It has always been a mystery to me that the expectations some people impose on those whom life has impacted by tragedy or trauma are more clinical than caring. There seems to be a timeline in their minds that if you are not on “their” schedule you are not handling the situation as you should. Some seem to imply a “just get over it and move on expectation” once you reach the starting line and others demand you “forgive and forget” after a reasonable amount of time. Learning to Dance with the Scars is no easy task and it is not a one size fits all kind of thing. Each person deals with grief or trauma differently even though many of the experiences are the same. I have seen a woman who was told by her husband that he had been unfaithful handle it with such grace and dignity it made me wonder if she was in shock and didn’t comprehend what was said. I have witnessed a man find out the same information who wound up with a restraining order against him because of his reaction. Same wound, different reactions. There is however one common feature that all who encounter life’s trials and traumas share and that will be our topic in this chapter.
My wound is severe, and my grief is great.
My sickness is incurable, but I must bear it.
Jeremiah, a man known as the weeping prophet, did not minimize his experience with spiritual platitudes. He identified his experience for what it was. It was severe, it caused him grief, it was incurable, but, he must bear it. Jeremiah was a good and godly man who was attacked for doing what God called him to do. He was wrongfully imprisoned at the hands of evil people, life had been unfair when he had been faithful to God. Life hurt, the pain was severe, the sickness incurable, yet he must go on, and so must you as we made the point in chapter 1. We picked up some tools that help mentally, emotionally and practically in helping us arrive at the place where we can even think about moving forward in life again and experiencing hope, joy and peace and even dance again, but the big question remains, when? How long does one mourn? How much time is enough time? Again, let’s take the big question off the table, there isn’t enough time and some things will be mourned for the rest of your life, some things will hurt for the rest of your life and that’s ok, some things are just that big. So, are you destined then to be hopeless and unhappy and without peace the rest of your life? Not at all, but there is a point we need to recognize in order to begin the painful Dance with the Scars.
One of the most important aspects of overcoming tragedy, trauma or personal betrayal is to understand the distinction between a wound and a scar. Wounds are created at the moment of impact, so to speak. When the event takes place a heart is wounded and broken into countless pieces. For the moment you may be incapacitated depending on the severity of the impact, everything stops and a personal triage takes place. The mind may begin to protect itself by putting the body into shock, emotions may try and take over the role of the prefrontal cortex in the brain where decisions are made and instead of rational thought feelings of denial, anger or outrage begin to dominate. In the early stages of a physical trauma “wound care” is the primary focus and expectations on the human body are limited to the visible and obvious results of the injury. This, however, seems to be abandoned when the injury is in the realm of the unseen, the emotions or mind, when a heart is broken but a person looks “normal” on the outside. This is where understanding our own healing and that of those we encounter in life could be handled better.
A wound of emotion or mind needs to receive the same understanding as that of the body in the early stages of grief and acceptance. To expect someone to function fully in a predetermined time of our own choosing is both insensitive and unfair. Grief and trauma recovery may share some like elements in all types of people, denial, anger, despair etc. but when the stages of grief occur and transition, how long they last cannot be determined by charts and graphs. People are different even though they experience the common features of trauma and tragedy recovery. It is equally important to recognize that progress is essential to Dancing with the Scars and if one stage of the grief process seems to have “taken over” ones mind or emotions then steps need to be taken to start to moving toward other phases of grief. (Again, there is no concrete timeline for this)
Understanding the physical difference in wounds and scars reminds us that as time passes a wound no longer demands the same level of attention it once required and a scar begins to form. The scar, in the initial stages of development, is going to be very tender and when bumped or touched is going to create pain. So too is it true of the mental and emotional scars we encounter in life, a scar may not require the treatment and attention of a wound in its initial stages but serves as a reminder of a past injury and may still remain sensitive when bumped or touched. Often times when we feel like we’re progressing someone or something bumps up against the newly formed scar and it hurts. Much like smashing a finger or hurting a toe, it seems as though everything you do bumps the hurting area no matter what you try to do to protect it. Sometimes this happens with words, someone innocently says something that bumps your tender scar, another person may tell a story that is so closely related to your own it brings up a flood of recent pains and emotions you were just gaining the upper hand on and feeling like you can move forward. If we examine the physical wound-scar relationship closely we can recognize how true it is for the unseen hurts and pains of life as well. Life’s wounds will eventually scar over. There will always be a reminder of the event, in the form of memories and heartache and like a scar on your body, it may fade over time but will never completely disappear.
Excerpt from “Dancing With the Scars” now available on Amazon.