The Path to Healing
Fran Wohlenhaus-Munday and Jack Munday
Both of us take part in retreats at our church, Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church of East Bethel. This winter Jack went on the men’s retreat and led a session talking about the criminal justice system as it is being evaluated by the denomination. He has been working with the ELCA Task Force on criminal justice, using the experiences we have had in helping to solve our daughter Marlys’ murder. Many of our readers know that Marlys was murdered in 1979 and we brought the murderer to justice in 1998.
Now Fran is preparing to take part in the women’s retreat, and has been asked to talk about being gentle with ourselves. That is not easy, particularly when one is faced with tragedy as many of us have been. When things are going well, when we’re happy, it is easy to treat ourselves with love and care. But where does how we treat ourselves fit on the path to healing? A good question.
Our responsibility to ourselves and to our loved ones is to honor them and their memory, not to let our own lives be destroyed by grief. Our three steps to healing, of telling our story, finding good memories and helping others, involve many instances of being gentle with ourselves. One particular area where we sometimes fail at being gentle is when we dwell on what we call the “If onlys.” If only I had done this or not done that, our loved one would still be with us. Punishing ourselves by thinking about what might have been different “if only” our behavior was different not only increases our pain, it dishonors the memory of someone who is not coming back to us in this life. Marlys died in 1979 and nothing we can do can possibly change that.
So being gentle with ourselves is a positive step in healing. An example might include collecting photographs of our loved one in scrap books, then sitting in our favorite chair in our home and looking at them. Remember that dress? Remember fixing that meal? Remember when she smiled so sweetly. Almost everyone we know who has had a child die has a place in the home where photos and things she or he liked are displayed. We have Marlys’ baptism Bible at such a place. So we look at what we have displayed.
Take time to be gentle to yourself.
Fran and Jack Munday have worked with the bereaved for more than 25 years, and write frequently on grief issues. E-mail: Ourhealingpath@aol.com. Information about their books is available at www.murdercanbesolved.com. Jack’s latest book can be found at www.johnsmunday.com