Have you ever had your world shatter? Had the foundation of what you thought gave you safety and security totally fall apart? Had something that rocked you to your core and left you feeling vulnerable and defenseless?
You can have big shatterings from things like divorce, betrayal and loss. You can also experience smaller shatterings, and even those can really rock you.
My biggest shattering came in the form of my tiny daughter who was born more than 3 months early and weighed less than 2 pounds.
Margaret Alice was born with a major lung infection and died the next day, almost exactly 12 hours after her birth. Add to that my own serious illness and the fact that I would never be able to safely carry another pregnancy and, well, I shattered.
The biggest thought I remember having as I began to resume my activities was, “How can everyone go on with life as normal when nothing will ever be the same again?”
Of course, life was normal for everyone else. That’s how it works. And it seemed incomprehensible to me at the time.
That was 17 years ago.
These years have included a great deal of clearing and releasing of my fears, self-blame, anger, jealousy and resentments. There were some extremely difficult days in there. Times I can only describe as dark nights of the soul when it felt like my emotions would drown me.
The support of many skilled healers and of loving family and friends along the way has been an incredible blessing. There have been many layers and aspects of this that have come up over the years, and I’ve gotten progressively better at simply being with and accepting each wave.
I would never, ever have said this in the beginning, but I’m grateful now for having been shattered. It’s brought me gifts that I could never have gotten otherwise.
It taught me that:
1) Unconditional love isn’t what I thought it was.
I thought at first that unconditional love meant being able to let Margaret Alice go. But really, I didn’t have a choice about that. I had done everything I could to keep her alive, and she died.
I did have to learn to truly let her go in the sense of not fighting against the fact that she had died. That was much harder than it may sound.
What surprised me was that I learned how to love myself unconditionally. To love myself even though I had lived. To love myself even though I couldn’t save her. To love life, even though it didn’t include her..
2) Safety and security can only come from inside us.
They aren’t based on what’s happening around us. There is no job, no amount of money, no living situation that can guarantee safety. And the more we try to hold onto safety, the more elusive it is.
Not even armoring ourselves emotionally will keep us safe. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. The more we try to defend ourselves, the more rigid we become. And the more rigid we are, the more likely we are to be shattered.
The biggest thing about these defenses and this search for safety is that they separate us from the only thing that can keep us safe — the knowledge that we already are and always have been safe.
When we know that we’re always connected to Divine Love (whatever name you call that) and to each other and all of Life, then we know that we are safe because there simply isn’t anything else. There isn’t such a thing as “not safe”.
And when I say, “know”, I don’t mean the kind of knowing that sits in your head. I mean knowing and experiencing it in every cell of your body.
3) Resistance, judgment and fear create distance. Acceptance brings love and connection.
My biggest lesson in all of this has been to accept whatever happens in my life. And it’s a lesson I continue to learn.
I resisted accepting what happened for a long time. I had the feeling that if I really accepted Margaret Alice’s death, I was both betraying her and giving permission to have it happen again. I had thoughts like:
- How do I accept the unacceptable?
- If I accept it, it means it was okay and it wasn’t!
- If I accept it, it means I have to let her go, and then I’ve really lost her.
- If I accept it, it means I have to go on without her, and I can’t do that.
I just kept at it, clearing away whatever came up, sometimes on my own, often with the help of professional healers and energy workers. I was determined – desperate – to find my way through it all.
What I found as those thoughts and fears began to clear was that not accepting what happened kept me connected to the trauma of it all, not to my daughter. It was preventing me from being connected to her, to my other loved ones, to love, peace, and joy. It kept me boxed in, small and imprisoned.
It kept me from living.
As I cleared my thoughts and fears, I felt myself expanding. My capacity for joy expanded. My ability to love expanded.
4) What shattered wasn’t me..
It took me quite awhile to understand this, but what shattered wasn’t me. It was my attachment to being safe. To having things turn out like I thought they should. To getting what I wanted and expected. To having things be “fair”. To having the life, family, house and so on that I’d envisioned. To having things be right as I judged right to be.
5) What shattered were the walls around my heart, the rigidity and defenses I’d clung to, often unknowingly.
There’s nothing wrong with safety, fairness or any of those things. At all. The problem was my attachment to them, my need for them. My fear around them. My letting them come between me and other people. My choosing safe and distant over connected, loving and vulnerable.
And I’d been doing that in so many areas of my life for so much of my life.
What shattering did for me was to show me with great intensity this way I’d been behaving and seeing life – and what it was costing me. I was playing safe and small. I was “looking good” on the outside while my inside withered.
I wasn’t truly, deeply, fully loving and expressing me, which kept me from fully, deeply, truly loving and being connected to anyone else.
What all of this led me to was me. To truly being me. Vulnerably, genuinely, imperfectly, perfectly me. Me with an ever-growing capacity for joy, spaciousness, connection, energy, peace, sparkle, acceptance, love.
And now I love being able to help others get there far more quickly and easily than I did.
To be clear, there is no arriving. I haven’t gotten “there”, over the rainbow where there are no troubles. Things happen in my life like in everyone else’s. I still have small shatterings at times (and sometimes they feel big).
What’s changed for me is that I now have:
- Tools to clear what comes up so that I can continue to expand and grow.
- Confidence to know that I can get through whatever it is – and be better off on the other side.
- A greater sense of peace and safety than I’ve ever known before.
That’s a big gift from such a little baby.
Sara, I’ve heard you talk about this shattering experience before and each time you do I crack open a little wider. This post is such a jewel of a teaching and a perfect example of the sensitive but strong work you do. What we resist accepting truly does persist and keeps us separate from the thing we’re clinging to. I’m grateful for the depth of your sharing and all your clarity around this deep work, which shows us the way through our own pain. Thank you and bless Margaret Alice.
Thank you, Susanna Grace. I deeply appreciate what you shared. It really can be hard to let go long enough to realize that the clinging itself is keeping us disconnected from what we want. I’m so honored to be able to support people in that, and grateful that Margaret Alice helped me learn how.
This article supports the work we’ve just completed in a very personal
way. In place of Fear, Anxiety and Grieving, I am experiencing Joy,
Release and Relief. Thank you for helping me to shatter my limiting
beliefs, as well as to see that they even served a purpose. The article gives
evidence ,once more, that you are amazing, and supports my growing belief that I am too…
just as I am.
Yes! You ARE amazing!! And so very, very courageous. And I’m thrilled you’re seeing it, too.
It’s not wrong to have limiting beliefs. Seeing them and the purpose they served empowers you to CHOOSE what to do with them. Witnessing you move into freedom and joy has been inspiring to witness.
Thank you for sharing here, Patricia.
Thank you for sharing your story, Sara — even though I am so sorry this happened to you. I am learning (from working with you also!) that “clearing” painful experiences happens naturally — but only when we let ourselves be completely with what actually has happened. Your words “And all of this too” coincide with those of Tara Brach, for me. I am remembering how you’ve said them to me so many times, while holding space for my own process. I am grateful. “Big gift from such a little baby” — beautiful.
Oh, Pam, your words here have stirred my heart. I’m honored by the reference to Tara Brach – she’s done some marvelous work.
Sending you hugs.
Thank you for writing this, Sara. Having had 12 miscarriages, I can relate to a lot of what you’ve said!
I don’t know where I would be without the healing tools (and the healers!) which I have been blessed to have had the benefit of., over the years. I have used EFT and TAT in equal measure, and they have helped me more than I can say: I can’t even imagine how I would be without them.
And 5 years after the last one, I don’t regret anything and wouldn’t change anything either.
And I echo the three things you listed at the end too. Thank you 🙂
Thank you, Rosalind. I so appreciate your sharing your experience. Things like do have the power to transform us, don’t they?
Wishing you all the best,
Wow, Sara, that would a powerful, gorgeous piece. It just confirms what I already knew – you are a living angel on earth. Thank you so much for sharing your vulnerable and wise self. A lot to chew on here…
Thank you, Debby. You’ve touched my heart.
Thank you. I have been shattered but have not found my way back yet. Thankful to know it can happen.
Yes, Julie, it’s definitely possible. I witness it every day.
Don’t try to force the coming back. Allow yourself to fully grieve. Keep breathing and see where you can get support. Support made a HUGE difference for me and I highly recommend it. A hallmark of shattering experiences is that when we’re in them, we feel alone. That’s totally okay, and it’s not the truth. You are not alone, and being supported helps you FEEL that.
And come back here. My next article comes out on Tuesday and is on the 3 parts of traumatic events. You might find it helpful for this.
Sending you big hugs, Julie.
THANK YOU FOR VERBALIZING WHAT I HAVE SEEN MANY TIMES AS A PEDIATRICIAN, AS PARENTS GO THROUGH THIS “VALLEY” OF GRIEF AND SUFFERING. ALL I COULD DO IS TO PRAY AND BELIEVE THAT GOD HAS A PLAN IN ALL THE SUFFERING OF HIS CHILDREN. HE GAVE HIS SON TO SUFFER AND DIE FOR ALL OF US SO THAT WE WILL LIVE ETERNALLY WITH HIM. YOU WILL SEE MARGARET ALICE AGAIN AS A BELIEVER. MAY GOD CONTINUE TO BLESS YOU AND BE WITH YOU.
Thank you for sharing this, Dr. Chip.
I can only imagine how heart-wrenching it is to watch parents go through this. It takes a lot to witness suffering and stay compassionate – to neither crumble nor harden yourself. In all the years as my pediatrician and family friend, I only ever saw your compassion and warmth.
This experience continues to enrich my life in divine ways, for which I’m so very grateful.
Blessings and best wishes to you. Thank you for everything.
What an extraordinary journey you have had and how you share your story to help others is so moving. Being shattered is an accurate description of how many of us feel when we face an unexpected tradegy….
As person who has been ” shattered” and learned how to pull myself back together and develop a new mindset….I want to say thank you for sharing and inspiring so many people….Bright Blessings, my friend….
Thank you, Nancy. These experiences are certainly life-changing, aren’t they?
Love and blessings to you, too.
Thanks so much for sharing your story! My first child and only daughter, Jade Angelica, was born 15 years ago this June 28th. She was born 4 months early and fit in the palm of our hand. Her heart beat for 6 hours but her impact in our lives remains forever. Her brother was born a year later and her other one 6 years after him. Both boys are healthy and thriving. They talk about their sister up in heaven quite often. The pain is much less years later and I times I forget how much it had hurt. However, just last weekend I was drawn to emotion while at the 8th grade graduation of her cousin. I was suddenly reminded that she would have turned 15 and graduated 8th grade this year. The video they showed of her cousin reminded me of all the moments we missed in her life. I shared this story at a networking meeting the other day as othes were talking abou their 8th graders who were graduating and the group was drawn to emotion to. I was so glad I had shared. Reading your facebook posts and blog was an affirmation of that as well 🙂 I’ve thought for the past year that Jade’s presence in our lives will some how fold into my business but God hasn’t shown me how just yet. As I wait for it to unfold, I will continue to draw her out more into the forefront thanks to your example.
Oh, Michelle, thank you for sharing about Jade. It makes so much sense that seeing the videos brought it all up for you. How beautiful that you shared your experience – and current feelings – at the networking event. Everyone has shattering experiences. When we share ours, others are freer to do the same.
My first pregnancy ended at 13 weeks with a miscarriage. I was teaching at a public school at the time and had shared weeks before that I was pregnant, so everyone knew when I had the miscarriage. Two other teachers came up to me in the following weeks and “confessed” that they’d had miscarriages, too, and had never told anyone. My heart broke for them. Carrying grief hidden inside is much harder. It can even be toxic.
You clearly know when and how to share about Jade’s presence and your experiences with her.
My love to you, Jade and the rest of your family.