From a talk on Grief and Loss I gave in December:
Change = Loss = Grief; any major change brings loss and therefore grief.
You never completely get over grieving a profound loss – such as your parents divorce;
the death of your parents, child, spouse, pet.
I would add here for this audience: the loss of your church; the loss of your faith.
Healing is about befriending grief. But before we can get to the healing there will be the “normal” responses to any major loss. Since the abuse you may have experienced – denial, anger, avoidance, sadness, depression … and each of them for long periods of time and recurrently. I was in denial about some of my abuse until very recently. And I am talking over 40 years since the events took place. I am just now really getting into some anger. It wasn’t possible while I was in denial. I have dipped into it occasionally in therapy, usually in the hospital, then worked hard at stuffing it back down so I could function in my daily life and work. So my healing goes in cycles, I bring something up, work through it a little, try to accept it, and then put it aside for a while.
I have to remind myself of what I told the people at my talk: we never get over our losses, we just start managing to get along with them. And as we process our losses the intensity of the pain changes and becomes more manageable.
I am sad every Christmas because of the loss of the Catholic Church to me. My husband and son and I go to Christmas Eve mass together (my husband is still Catholic), and for me it is just a poignant reminder of the magical thinking of my childhood and the sexual abuse by the men I was taught to believe were ontologically superior human beings: “God’s presence among us.”
Despite the grief, sadness, and depression, I have survived both the abuse and the losses, and I will continue to heal.
And that is my prayer for each of you.
(Below is a handout of self care tips I prepared for the hospital where I serve as a chaplain.)