In May we are exploring loss and grief in a series of four journal articles and four follow-ups. This second piece refers back to 'Grief and Vulnerability'...that which we most want to see in others and least want to be seen in ourselves.
When deep wounding comes from our losses, the tendency is to build up barriers and secure what we still have. Metal detectors, armed guards, alarm systems, and iron bars greet our visitors where there was once an open door and warm hospitality. Our desire is to make ourselves invulnerable to further loss and pain. We don't ever want to go through this kind of grief again. But try as we may, modern technology makes it almost impossible to escape a daily barrage of tragedy. Everywhere you turn there seems to be another senseless act of brutality. Something screams out for us to be strong and brave. For God's sake...just restore me to wholeness.
"We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we cannot have both. Not at the same time. ~ Brene Brown
Here is the problem with strength and wholeness. We have a misconception of what they are and are not. Instead of coming from invulnerability, they are the underpinning of vulnerability.
Thing One: Strength is about facing a situation head on and dealing with it. This is the essence of courage and bravery. It is not about protecting yourself or walling yourself off. Though this may feel strong and tough at first, it is a strategy that only causes disconnection and isolation. The pain can only be masked and hidden in a self-constructed Fortress of Solitude. The ones who think they are invulnerable will always find a piece of green, red or gold kryptonite in unlikely places. The most extraordinary weakness comes from a sense of supposed invulnerability. Just ask Superman.
Thing Two: Wholeness is achieved by accepting the help and love of others which is done by embracing the reality of your brokenness. The New Normal which comes after loss is not about being made whole again. That just doesn't happen. We are restored to a different life over time. This rebirth of broken wholeness cannot happen in the short haul. Hope and comfort ease back in to replace the devastation as grief is integrated into our day-to-day existence. Dr. Sherry Cormier wrote a good book called "Sweet Sorrow; Finding Enduring Wholeness after Grief and Loss". It is an invaluable resource for starting over.
We hear quite a bit about The New Normal nowadays. There are always references to it after a horrific school shooting, a massive hurricane or wildfires, and other tragedies. But just what is this New Normal? Certainly, nothing will ever be "normal" again. That is for sure. My definition of it is the emergence of dawn as we become vulnerable. This vulnerability allows the light of New Normal to enter into the darkness of loss. With that light, there comes a transformation which exposes the inner self which is connected to something greater than our ego-driven desires. This paradigm shift brings a spiritual awakening to the truth of our oneness. There is a movement from the mind to the heart which is the foundation of vulnerability. This New Normal will shine as a beacon to others who have loss and are lost.
Welcome the New Normal, for this is the lesson of grief and loss. Life has meaning beyond our own well-being. And this is the gift. We have become wounded healers with a strength and wholeness never imagined before our deep sorrow.
Learn more about The Wounded Healer by reading Henri Nouwen's best selling book: The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society.