by Cathy Knutsen
“You’re not what you think you are, but what you think, you are!” This quote by the late American psychologist, William James, is one of my favorites for handling the aftermath of grief. The loss of a loved one can feel like you have fallen into an empty well, and no matter how much you scream, no one hears you and there is no way out. It affects your mind, your body, and your soul. There is no magic pill to make the pain go away. Your loved one is gone and is not coming back.
How do you live with that? You have other family members who depend on you, who count on you for love, support, and guidance; but you can’t be those things because of the emptiness and vacancy that have found their way into your heart.
I have been in this place many times with the loss of my five-year-old daughter to a rare liver cancer, the near death of my son to brain cancer, the loss of my father to bladder cancer, and the loss of two husbands, both to lung cancer. I was in that pit. No one could help me, and I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be helped. And this is grief. It is a process that one must go throughin order to reach the other side. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just jump over grief and not have to experience it? But life doesn’t work that way, and grief is actually a wonderful tool to cleanse our thoughts and morph them into something useful. It is good to grieve, but there comes a time when it, too, must end.
You’re not what you think you are—but what you think, you are. If you are down a well, instead of thinking, “I’m never going to get out of here,” try thinking, “How can I get out of here?” Day after day, you will eventually think, “I must get out of here!” What is it that will change your way of thinking and force you to embrace life, even if your loved ones are no longer with you? If you think there is nothing left for you, then there isn’t! Only you can change your attitude. But if you allow yourself to see the beauty in all that is here, to love those that are still with you, to search your soul to find inner peace, to know you are worthy, that you have a purpose, and to accept what has happened to you and learn from it, then the healing can begin. You are not alone. You are not the only one in this world who has experienced tragedy, and you certainly won’t be the last.
If you have climbed the ladder and reached the top only to be toppled to the ground and must start over, of course you feel defeated. But you’re not! If you reach within yourself with positive power, you will climb that ladder again—and again if necessary. Consider it a life challenge. Are you up for it? Can you handle it? You can if you thinkyou can. As a butterfly escapes the cocoon, so you can escape grief, depression, anxiety, defeat, betrayal, and anger. Leave the shell behind and soar with new wings, a new attitude, new beginnings. You will soon find yourself in the role of helping others who are going through what you have already experienced. You have become a mentor, a teacher, a counselor, a friend, sometimes without saying a word. Remember, “You’re not what you think you are—but what you think, you are!”
Cathy is a beautiful Iron Butterfly who gives us strength and hope. We honor her and greatly appreciate her sharing her stories.