Not long ago I walked in on the older two girls watching The Lion King intently. Simba was laying over his dead father’s body crying for help. You can imagine the emotions I went through as I hurriedly went to turn it off. I had to protect their feelings and didn’t want them to see a father’s death before they were healed from their own father’s death.
As I reached for the stop button while promising I had a much better movie to put in. Annie stopped me.
“We have to see this, Momma. The daddy dies like our daddy, but Simba grows up and has lots of fun and falls in love.”
I was stunned at the healing connection she made with the movie. Not just seeing a death and the sadness, but looking beyond it and associating that she was going to heal as well and that there was a lot more life out there to grab then living in the sad moments.
Right after his death I poured over help guides for children in grief, truck loads of literature about how to explain death and suicide to a child and even more information about how to deal with my own feelings. I did everything right to the letter. Looked at every step in the healing process and was determined that we would all follow it down to the letter. It was imperative to our mental health.
The moment that Annie talked about her realization in The Lion King, I realized that those steps weren’t meant to be followed to the letter.
She found inside a Disney movie her truth.
We have all found our truth to healing in different manners and none of it was by the books. I have come to believe that sometimes healing can actually be prolonged and made to be more painful when we don’t listen to the truths that we find within ourselves. I went to a counseling group and was surrounded by women who had been in abusive relationships or divorce. I was surrounded by their sense of abandonment and intense despair, but I wasn’t there. I thought there must be something wrong with me because I wasn’t feeling things in the order that was accepted within the group. I would force myself to try to pull these feelings to the surface and then berate myself when they weren’t deep enough.
One day as I sat dry eyed listening to every sad song that I could think of, revisiting every moment of pain and regret; it came to me. Why am I forcing myself to feel something that I am not? I’m not in this place so why do I feel that I have to be there? I felt that if I didn’t do this “stage” then that meant surely something was wrong with me. If I told people how I was really feeling than they would label me as wrong.
How was what I was truly feeling really wrong? Hadn’t I just found my truth? Hadn’t I found my way of healing? Just like Annie finding her healing in seeing a Disney movie representing that the death of a father is not the end of a life and there is better stuff waiting on the other side of the pain; I found that my grief was not following the books, but rather lurks in small moments that present themselves in different times within my daily life.
Forcing myself to wallow in self imposed grief wasn’t my truth. Feeding it was actually delaying any healing that would come. My way wasn’t going to go by the books and I think it is important to acknowledge that every person has a different way of processing things and coping. Not everyone is going to feel the same things at the same time and in the same way or level of intensity. It is essential that when we deal with people who have been through something and are working through their steps that we don’t force our opinion of how they are supposed to feel on them. Allow them to find their own truth of healing and support the stages they are in.