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Shattered But Not Broken

I have always been a fan of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Years ago she interviewed a group of people she determined had earned the title, “Survivor.” The story that captured my attention was one of a lady that jumped from a burning building and landed on her feet. She carefully explained the out-of-body experience as she found herself in an upright position after making that life-or-death decision to jump. The host of First Responders, reporters, and on lookers stared in utter amazement. Later, after being transported to the hospital, she learned that most of the bones in her body had been completely shattered. This lady jumped from a burning building, remained conscious, and standing without any visible scars. I think about her often, as her story is a type of metaphor for many of our lived experiences.

Susan Anderson, author of The Journey from Abandonment to Healing, parallels the five stages of grief with those she coined as the five stages of abandonment. Our survivor reminds us of stage one, shattering. Anderson describes the shattering stage as part of a “post-traumatic stress disorder of abandonment.” This form of PTSD screams of being ripped from a place of safety and hurled into a swirling whirlwind of emotions that feels as though our lives have been shattered. However, this internal pain allows us to look like the same individuals we were before the crash landing while inside we are a broken mess.

The pain of abandonment is real, it doesn’t matter if it happened on the tails of a divorce, someone abruptly stopping all forms of communication, or even death. Each event can send us into the grips of the shattering stage. Shattering causes feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, and fear. Thoughts of “Will I ever love again?” and “What is wrong with me?” will flood the mind as it seeks an explanation in hopes of feeling safe again. This is a pain, when left unaddressed, will erupt, and corrode your future. Allowing space for every agonizing, embarrassing thought, and crippling emotion is the key to healing. It is said that the safest part of a hurricane or tornado is in the eye of the storm. Do not allow the swirling whirlwinds of emotions to coerce you into making the rash, self-defeating decision to move too soon. You can weather this storm but, not alone and not without work.

When approached in a healthy manner, which for most of us involves some form of therapy, shattering can serve as a catalyst for the next season of our lives. When we allow ourselves to experience the full range of emotions without the aid of numbing, denying, or avoidance, we will awaken to a new level of self-awareness.

Our survivor shattered many of the bones in her body, but she landed on her feet, unbroken. The internal shattering was devastating, yet she lived to walk on Oprah’s stage and tell the story. I am sure it took months, possibly years of physical therapy and rehabilitation. But she did the work, suffered the unpleasantries, and advanced into a new season of her life. A season of courage, strength, and determination that she may have never realized had she skipped steps or even avoided the much-needed process.

As we ease into the routine of a new year, it may be apparent that the old year has left us feeling abandoned both emotionally and physically so. Our external presentations can not be compared to the multiple, internal, broken areas many of us are harboring. Celebrate the fact that you are still standing after the pain of rejection, sickness, loneliness, and more. But, just like our heroine, you survived, and you will see better days if you attend to the healing process. It will not happen overnight, but consistency will yield a great outcome. You may have been shattered but you most definitely do not have to remain broken

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