How Vulnerability is Shaping My Grief Journey
It's not often I experience events that impact my life so profoundly, events that shine a light on our connection to the surrounding world and highlight the unexplained and unseen forces that guide us along this path.
Last week was one of those times when, if I paid attention, I was going to learn a lot.
Last week started on Sunday when I wrote my Insights letter to my subscribers (if you're not already signed up please do). I've only been writing those letters for about three weeks now, but they've become a beautiful opportunity to share deep thoughts about this blog: why I started it, what it means to me, how it's impacting my life. This week I found my letter to be much like kindling. I gave the subject just enough air to spark and to spread into a full-blown fire.
The subject of my Insights letter last week was vulnerability.
As I reread the letter, the day before it published, I felt the topic of shame and vulnerability associated with grief needed to be shared with a wider audience. I was compelled to write more on the subject. And so, I got to work. I sat and molded a post for a guest submission, which hopefully you'll see in the near future.
And then the next day I got a call from my boss. She had a big ask. Our office is currently experiencing big changes. She wondered if I'd be open to talking about managing through difficult times and how being vulnerable has helped me. My immediate response: "Sure. I just wrote a couple posts about vulnerability this week."
You may be wondering what I shared with that group. My conversation focused on what I've learned since I started being more vulnerable.
By reaching out, being vulnerable, and speaking my truth I discovered:
I’m human. The anxiety and fears I feel are totally valid and only make me human.
I’m not alone. When I started sharing, others did too. The more vulnerable I am, the more others respond, which made me realize that I'm not the only one who feels these "human" feelings.
I'm inspired. As I started to share, I also began to listen more. I heard from other who were a few steps, or maybe miles, further along in this journey than me. I found inspiration in their strength.
After reflecting on my week, I realized just how intense the subject vulnerability was in my life. I asked myself, "What is the world trying to tell me?" Was writing just setting me up to make the "ask" from my boss an easy "Yes"? Or was there something deeper that I'm supposed to learn from this intense focus on vulnerability?
In true Kendra fashion, I pulled out my journal and dug a little deeper. Below is where that deeper exploration led. I share this with you in the spirit of being vulnerable. This is deep and raw and true.
Throughout my life, I've sometimes felt like a selfish person. I've always admired those who remember birthdays, notice others when they are hurting, and genuinely give of themselves.
I've always struggled to notice the world around me and have never felt as if I had the capacity to give of myself. I've always been caught up in my own craziness and, therefore, often have missed what was happening right in front of me. This is not an easy thing to admit because it brings up feelings of shame. I want to be kinder, to give more freely of myself to others, but I've never felt like I could. I felt selfish for always being consumed with my life and my needs.
As I wrote, I discovered this sense of "selfishness" is really more of self-preservation. I needed to give myself a little grace. From an early age, I responded to tragedy by turning within myself. It's been my survival mechanism for much of my life. (I absolutely have natural introvert tendencies.) Life experiences like my parents' divorce, my divorce, and the death of loved ones have compounded my need to go within. With every additional significant life event, I turned further within. I shut myself off from the world because, honestly, it was just easier. My pattern was when things get tough take care of yourself first because that's all you have the capacity to do. I honestly didn't have room in my heart to do anything more. All I could do was cope with what I was going through.
The problem came about as I began I live my entire life in that state of self-preservation. I was constantly living in survival mode, never letting anyone in.
Since Adeline, things have changed. Adeline's presence has given me more space in my heart for love. I'm sure many parents experience this feeling, that your heart is overflowing with love when you meet your children, that sense that "it's no longer just about me." Even though she not here physically, she has still filled my heart with so much love that I can no longer stay in the shadows of this life. I can no longer hide within. My heart now requires I see and address the hurt of others, that I spread love and rejoice in the happiness of others.
It has become apparent to me that I am supposed to get really comfortable being vulnerable.
My willingness to be vulnerable is the key to letting Adeline's love shine.
Phew... That was a deep, heartfelt week.