Motherhood is my life’s greatest joy. I can’t believe how much love I hold for my little girl, and how much it seems to expand each and every day. My heart gets all mushy and soft thinking about Marley. I’ve never spent much time thinking about Mary as a real-life mom. Have you? But she was human, experiencing everything we do. She had the pain of childbirth…with no epidural, birthing ball, or bath tub to ease the process. Instead, she had barn animals. I think of how much love and joy she experienced as a mother. She got to hold a little hand and delight in how perfect it is. I bet her heart continued to expand in love for Jesus, just like mine does for Marley. I bet she even struggled through wanting to protect him from pain, yet also know that mistakes and pain are part of the learning process.
So when I reflected on the part of her life when she actually lost Jesus, I almost couldn’t breathe. My heart goes out to parents who lose children. Even the thought seems quite unbearable. It brings tears to my eyes, thinking of losing Marley, and for the first time I'm actually attempting to understand what Mary went through. What did she go through when she experienced the loss of her son? Was she angry at God? Did she become bitter? What did her life look like afterwards? I mean, how do you move on from something like that?
As I continue to process these questions, I realize it’s something we all go through, in a way. How do we move on after tragedy? More specifically, how do we let go? How do we let go of what was, and step into the present situation? I don’t know about you, but for me, letting go can be hard. I can get so very stubborn. I’ve been stuck in my tracks before, refusing to let go. I decided to reflect on how we can let go after something horrible happens.
So, here are some steps to let go:
1) Give yourself space and time to be wherever it is you need to be.
Letting go can’t be rushed. No wise words can woo you into a new place. If you’re not ready, you’re not ready.
2) When ready, acknowledge the situation. Acknowledging the present reality can be hard, yet it's a necessary part to your forward movement.
3) Feel your feelings.
This is one of the biggest parts. When I've been stuck, it’s been because I was not ready to dive into the pain of what happened. Feeling the feelings…anger, sadness, loss…it might be a whirlwind, but they will hold you captive unless you feel them.
4) Know the part you played.
A lot of times, we over-assign blame on ourselves. That’s not helpful. In our example of Mary, I bet she had times she thought, “I should have done more to protect him. I’m his mother.” Yet this is over-assigning blame. You need to see yourself as you are in the situation. Accept any ownership of any role you played in things going south, like a fight between you and another person, but then in situations where there really is nothing you could have done, please don't beat yourself up over something you had no control over. Mary could have done nothing differently to avoid the outcome.
5) Get support. Support is needed when getting through loss, especially the loss that feels like you've lost a piece of your very own heart. If your loss is because of a broken relationship, support is still needed. One thing I've said in life is we are hurt by people, but we are also healed by people. Find trusted others, it will help.
6) Spend intentional time feeding your soul. What feeds your soul? For me, it's a morning coffee and some kind of reflection. Sometimes it's even writing these blog posts. It could be a hike, a casual walk, prayer, dancing. It's key to feed your soul in a manner that works for you when you feel kicked around in life. Be intentional and give yourself what you need.
Being human means we experience a wide array of experiences. Some, quite frankly, we'd never wish on our worst enemy. When we go through pain and loss, it's can feel debilitating. I hope these steps for walking through loss and letting go may help you in some fashion. Keep walking, everyone!