I recently read an article about the huge tole grief takes on your body. It caught my attention because it talked about the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire in KY. It was a disaster everyone in the fire service studies, and makes you become almost a vigilante on fire inspections... I had interviewed a survivor when I was pregnant with my first child.
The gist of the article was that Doctors wondered why serious burn victims had very different healing rates. Some victims lingered in hospitals for years after the disaster. The difference, among those who had lost loved ones, was how they grieved. If they dealt with the grief, talked about it, talked about their loved ones, they healed faster. Those that withdrew and refused to talk did not heal as quickly or perhaps died.
I have come to the conclusion that people who lose children are like burn victims. The healing can take years, and in the beginning, almost anything that touches you hurts. Even things that you would take joy in.
There are spots in your soul that feel dead, these are the worst damaged. Just as skin that is completely damaged won't hurt. The painful areas aren't always the most damaged, there is still feeling there. As you heal and the nerves come back, things may be more painful in the short term.
I had wondered, if I were to have another child, could I deal with the pain and the hurt that would be brought up? Would I lose the joy of that individual in the loss of his/her brother as I wondered what he would look like a similar stages or would I catch myself crying at the first scent of this new child when I so badly missed Perry's?
It has come to me that these areas hurt because they still work. I still have the capacity to love. It may not be with the naive ease of the masses, but with the strength of a Mother who takes no moment for granted. Who will see diaper changes and crying as blessings, and smiles/giggles as divine gifts.
This experience of being badly burned has taught me that there are three levels of concern for others that humans operate on.
Level 1) I am the most important, you feelings only matter in that you either uplift or pull me down. It is where the immature operate or those with large, immediate positive or negative events. This is common sometimes in the two extremes: those that are experiencing the happiest and the worst times in life. Ironic, but true. Did you ever notice someone suffering when you were delirously in love, perhaps on the eve of your wedding or when you held your firstborn child? Likewise pain can bring you to this spot. I try not to operate here, but sometimes I slip.
Level 2) I am going to care for you as I would like to be treated. Would what I say to you hurt you if you said it to me?
Level 3) I am going to care for you as you need it. Knowing what I do of your life and watching your body language, will this hurt you? Will it hurt you if I do not say this? If it wll be painful, but necessary, is what I am about to say in the right spirit, the right time, and am I really the right person to say it? Think long and hard if it is necessary or if there is some hidden urge in you to hurt this person. Be honest with yourself. Most people aren't.
What things do/ should we look for? 1)times when you can accept or reject someone (the engagement period, high school when kids are looking for acceptance), 2) loss of a close family member, 3)Infertility/miscarriage (there is a missing of someone you do not know), 4) Divorce, 5) job lay offs/firing, and 6) potential terminal illness of self or family. This is just a small smattering, but I have to say that most times we completely miss the ball. You need to learn to read body language. Sometimes stop talking and look at the person. They may be smiling, but are there tears? How are they standing? What do their eyes say?
Most people operate on level 2 at least some of the time. Unfortunately it is very rare for people to operate on level 3. It takes a large burn for many to realize that your actions need to be tailored for individuals. But how do we know what will hurt or not? Ask. Realize that sometimes things may sting, but that it is not alwas bad in itself. Once you know someone else is in it for long haul, you do not reject the person for a few stings, because you know there is caring underlying it. Operating on level 3 also teaches you to value and appreciate what you do have... grouching about children, spouses, or any number of things is not as appealing. I knew this instictively before Perry, but I breathe it now.
People make the mistake of thinking they operate independently. Very few things we do are neutral. Most are for good or bad if we evaluate our interactions. You can be used as the hand of God or the Devil. Take this literally if you believe, figuratively if you don't... but realize if you wanted to do the most damage and couldn't, you would settle for make good people neutral.
So these are some of the things I have learned. I pray you can learn them through me without bandaging your own wounds. These are the gifts I receive from Perry.