Heartbreak and loss come in many different forms: the death of a loved one, rejection by a lover or spouse, abandonment by a parent.
As a wounded woman, I know what it is to hurt.
I won’t bore you with tales of woe from my childhood, but all was not well at home.
By the time I was a young adult, I had been exposed to some pretty bad stuff, much of it a result of our male-dominated culture (exposure to pornography, sexual predators young and old, and male criticism of my female form and personality).
I was bullied by other girls, all older and bigger than me. I was also bullied by my family.
By the time I was 21 years old, I had what was termed”a serious chip” on my shoulder.
Believe it or not, I was judged harshly because I was not all smiles and compliance all the time. Because I tried to fight back. Girls shouldn’t do that, don’t you know.
I knew the world was screwed up even when I was young, but I never knew how to express my concern. It festered. It fermented. I didn’t understand my discontent.
By the time I was in my early 20s, I wore a pretty hard, protective shell designed to keep me from getting hurt.
And then I found a church that promised “inner healing.”
Was there a chance that I could be freed from the pain that I worked so hard to keep hidden away?
I found a husband who was supposed to be loving, caring and a positive expression of patriarchy.
I believed that in this relationship, those wounds would finally begin to heal. I was in a safe relationship, a safe place, finally.
I let my guard down and exposed many of my wounds to this man.
I trusted him.
He used his power to control instead of love.
This is not a cautionary tale. I am not advocating the growth of dragon scales as a way to protect oneself. We can never truly love others if we don’t allow them to love us. And no one can love us if we don’t let down our guard.
From a psychological point of view, I am most likely dealing with abandonment issues exacerbated by fear of rejection. In a nutshell, when my father left me and my family when I was 7 years old, it affected me profoundly.
Back in the late 60s, it was not common for parents to divorce. I grew up in what was called a “broken home.” I carried that shame with me everywhere.
Thinking back, when my father was home there was an awful lot of yelling and fighting. I’m pretty sure things got physical. I don’t remember much. I liked the quiet better.
I heard a lot of stories from both of my parents over the subsequent years well into my adolescence when I finally reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I eventually refused to see my father anymore. That estrangement lasted for about two years.
I got pregnant. I got married. I had a baby. I got divorced.
I needed the quiet.
When it wasn’t quiet, when there was conflict and discord, my wounds opened up and all the pain came flooding back.
Here’s the thing: we all have wounds. My wounds are probably nothing compared to someone else’s wounds. That doesn’t matter.
We are talking pain levels here and tolerance for pain.
In life, the good times are supposed to outweigh the bad times.
Everyone suffers. Everyone struggles. Everyone has pain.
The real issue is how much pain and how often. Does the pain ever stop? Are there respites from the pain?
For some people, the answer is “No.”
I didn’t understand the insidious nature of chronic pain until a few years ago after contracting Lyme disease from a tick bite. I ended up one of the small percentage of people who experience long-term symptoms. Mine include chronic fatigue and chronic pain. I know what it is like to live with pain all the time.
The physical bite site, the terrible wound that I had from that tick bite, did heal after three weeks of antibiotics. The cause of the initial wound (about the size of a softball) moved away from the bite site and penetrated deep into my body’s tissues and even my brain. There was no healing.
Too Much Pain
The other day, I woke up and realized that I didn’t have any noticeable pain in my body. I breathed deeply and smiled. What a happy day. I want more pain-free days. Who wouldn’t? I thoroughly enjoyed that day. But such days are rare.
There is more compassion for those who suffer from physical pain than emotional pain in our society. If someone has a back injury and must take opioids, no one holds it against that person.
For those who suffer loss and are wounded by it (and how can one not be wounded by loss???), healing is supposed to take place over time, but there is an expectation of some conclusion where the person affected finds relief and can move on with no more symptoms of grief.
For most people, grieving a loss takes time and the support of loved ones. In most cases, the pain of the loss lessens until it is merely a memory with occasional bouts of suffering that abate after a day or so.
What happens when grieving doesn’t end? Sometimes the wounds just don’t heal.
What happens to those who never stop feeling profound and unbearable pain?
There are many different endings to this kind of story.
Many can find relief through mental health services: therapy, medications and lifestyle changes. For some people this works.
Some end in the body giving up and the person fading away (yes, people can die from a broken heart). Some end in self-destructive behavior that results in death. Some end in suicide.
For some people the wounds just don’t heal. For some people the pain never stops. The thought of living a life of never ending pain is unbearable.
Even though many wounds don’t heal, there is hope.
And it starts with taking back one’s power…