The accidental healing
A friend of mine invited me to a weekend away at an awesome spa, for lunch, cocktails, wine and some “serious chin wag” she had said in her urgent WhatsApp message to me. As I drove through three motorways at breakneck speeds, I wondered what was so important to warrant a lunch date in the sticks.
“Impromptu spa visits don’t just happen – something must be terribly wrong.” I thought as I drove through that 50MPH section of the M25 that’s forever under construction, a camera flushed, I realised I was driving over the recommended speed -damn- in a few days a letter demanding £100 will land on my doormat.
“If it’s great news, this would be a girls’ spa trip, and undoubtedly there’d be a WhatsApp group given some mediocre name and messages would be popping every 5 seconds.” These thoughts helped to momentarily forget the speed fine, possible penalty points and mandatory speed training.
This invite was only for me. The rest of the journey was thought-free as I had to listen to the satnav – the worst thing on England’s motorways is to miss an exit and end up travelling for several miles before the next exit – whose idea was it to build stretches of roads with no roundabouts.
Later, I sat on some over-comfy sofas in an overly airy reception, sipping alcohol-free cocktails on a humid afternoon. I was very nervous, fidgeting and twisting my freshly done braids between my fingers as I waited for my friend to turn up. Last communication, at some weird traffic lights, said her satnav indicated she was 26 minutes to destination. I watched people, secretly judging them based on their physical appearance. I saw an elegantly dressed woman, probably in her mid-twenties, enter the reception sporting a gorgeous handbag – I made a mental note to ask her where she bought it if I met her in the bar later or the spa – wherever we will be drunkest.
A few hours later, my friend and I were lounging by the pool after a few strokes in the water. I couldn’t tell if it was hidden pain or chlorine from the water, but my friend was in tears. She told me between sobs that she was grieving and needed a break from the city and life, and mostly, needed a chat with a good friend. She wasn’t drinking alcohol yet, so it was not alcohol talking, it was her and I was that friend she needed. I hoped her problems were not too overwhelming – I, too, could share some heartbreaks I was nursing but hadn’t had the chance to tell her or anyone, or even wanted to. You see I too was grieving – probably not in the same way as she was: I’d been dumped by what I thought was the love of my life and was mourning the death of that relationship. I was all alone to listen to whatever grief she was going through, it made me feel special and needed. I wasn’t sure I could help or was well equipped to deal with other people’s problems, but was determined to listen if nothing else. As she spoke, my friend played with her hair, (signs of stress I assumed) and from her hands it appeared like she was plucking it out. I suggested we leave the pool, return to our room, order some cocktails and talk. She accepted amid sniffles. It was a warm summer evening and the humidity of the afternoon lingered.
We sat outside on the balcony overlooking a gorgeous golf course, none of us played golf or had any interest but we planned to visit the club house before checking out. My friend looked at me with knowing eyes. She recognised my agony for her despite not knowing what she was grieving. She looked at me again, this time more intensely and said, “once I’m done telling you, you have to tell me what’s going on with you.” I agreed to avoid too many questions – she knows me too well. She told me that her husband had fallen out of love with her and into someone else, and was therefore leaving her. I rolled my eyes but thank goodness, she didn’t see that. I was shocked at the news yes, but more shocked of the drama she’d created. I signed relief, inwardly. I wanted to throttle and shout at her “I was scared to death because I thought someone you loved had died” but I didn’t. I understood too well – maybe loss of love is as painful as death. I could see she was heartbroken, but her reaction was way over the top in my estimation: that or my heart had probably turned into stone as I have not much sympathy for such stories. It’s not like she had cancer or something. I was livid but listened anyway as she talked for two hours straight about her dreams and hopes and how they’ve been demolished [some choice word, I thought]. No sooner had these thoughts crossed my mind, than it hit me – we were the same. In the past, mere weeks within one another, we’d both loved and being loved, love had come to us in unexpected times and from unexpected people, much sooner than either of us thought possible. We’d both felt it was right, a blessing and a feeling that would last a lifetime. However, in this moment as my friend poured her heart out drenched in tears, and I had simply moved on from my heartbreak, it dawned on me we had suffered the same hurt, and our endless questions of whys and hows will never be answered. The difference was on how we dealt with it – she re-grieved it and I buried it in the sand. Her closure was clearer, well thought out and gainful. I was the shallow one for thinking heartbreaks were not good enough losses deserving a full-fledged grief.
“Time heals you know. Just give it time,” was all I could say. The conversation stalled for a period of time. It felt like hours. We ordered food and wine from room service. As the wine flowed so did the conversations: we talked about our other friends – the good, the bad, the ugly and the walking dead. We talked about work. We talked about makeup and hair. We talked about clothes and soon the conversations drifted off to unchartered waters and the topics were farfetched, distant and unrelated. Before the night was over I understood she’d been apart from her husband for months and she had cried buckets ever since: I felt guilty and wished she had told me earlier. This spa treatment with me was her way of mourning the end of her grief. We learn something new every day. Who knew people could mourn end of a mourn. It was her way of saying goodbye to the grief, and embracing new opportunities. She could not just move on without narrating the tale to someone, relive the grief, weep, and then smile, and keep the smile. This was very refreshing. I surmised this to the fact that she had grown intimate with her grief that when she felt ready to talk and heal she was sad to lose that intimacy – welcome to the world of bizarre. This kind of healing lasts forever because there’s no going back, at least that what she said when I confronted her with my theory of becoming intimate with grief.
The next day we got pampered with no talk of heartbreaks or breakups. We talked of ways upwards and forwards. The healing of whatever one is needing will come through. It will come in whatever ways it deems appropriate. Whatever the case, healing does come…. in time. The timing of it all might be attributed to whatever deity or God one believes in, but it does come in small amounts, in surprising ways, unexpectedly, in large amounts, but it does come. For my friend it came once she’d grieved and grieved some more for the lost grief; me it came from listening to my friend make sense of grieving the grieve for the ultimate good. I will be forever grateful.