Soul Secrets


Secrets are to the soul what termites are to a house.  By the time you see them, the damage has already been done.  

My daughter, now 20, called to tell me about a woman who had taken her own life. Having discovered the body of someone she loved deeply, my daughter was troubled thinking about who may have discovered this woman. Almost immediately, I remembered the day my daughter found the lifeless body of one of the most important people in her life.  I was about to get my next client from the waiting room when my phone would not stop ringing. After a couple of failed attempts to send the calls to my voicemail, I answered the phone. All I could hear was hysterical crying and yelling about something.  When I finally understood her, I made my way to her as fast as I could.  My daughter, just 15 at the time, had found the lifeless body and was forever changed.  

Thinking of my daughter on that day, my heart hurt for all who have found someone, for all the ones left behind, and for those who ‘got it.’ Almost instinctually, we question what we should have done differently; what if I had gone earlier? I should have____! Why didn’t I?  

As I read the summary left behind, I was both sad and angry. Too often, I have encountered a similar recount of events. It read like so many stories I had heard and walked through with friends and myself.  It unfolded to reveal a tale of innocence stolen, a person being stripped of their power at the hands of someone who should have been trusted. Here, where the secrets began is where shame was planted and hopelessness introduced. Hopeless that the situation will ever get any better, that the pain will ever end, and that light will ever be seen again. It feels dark and deep, like a black hole that wants to steal the light.  

Thinking of the days following, I could see suicide and sexual assault competing for the tragedy’s lead role. Her story opened the door to talk about two tough issues not exclusive to her. As we explore the aftermath of such tragedies, let us consider all those affected by these two issues, both directly and indirectly. 

Online articles and posts will most likely bring out survivors, along with those who sit in judgment. Words of compassion, empathy, pity, and judgment are sure to be spoken. The ‘experts’ will show up sharing tips and quoting stats. The impenetrable will show up saying something similar to, “get over it, that life.” Loved ones and friends will decide to ignore, monitor, or even participate in the discussion threads and comments.  Participation may include angry rants, understanding, or perhaps a statement intended to silence all the voices and acknowledge the ‘thoughts and prayers.’It may even include a little of all of it. 

To change the outcome, we have to change what we are teaching, tolerating, and modeling. We have to do this in our homes, schools, work, teams, churches, etc. The change also requires us to speak up when we see something. Kids don’t run away for no reason, and anger comes from someplace; there is a reason they seek attention.

I have wished for a magic wand that would take away the horrible pain, even someone or something to tell me when it would be over, and found neither. I have discovered that the pain grows in the darkness, and healing is scary even sucks on occasion, but it’s worth it.    The journey can sometimes feel like being dropped off in a foreign land where you will need to learn their language and customs to survive. The journey begins the first time we share a part of our secret, our shame, the thing(s) we believe make us unlovable with someone, and they don’t wilt or pass judgment. 

When what we share is met with empathy, not pity, and understanding that our story, the things we have survived and walked through, is not who we are, but instead experiences we have had. Each time that happens, we begin to feel safe enough to share another part.  When we share them, and with whom, we can choose our words, and with whom is how we start to get our power back. This is where we start to repair the damage the secrets have caused.  

When we hear people make jokes, jabs, or comments about another person’s story, we hear our story’s judgment in real life or on a screen.  

When we hear the comments about what should have happened and “I would have,” we hear that we have failed.

When we watch people squirm and avoid uncomfortable conversations and situations, we see that they would be burdened by what we carry. 

When we listen to you tell us stories that do not belong to you and didn’t have permission to share, we hear that you can not be trusted, especially with the ‘worst’ parts of us. 

When you say it will be ok, we hear you haven’t done the journey’s hard work.

Our story is not worse than or better than another’s. Be brave and find a safe place to speak the shame out loud. At the same time, we all need to get comfortable in discomfort.  Be ready to join someone where they are and hike through the wilderness. We need people and to be people who will push towards wholeness, not remain in brokenness. If you grow weary, say so, and reach out to find what is next and who can go.  

My rule:  I have needed and continue to need people who love me for the worst thing, worst decision during the worst season of my life so that I will offer that to others. I am not willing to ask someone to do something that I am not willing to do.