At a Jewish funeral, the deceased’s closest relatives are supposed to tear off their clothes or wear a ribbon that is ripped apart. This symbolizes the fact that when we experience trauma like the loss of a loved one, it breaks us apart and changes us forever. The torn clothes represent the fact even after they are sewn back together, they will never be the same again.
Welcome to Day 16 of #31DaysofSelfCompassion
The theme today is New Identity
When I heard of the Jewish funeral ritual, it was an aha moment for me. With the trauma that I’ve experienced from different situations, I thought that after reading all the self help books I could put my hands on, doing all the meditation, practicing all the advice I read about, there would eventually come a time when everything thing would click and I’d be back to my old self. Or better yet, an improved version of my pre-trauma self.
But if you’re like me, this didn’t happen. Despite all your efforts to overcome eating disorders, there are still days when you find yourself kneeling on the bathroom floor, hands down your throat. With all the self-love exercises, you still have days when you cringe at your reflection. With all the healing work you could possibly do, you still jump from fear when someone unexpectedly touches your body. With all the work you’ve done to overcome depression or PTSD or anxiety, you still have days that it gets the best of you.
I want you to think of your trauma or struggle, the same way Jewish funerals are seen. To embrace the idea that you will never ever be the same again no matter how hard you try. The change engendered by negative experiences is irreversible. Please know, this isn’t to discourage you but to give yourself permission to relax with this knowledge. Because whenever you find yourself slipping, you will mostly likely be overcome with shame, anger, and frustration. After all, you did all the work so why are you still here? Why are you still experiencing pain and shortcomings as if you were just beginning today? When Are you going to go back to your former self?
But with the knowing that it is natural to fall down, natural to re-live your pain, natural to not feel the same no matter how much you try, you learn to welcome your new self, and your setbacks with compassion and patience. You learn to not be shocked when they occur and learn how to have healthy coping skills. For me, I ask myself these questions:
- Who am I now? Who do I want to be?
- What/why is this behavior coming back?
- How does this setback make me feel?
- How do I actually want to feel and act?
- What do I do to get there?
With compassion and patience you find your way back from trauma and setbacks whenever they show up.
Because pain changes you forever, and healing is a lifetime journey.
Isabelle Masado writes about body compassion on her blog "The Dear Body Project". She knows all too well that the personal is the political, is the community. As such, there is no discussing body compassion without talking about the assault on black bodies, trans women, and people with disabilities. Her mantra is, "How can I live in a way that makes room for you too"? She writes to examine, to heal, to redeem.