‘Souls plaited by love across eternity’
Today Lisa is changing lives with her unique approach to coping with loss and all its devastating consequences.
Her journey of transformation from the depths of despair to where she is now, is inspiring countless others who have come face-to-face with pain and loss.
“There is a well of pain that I can dip into. It is a container of grief that I access mostly when I choose, when I miss my son too much, when I see your child gets to celebrate her birthday, and when I long to buy new stationery and to pack school lunches. There is a barrel of grief that I tap into,” she said.
At a recent charity event hosted by the Angel Network, Lisa gave a talk to a packed audience titled “Accessing your Resilience” in which she shared her personal journey and offered life skills on how to tap into one’s resilience.
“I remember clearly when it wasn’t this way. When grief was a tsunami that drowned and dumped and bruised me beyond the horizon of my limits, when I lived in a sea of pain and came up for breath between the tumbles.”
She doesn’t remember when this pain transformed, but she knows “if love expands us then so too does loss – beyond the version of who I was”.
Who was Lisa before the loss? She was a mother of an 11-year-old son, Jordan, and the wife of Michael.
“We were happily married for 17 years,” she said. This ended on March 31, 2013 on a bright, clear Sunday morning soon after embarking on a road trip from Johannesburg to Durban to visit family.
Jordan fell asleep 15 minutes into the journey.
“Michael and I held hands and we gave thanks, grateful to have our beautiful new car a 4×4… we gave thanks for each other and our beautiful child. Little did I know that those would be the last words we would say to each other, and the last time we would touch each other.”
A car travelling at bullet speed hit them from behind at approximately 200 km an hour bringing to an end life as she knew it.
Lisa miraculously survived. She suffered massive internal injuries, but these were nothing in comparison to the psychological and emotional trauma of loss.
“And that’s how it ended and that’s how my life without them in this physical world began,” she said.
In May this year, Lisa was the guest speaker at a breakfast fundraiser for Nechama Counselling for the Bereaved, in which she described her pain.
“I think of my grief and my healing as a toddler. My grief is four years old; it looks very different and feels very different to how it did at four months old, and I would imagine in four years’ time and in 14, it will be a very different being. That is the process of transformation.”
Nine months after the accident, when Lisa was preparing for the unveiling and writing the words to inscribe on the tombstone, an image came to her mind of the plaited kitka bread that her “Jordy” used to make at his school every Friday.
“I thought the strands entwined together are like Michael, Jordan and I and that we were separate beings but we would always be plaited together… our souls are plaited by love across eternity.
“I thought about my transformation from the person I was, to the person I am now, about the journey of my loss, and the kitka with its three strands came to mind again. And I realised there have been three strands that have plaited me into the transformed Lisa.”
The three strands in her plait of transformation include: being open to love and kindness and feelings; having trust in the universe and in herself; and making choices.
“One of the first things I was open to, was receiving this outpouring of love and kindness… when something so terrible has happened to you, kindness is the balm and the antidote that soothes and makes it better.”
She was also “open to love”.
She met up with Craig, a friend of 20 years. “Craig… offered me incredible love and kindness and he opened a door and he said to me there’s beauty, there’s adventure, there’s goodness, there’s love in the world. He motivated me to step forward to take his hand and to continue into the world of the living.
“Being open to kindness and love has been an important strand in my transformation.”
She was also open to feelings.
“As a psychologist I knew that a feeling can only exist for 90 seconds… I knew when the pain came all I had to do was stay with it for a minute and a half without getting my mind involved, without allowing thoughts to take over.”
She allowed herself to experience the grief. “I allowed the tears to flow and I gave myself lots of quiet time, and that’s what sadness calls us to do… I didn’t deny the pain, I let it flow.
“I had to let go of my roles, my role as mother, my role as wife. I didn’t have those roles anymore, but I did have a sense that there was goodness and there was love and there was kindness and that there would be other ways in which I could continue.”
The second strand in her transformation is about trust.
“I’ve always had an incredible sense of trust in the bigger picture. So, when the accident happened, I didn’t say why me? I understood that if I could see the bigger picture I would know… there is a benevolent force that takes care of us all. This trust has been very important to allow me to continue.
The third strand in the process of transformations, has been about choice.
“I realised that I didn’t want to live with the pain. There were times when I just wanted not to be here so that I didn’t have to live with the pain. But I wanted to live. And then I made peace with the pain and sadness as a part of life and I created and chose and made decisions about living alongside with the pain.”
“I chose to reframe, to look at things differently, because this allowed me to access my resilience. Over and over I make choices, I make reframes, so that I can be transformed into an expanded version of myself.
“I do not think that my grief has shrunk; I think that I have expanded to contain it… Through being open, through choosing to remain open, through choosing to be trustful in the universe and in myself, I have expanded beyond the version of who I was.”