If you have ever traveled on an airplane, at the beginning of the flight, you have probably heard stewards say something along these lines:
“If an unexpected change in cabin pressure occurs, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead compartments. Please put your oxygen mask on first, then proceed to help others with theirs.”
For many of us, including myself, these instructions seem counter-intuitive. We may feel like we want to help others first, and then tend to our own needs afterwards. We may even feel like “putting on our oxygen mask first” is selfish and morally wrong. I truly believed this and behaved accordingly most of my life. The result was going around feeling drained and empty. Thankfully, I have recovered from this belief!
There is great value and wisdom to be found in the statement “put your oxygen mask on first”. Why? Because if you’re not fully functioning, you aren’t going to be able to give a person in need the full care they deserve. For example… Take firefighters. No firefighter in their right mind would run into a burning building full of smoke without protective gear and his or her oxygen tank; and I believe one would be hard-pressed to find a firefighter carrying their oxygen tank unsecured, into a burning building, planning to put it on later! The thought just seems absurd! A community needs their firefighters to perform at their best, which means they need to have mental and physical strength–neither of which are possible without oxygen. I mean…seriously. If I were trapped in a burning building, I would certainly hope there were strong, healthy, mentally sound people coming for me!
I really like how Jesus teaches this principle in the Bible. Matthew 7:5 reads, “First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” Reflecting on these past four years I see I had quite a few metaphorical wood shards in my eye, especially before finding Grief Recovery and becoming certified.
If you have read my bio, you know that I have been dealt more than my fair share of loss. As a student in my first Grief Recovery class, I learned that grief takes up a ton of emotional energy, and that it is cumulative and cumulatively negative. Once I learned this, my misery made sense. So many dots connected. The losses I had accumulated brought me to complete and profound exhaustion. For years it was like I had been dragging around a bag of boulders. Obviously, the tools and information I learned growing up for dealing with loss weren’t working. I found there was an enormous amount of grief I needed to unpack. Thank God Grief Recovery gave me the information and tools I did need that very first class!
Shortly after beginning my Grief Recovery practice in May 2016, I experienced a string of losses that just wrecked me. It was one after the other, after the other, after the other from about June 2016 until recently. Car accidents, financial hardship, job losses, romantic breakup, health issues, injuries, two moves, and having my hometown rocked by the mass shooting of October 1st, 2017. Even now, I am bracing myself for some impending family losses. Needless to say, I felt like I was drowning for a long time. Somehow, during that time, I managed to pull off two Grief Recovery support groups. I decided afterwards that I needed to take a hiatus in order to stabilize. I felt like God was sending me a loud and clear message that I needed to “put my oxygen mask on” first.
Since then, I have used The Grief Recovery Method to work through more than a dozen losses. Each time, the grief fog lifts a little more, I see a bit clearer, walk a little lighter, and find more room in my heart for love. I wish I could say that I have healed all my grief, found a handsome prince, inherited a castle, and am living happily ever after, but unfortunately, that’s not how life works. We humans all share one thing in common, the experience of loss, and I am no exception. Losses will continue to happen throughout our lives. It is inevitable.
Using the tools of Grief Recovery, in combination with other tools I’ve acquired, to work through the losses of these last two years, has prepared me well to begin comforting and guiding grievers in the Las Vegas community. If I hadn’t done the work and put my metaphorical oxygen mask on first (it was a lot of work!), re-launching this practice would not have been possible. I learned so much about grief, self-care, priorities, relationships, spirituality, leadership, and other things pertaining to the world of recovery while searching for my own. Now, because of my experiences, painful as they may have been, I feel stronger, smarter, wiser, and more confident than ever.
I cannot express how thankful I am to the Grief Recovery program for the healing and opportunities it has given me. I have seen my students heal and transform before my eyes, and it is miraculously rewarding. I promise to continue the practice of “putting my oxygen mask on first” so that I might show others both how to recover from loss, and help others who need to.