The art of healing…….

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As a medical professional, I have long known that assisting others with physical healing involves both science and art. Evidence based medicine, the “science” of it is the gold standard for modern healthcare. But,
— the art of being truly “present” with the patient,
— the art of having insight into what motivates that individual,
–the art of relating to the person with sensitivity, empathy, and compassion,
all have a critical role in achieving good outcomes.

A few weeks after my son’s suicide, I serendipitously encountered a fellow writer at a conference. We met in the prayer room as she prayed with me in my grief. I left the conference with a gifted book, authored by this dear lady who had taken the time to share in my sorrow. She signed the title page, “Hemmed in Hope! Cynthia”. Little did I know how that book would speak to me in the weeks to come.

Cynthia Ruchti’s  Tattered and Mended–the Art of Healing the Wounded Soul (Abingdon Press, 2015) helped me to reframe the pain and loss that has changed my life forever. She eloquently compares the process of healing souls tattered by tragedies, choices, and traumas to the art of reclaiming and restoring various treasures. As I read each chapter, I found myself drawn into the understanding that God can use even the worst that life on this earth brings to us, mending us into stronger and more centered souls.

Cynthia describes the restoration of two-hundred year old Japanese garments through the techniques of sashiko and boro. As I read of the art of quilt restoration and discarded copper recycled into works of art, I began to believe that I could survive this loss and not be defeated. She writes of tapestries restored, fine arts reclaimed, stained glass recovered, antique dolls redeemed, and broken furniture refurbished. Throughout are two themes: that broken hearts are not to be viewed as unfixable and, thus, left to a miserable existence instead of joyful life in Christ, and that the tattered and mended soul can become a thing of greater beauty and worth than the original.

I still struggle to know how my loss will ever result in something of beauty and worth. I know that since it has occurred, I am ever more sensitive to the multitudes of parents who have lost children and the many survivors of suicide in this world. And, I am thankful for gifted and inspired writers like Cynthia who invest time and talent and effort into offering a new perspective for those of us who feel we have suffered the most unimaginable pain and loss this life can offer. I pray that someday I can help bring similar healing and hope to others.

The door. . . . .

door

See this door? It is a steel, triple-locked, standard door required for a “safe room” which meets government codes to provide a refuge during tornadoes. It is also the door to our home office and gun safe. The floor, ceiling, and walls of this room are all concrete. Living in Arkansas, a part of “tornado alley”, the construction of this room when we built our home seemed wise. It does provide a sense of security when the weather radio sounds or all local TV programming is preempted with blow-by-blow (no pun intended) descriptions of the paths of dangerous storms approaching our area.

However, I need to use the door as an illustration. I have posted infrequently on this site for the past several months. My most recent post was on August 31, just days after my son committed suicide. Ironically, the post that preceded it (posted in July), referenced a conversation with him in which he was reminding me of my neglect of this blog. I wish it had been a longer conversation. The experts call this feeling I have survivors’ guilt. I just call it regret–regret that I lost him before I lost him. His illness and addiction effectively divorced him from his family, locking him away as securely as the safe room door.

But, there’s more to the door analogy. Because I go through each day–working, cooking, going to church, doing laundry, attending our grandson’s football games, being “social”–doing all these things with the door to my denial and anger and grief securely shut and locked. I think. Yet, at the most odd and inopportune times, that door swings spontaneously open, and my mind is filled with the last images of Daniel. A silent scream of disbelief echoes through my head. My heart fills to bursting with the ache of his absence and the effort of drawing in breath is magnified a hundred times. My body is suddenly crushed by the weight of this loss. And a cloud of sadness envelops me.

Sometimes I am able to cry. Sometimes I am simply overwhelmed and sit in a daze wondering how I got to this place in life. But always, eventually, I, piece by piece, bury those images, silence that scream, tell my heart to keep beating, breathe deeply, and drag my heavy self with its cloud of sadness surrounding me (think Pigpen’s cloud of dirt in a Peanuts’ comic), to that sturdy door with it’s triple dead-bolt locks. I shove all that denial and anger and guilt and grief inside and click by click by click lock all those locks, lean against the secured door, and pray that someday it will remain closed, knowing full well that it won’t.

In truth, I wouldn’t want it to. Because somehow I know that repeating this process is a part of healing the hole in my heart. A card I received observed that I have “a hole in my heart that cannot be fixed by any cardiologist or thoracic surgeon”. I treasure that card because it so perfectly describes the loss that I feel. I now am the mother of two living children and one deceased child. The remnants of the place where Daniel lived will always be there, but, by the grace of God, I know that it will someday bleed less, hurt less, and, ultimately, scar over, so that I can once again not fight with the door.