What do we mean by “healing grief?”
This is such a great question! First, it is important to know that we often experience the expectations placed on us by those around us when dealing with grief. For example, others may say or expect that our healing process will go in a specific direction. They may suggest that there will be an “end” to our grief and we should be able to “move on.” But it really is not so simple and expectations like this can lead a grieving person feeling like he or she should be healed in a certain way in a certain time frame…and if he or she does not, then something is wrong. But as we know, everyone’s grieving process is completely different! There are so many variables, such as who or what was lost, how the loss occurred, what was expected from us in our family and our culture, and so much more, that impact the way we experience our grieving process.
So what is “healing grief?” Well, there is a healing process where the griever’s feelings and reactions become less intense over time. How much time? I wish I had a specific time frame to offer you! Unfortunately, it just does not work that way. As I mentioned, everyone and every loss is so unique. But what we do know is that over time, the reactions to the loss do not take up so much “room” in our lives. We find ways to adapt to a world that has forever been changed. We might have to take on new roles in our lives, learn new skills, make new relationships and strengthen the ones we have, and try to make sense of what all this means to us now that we have this new way of being in the world. Who we were no longer exists, and we work towards figuring out who we are…a new normal. We work towards maintaining a relationship, for example in the case of losing someone, with the person we lost in a different way than we did when he or she was alive. And we find new ways to cope with all this. That takes time, and may even take a lifetime as we grow and change as a person in this new world. In other words, we have learned to adapt to the loss we have experienced.
It is also very important to remember that there will be times where the loss feels like it is just as new as it was when it first happened. This can happen around the date when the loss happened, holidays, birthdays, or just because you see the same kind of car the person you lost used to drive! Be gentle with yourself during these “pangs of grief.” They are normal. It does not mean you have not healed. It means you are human and have maintained a connection to that experience.
So there is no “moving on.” Take that pressure away! You move forward. It is a chapter in the book of your life, not an entirely new edition.