“The girl I used to be needed the sadness, because she didn’t know who she was without it. She needed to rip open old wounds to feel like she was saving herself, while she was really only making sure she would have new wounds to pick tomorrow. I’m not that girl anymore. I know who I am now without that sadness, but every once in a while, I run my fingers across those scars to remember who I used to be, and I smile. Breaking that cycle was me, saving myself.”Stephanie Bennett-Henry
I think that, as we get older, we grow quieter about our struggles. We hold space for the sadness within our hearts, but we don’t often share these feelings with the people around us. Perhaps for any number of reasons, but mostly because we don’t want to feed energy into the things that create great sadness within us. We don’t want these things to consume our days or the relationships we have with the people around us. We need the distractions – the things that help us get out of our own heads. We need the mental shift – of working, of playing, of laughing for no reason, or listening to others and helping them find their own way through, towards their own silver lining.
It’s been 5 years since I lost my parents. Perhaps I should be a little more sad today? Truth is, I simply don’t want to be. This past year has been monumental for me in regards to healing – processing through a plethora of emotions, unspoken words and unresolved issues. For the most part, I’m doing just fine. There are still days when things feel anything but “fine” – but they are growing fewer and farther in between.
There was a time when I was so sad, so angry, and so indifferent towards this world and the injustices that it holds, that even I would have admitted to maybe having had a death wish. But actually wanting to die is a very different thing than being compelled to simply take a look over that edge. Sometimes you need to take that look, to lean into and over the ledge, in order to realize that you do not, in fact, want to jump.
I recall a conversation I had with our attorney as my sister and I were attempting to seek justice on behalf of our parents lives. This man had suffered a similar loss just one year prior when his own son, heartbreakingly, staged himself in a scenario to commit suicide through the forced hands of a Police Officer. He told me, in brutal honesty and from his own personal experience, that “those who really want to heal and get better, do. They find a way – and you will too.”
Sometimes you have to make this decision for yourself, ready or not, because you begin to realize that time keeps moving on, no matter how stuck you stay in your own emotions. Life as you know it is collectively passing you by as you linger in this limbo, paralyzed by the thoughts holding you captive within your own mind.
Sometimes you have to simply stop thinking about it. Stop recreating it. You have to let go of the idea that things could have happened differently and accept them exactly as they are. Even if it hurts. Even if it’s hard. Even when it’s not fair.
And this is where the magic happens – in regaining control of a situation or scenario that once made you feel so powerless. It’s realizing that things are not completely out of your control, and you can, in fact, actually do something. You can take back your power by refusing to stay down, by choosing to be resilient and determined to heal.
For me, the biggest hindrance to my own healing was believing that I needed to hear an apology or actually see remorse on the part of the man responsible for taking my parents lives in order for me to forgive him, in order for me to have closure. My own misconceptions about forgiveness have stunted my progress for so long because, in my mind, how could I possibly forgive this man and begin to move on if he was not willing to step up and take responsibility for his actions? Herein lies the most difficult lesson that I have ever had to learn: Forgiveness is not actually for the offender. Forgiveness is a gift that you give to yourself, relieving yourself from the burden of holding the offender responsible for their actions – something which is not even your job in the first place. That burden belongs to God, or the Universe, or Karama – or whatever energetic force or divine being you so choose to believe in.
Forgiveness is also a gateway through which emotions are activated – and this has been the most transformative experience for me, because I have come to realize that forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. In fact, being able to forgive someone actually requires you to acknowledge that you have been wronged. It requires you to remember the wrong that was done to you, and it requires you to blame your offender for this injustice. In doing so, I have found myself face to face with my own anger about what has happened – and anger, as it turns out, is one of the most difficult emotions for me to process through. But I’m doing it. Not all at once. Not once and for all. But repeatedly, each and every time these feelings arise. And I think that’s an important point – that it’s not a “one and done” kind of deal. Healing is a process. Letting go is a process. Forgiveness is a process. Very much like the grief process itself. These feelings come and go – sometimes in ripples, sometimes in waves. You’ve just got to find a way to keep your head above these waters.
This is not to say that I’m no longer sad, or angry, or hurt – because I am. It’s that I am now able to hold space for the sadness. I honor it for what it is – the residual remnants of love left to give that now have nowhere to go. But I refuse to let that anger steal my joy or rob my life of the peace that I deserve.
It’s been 5 years since I lost my parents. Perhaps I should be a little more sad today? The truth is, I simply don’t want to be. I am determined to heal.