By Avalon Hendricks
One day while I was standing in line at the grocery store, I overheard a conversation. There was a woman who had a cart of groceries and three kids, and she was speaking with the checkout clerk. I watched her little boy as he chased his newly-bought ball in circles. The mother managed to keep her newborn calm by running her fingers across her daughter’s cheeks, called a halt to her son’s circle-running, and reminded her two-year-old daughter that her hip is bothering her and she will soon need to stand up and walk out of the grocery store with her older brother.
In those nine minutes, watching this mother trying to checkout, managing her three children who seem to all be under the age of ten, and still trying to be attentive to her conversation with the middle-aged clerk – I got a glimpse into her real life. In those nine minutes that I would have otherwise spent staring at magazines or being annoyed that the line was taking so long, I listened, and I heard her.
“I never could of imagined living a life without him,” she said of the husband she just lost. “However, if I have learned anything meaningful in these past two months, it is this: ‘You cry. You mourn. You Grieve. You are healing each and everyday. But, sometimes, death is the ultimate expression of love.’”
As she turned her grocery cart to face the front of the store door, I watched her walk out to the car through the store’s foggy glass windows. I was mesmerized by the smile she had on her face as she picked up her daughter’s carseat and placed her in the car. I witnessed the gentle but settle kiss she gave her son on his forehead before he went to move the cart back to the front of the store. I witnessed authentic, genuine, and raw love. I witnessed a woman, a mother, and a wife, healing. It was absolutely beautiful, especially to observe this woman’s grieving heart and a mourning soul in the beginning stages of healing.
In those nine minutes standing in that check out line, I realized something about myself, too: I am still healing. Most of us are. Healing is a never-ending process. It is a choice we can choose to make or choose not to make when we wake up each morning. To the ones who have chosen to enter the process of healing, I will say this to you: allow yourself time to grieve, to mourn, to cry in the comfort of your own sheets, because if there is enough time to endure pain, then there is even more time to heal.
Life is unfortunately unjustifiable. It puts our hearts through unwanted, daunting, and traumatic events without our knowledge or without our right to decline. The Universe will take our spouses, children and loved ones away from us too soon. It will share its very own brutality and bitterness with our soft hearts. Life will disappoint us in ways that we will one day find to believe that nothing in the world could ever compensate for all we’ve endured.
It will hurt us in places of our being that we never thought were possible of hurting. Life will put wear-and-tear on the corners of our hearts. It will leave lines around the corners of our eyes like road-maps that once had directions to a destination where we had a past of being painfully settled at.
Healing is a development, and we must let ourselves take time. Time to lay and think and cry and think some more, whether it happens between our very own sheets, or getting out of the shower and lying on the cold tile floor in the bathroom, or during a long drive at midnight.
Pain is complex, but healing is fluid. It may feel as if you take two steps forward only to immediately take ten steps backwards, but that’s because healing is subtle, it occurs independent of our awareness. In the process, you will feel defeated by setbacks along your way. But remember, setbacks are only setbacks unless we make them into something else.
The next time you are sitting on the train on your way to work, look around you and notice the familiar tired eyes, the jittery hands, the shaky knees and the scraggly hair of restless nights, stressful days, and recognize that you are all connected. Recognize that you are connected to strangers by grief and endured pain. Human connection is linked by shared experiences, pain, loss, disappointment, and life leaving us short-handed no matter how hard we try to break even with it.
Smile at the stranger as he walks into the coffee shop before work, shutting out the cold air still filling his lungs. Watch the redness in his cheeks dissipate. Share in that similar relief, in that undeniably human moment you know too well. Remember we all just trying to survive the cold.
Remember to keep your soft heart while trying to survive the weather. Do not let anyone or any event take what you innately own. Share your story with strangers, whether that is in a checkout line at the grocery store, on the train, or in a coffee shop. Embrace those small connections. Live for them. Choose healing each morning. Kiss your children on the forehead. Glide your fingers down your newborn’s gentle and tender face. Live for the pain you continue to overcome over and over again. And, always remember to try to figure out what is best for you and the process of your healing. Be authentic even when the world is telling you to keep the stiff upper lip, to hold back your tears in moments of your grieving – do not shy away from moments that make you feel something intensely. You are alive. You are human. And because of this, we are all connected.