Humbling From My Grief
Humbling comes in various forms. Marriage did it. Parenting sure did it. They bring every weakness to the surface, making sure you know you’re not all that. But grief….. that SURE did it.
It’s easy to judge people when you haven’t experienced what they have.
It’s easy to criticize those fumbling around because the ground beneath them is shaking and crumbling while yours remains firm beneath you.
I was one of “those” people. I had a healthy growing up. I didn’t have any trauma, grief or major heartache that influenced my perception of the world, relationships, life, etc. I was a natural rules follower.
Because of that I would watch people and scoff. Maybe not outwardly, but inwardly. Why didn’t they just stop? Why did they keep creating chaos? Why couldn’t they just pull themselves up by the bootstraps and get over it?
Because I hadn’t experienced any trauma, I didn’t understand the dramatic influence it could have on your thinking and decisions. Reining in your emotions is fairly simple when there’s no tragedy that has you by the throat, choking your airway.
Then my husband died. Before my eyes. Suddenly. Tragically. On a day we were supposed to be headed on a 7-day getaway. Gone. My world crumbled around me.
And I was caught in a tornado of emotions and struggles I couldn’t free myself from.
I couldn’t choose to “be better” when the idea of living the life cast upon me seemed too much to bear.
I couldn’t “shake it off” when the black hole of grief sucked me in.
I couldn’t choose to not think the thoughts that seemed to molest me.
I couldn’t choose for memories, what-ifs, and a stolen future to stay on a tidy shelf in the back of my mind. They kept pouncing. Over. And over. And over.
My thoughts darkened. My emotional stability crumbled. Temptations lured me as ways to distract or ease the pain. Loneliness mocked me.
I realized that trauma plays tricks. It is the great influencer. More powerful than love and security. More powerful than practicality and good sense. It is restless. Impractical. Sporatic. It is the flood light that can drown all else out, leaving the healthy choices as a small flame begging to be seen.
I realized memories are like a constant drip. Sometimes able to be drowned out and ignored. Other times they are the very thing that drive you insane by their intense volume. And the faucet can never be turned off. Trauma and tragedy can never be undone. Memories can never be unremembered.
And suddenly the thought of criticizing others as they fought their own battles became a foul taste in my mouth as I began to understand the frailty. The vulnerability I saw in myself. I remember standing in a checkout line a few days after the accident happened and thinking, “These people in front of me or behind me…. the checker… don’t have a clue that my life just turned upside down.” As I stared blankly around me, struggling to even offer a polite smile after a courteous greeting, I was looked at as some random, rude stranger. But I wasn’t rude. Simply devastated.
Who else could be standing in a checkout line, silently bearing the weight of tragedy as we criticize the sloppy hair? Who else could be seen as rude, while their heartbreak makes it impossible to deal with slight inconveniences? Who else is seen as unmotivated, when in reality their trauma is simply a voice in their ear that says “Why? Why try?”?
Now, I am not so quick to scoff but to empathize with whatever emotional torment the person may be burdened with.
And I was humbled.