I know this sounds dramatic. But I’ve been thinking about this for the last sixteen months since my son, Jack, died tragically and suddenly at 8 1/2 years old. He was, and still is, the light of my life. Since then, I’ve been pondering how people “do it”. You know, get through their shit. How can you heal, transform, inspire, and grow from your tragedy?
I’ve realized that everyone’s got their “thing”, their one big life event, or series of events, that shape, define, confine, and mark them for life. Jack’s death is my “thing”. I had a pretty spectacular 44 years and now I’m on the other side. The growth side. I decided, fairly early on in my grief (and I fully acknowledge that I’m still pretty early on in my process), that I can either transform from this or be a victim and live a passively suicidal life. In that, I mean sit around and wait until I die. And with my genetics that could potentially be another 50 years. So, yea, transformation it has to be.
As a therapist, my head swam as I dove down into the depths of my grief ocean. My heart sank, my body and soul pummeled by the grief tsunamis. I still have the tsunamis but their fewer and farther between. I get hit with grief waves often and I ride them, but I’ll always be bobbing in this ocean.
I remember talking with my therapist about how multilayered grief is and then adding more layers when viewing it as a clinician. It was truly an out of body experience attempting to sort and classify every nuance of every emotion. When I eventually went back to work, which was slowly and selectively, I began to realize that my clients began to see me as an inspiration. They’d say “You know, when I’m in my shit, I think about you, how you’re getting out of bed, going to work, and helping others. It puts things in perspective.” In these moments, it levels the playing field. I am no longer an “omnipotent therapist” who seemingly has their life together, but a human being with real struggles, just like my clients. We’re all human going through this experience of life. We’re all struggling with “a thing”, we’re all in it together. I’m so grateful for my amazing, kick-ass clients, who, like me, continue to move through their experiences.
So, what’s your tragedy? Do you see life as happening to you or for you? Are you locked in the Victim Prison? Or are you, despite how painful it may be at the moment, growing and learning? This is your life. Remain stuck or grow, rise, and become the phoenix. You get to choose.