I have no desire to fix my mind so it will not feel saddened by loss. I want to feel deeply, and whenever I am brokenhearted I emerge more compassionate. I think I allow myself to be brokenhearted more easily, knowing I won’t be irrevocably shattered.
Describe a time of being brokenhearted. How has it made you more compassionate, more shatterproof? What do you want to convey to someone in the midst of loss?
My mother’s death tore at the vestiges of a very thick wall surrounding my heart. I was
a hard nut to crack and her death rocked me to the core. I was thirty-three and she was
sixty-five and dying of lung cancer. She started smoking at age twelve.
Her illness came five years after a climbing accident where I sustained long-term injuries.
I had learned to grieve my own losses. This was different. Her dying broke through my
compulsive habits and stripped me clean of an eating disorder. I was feeling life so fully
I couldn’t stuff down my feelings with food anymore.
She was a quirky, sad, funny and beautiful lady. She turned me on to bugs and Indian
Paintbrush and the smell of rain through a rusty screen door. If my brother and I would
plead long enough she would cross her eyes, make the “funny face” and we’d be rolling
on the floor with laughter.
A dark veil would overcome Mom at times followed by raging tears and slamming doors.
The rest of us would tiptoe around the house for a day or two. She seldom talked about
the tragedies in her life but we gathered stories about her father’s alcohol induced death,
her mother’s early death from overeating and the loss of her older brother in WWII.
The learned family pattern of walling off pain was a strength in hard times and an
obstacle to deepening relationships. We were lucky to have a bond of love but often
didn’t know how to express it. My father’s mantra was “don’t cry.” Compulsions and
addictions dot our family tree.
In my work as a psychotherapist I spend a lot of time helping people cry. It’s the best
revenge. I’m not telling my Dad but I plan on crying my eyes out when he passes. He’s
ninety-three and tells me not to waste my time grieving when he dies. I love him and I
know better now.