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Forgiveness ~ Step 4: Marking and Mourning Your Loss

This is the fourth of twelve steps in Monbourquette’s forgiveness. How do you keep relationships open in your family?

We are stuck

Marc ( ° ) shrugs.
‘It’s all done. Over and out.’
The other participants in the growth group nod. They recognize this feeling.
‘What do you mean, ‘It’s done’? What has been done?’ asks the attendant kindly.
Marc rolls his eyes as if that’s a really stupid question.
‘Everything! The woman of my life is gone, GONE! And my children have sided with her. Then everything is done!’
The attendant realizes that he cannot go on now. He nods understandingly, says something like ‘You’ve been through something terrible, Marc. Something like that hurts a lot. I’m glad you’re still here despite the pain,” continues. Marc barely hears what is being said. Everything is done, even listening is no longer possible…

Those who are hurt sometimes have the feeling that this inner wound has destroyed everything. 

One feels completely touched, completely damaged, completely failed. This can happen after deep suffering, as in the story above, but also minor injuries that recur can give one this feeling of general failure.

“I can never do good for him (or her).”
“My sister will never give me anything.”
‘Grandpa doesn’t seem to find me interesting, to him I’m a good-for-nothing.’

They are recognizable phrases. Whoever thinks like this isolates himself. Deep down, the conviction grows that no one else was hurt so deeply and so completely. That makes it very difficult to be comforted and set on the path to something new.

However, the truth is that a human being is never completely and forever hurt. As long as there’s life, there’s hope.

Just as doctors, after a serious accident, have to determine exactly what has been hit and what has not, injured people must dare to look at their wound and determine what is damaged and what is not.

Only when we can name the loss, the mourning can begin. But how do we handle that?

Naming the injury

Getting hurt is part of life. 

Everyone gets hurt and there are also similarities between the ways we get hurt.

There are the small losses and daily worries :

a resentful comment from your partner just before going to sleep, your teenager’s morning mood, your favorite vase being broken, a bad report from your child or grandchild, your partner on a business trip for a week, a conflict with a colleague, a health problem …

In addition, you have loss experiences that go deeper.

Sometimes the pain is so deep because of the close bond you had with someone: the death of a loved one, the end of an intimate relationship, a friendship that lasts for years, … Sporadically, the pain is caused or intensified because these experiences unexpectedly arise and a brutal way to change your life: a burglary, a sudden dismissal after years of loyal service, losing your good reputation through injustice, …

There are loss experiences that come with aging :

the loss of the dreams of your youth, of your beauty and strength, of the passion of a fledgling love affair, of your natural mobility and autonomy, …

You could have foreseen some losses, such as the children who become independent and leave the house. You did not see other losses coming: a sudden illness or death, a natural disaster, a traffic accident, …

By defining the nature of your loss, you discover that you are not completely alone in the world with your pain.

You are one of many people who are getting older and less powerful. You are one of many who are losing their health. You are one of many who are heartbroken. That means that many people can understand you.
Of course, every person and every injury is different, but you don’t have to carry the pain of total loneliness and isolation on top of the pain of your injury.

It is equally important to define exactly what was damaged in you. 

Is it your sense of self? The confidence in yourself? Your good name? Was your good night’s sleep damaged? Your psychological well-being? Your health? And if so, what part of your health? Has your dream of the ideal family been damaged? Your ability to trust people? To trust all people or just certain people?

Try to be as specific as possible.

Compare the two following descriptions of the same situation.

‘My whole life has failed because of my divorce, everything is broken.’
Or ‘My divorce has damaged my faith in marriage for six months now, I have stomach problems and insomnia, and I was unable to function at work for a while’.
The second description sounds and feels very different from the first.
It can mean that you still have faith in friendship, that you still run smoothly 10 km, that you will grab new job opportunities in the future. The second description means that your whole life has not failed. You marked the wound.

Thinking and talking about your hurt in a good way

When you have discovered and defined exactly what was hurt, you can start to think differently and talk about what happened.

Her marriage to Paul ( ° ) had not gone as Carine had dreamed. It soon became apparent that for Paul his career came first. Although he regularly made heartfelt promises to Carine and the children, he could not keep them. Again and again she found herself alone at parents’ evenings or heavy conversations in doctors’ rooms, dealing with things that went wrong at work, during difficult conversations with the growing children or at family gatherings. He came home to refuel, not to give.
For a long time, Carine felt that her marriage had failed, that she herself had failed, yes, perhaps her whole life had failed.
But over the years she learned to see what was good in her life: a trusting relationship with the children, growing emotional independence and strength, contact with a few loyal friends, no financial worries thanks to her salary. husband, … As the children needed less care, she also had time to start a new study and her self-confidence grew.
When Paul retired, something Carine hadn’t expected happened. Suddenly he made time for her and wanted to rekindle their relationship. She could be open to this because she no longer resented the past.
“I’m not going to deny that I’ve been hurt,” she said, “but I’ve found that I’m much more than that pain.”

The tendency to fully identify with the injury increases the deeper the injury. ‘I am my injury’, people seem to think consciously or unconsciously. The age at which someone is hurt also plays a role here. Anyone who is still developing his or her personality will automatically include the injury in this process. The injury then seems to form an even greater part of the identity.

A more hopeful and correct thought is:

“I  have  an injury.”
Then the wound can begin to heal. Just as a doctor can’t do much with the phrase “I’m sick,” we can’t do much with “I am my injury.” Only when the diagnosis ‘You have a flu virus’ is made, steps can be taken towards the right treatment and cure.

It pays to examine those self-degrading, generalized “I am” statements in your everyday thoughts and conversations. Usually, we are not even aware of how often we think things like ‘I’m a terrible klutz’, ‘I am someone who will never achieve anything’, ‘I am less talented than my sibling’. What if we replaced these “prophecies of doom” about ourselves with mild and hopeful thoughts? “I’ve done something clumsy, but I’ll make it right.” ‘I have not been able to achieve this and choose a new goal’. ‘I don’t have the same talents as my brother or sister, I have different talents.’

Just replacing the negative “I am” statements with the “I have” statements creates a new, more hopeful outlook.

From every wound there is a path to healing, and you have everything you need to walk that path. You are all it takes to go down that road.

I am more than my hurt

The psychologist Carl Gustav Jung saw the inner man as composed of several layers. On the outside lies the ‘persona’: the personality with which we come out, adapted to our social and cultural context. More inwardly, in the unconscious, lies our ‘shadow’: what we have repressed because it is too painful or because we wanted to meet the demands of our educators.
Our ‘ego’ is determined by the persona on the one hand and the shadow on the other. In this ego lie our ambitions, dreams, needs and desires, values, ideals, … The development of a healthy ego is of great importance for every individual.
When we are hurt, we are hurt at the level of our ego. Our view of ourselves is shaken, we feel that our identity is being undermined.
However, Jung was convinced that the ego is not the deepest identity of a human being. He called the deepest core ‘the true self’. Jung saw this as a spiritual center, a place where we are not subject to time or injury. The true self makes itself known through dreams, symbols, intuition, transcendent experiences. It is inexhaustible, unites opposites and is healing. It knows our calling, it knows the meaning of our life.
Jung describes this true self as a universal given. Many Christian thinkers have recognized in this the Holy Spirit, God-in-us.
Through contact with this true self, we can heal after an injury. The awareness of our true self allows us to build in a distance from what happens to us in our lives.
And vice versa, through a serious injury we discover, sometimes for the first time, that there is more in us than our ego. At such a moment we discover, perhaps for the first time, that divine source at the core of our being.

Marie-Jeanne ( ° ) has not had an easy life. As a child, she lost both her parents during World War II. She immediately had to grow up and take responsibility. Only an iron discipline kept the family afloat during the war years. When she married, she had a large family that she ruled with the same iron hand. Duty came before everything, for weakness there was no time or patience.
When she turns 80, the first signs of dementia appear. Before their bewildered eyes, the children see their strong mother change. The illness brings a lot of sadness with it, but, completely unexpectedly, there is also something beautiful during the illness. Marie-Jeanne forgets that she is actually a hardy woman. She can suddenly cry again and enjoy being comforted. She can look at weakness or imperfection with astonished eyes without condemning. And she is happy as a child with a box of chocolates that they all eat one after the other. She has forgotten that she is against indulgences.
Her children feel grateful that they can make their mother truly happy for the first time… as a child.

We can become more aware of our true selves through prayer, meditation, being quiet in nature, being creative, or doing things we love that seem to be of no use at all…

Name and define your wound. You have a wound, but you are not your wound, you are much more. Find your true self that can never be hurt.
 Children are closer to their true selves than adults who have already adapted much better to the wishes and expectations of their environment. Give yourself time to observe your (grand) children and stay in the background yourself. What makes them happy? What are they surprised about? What are they all about? Have you discovered anything about their true selves? Does this also tell you something about your true self?
On several slips of paper, write down ten things that make you happy. Don’t censor yourself here: even if you don’t achieve anything, even if those around you think it’s weird, even if they seem completely useless to you, it is enough that these things make you happy. Go for a walk at dusk. Draw a picture of your cat (she doesn’t have to be similar). Reading an old-fashioned detective. Scour a second-hand market. Studying a handful of new Spanish words… Then you put those ten strips in a nice box: your pamper box. If you feel you need it, pull one of those activities and make time for it, preferably on the day itself.
Invite your family members to do the same!

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