I had begun to trust my process. I was headed into new territories. It was a velvet road that I walked. Yes, the road was bumpy, and there was much to learn. The transition was done on velvet and I only realized after the fact that I’d been moving to a new place.

Newbies to this process often ask when the tears will stop, when the pain will stop, when the missing will stop. Things change; things don’t stop. You don’t get over people you love; you work through it all. Learning to walk through things is the real work of grief, loss, and an acceptance of the life we move into. And so, I began my education in standing stronger and finding how to heal from the awful, and unthinkable, of surviving my husband’s suicide. 

This last spring, I completed continuing education units (CEU’s) for my license renewal. The presenter on surviving a death by suicide had me until he played a snippet of a video on forgiveness. I thought about it and I asked why you would need to forgive someone for doing what they felt they needed to do in life. I realized at the end of those hours with him that he didn’t get it in the same way I got it. My husband’s death has never required my forgiveness. It never will. I digress. 

In 2023 I’ve begun a new soul journey that calls me to an acceptance that my vision is changing. Once again, I must face the fact that it is harder to read, to see what I once saw, and to figure out what the new path forward will be. Once again, I’m grieving the loss of what was, and sitting with the fear of how bad it will get. Once again, I’m wondering if I can do this hard thing.

How does anyone get on doing the hard things? I got thinking about this yesterday when I realized that I had a friend who hasn’t quite walked the life path I’ve walked and doesn’t understand the messiness of facing the hard in the same way I do. I hold out space for this person because they’ve had different challenges. 

I think some of us who have faced a constant stream of hard things tend to shortchange those whom we view as not having hard and challenging lives. I’ve had to call myself out on this. What looks like an easy, privileged life is seen from the outside. One of the things the past seven years has pounded into my head is that judging this type of thing is a trap. It’s a trap because we might look at ourselves as knowing more when it comes to doing life. I don’t think we know any more than others. We only know a different thing. 

I get that my clients and directees come to me for various reasons. I expect them to need to deal with hard things. I’ve had to learn that I need to cut a great many people a great deal of slack. We each face our hard things differently. 

I tell you all of this because I’m learning to graciously accept others’ sincere comments about my doing hard things. While it’s second nature to me, it isn’t to them. I realize that I want to respect their desire to support me just as I would support them. My journey is calling me out on being a judgmental person. Oh, this is a hard thing! This is deep soul work.

I think back to when I was in my twenties and I wondered how people older than I was got to where they understood all of this. It’s about not being afraid to call the old self out to the new self. That is what grief and loss is all about. 

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