Friday, March 23, 2012

Suicide, Breast Cancer, Ministry ~ and Healing

Sometimes people tell me stories about what they, or someone they know, have done or been in the wake of a personal crisis or loss.  Usually when they relate these things to me, I feel extremely inadequate and wonder whether I should have pursued a different path, been a different person, known things I didn't know.   Their comments tend to make me feel that I have been all wrong about pretty much everything.  And yet . . .

"I don't see any way that I can ever be a spiritual director now," I said some weeks after Josh died.  

"I think that if you pick up your internship and start trying to help other people, you will start to feel better," responded my own spiritual director.  

What kind of counsel was that supposed to be?

"I just can't do this," I wrote a couple of years later to another wise person.

"You can either let this all go," he wrote  back, "or you can accept that you may be embarking upon the most fruitful period of your life."

He didn't sound so wise at that particular moment.

"They said 'no,' " I explained to someone else when a big rejection came my way.

"I suppose they want  you to 'work on yourself'?" he said. 

At least that one made me laugh.

I'm not saying that a person shouldn't look directly at heartache and loss and then walk straight into it.  I'm not saying that repression and avoidance are good things; usually they aren't. 

But I guess I am saying that it's possible to do both, to soak yourself in your grief and your sadness and to move on into that to which you are called.

Last night, I took a quick glance in the mirror and thought, "You know, you got the minimal result you asked for.  You get dressed and you look fine.  That's good enough. And by the way, at the moment you don't have breast cancer."

This morning I got in the car and breathed to myself, as I so often do, "Josh, please come back to me."

I'm not going to look fine again unless I'm fully dressed and Josh is not coming back.  One of those things isn't very important and the other is.

Nevertheless, I am beginning to use the word "heal" in connection with myself.

I am slowly coming to grips with reality:  My life will never be the one I dreamed of, planned for, worked toward:   Body.  Family.  Work.  The answers are:  No, no, no.

And yet:  in traveling the roads onto which I've been diverted the past three years, I have seen places and done things that aren't really all that accessible to the typical person in midlife in our culture.  I myself would have chosen to skip them altogether. 

And I have turned out to be all right.  

 You can ask me whether I can accompany you to the top of the Eiffel Tower or to the depths of hell and I can say, "Sure.  Been there done that.  I'll go with you."

I won't always get it right.  But sometimes I will, and that's something.


  1. Oh, you've turned out to be ever so much more than all right!

  2. Robin, as I've told you previously, we haven't walked the same path by any means but we have both suffered loss and we have both continued on our faith journeys. These journeys are very different from what we planned but we are putting one foot in front of the other and that is what counts. Thanks for this authentic post.

  3. "Sure. Been there done that. I'll go with you." It's the gift of presence, a grace not only of the third week, but of the second: incarnation.

  4. Just as most substance abuse and addiction counselors are recovering themselves, one who has walked the road that others are now walking is also among the most effective at advising, supporting, and counseling through grief, illness, etc. These life experiences, as difficult, painful, and all-consuming as they have been, also add a level of understanding and compassion that others simply don't have.
    As Michelle said, it's your gift of presence...

  5. Courageous Lady. Love that about you.