Healing is often on its own trajectory. We don’t really decide when certain parts of ourselves start to heal. We can’t really schedule our healing moments for convenient times. In the same way you can’t really schedule when your child will learn to walk, or talk or lose his first tooth, or break up with his first girlfriend. Growth and development happens when the conditions are right, when things come together. And healing, especially healing from grief and trauma, is another form of growth and development. It is rehabilitative growth—it is growth that starts up again with parts that are often sore or unused or unpracticed.
Healing, mending, growth—they happen when the conditions are right. It can be a long slow process of letting things shift, of feeling like nothing is happening, of working hard to just not to use your old habits or old protections so that hurt parts of yourself can come in contact with each other or come out into the light. Much like you are waiting and hoping for your child’s developmental milestones, you are waiting and hoping for healing—but really nothing can prepare you for the messiness or the discomfort of healing. You have waited so long for it, and when it comes you think, “Can I go back?” “Should I quit?” “I thought it would feel better or easier.”
Much of what is written about healing—whether from trauma or grief is about what you can do. Self help books are filled with what you can do. And there are times when you are doing. Most of what people imagine trauma therapy to be is a series of telling ‘war stories.’ And I think what gets in the way of people being able to tolerate treatment is that healing is much bigger than that. We are bigger than our worst story and we have to grow beyond them and with them and through them. Not only is healing bigger than that, it is slower than that. Some of healing is doing, but even more of healing is being. And we imagine being to be easier than doing. But often it is not. It is one thing to tell your war stories. It is entirely different to just sit in them, to be in them. And it is even bigger to have someone witness our being.
As E.L. Konigburg states above, “…you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside of you.” Theses are the days of healing no one writes a book about or makes a movie about. The times of healing when you have to let the work you are doing swell up inside you. Find all the edges and the empty places.
Yesterday on my walk I found myself humming, “Let it be.” It was a very grey day and I was visiting a friend in Rhode Island who had very kindly watched my dog while I was away. We both decided that we needed fresh air and headed to the beach for a long, lovely walk. And there’s nothing like a walk on the beach, on even a grey day to remind you that life has its own rhythms. Endless, loud, beautiful rhythms. The waves crash in and roll back out. The colors of the water and the sky and the sand captivated us.
It is so hard to have the same faith in the rhythms of your own healing. That there are times when it will roll in, and times it will roll out. And it is so hard to just stay with it when it shows up, and brings in all the mess with the tide. Oh the patience it takes. To find the treasures in the mess. The shells. The beautiful rocks. The sea glass. No, healing doesn’t show up when it is convenient. But when it does. Let it be. Hum it. Feel it. Grow. Heal.
© 2015 Gretchen L Schmelzer, PhD