“When things break, it’s not the actual breaking that prevents them from getting back together again. It’s because a little piece gets lost – the two remaining ends couldn’t fit together even if they wanted to. The whole shape has changed.”
― John Green & David Leviathan, Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Life is a mess. It is filled to the brim with the beautiful, the boring, and the broken. The things that break us.
Our feet hit the floor one morning without a single clue that when our head returns to the pillow our hearts will be fragile once more. Things breaking, that’s normal. And it’s sad that that is our reality, but it is. It hurts.
Before quarantining, I remember going about my spring break with friends playing board games and eating good food, to hearing the news that led me on a bus back to New York City.
Sometimes things just go wrong.
Other times, people are at the heart of the breaking.
As humans we need food and water for our survival. We can go 3 days without water and we can go 3 weeks without food. But one thing that makes our lives meaningful as humans is connection with other humans.
Somehow, we end up with something broken. A harsh word, a wrong look, a lie, emotional and physical wounds, and we are left hurt.
Stage 1: Denial
Here is where the grief begins. Something in you hurts. And some of us can choose not to see that it hurts. We self-medicate, often with distractions, filling our lives with endless things that we don’t need and things that we don’t want. Online shopping, Netflix, and obsessing over a new hobby are various forms of self-medication.
In some way, the journey of grief begins in denial. You mask the pain you feel, so you don’t have to acknowledge it. You don’t acknowledge the loss. You don’t acknowledge the hurt.
This never works.
When you tell your brain not to think of a pink elephant, your brain thinks of a pink elephant. Likewise, you tell yourself not to dwell on the grief, to ignore its existence, it comes rushing back like a wave, powerful enough to take you under.
When it hurts too much to stay here, we will leave denial and head into anger.
Stage 2: Anger
Whatever the circumstances are, from a real bad day to a real crappy life story, as soon as you acknowledge it, your anger will tell you this is unfair that you are experiencing this. Yes, whatever it is you are experiencing is painful and it is not fair that this hurt has been placed on your heart.
Anger is a secondary emotion. Underneath your anger is always some form of hurt, whether due to circumstances or a person in particular. Feel the hurt. The urge to feel anger is always there. But press deeper. Why are you angry? What about this hurts so much?
Dig deeper and find the root of your anger.
Stage 3: Wrestle
When you have to come to see all the hurt buried beneath your anger, you begin to wrestle. You will have to come to terms with the situation. Despite how unfair it all is that life is crapping on you, you have to make a decision. Forgive and move forward. Deny and stay stuck.
The wrestling is a necessary part of growth. But it is a struggle. It is a struggle to adequately give your pain the recognition it deserves while growing because of it.
In the wrestling, you have to come to terms with the past. You have to come to terms with the pain that you’ve endured. You have to come to terms with the fact that you won’t be the same.
This is the heartbreaking part.
The person who walked into the pain won’t be the same as the one who walks out.
You are no longer the same. You must grieve for this. You must mourn the loss of what could have been, what you dreamed of that never shall be. You can never go back to the person you were before this. Even if you wanted to, the brokenness has left pieces in places you can never find.
You can spend the rest of your life trying to find the missing pieces that you lost and try to put them together again. Or you can take yourself as you are and accept it. Accept that circumstances have changed. That you have changed.
Maybe things aren’t what you thought they’d be. That doesn’t make them bad. It just makes them different.
You can be sad for the things that’ll never come to pass while accepting where you are right now. Grieving is acknowledging the sorrow in that things are different and accepting that you are on a new path.
You may not know where that path may lead. But you’re about to find out.
Friends, I hope you’re healing. I hope your sorrow turns to joy.