The Beauty in Grief

I’m passionate about being compassionate. It takes a lot to give of yourself, and that’s why it’s such a gift—for both the recipient and the giver.
— Jarod Kintz
Becca Lea Photography

Becca Lea Photography

I've been thinking a lot about compassion lately. In part, I've been thinking about it because I have been the recipient of so much compassion. I've also been thinking about compassion because it is vital to my work as a therapist. I was talking with a friend on the phone and she commented that she thought it was amazing that I could work with all the different actors involved in an affair: the victim, the cheater, and the lover. I thought more on how that is possible. One of the most amazing things about my job is that I get to see who people really are. Because they know that our conversations are confidential and that I'm not emotionally involved they are able to be vulnerable and show me all the parts of them that they filter out for others. One of my wise professors told me, "Everything makes sense in context." And, he was right. It doesn't mean that I always agree with how people act, but I can feel compassion for them and understand why they made those decisions. Since their actions don't hurt me directly, I am able to show clients how their own actions might be hurting them and preventing them from achieving their longterm goals. As I was thinking about this process that I experience as a therapist, I realized that compassion is one of the best feelings. I guess that is why being a therapist fits me. It is a very powerful feeling to feel compassion for another human being. It always feels better to feel love than to feel hurt, blame, or judgement. 

Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.
— Henri J.M. Nouwen

After pondering all this, I thought about how grateful I am for the compassion that has been shown to me. I know that I wouldn't have the emotional capacity to show compassion to others if I had not been the recipient of so much compassion. This is humbling to me because I feel like a lot of people depend on me emotionally. I'm grateful that so many people have helped me and strengthened me so that I can continue to help my clients. 

I want to share with you how others have blessed me because I think that often we see the world as an unsafe and harsh place. I can tell you that people are really good and there are a lot of beautiful things happening that you might not see. Many people have gifted money to me and the children. Sometimes it has been amounts that I could never have imagined. Sometimes it has been amounts that I know were a big sacrifice. Sometimes they were small amounts. But even when the amount was small, it was so moving to me that when people didn't have much to give, they still gave. They didn't hold back their compassion because it might not make that big of a difference. It means so much to me that regardless of what people have been able to give, it was important to them that I know that they are mourning with me. It is a powerful thing to know that people are carrying this with me. 

Similarly, I get anonymous cards and gift cards in the mail and it surprises me each time that people are thinking of me. I have amazing friends who help watch my kids and stop by at night just to catch up. Having friends that I consistently see has been so important for me. During Christmas some friends sent some presents for my children. It was so unexpected and thoughtful for them to do that. My chocolate stash has magically managed to always stay stocked. Ha! Okay, maybe I contribute to that too. Guilty.

When I was applying to school, I had professors and other professional colleagues that were so willing to help. I have a dear friend who was very influential and helped me to stay motivated as I applied for school and scholarships. And I'm so grateful because now I will be returning to school in the fall to get my doctorate. I know that having the support of these people has helped me to have the grit and courage to do this at this time in my life. 

Recently, I went on a trip to see my family in Idaho. I decided to fly and flying out of Lubbock is not pretty with two toddlers. I looked like a hot mess! Having a layover and traveling to a colder place really took things to a new level, but apparently, I love a challenge! As I hung my ginormous diaper bag on the stroller and placed the car seat and coats on top of the stroller with Rose in my arms, I pushed Wyatt around the airport. I was quite the sight to see! I felt like a homeless person pushing around an overstuffed grocery cart. I also wondered if anyone might be taking pictures of me and posting it to social media with the hashtag, "People of the Las Vegas Airport." But, there were always people who saw me and asked to help me with my bags or with the children. One man helped me through security on the way home, and I felt so bad because he actually missed his flight! The good news is that he was then able to get on my flight and get back earlier than he would have on the other route. Just know that chivalry isn't dead and that in almost every instance that I received help, it was a man who took compassion on me. 

Since I've been back in town, I've continued to feel the compassion others. When I went to interview for my doctoral program I met another student. It took a while but after talking we realized that I played soccer with his wife. He then told me that she cried for a week after she heard the news about my husband. It was so moving to discover that another person was mourning with me. At some point he asked if he could give me a hug. That meant so much to me, that people want to show me that they care. Likewise, I went to the dentist the other day and had something similar happen. My dentist is a woman about my age with two kids. She remembered me and asked me about my family. She asked, "Do ya'll want to have more kids?" I wasn't expecting that question and it triggered a part of my grief that I haven't fully explored. When she took her hands out of my mouth I told her that my husband had passed away. I guess I could have said that we weren't planning to have more and left it at that but that isn't true. She asked if we "wanted" more kids. We did. The shock and sadness in her eyes triggered my grief, and there I was laying in the chair with her hands in my mouth and I just couldn't stop the tears. I felt bad because I didn't want her to feel bad or accountable for the pain that I feel. At that point it was hard for her to concentrate but she finished the exam and then asked to hug me after I got up out of the chair. I could tell that she really cared and felt like her condolences were inadequate. And even though I wasn't hoping to grieve in the dentist's office, it felt good to know that even my dentist mourns with me.

I also want to take a moment to talk about how God has shown compassion on me. He has blessed me with His spirit and He continues to guide me in my decisions. He answers my prayers and has helped put me in places so that I hear the words I need to hear. He has put many people in my life who have been the support that I needed. He continues to place people in my life who help me through this time. I'm so grateful to know that God is mindful of me because it makes it possible for me to accept Isaac's death and have hope for my future.

People often comment about me being a single parent and how difficult it must be for me to do this alone, but I don't do this alone. It is difficult to not have a partner who is committed to doing this with me. I don't have the security of knowing that someone is in this with me, but people step up everyday to help me. I'm not a supermom and I don't want to be. I have a lot of people helping me to do this and I'm so grateful because I couldn't do this on my own.