Watching my hand heal from carpal tunnel surgery has been a fascinating experience, a daily reminder of the truth of Psalm 139:14: we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
When I left the hospital my hand was swathed in an impressive bandage that made my appendage look like a soft white club. Judging by the size of the dressing you would have thought I’d had my hand replaced! Three days later, my daughter Jessie carefully unwrapped the massive bandage as my mom watched, none of us quite sure what to expect when my hand was finally revealed. I, not liking the sight of blood or incisions especially when they’re on me, averted my gaze. Mom’s, “Oh, that’s not bad at all”, was quickly followed by Jessie’s, “It looks a bit gruesome though.” The latter comment kept me from looking . . . for days! Instead, Mom faithfully changed the small-by-comparison Band-Aide® each night, offering more encouraging commentary which was enough to assure me progress was being made.
When my daughter Mary first saw my hand without the post-surgery dressing she remarked, “I bet it feels good to have your hand unwrapped.” It was certainly more comfortable, but without the enormous bandage I felt quite vulnerable and became very protective of my hand. In her self-titled role of “Nurse Jane”, Mom not only checked my incision nightly, but admonished me multiple times a day not to overdo it or hurt my hand. I assured her (repeatedly) that I’d be very careful since I’d be the one to suffer if I hurt myself. Indeed, I was so focused on recovering well, I followed the surgeon’s instructions to the letter and did my best to protect my incision, which I looked at frequently AFTER the stitches were removed. I even forsook working in my beloved garden for a whole month!
Bit by bit, my strength and range of motion improved as I tried to do a little more each day and let my hand tell me when I was asking it to do too much. One morning, several weeks after surgery, my hand felt almost normal. “Yes! I’m well!” . . . Nope! The next day, and for several days afterwards, I experienced cramping and occasional shooting pain in my hand. Healing had progressed to a deeper level. A week or so after that first almost-normal day, I experienced another day with little to no surgery-related discomfort. I expect there will be more good days and less pain as the recovery process continues to completion and am confident the final outcome will be positive.
The pain of loss can be every bit as sharp and piercing as any surgeon’s scalpel. Though the wounds are invisible, it’s just as important and appropriate to take care of ourselves when we’re hurting emotionally. Resting, receiving encouragement and assistance from supportive people, and protecting ourselves from further harm are critical components of healing, whether the injuries are physical or emotional.
And don’t underestimate the value of time . . .
Grieving is a process as individual as physical healing and every bit as back and forth. There are days when a new normal starts to feel comfortable, followed by a return to hours marked by profound sadness upon realizing all over again that things won’t ever be the way they were. Two steps forward, one back. Three steps forward, two back. But gradually, in time, healing takes place because the One who made us, fearfully and wonderfully, is the same One who never lets us go. He has compassion on us, remembering we’re dust and knowing what it’s like to experience the sorrows of this life because the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
So let us be gentle and patient with ourselves and with each other, following the example of He who took up our pain and bore our sorrows that we might be healed.