Grieving: 6 Ways to Begin to Heal
1 - reorientation: grieving as hurt, hurt as healing
Imagine yourself as physically wounded. What do you do? If you are wounded, you do not cover it up and pretend it doesn’t exist. If you are wounded, you open up the wound to clean it, so it will heal.
2 - tell everyone:
Honour the wound. If you try to ignore it, it will grow infected. If it were a literal wound, ignoring it could even kill you. But this is a wound to your spirit. Others cannot see it. So it is even more important not to hide it, but to let others know you are in pain. Remember, unlike a physical wound, it will not register with those you meet, so it may be necessary to inform or remind them of your situation. Do this as early in a conversation as possible to prevent yourself being trapped by others’ assumptions. Remember that in a society where there are no longer any tokens by which the grieving may be easily identified – such as the old custom of wearing black – it is necessary for you to give the sign early to avoid compounding your own hurt.
3 - keep in mind: what has happened to you is important
Do not deny the wound. Do not deny the pain. And do not allow others to disregard or minimize your pain. (By doing so, they may think they are helping you, but in fact the opposite is true.)
4 - find a sacred space
A sacred space is one in which you can heal. It should be one which is quiet and offers comfort: a bench in a favourite park; a place where you once walked with the one you loved; a spot near the grave; a forest clearing. It does not matter where it is as long as it is quiet and responds to your condition. As for myself, I went back to the church of my childhood. It was not only that the ritual was consoling but that, within the community of the church, I found a place where suffering was taken seriously. There I could acknowledge my pain and begin to become whole again.
5 - imagine yourself as healing
A tree wounded in its trunk by a hard object simply grows around it. You too are growing, and as you grow, you will surround the hard thing that has wounded you. It will not kill you. Although you have been hurt, you can still grow and flourish. Likewise when you heal, you will have a scar. It will always remind you – and others – of the wound you have suffered. In time, it will simply become part of you, and at times, it will even hurt again, in a way that reminds you distantly of the intense pain immediately after the event.
This scar is a good thing. It is the memento of the suffering we have endured. It is a sign that we continue to endure, but have never forgotten the wound and the loss by which it was made.
6 - when pain is good:
When it tells you you have to pay attention to it.
When it breaks you open, making you bigger.
When it connects you with the pain of others.
When it forces you to look at the world differently.
When it reminds you that you are alive.
When it compels you to be honest.
When it makes you understand that it is inevitable.
When you recognize it as one of the most intense, and potentially valuable, experiences in your life.
Excerpted from Grieving: A Beginner’s Guide by Jerusha Hull McCormack