Still Standing

The Truth About Healing After Loss

Healing – A cringe-worthy word to someone who is grieving.

Healing – a word that can evoke unsettling feelings.

Healing – a word so misunderstood.

Healing – the thought of becoming completely fixed and no longer feeling sadness about your loss.

Healing – impossible.

I jokingly say that I ran head first into healing. Through my work I tend to spread a message of hope to those who are grieving. A message that says things eventually get better. That the pain will not always be as deep and dark as it is now. A message that says to the newly bereaved – I was there where you are now. I have walked this road and I want you to know that it does get better. Little by little the pain will slowly ease and you will breathe easier. Will it ever be perfect? Probably not. Will it ever be exactly as it was before? Not likely. But you will not be trapped in that darkness forever. In your own time and in your own way it will evolve and change shape. And it is possible to come out standing on the other side of this life shattering circumstance.

I spread this message because it is what I believe to be true. There are thousands who have walked this road before me, thousands that walk it alongside me, and thousands more who will follow. This message of hope is a message that has been passed on from those who walk before me. Without that message of hope – I don’t think I would have been able to survive the first year of my grief. Without the glimmer of light in the darkness and without the faintest idea that I would not always feel such profound pain – I don’t know what I would have done without hope.

I was completely lost and utterly confused in the first months after my loss. I had no idea what grief should look like because my grief never fit society’s mold of the grieving process. I failed to realize the uniqueness of grief. I did however, cling to the message that things would eventually get easier. Though I knew they would never be the same, I sought healing early on in my journey because it is what felt right to me.

I can’t tell you how often people misinterpret my healing. What it is and what it looks like. Healing, to me, doesn’t mean moving on and forgetting. Healing to me means allowing myself to feel how I need to. It means giving myself permission to be sad, to weep, to smile, and to feel the happiness that is left in my life. It doesn’t mean that I do not think about my son or that I never mourn his absence. And it doesn’t mean that I am never again allowed to experience joy or that I am not allowed to live my life fully. Healing, much like grief is not at all what you would expect.

You see, both healing and grief come in many forms. It is unique to every person. Healing is not popular thought in the loss community. In fact, I have found that it is often met with resistance and anger. Because how could we heal after we have endured the loss of our children? How could we move on or live life like we used to? It doesn’t feel right nor does it sit well to think that we could truly live our lives forward without our children that left this world too soon.

Healing, by definition, is the process of becoming sound once again. It is a process we go through to get to a place where we don’t feel completely wrecked. Nowhere in the definition of healing does it say unscarred or unmarked by the things that called for its existence in the first place. I think the idea of healing can be scary because we do not fully understand what that means and what it looks like after loss.

Grief is a process. Healing is a process. Both are not easy. How long or how little time it takes to go through these processes isn’t dictated by anyone other than ourselves. Grief and healing coexist. Through actively grieving we are actively taking part in the healing process. These two things are intertwined in a way that I am still trying to comprehend.

But what I do know is this – Healing doesn’t have to be scary. It doesn’t mean that we are going to move on and get over our children. Our children are a huge part of who we are now. There is no doubting that. Healing is about working towards a place where we feel okay. A place where we feel the pieces of our lives falling back into place, even if they aren’t arragend quite the same as before. A place where we meet acceptance and feel comfortable in its presence. A place where we aren’t completely wrecked and lost every single day. A place where we can take our grief by the hand and walk with it gently down this difficult road. When it needs to stop and have a good cry, we stop with it and sit in that moment. When it feels happy and is in need of  a good laugh, we laugh alongside it without being consumed by guilt.

Healing is about allowing ourselves to embrace life the way it is now. It’s about knowing that we cannot change our circumstance nor can we ever fix it. It will never go away. But it will eventually get better. Healing is about how we choose to care for ourselves through our grief journey. It is about giving ourselves permission to feel the things we never thought in a million years that we would feel again. We just have to open our hearts to the idea that healing, much like grief, very well may be a lifelong process.

Healing – embracing grief for what it is.

Healing – a unique and unexpected process.

Healing – still marked, still scarred. But capable of living forward.

Healing – the ability to give yourself permission to find joy in the midst of sadness.

Healing – possible.