Some of us have had to come to terms with days of celebration, like Mother’s Day, over the course of our lives. Loving a mother, or father, from an intentional distance is sometimes the most healthy, safe, and loving thing to do…and also the hardest.
Many cast shame on such decisions, without knowing decades worth of stories that happened behind closed doors. It’s easier to blame the one who steps away than to accept that the happy endings on Hallmark commercials and Lifetime Television just aren’t realistic for all relationships, and that the public masks some wear may be real but also often hide a darkness known only to those closest.
Sometimes, you not only have to leave Three-Mile Island, you can’t even visit if you want to survive. You may still hold an open heart that hopes that, someday, help and health will finally be accepted and the beauty and charisma can be restored and enjoyed, but you do not hold your breath.
Instead, you whisper a prayer from a safe distance for those left behind, while drawing in clean air that fills you with life rather than threaten to destroy it.
Instead, you give thanks for the best parts of yourself that came from the other, even as you mourn that those gifts are now largely gone from them.
Instead, you find the gifts that came despite the scars, and you make peace with them as reminders that you do not wish to see such wounds visited upon others, especially not by your own word or hand.
Instead, you value that much more your family of choice, and those who would never, ever even dream of intentionally hurting you and give thanks that you’ve now no problem with walking away from those who do.
Instead, you find peace with the ghosts that used to haunt you and use them now as mirrors for awareness when you’re not being your best self, and you grow in grace for yourself and others as you continue to heal.
And you feast from the table where you learn to no longer feel as if you are begging for scraps, as you are nourished by other hands, other hearts, other faces that teach you about and fill you with a love you only ever dreamed about.
And you give thanks. And breathe freely. And live on.
Note from the author:
I write about grief, loss, and showing up for ourselves so we can show up well for others as caregivers. It is important to remember that grief comes in many forms, often not fully recognized or supported by others, including the ending of relationships or the many losses related to trauma.
As we heal and find compassion for our own suffering, we can be that more present with others’. So, the hope of this post is not to vilify another, but actually two-fold:
To say, “I see you, you are not crazy, and you are not alone” and to inspire a kindness to ourselves for the choices we feel we must makes so we can give a similar acceptance to others for theirs. We all deserve that safe space, free of judgment and full of acceptance.
Rev. Carla Cheatham, MA, MDiv, PhD, TRT has served hospices as a chaplain and bereavement coordinator. She’s the Section Leader for the Spiritual Caregivers Section of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, Chair of NHPCO’s Ethics Advisory Council, and an adjunct professor at the Seminary of the Southwest and an Affiliate Associate Professor at the University of Maryland. Through her Carla Cheatham Consulting Group, Carla provides training and consulting for professional caregiversnationwide. She is the author of Hospice Whispers: Stories of Life and its companion volume, Sharing Our Stories: A Hospice Whispers Grief Support Workbook. Her next book, On Showing Up with Suffering: Others’ and Our Own, is set to publish in 2019.