How Volunteering Is Helping to Heal My Grieving Heart
We are not products of our past and we don’t have to be prisoners of it. – unknown
After my daughter died, you could say the world ended. It was that simple. My life had come to the lowest point ever imagined. I was surrounded by complete darkness. There was no purpose, no meaning left, so why continue living? She was only 5. Suddenly, nothing mattered anymore. I had failed. Failed to protect my most prized possession. Failed horribly as a mother. I was at the bottom of the food chain. My future had been destroyed, or so I believed. And now, for the rest of my life, I will be a grieving mother. A frightening thought and a tough pill to swallow.
Over the last 10 years, I have gained wisdom far beyond my years. I was forced to grow up before my time, facing my fears and tragedies head on. Diving deep into my faith was the only answer. No one could help me or give me the magic potion to fix this pain, despite my longing to do so. My eyes were opened to a whole new world I never knew existed. I was desperate to fast forward through this horrifying heartbreak.
What You Should Know About Grief
Grief. It was real and so very debilitating in the first few years, causing physical ailments and poor self-worth. Yet as time went on, it presented me with an incredible sense of humility and oddly, breathed new life into me. I was different. Different than before the accident happened and ever so different than my friends whom I had known for years. I now attended support group meetings for bereaved parents — a foreign land, however, I found comfort knowing these mothers understood what I was going through. We gained our strength together by sharing our stories and our children, both the happy and the sad, the good and the bad. They had been there. They got it. They appeared so strong but were also weak like I was. And for the first time, I felt a tiny shimmer of hope igniting inside me.
This is where things began to change. It had been 18 months since my daughter, Lydia, had passed away, and I was asked to join the board of my local chapter of The Compassionate Friends. Exploring ways to encourage and support our members, every week I saw new hurting parents join our table, revealing their own loss and heartbreak. Little did I know, this is where my heart would remain for the next five years. It ignited in me an unyielding passion to serve others, and soon I found myself hosting birthday parties for underprivileged children, feeding the homeless under the bridge and volunteering at church. It was amazing.
The darker the night, the brighter the stars,
The deeper the grief, the closer is God!
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I hadn’t really volunteered much before except at my children’s school and in college at the fire department. What I didn’t know is that volunteering not only produces a positive impact on others, but it has an impact on you, by transforming your heart and mind. Any type of volunteering when you are giving of yourself and your time, helping others and your community, can’t help sow seeds of love and kindness.
One Amazing Thing You Can Do to Heal a Broken Heart
Here are a few ways volunteering helped heal my broken heart and can help you too. Volunteering helped me take my mind off my own circumstances. Grief is sneaky. It likes to haunt you and keep you feeling down and hopeless. However, volunteering kept me occupied and made my heart empathize with others going through life challenges, realizing we are all in this together. All the while, it quietly boosted my confidence and stirred up joy that was buried in my heart.
Volunteering gives perspective. When we are in the deep throes of hurt and sorrow, we feel like we have experienced the end of the world. When in all reality, life could always be worse. Not to diminish the pain and tragedy we all go through — however, seeing the struggles of others makes one understand that everyone suffers in life, some more than others, and makes you thankful for what you do have.
Volunteering makes you focus on what really matters in life. It can help you view life in an eternal perspective, reaching far beyond this life on earth and help you see where and how you can make a difference. It provides you a sense of your purpose. You are living and doing to make others feel loved. To let them know they matter. From helping feed the homeless to impromptu conversations at the hospital with strangers or in the grocery line, there are others who could use a little hope and encouragement. And you are placed in their path for a reason. Live in awareness, and don’t miss an opportunity to be a blessing to others.
Volunteering unites people. We are all unique individuals, emotional beings with tender hearts. It’s important for us to emotionally connect with others and let them know they are not alone. Forming new friendships also helps boost your own moral and aids in depleting that feeling of loneliness accompanied by grief. Giving back makes you feel part of something bigger than you.
Volunteering humbles you. It has made me tremendously grateful. Volunteering showed me the things in life I had taken for granted while offering me understanding and presented me with a renewed compassion for others. Serving others also provides an opportunity for self-reflection and meaning. With this, I learned to appreciate each new day and all the gifts I had been given in life, realizing that I was not more important that anyone else in life — that we are all equal.
Volunteering is a rewarding venture that provides fulfillment like nothing else. It gives you an internal change. A transformation of the heart. Giving back fills a void and satisfies that deep hunger for life that is hidden inside us.
In closing, I prayerfully encourage you all to consider where you can make a difference this year — whether in a small way, doing simple acts of kindness or a big way by chasing your dreams. By following through and making a commitment, you will open yourself to incredible life-changing experiences that you won’t regret. Give it a try!
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.