How to embrace joy and pain, together

Find the good in life even when bad things happen

How do you find the good in something as extraordinarily horrible as being burned alive in a car accident?

Allison Massari not only survived such an ordeal but is thriving and sharing her life lessons with others dealing with pain and trauma.

Massari was a 32-year-old artist driving home with a load of highly flammable art supplies when she was involved in a high-speed accident. Her car burst into a fiery inferno.

Unable to escape, Massari could feel the flesh burning off her body. She prayed that she wouldn’t die alone. Remarkably, she was saved by a Vietnam veteran, who raced by a group of horrified onlookers to kick in the driver’s side window and pull her from the wreckage.

Massari had second- and third-degree burns over 50 percent of her body. She underwent two painful skin grafts and weeks of intense treatments to scrub the burned flesh from her body.

“It wasn’t a matter of surviving the next day or hour — but each second of such excruciating pain,” Massari said.

But survive she did. She spent 40 days in a burn unit followed by months of physical therapy. Massari said she suffered years of depression, despair and anxiety before finding peace and happiness.

How in the world could this young woman find peace and happiness after so much suffering?

She laid out her path to inner and outer healing before a crowd of hundreds at Norton Healthcare’s most recent Go Confidently event at The Olmsted last week.

Massari, who has an incredible sense of humor, first credits family and friends for helping her on the journey to peace.

She also credits an 18th century German playwright, novelist and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe for motivating her to see a way forward through her recovery.

She noticed that in several lines of his poetry, he mentioned the concept that happiness is possible in the midst of suffering. And that is when she made the decision to begin her quest to find out how.

Massari outlined several steps that helped her transition from victim to compassionate healer:

  • Always remember to search for something good in the midst of the bad.
  • Something as simple as a smile, a caress or kind word can make a profound difference in the healing process.
  • Be quick to forgive when others hurt you emotionally.
  • You must address your suffering in order to heal; be kind to yourself.
  • Wake up every day and say, “I’m in charge of my life!”
  • Thank God every day.

It took Massari more than a year to heal physically and more than 10 years to soothe the emotional scarring.

She took it one day at a time, determined to never give up and to push her way through the pain.

The artist in her has taken a back seat to public speaking before large groups across the nation. She now shares her message of healing, compassion and hope.

“Pain and joy can exist side by side,” she said.

For those of us who heard her message, it was obvious that she has done it.

–Jackie Hays

Norton Healthcare’s Go Confidently speaker series was created to inspire people to realize their full potential through thoughtful discussions on health-related topics of interest. Check our website for upcoming events.

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