Working in hospice for many years formed my work as a hands-on caregiver, social worker, thanatologist and psychotherapist. It helped me understand that deep listening and focused attention were among the most important gifts to offer another human being. It took a long time to “get it” and notice what it all meant to listen and attend.
I needed to allow others to teach me what it meant to be heard and attended to before I could do it adequately for others. That required a level of vulnerability I had never known in my life. My family was not open in their communication style and if anything, lived in denial that there were ever difficulties that needed resolution. Plus, there was the understanding that we were to look good to the outside world no matter how much chaos and cruelty happened inside the four walls. We kept up the façade for a long time. It was when I left my home in Detroit and moved to Indiana that my walls broke down and I became able to listen to my own heart. As I did, I was led deeper into becoming vulnerable and open, no matter what it cost. It was as if every part of me was laid bare and my old self was slowly purged. It was a long process. Painful for me, and sometimes for those around me. And yes, even for my coworkers at hospice!
But as I was being purged of my old self, room was made for receiving those whom I would serve. I was able to attend to their hearts as mine was being freed and healed. It was amazing that the more I was emptying out, the more I was being filled up, the more I purged my broken story, the more I could listen to and attend to those who needed it the most: the dying, the soon to be bereaved or those broken into pieces by grief.
I had a very wise teacher and guide who led me through the most broken trauma-laced and grief stricken places in my life, who taught me how to work through the darkness, the anger, the regret, and pain. She was an example of how life works when one can let go and trust the process. It meant having a regular practice of meditation, prayer, journaling, and movement of some kind. All those things brought about my healing, slowly, over time, with work. I would get stuck, frustrated, back away due to fear, and then plunge deeper in to trust.
Oscar Wilde said “Hearts are made to be broken” and while I believe that, I also believe they are made to be healed. We all heal differently because we have different experiences or traumas from which to recover. It can be a life of abuse and cruelty, multiple losses, incredulous racism, societal homophobia, genocide, spiritual abuse, patriarchal domination, living through natural catastrophes or the trauma of war. But somehow, I think many of us, if given the safety, the time and tools, would try to move towards healing.
Interestingly, I am in a place in my life where I would not trade a minute of what my past brokenness has been or what it took to help me heal. Had I not been where I was, painful as some of it had been, I would not be where I am right now. And I am grateful for this moment now. Yes, I am always moving toward greater healing and self-compassion, however, I would not have learned any of my lessons otherwise. I could not have learned to listen or attend if my heart had not been broken open. I would not have been able to receive love or kindness, and I would never have known a deep, relaxed joy.
So, may we all experience the healing of our hearts…a little at a time, however it is. supposed to happen in our own journey. May each step be honored and graced!
All Peace and good,