“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.” – Emily Dickinson
Last week, I stepped on a rock at an angle that stretched my foot, ankle and knee in a direction that they are not meant to go. I could feel that it was different, not just a tweak, but a jolt, something that would linger.
In the past week, I stopped running, iced and elevated my ankle regularly, wore an ankle brace to steady it to allow for healing. My normal response would have been to tough it out and work through the pain. While a slow learner, I have learned that with an injury like this, resting now will allow for running later.
We try to rush through the healing process, to tough it out, to “be strong.” Healing has its own timeline which requires patience and pause. Patience develops with experience, practice and rigor. If we are patient and rest there for a bit, we come out stronger, allowing healing to do its work in due time.
This morning, I didn’t feel pain in my ankle for the first time. It has more flexibility and range of motion. While I feel better, I’m not going to run 5 miles today, but will add activity gradually to build back up to get into the groove again.
The past year has had a tremendous impact on our collective and individual psyche. It’s important to acknowledge the “injury,” to grieve and most importantly allow for healing. We are coming closer to the end of “pandemic living” and there’s a new fear of going back out there again. Fear and grieving can wear you down and burn you out. Healing and meaning pull us through to the other side of grief, to our near future self that will be stronger, changed and renewed.
In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote the classic book On Death and Dying describing the five stages of grief in loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows that the stages are cyclical rather than linear and they show up in various ways at different times.
David Kessler, co-author of two books with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, has written a new book Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief building on as well as adapting her well-respected stages of dying for those in grief.
He states, “The stages have evolved since their introduction and have been very misunderstood over the past four decades. They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss as there is no typical loss. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order. Our hope is that with these stages comes the knowledge of grief ‘s terrain, making us better equipped to cope with life and loss. At times, people in grief will often report more stages. Just remember your grief is as unique as you are.”
Allow your grief, but also allow healing and meaning to greet you with a warm embrace on the other side and in glimpses daily throughout. One day, you’ll wake up and the injury won’t hurt as much anymore. It will still be present but in a different form. Give yourself permission to find joy and light daily as you work your way through and we work our way through together.
“An exchange of empathy provides an entry point for a lot of people to see what healing feels like.” – Tarana Burke