Holy Hearts

The power vested in a wounded healer comes directly from the holes in our heart created by our experience of loss.

In this culture, we don’t talk much about loss.   When one commenter saw the BBC documentary “Age Of Loneliness,” they complained that the ending was a real downer.

We are told that a 95 year old woman who showed a photograph of her wedding and noted that of the 12 people in it she was the only one alive had died five weeks after filming.

I found it hard to see why that was a downer.   She was ready to go, which is a concept that many people find hard to understand as they want to run from any notion that loss is inevitable and needs to be respected.

At a support group for caretakers of aging parents, I was asked not to return.  Other groups all expected things to get better, the new facilitator said, but in our group, we looked towards things getting worse.  She was sure that I was responsible for that.

I gave my parents one more good day for almost a decade, but at the end, they both told me they were ready to go.  It wasn’t something that was surprising or awful, just part of the cycle of life.

The problem didn’t come with my losing them, though if I could have keep giving them one more good day, I would have done so, with all of my might.

The problem came when I wanted to talk about the experience of loss, of fighting hard at a fight I knew I would inevitably have to lose.  There was no other possible outcome.

I went to a group on living with loss and was astounded that only one woman, who had lost a 13 year old son, really was able to engage the loss.  Others said things like “People tell me that I am on a journey, but that’s not true; journeys are supposed to be fun!”

The stories of my struggle with loss are just not something anyone is ready to hear and engage.  Instead people want to help me though, want to cheer me up, want to help me get over it.

I have always been sensitive.  When I was 9 and we got rid of the old two-tone green Chevy, I was upset as hell.  I remember how my emotions overwhelmed me to face what most would find a trivial change, a small loss.

That visceral response, though, well it was what opened my heart and my mind to how others need care and help processing loss.   I had to do the work, to go through hell and come out the other side, or be crushed.

Most people, though, resist engaging the ramifications of loss as much as they can.  For transpeople, this can be very hard as we lose friends who don’t want to have to do the work of understanding what they had in a new way, accepting the loss of the assumption of normativity to embrace the reality that was always there, but hidden.

When those people do hit a moment where they cannot escape facing loss, from the loss of their youth, the loss of loved ones, or the loss of their ability for denial, they look for help.

The people who are there to help are the wounded healers, the people who have been through this kind of loss before and are still standing.   We offer empathy, we offer mirroring, we offer the assurance that you are not alone, we offer strategies to keep going after loss, we offer hope that there are new possibilities.

As much as we feel shouted down and silenced by those who want to pretend that loss will never happen to them, we know that loss will hit, that change is inevitable, and when it comes, compassion and help will be required.

Even doctors can’t actually heal other people, instead only offering therapies to help the body heal itself.  Wounded healers don’t actually heal, rather we help provide the conditions for healing that can assist those who need healing, those who are ready for healing, those who are asking for healing.

The old saw “when the student is ready, a teacher will appear” doesn’t mean the teacher wasn’t there all the time, only that we have to open our eyes to see them.   People heal in their own way and in their own time, including us, but having support for healing, for seeing the world in a new way, can make all the difference.

Maturity brings gifts, the gift of wisdom and practice.  Those gifts, though, are hard won, coming from the moments when we didn’t get what we wanted but instead got a lesson, learning one more way that we can grow from loss, disappointment and revelation.

This is the divine surprise, the miracle that ACIM talks about where our perception shifts and we see how we can align our understanding with the lessons the universe offers us.

The more we walk in harmony, in grace and righteousness, moving beyond fear & desire to embrace love, the more we can be really present for those we care deeply about.

A holed heart is a holy heart, the defenses of projection, assumption, fear and denial torn away to get closer to the essence of human compassion.

When our beauty, though, is no longer in our dewy freshness and is instead in the way life has weathered and scarred us, revealing our power and wisdom, we know that illusions are also gone, that the only connections we can make have to be deep and heartfelt, not just shallow and sizzling.

The whisky always gets better as it ages, more mellow and nuanced, but always at the price of “the angel’s share,” that part lost to the world as the cost of maturity.

The power vested in a wounded healer comes directly from the holes in our heart created by our experience of loss.

Living in a society which runs from maturity, though, instead focusing on the surface, means we the power we find will always be embraced only with deep ambivalence.

Learning to live with loss means learning to live a full, open-hearted life.  The reward of a lifetime is becoming who you are, stripping away the chaff and learning what is vital.   Loss helps us do that, even at a price.

And that’s why loss empower us to help foster healing, in the people around us, in the people we love and in the world at large.

Loss has value, because it concentrates the real and important. There is the lesson, the painful lesson, right there.