It was the last Sunday in February that my Dad preached his last sermon. And every last Sunday in February since, I think about how we had no idea as he led the pastoral prayer and later took his text, that it would be the last time he would mount the pulpit. It would be the last time we would hear his words and guidance as a pastor.
We lived in Detroit at the time and it was a winery weathered Sunday. That week, he traveled to Ohio for a conference, retuning that Saturday, March 2.
And that's when he had a massive heart attack. I was with him. It was the last time I saw my Dad alive, vibrant.
Hours later, in a private waiting room, the doctor told me, as if it was a script, "He didn't make it." That moment would change my life forever.
If you know my story, or at least this part of it, you know that his passing and my grief process birthed The Word Project. You know that I believe it was poetry that served as my altar during a time where I felt surrounded by impenetrable darkness. You know it was the writing -- the poetic mechanics -- that made room for me to find my breath again.
For more than 20 years, I've been in that space, helping others grapple with their pain, trauma, sadness. I believe making space for those feelings and emotions are vital for us getting to the other side. But grief, is a process without an end date or timeline. It comes and goes. It's messy and fluid. It surprises you. It's not in a box, neat and perfect.
Still, pain, grief, sadness can be transformed. Healing isn't just making room for the worse. It's making room for the worse so you can work through it for there to be room for the best. There is a Part B to the work.
The healing process is something you go through. Yes, in your own time and with your own rules, but you can't stay where you start and call that healing You can't remain on the same level of your pain and say you've made it through.
I've learned that the best this year. You see, I've been blessed to have someone to journey with these last several months and be a mirror to the pain I've still been holding. He didn't sign up for that job but it's what happens when you're in an intimate relationship (by "intimate relationship" I mean being vulnerable). And, here, I'm going to call him Barbour.
Barbour has pulled up all my shadows that I didn't know existed. They have been laid out, stretched on a table, for me to inventory. Now, these shadows didn't all have to do with me suddenly losing my Dad, who was also my best friend, when I was 23. But I see how I skipped lessons in my 20s and 30s that now need my studious and loving attention.
And what I've learned in this year-long journey with Barbour is that healing does not include wallowing or being coddled (though we often want to be there because it's easier). It means putting on your big girl panties and continuing to do the work. It means practicing radical self-love, forgiveness and acceptance. It means making peace with your past and realizing the present is perfect. It means, yes, giving space to the pain, but not staying there.
I see this with those I work with through poetry workshops -- how people want to defend their pain, be defined by it. They become comfortable in their grief. They wear it like a tethered sweater, passed down from generation to generation.
How do we balance this -- making space for pain while being open to light? How do we not rush through what we're feeling so we can honor each step of the healing process? This is our work, I think -- to figure it out, To practice. To observe. To put one foot in front of the other. And to do with with less and less judgement and more and more compassion.
We don't heal in a vacuum (thank God) though our healing is our responsibility alone. Every relationship, every moment is a part of our healing. Our life is designed for healing. Our journey is to wholeness, if we choose it. That doesn't mean it will be smooth and that we won't meet people who will "trigger" us, but that, too, is a part of our healing.
I'm thankful for my time with Barbour at this juncture of my journey -- for how we are both growing and learning and healing. I am learning, too, even more, what it means to be still and allow God to do the work we can't do alone. What it means to not stay in your pain and act from a place of pain.
I'm thankful for the gift of poetry that illumines the places, too, that are dormant, and that allow us creative ways to be transformed and to open our minds and hearts to the life we deserve.
I'm thankful, as I type this on this last Sunday in February, that my heart is making its way, as gracefully as it knows how, to Part B. And for the love and light my Dad still shines on me, and the many other beautiful souls who travel along-side me, propping me up when things get a little daunting.
This healing journey isn't an easy one but it's one worth trusting.
A creative spirit, coach & corporate professional, Jacinta White shares how she merges, what she calls, "the sacred messiness of life" & her love for all things artsy. Follow for tips, prompts, musings & more!