Healing feels a lot like a tearing open, a seeping out of soul of all that was given, taken, shared and remembered. Healing is painful, probably one of the most painful things we will endure. And though excruciating, for a time, eventually it leads us into deeper experiences of pleasure and poise. It is not something we can rush, skip over, short-cut or bargain with; it must be felt and lived through. Entirely.
I hate that this is true. But it is. Healing is one of those things in life that has no formula, no specific time frame or “life expectancy”. It is a journey that the heart, mind, soul and body must take in order to be well, integrated and more whole from where it was left off.
More than ever, I am convinced that to lean into the healing process is one of the bravest things human beings can do. It is much easier to numb, compartmentalize, escape and distract ourselves from the pain that we have experienced or are experiencing. Now, I do actually think distractions, or needing to compartmentalize things for A TIME can be helpful. It can keep us afloat and remind us that life is more than the ache, grief or loss that has taken place. However, these things are temporary, and only reach us skin deep. Healing, true healing, must reach beyond that and into the very life flow of our person. It must get into our bones. If we don’t go there, it will fester and rot, it will turn into bitterness, cynicism, rage, self-destructive behaviours, and relational disasters. It will rob us of the joy, vitality and peace that we were, and are all, meant to experience in life.
Unfortunately, the only way out, is through. Through the pain, through the confusion, through the tears, through the memories, through forgiveness, and through acceptance. It is the only way.
Yes, I believe time is a great healer. But, I also believe in the rituals that we put in place during that time. A lot of the time, the rituals for me look like this: Watching numerous episodes of Friends and Queer Eye. Hibernating instead of socializing. Crying, crying and crying some more. Writing, praying, and yelling. Enjoying a cigar while staring out into a sky much bigger than myself. Exercise and sports. Asking close friends to come by just to listen. Getting away for a few days to retreat, to be in silence and solitude and to really go into the places of pain. Return, and receive what my life is. Actually practice gratitude, even when I am so resistant to it. Make a list of all the things I have learnt, and the ways I can be more true to myself in this time. Remember self-compassion, and let myself laugh.
What are some of the rituals you find helpful when going through times of pain; or a time of healing? Do you have any? If not, how can you implement one or two things so that you don’t remain in a stagnant place, without hope or joy?
Recently, I was having tea with an old Professor and now dear friend. We were talking about grief and healing and how essential it is to let ourselves really go through it. She told me a story she learnt from the Ojibway tradition about Grandmother Moon. In the Ojibway tradition, Grandmother Moon is responsible for making the tides come in and out. She draws out the tides. And Grandmother moon within each of us is responsible for also drawing out the waters within us. That water is often our tears. Grandmother moon appears as a light in the darkness, and her light calls out the water within us so that we may be healed.
In the Christian tradition, we can find deep comfort in the Paschal mystery. Which is the life, death and resurrection of the Christ. A cycle of deaths, waiting and new life that we experience in the cycles of our lives. Catholic writer and Priest Ronald Rolheiser expresses it like this in his book “The Holy Longing”:
- Good Friday – “the loss of life; real death.” (Name your deaths)
- Easter Sunday – “the reception of new life” (Claim your births)
- The Forty Days – “a time for readjustment to the new and a grieving of the old.” (Grieve what you have lost and adjust to the new reality).
- Ascension – “letting go of the old and letting it bless you; the refusal to cling to it.” (Do not cling to the old, let it ascend and give you its blessing).
- Pentecost – “the reception of new spirit for the new life that one is already living.”(Accept the spirit of the life that you are in fact living).
Wherever you find yourself in the journey of healing, remember that your pain won’t be forever. Though time feels slow, and the nights bitter cold, you will soon wake to the warmth of a new day. Though you may be broken, you will be healed. Be patient and gentle with yourself, and may you find that extra bit of courage to lean into the darkness that will too, in time, be a great gift.
A blessing for you as you go:
When Walking With Grief – A prayer from the Common Book of Prayer
“Do not hurry as you walk with grief; it does not help the journey.
Walk slowly, pausing often.
Do not hurry as you walk with grief.
Be not disturbed by memories that come unbidden.
Swiftly forgive, and let Christ speak for you unspoken words.
Unfinished conversation will be resolved in him.
Be not disturbed.
Be gentle with the one who walks with grief.
If it is you, be gentle with yourself.
Swiftly forgive; walk slowly, pausing often.
Take time; be gentle as you walk with grief.”