The Myth of Healing after Loss


I dislike the word healing.  I use it out of necessity at times, but only because there doesn’t seem to be a suitable alternative.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was something about the word that began to really annoy me after I lost my daughter.

It was only when I read Cheryl Strayed’s description of her experience of healing in her book Tiny Beautiful Things that my new resistance to the word finally made sense to me:

“I had that feeling you get—there is no word for this feeling—when you are simultaneously happy and sad and angry and grateful and accepting and appalled and every other possible emotion, all smashed together and amplified. Why is there no word for this feeling? Perhaps because the word is healing and we don’t want to believe that. We want to believe healing is purer and more perfect.”

When we hear the word “healing” we tend to picture quiet moments, reflective solitude, insight wrapped up in yoga poses, elusive waves of peacefulness and acceptance that follow the flow of tears.   And so it is no wonder so many of us feel like we are not “coping well” or “grieving properly.”  We don’t realize that the moments full of rage, the screaming into pillows, the sucker punch feeling that hits us when someone asks “so how many children do you have?” are all healing moments too.

Applying the word “healing” to grief seems to set us up for the expectation that this process will be linear, clean, and predictable, like the way new cells form painlessly and effortlessly to close skin that has been sliced open.  My process of healing has been far from pure or perfect.  My experience of healing would more accurately be described as coming completely undone and putting myself back together again. It has been about having my heart breaking open completely in order live again whole-heartedly. Sometimes the hurt is unbearable. Sometimes the beauty is blinding.

So remind yourself: Not only do you have the right to feel everything that you do but it is absolutely essential that you do. Check out my video below for more tips and strategies for real life healing.



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