I was speaking to someone recently who had been working on life stuff… you know, the messy things that we all go through, myself included. I asked her how she was doing, and she told me she was finally working things out and getting untangled.
This got me thinking, of course, about my life and the many different ways it has changed and evolved over the years. There was a time in my twenties where I honestly believed I would never make it through the struggles I was experiencing. My water was murky and breathing evenly was a luxury I was not privileged to have. I cried more often than I smiled, and I felt like such a failure in so many ways. While I do not believe I would have acted on it, I definitely contemplated putting an end to my life, because I truly felt I was doomed for failure and did not see the light at the end of my very long, dark tunnel. This is a heavy weight to carry, but I managed it the best I could while raising two children mostly on my own.
Many years later, and so much work, I do not feel this way anymore. In fact, what I feel, is pride in the way I trudged forward and despite every single obstacle that planted itself firmly at my feet, I made it through to a point where I can finally (and proudly) say… I am exactly where I was meant to be, and it was worth what it took to get here.
I was tangled, so tightly tangled up in everything that I allowed to weigh myself down with. I blamed everyone else, never taking ownership of my own behavior or choices, and I resisted advice, support and help of any kind because in my mind I thought it wouldn’t help. But I finally did seek help, I did reach out, and I accepted the hands that were extended in my direction. My life finally became untangled, and I could breathe, and my water wasn’t murky anymore.
And now, many years later I have become a hospice nurse, an end-of-life doula, a conscious dying educator, a published author, a blogger, and my greatest accomplishment of all was raising two incredible kids, one of which who has gifted me grandchildren. I worked really hard, and I have found my calling and feel so truly blessed and happy. I am mostly untangled.
It is in this work where I now see a different version of tangled. When someone you love has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, the reality of it all is terrifying, emotional, difficult, and messy. It is difficult for the person who is navigating and anticipating their loss, but try imagining if you can, what it must be like for the person who is dying. While you are given six months or less to live, that number can be far less, sometimes more. There is so much uncertainty, that you can’t help but feel overwhelmed, trying to process everything at the same time you are packing up your life, getting ready to go and tying up loose ends that seem to fray despite how carefully you try to wind them up. And all the goodbyes, some you have to say over and over and over again, can make you feel all knotted up and so incredibly tangled.
And then, when last breaths are taken, those left behind look around the room, and all over the floor, and all they can see is the frayed pieces scattered everywhere. Now they too are feeling tangled up in the grieving process, overwhelmed by everything they must do, while at the same time, working through their feelings of ache and loss… wondering if there will ever be a day when they can feel less tangled. Grief can leave you feeling tangled, with all your emotions scattered precariously … some feeling too hard to reach to even try and pull closer. You are up and you are down, with no end in sight. I can’t help but wonder if we can ever untangle from grief.
Life is messy, and I have a feeling every single one of us has felt overwhelmed and tangled up by it all. Some days are and will be harder than others, there is no doubt about that. I know I cannot speak for any of you, but the realization I had when trying to untangle my own messes, was that taking the hand of those who offered made the work a little less of a struggle. I wish I had accepted the hands that were extended towards me earlier on, but there are no do-overs, it is what it is, and such is life. But I finally did and that is what matters most of all. My take-away from my own experience is that it is okay to ask for help, and it is okay to accept it. And when someone is experiencing frightening news, like a terminal illness or the anticipation of losing someone they love, reach out to them gently… and if at first, they do not accept, try again. And if you are struggling and someone offers you a hand, accept it… it is okay.
We don’t have to be so tangled up, we can be the ones that make the difference, that offer a hand, or take a hand… that helps someone else become untangled.