Several years ago, I experienced profound loss. My parents both died of cancer, I had many miscarriages, my husband and I divorced and my dog of 16 years had to be put down.
It was intensely difficult and I fell apart. I hardly recognized myself.
At the same time, even in my darkest hour, I knew in my gut I would somehow get through it.
In the midst of my mid-life crises, wondering when and how I would get over the debilitating, soul-crushing loss, I trusted myself not completely, but enough.
During that time, I made a new friend who’s father had recently passed. I invited him over for a bowl of my famous Italian chicken sausage lentil soup.
He was angry and confused. He was in shock. I picked up my soup in the palms of my hands and said to him, Grief is a big bowl to hold.
At any given time—unbeknownst to why or how— grief can overcome us in a numberless aching expressions.
We get super pissed off. Or we want to hide. Or we push away those we love and wall off. We want to numb the pain. Or cover it up.
We get triggered by seemingly insignificant annoyances. Perhaps a token, memory, or random happenstance wells us up.
We all mourn in different ways, wanting more than anything for it all to end. And sometimes pretend that it’s over when it’s not.
I was told once that there was grief and frozen grief.
Frozen grief evidently was grief that got stuck like water passing from a liquid to a solid state—a cohesion of molecules holding together, resisting separation. Like a Coke in a freezer it can burst.
Warmth and equilibrium is what’s needed to nurture. But there’s not a single temperature that can be considered to be the melting point of water.
I read while getting my Counseling Psychology degree that after suffering a great loss, it takes two years to heal—or at least have a sense the trauma is now of the past, even if not “over.”
At two years, I was doing better but I still wasn’t great. I worried then I was frozen.
Cheryl Strayed has a great book of quotes called Brave Enough and she wrote this:
When you recognize that you will thrive not in spite of your losses and sorrows, but because of them, that you would not have chosen the things that happen in your life, but you are grateful for them, that you will hold the empty bowls eternally in your hands, but you also have the capacity to fill them? The word for that is healing.
Cheryl Strayed knew about the bowl too.
It took four years and then one day, I saw the clouds disperse and the sun rise. I was frustrated it wasn’t two. It was four. But that’s how long it took me.
In the grand scheme of things I can look back now and see all that I learned and grew. In my most broken hideous moments the most magical thing happened.
I came to love my big beautiful messy self. I came to accept her like nothing else.
As much as I missed my mother and father, the husband I loved, the babies I didn’t have and the dog that replaced them, I came to a place of loving myself like my own parent, my own spouse and my own child.
I was all that was left. And if that was it, then by God I was going to LOVE HER.
And what did loving myself really mean?
It meant accepting and allowing myself to be a fucked up mess.
To not apologize a hundred times for every single one of my mistakes or kill myself over them.
To humbly say to others and myself, this is it.
And then, somehow I started to accept others like myself. They got to be messes too. And my heart opened. And I could love again. And let love into my big beautiful bowl of lentil soup.
With all my compassion,