I have such a heart to help people move through their pain. It was just a few years ago that I was struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, insecurity and low self-worth. I honestly didn’t struggle with these things until I was an adult and thankfully, God brought a beautiful gift into my life (my counselor, Erin) and the thing that made her beautiful wasn’t that she stood on the sidelines and cheered me on. Yes, she did do that. But she also looked me square in the eyes and asked me to do hard things. And it was those hard things that pierced my heart which opened a floodgate of healing, restoration and a wholeness I had never known. I was able to share this process of healing with my mom as I traveled the road of emotional wholeness and she had so many lightbulb moments that really touched me because she and I struggled with some of the same stuff.
I somehow won the lottery when I was picked to be my mom’s daughter 50 years ago. Boy, have we had a fun life together. As I was cleaning up her closet, I found a notebook from an art class we had taken together one summer when I was a college student. I ran my fingers over her handwritten notes and read through the syllabus as the memories of driving to the campus with my mom every week flooded my memory.
I watched my mom do hard things, really hard things over the last couple weeks of her life. And I realized as we embarked on her short but very intense journey to the finish line, that I was in a different place than I expected to be at this juncture. Whenever I would picture one of my parents passing away, I would picture a girl left in tears and a broken heart for a really long time. And don’t get me wrong, I break down daily, sometimes hourly, as the reality that my mom is no longer with us hits me my heart like a bulldozer. But I have to tell you, my process of healing, forgiveness and restoration prepared me for this huge and traumatic loss. I was able to be strong for my mom when she needed that strength…when we would meet with doctors and surgeons and then ultimately the oncologist who gave us her honest and heartbreaking diagnosis. I got to hold her hand in the hardest meetings and on the worst days.
When we get thrown into a high stress situation (relational conflict, job loss or change, divorce, or ultimately the loss of someone close), our broken parts float to the surface much like a sea-wrecked ship. We react based on past experiences and if they were negative with no emotional growth in the process, that becomes our starting point. Test me on this theory…it seems to ring true for me time and time again. In fact, this week I was having a conversation with someone close to me and we disagreed on how things should play out with someone we both know. I realized as we were talking (and then in more depth when we hung up) that my response was based on a lack of empathy. I had actually walked the same road as the person who was the subject of our discussion and because I hadn’t been offered empathy, I didn’t find a need to extend it. I totally own this and acknowledge that it is NOT healthy and I need to take this to God and get HIS heart on the matter.
One of the best things we can do is weigh the “ugly factor” of our responses. If we can take a step back and analyze ourselves from a bit of a distance, we can objectively examine our intentions and take a look at the motivation of our heart. I spent today asking God to give me compassion for this person we were discussing and as I did, He began to show me the hurt this person had experienced in life and the walls they had put up in defense. The thing we can’t control is what a person decides to do with their hurt. Some get help but others carry it around and when they stop for an interaction with other humans, those hurts come straight out of the suitcase and they affect every conversation, interaction and response.
It is so interesting how our personal growth and healing have a direct correlation to the level in which we function on a regular basis. I always say that people would behave a certain way and treat others well if they didn’t have brokenness. I still have broken parts of me that become apparent when I notice I’m lacking sympathy in a certain area. That’s how I weigh the things that aren’t healthy about me…are they things that keep me from lending compassion, understanding and sensitivity. It’s a great way to measure emotional health.
As my family and I navigate through this very tender time together, I’ve definitely noticed insecurities and bruises that I carry from my past, but I have been so grateful to be surrounded by a group of people who genuinely love each other and want to honor my mom as we get ready for her service. And by the way, my former sister-in-law has been such a support the last few weeks, I thank God often for the restoration that has taken place in our relationship. I am so grateful to realize that God has done a work in me to prepare me for this time. The healthy balance is embracing that gift and also realizing that I still have work to do. This is progress and this is growth.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.