Moving on

Looking back, we can sometimes see the edge of the cliff we danced on, trace the lines of the fall that is coming, and perhaps even remember hearing the deep rumble just before the earth began to crumble. One moment we are standing straight, and the next there is a crash of some sort that takes us out.

Not being much of a risk-taker or a person who liked getting close to the cliff’s edge, there did not seem to be much of a chance that I would end up here in the emergency room with paralysis stealing the life I knew. No skydiving or hanggliding, just a routine chiropractic manipulation that brought me here. As they say in the nursery rhyme, “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty back together again.”

It was May 21, 2001, and it became my date of injury—a date that has yet to pass without deep reflection. There was so much loss that happened in what seemed like the blink of an eye, yet almost 15 years later, I can actually weep not with sorrow, but with gratitude for all that I have been blessed with since that time.

It has not always been that way, and for a time, even though the outside of me seemed happy, there was a massive storm brewing on the inside. In my journey to get my life back, there was one very important part that I skipped over: grief.

Unshed grief does not go away, no matter how many times you stuff it down or how many times you say, “I am okay.” It sits like a volcano, all quiet and calm, until one day it erupts and takes out everything in its path.

The funny thing is that I thought I was okay. My daughters, who were 20 and 15 when I was injured, had grown and were successfully pursuing their own dreams. My ex-husband, who had been by my side through all of this, was doing fine, and I was working full-time at a job I loved. In reality though, none of us were okay because of my unwillingness to lift the corner up on the grief that was keeping us all stuck. Until I broke, the lie was going to continue.

I didn’t know all this when my dance with grief started, and was really not consciously aware of my own part in the lie. I just knew in 2001 that everyone needed me to get my shit together and come back, so like a dutiful soldier, I put my uniform on, did what was needed, and held on tight with my eyes closed.

My days in rehab had taught me how to compensate for what I had lost, how to use a wheelchair, to deal with bowel and bladder stuff, to get dressed and all that one needs to be independent. But nowhere in there was the big lesson, which was, Where do you put a loss this great, and how do you get over it?

It was the “get over” part where I stumbled, for there was no way to reconnect the two parts of myself. There was a disconnect in my body, and although I knew how to use that paralyzed part of myself, it no longer could carry out the job it once had. I carried the weight of the paralyzed part of me with shame and disgust, keeping it all covered.

Others might have seen the wheelchair I needed, but they were never allowed into my disability. Get too close and offer help and you heard, “I have this,” which was my way of saying, “Back off and take your pity with you!”

About 10 years after my injury, I was plagued by infections and exhaustion that I could not shake. My job became a source of deep disappointment, and the truth started to leak in when I was diagnosed with depression.

“Who sat on my rose colored glasses?” I asked. It was time, so with my family’s support, a wonderful psychologist, friends, and a rusty toy shovel, the digging began. My grief and loss were like that feather pillow that explodes and you have no idea how something so small could contain such a messy explosion.

There was one more who journeyed with me this time, and that was God. A God I had discovered back in 2001 who had earned my trust, and so while I grieved, He carried me to the places and people that could help me.

Almost 15 years later, I still haven’t gotten over my injury. What I have accepted is that I have a purpose and God has a plan, and in that there is grace.

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About the Author | Cheryl Hopper

Cheryl Hopper is no longer quiet about the things that matter. She has become a Truthteller in her life. You can find her at a pet rescue event on the weekends with a dog in her lap and a story to tell. She has two amazing grown daughters and lives in San Clemente with her ex-husband, a Chihuahua/Min Pin rescue named Doe, and Buddy, a rescue cat.

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8 comments to "Moving on"

  • Doc

    Cheryl, great article. I too know the sense of loss you feel. I, too had to adapt. Will say no thanks, when I really would like the help. I too found God through all the turmoil and now feel at peace.

  • Cheryl

    I loved it. I am glad you are healing.

  • Sharon Lee

    Ah! My Dear Sweet Sister in Christ Jesus, Cheryl Hopper, What a truly beautiful story you continue to share….A story of triumph over great trials…I know you, I love you, and am captured by your story…You are my inspiration…as you are to many that you have met already, and will meet in the future. Thank you for being the you that God called you to be…and in doing so, shining His light through you. How much more enriched are we that have been blessed to know you. Love you and Doe.

  • Kathy Abendroth

    Dearest Cheryl,
    My brave sister, you are the dearest most beautiful woman I have ever known. I saw and held your pain so many times as you have held mine. Your amazing story is such an inspiration and the word pictures express it so very well. I will always be there for you as you continue your amazing journey. I am privileged to have been by your side. The joy you bring others in your writing is truly a gift!
    I love you and your sweet Doe too!

  • Debi Willis

    My sweet cousin, thank you for sharing your journey. I have always admired you and treasured our short times together through the years. God is able to do superabundantly above all we ask or think. (Eph 3:20). He always amazes me with how He is able to bring life and joy out of the ashes. You are His child and treasure. I am blessed to have you in my life.

  • Susan

    Amazing article/sharing. I am blessed to know of you thru ur amazing Teryl. I hope some day I can meet u! Ur courage and vulnerability is blessing all who know u…

  • Bryan Z.

    I understand completely, I too live with SCI, (T-9). Injured at work in 2009, I accepted my fate within 4hours of injury, I’m good like that. I know about the grief and life we allow when no one else is around. I am just making peace with God and that mending is going on currently. Our stories, and am sure many of “us” are the same, a so similar it scared me. Although I did accept this quick, I found out early on it is ok to never like it, who would? Keep the faith in this journey and don’t get down, we of the “half life’ don’t have enough time to waste there. May God bless your path, today and always. Email me if you need to “rip that pillow open”, we play in the feathers together.

  • Mary Barras

    Wow, Extraordinary! Your story is so powerful!