"I had always thought I would get to a point where I was "over" the trauma. Turns out, I was wrong. Cultivating resilience is unrelated to the clichéd notion of time healing all wounds; overcoming is not the end goal. Instead of moving on, it's about living with what has happened. A resilient person is emotionally and psychologically flexible enough to allow the effects of a traumatic episode into her life, to "receive the shattering,"... and use those effects for healing."
~from "How to Recover from Grief", Oprah magazine, May 2016
"Receive the shattering." I wasn't feeling particularly receptive on December 10, 2006, when my shattering arrived. I didn't so much receive it as get run over by it. And in the weeks that ensued, I fought like hell to give it back.
It was months, a year if not more before I was anywhere close to receiving the shattering.
But at some point – time feels fuzzy when I look back and I have a hard time remembering exactly how long I was suspended in that state of shock and denial and profound grief – I recognized that the only way I was going to get unstuck, out of this lethal plain of flatness where I'd set up camp, was to accept what had happened to me. To receive the shattering.
In fairness, I didn't so much recognize it as my therapist pointed that out to me and I, finally, decided to agree with her. What she told me was this: You are numb, she said, because you refuse to allow the pain in. But by denying negative feelings, you prevent positive feelings too. It's like putting a seal on a bottle. Sure you keep the poison bottled up but you keep the thirst-quenching water bottled up too.
She'd said similar things before. She's not a big fan of my approach to emotional pain, which basically amounts to numbing myself and carrying on, and then complaining about it.
Just barely concealing her exasperation, she told me that happiness would come only when I opened the door to pain. You can't have one without the other.
Which, frankly, is a glitch in the system, if you ask me. But which was the inconvenient truth for me.
And, judging from how many of you post here about being stuck, seems to be the truth for you too.
We imagine a day, don't we?, when the pain is over and everything goes back to "normal". When we're "over" this. God knows, our husbands want that. "Aren't you over this yet?" they ask us, making it incredibly difficult to not murder them with our bare hands.
Thing is, "over" isn't an option. We'll never be "over" this. My D-Day was almost twelve years ago and though I go days, sometimes weeks, without thinking about it (except for this site but, honestly, I think about what you guys are going through not so much what I did), I still wouldn't say I'm "over" it.
But I have learned to live with what happened. It has become a part of my history, something I went through. I have received the shattering and it has become a part of me.
And that, my fellow avoiders of pain, is how you get unstuck.
I wish I could give you a shortcut. I wish I could provide some sort of infidelity hack that allowed you to jump right over the pain and the suffering and return you to joy.
But my exasperated therapist is right. Honestly, I tried it the other way. I tried to just open my heart enough to let the good stuff in and then quickly shut it again to the pain.
Didn't work. I felt...flat. Numb.
No pain, no joy.
And so you must receive the shattering. Parcel it out, if necessary. Take a few minutes each day to journal the pain, or run the pain, or paint the pain, or share the pain here. And then, if necessary, put the barricades back up around your heart. But make sure that you're moving toward totally dismantling them. Make sure that you don't get so comfortable with numb that you forget to feel.
Receive the shattering, live with the truth of it and then use it to help you heal, to remind yourself that you are strong enough to withstand it.
Because you are.