When I stepped onto my own healing path, I never actually expected to heal.
I craved it at the same time I pushed it away.
I wanted desperately to feel better and didn’t think I deserved to.
Perhaps, I wanted to punish myself. To inflict pain and suffering. I was filled with guilt.
Healing was an abstract concept somewhere outside of me – maybe in the distance or at some far out point of space or time that was unreachable – unfathomable. Not allowed.
Yet, I reached for it. I reached for the intangible mystery of a question mark that healing often is.
What made me reach?
What made me keep going every time I bumped up against something big and scary and painful?
What was it other than, somewhere, way deep down, I must have known that it was possible? The belief of the impossibility of my own healing there as a layer of protection just in case it didn’t happen. I could undeniably trust the deniable.
I still sometimes feel fingerlings of energetic tethers or surges of seemingly forgotten memories of trauma arise. Only they aren’t as frequent and they don’t run the show now.
I have healed so much.
The thing about healing is that once it becomes a way of life, it really could be endless. There are always more layers. The trick, for me, is to know when to stop ripping open a wound and carry on. How to not let healing become an addition or habit, but a tool for continued growth.
Recently I did experience a bump of things resurfacing – mainly collected and unexpressed anger. I had just found my feet when I received the news of my grandmother’s death, another dear friend’s passing, and my dad’s heart surgery all happening at once. It was a lot.
In the past, I have swallowed my grief. I let myself cry, of course, but I also set limits on it. I tried to “be strong” for others by not expressing my tears. I’ve tried to keep it in or pretend it wasn’t happening. I certainly wouldn’t let other people see it. I’ve let it get tied up with guilt to make sure I would suffer. I went numb from holding onto it. Then, for many years, I was swimming in an ocean of trauma-fueled grief that felt wild and endless, fluctuating between crashing waves, attempting to suppress it or let it out and drown. It was bigger than me during those years of feeling unreachable.
What I noticed in moving through this time was I could feel so much more in the moment than I allowed myself to in the past. I felt the acute grief of loss. I let myself cry whenever it rose up. I didn’t hold the grief back. It came, sometimes violently surging through my heart and I could be with it, completely. Often, it felt hard. Painful. Huge! I let it. I let myself feel not only the grief but sad. Stressed. Frustrated. Afraid. Confused. I didn’t hold any of it back. Not for anyone else. Not to hide from anyone else. I let them see me. I didn’t swallow my emotions, no matter how big they felt or how strong. I didn’t have a single thought of guilt, just pure love transformed into grief.
It was liberating.
A week or so after my grandma’s funeral, I started to notice myself having thoughts of feeling stuck in life – I could see an old track play through my mind of how I don’t have a romantic relationship, a house, a job, a family. That I don’t even know where to live, and if I don’t know that how can I do or have or find anything else? Over and over these thoughts repeated endlessly from morning to night for a few days, forming a pretty bow (or knot…). I started to feel completely lost and adrift. These are not new thoughts. Only this time, I saw that they were there to accomplish a few things.
In the face of death, the thoughts represented things that feel “tangible.” In the face of uncertainty, I was reaching to create something in my life that would feel real. That I could touch. At the same time showing me all of the things I was lacking in my life, underscoring loss, and letting me fall into the pattern of berating myself and trying to figure out how to “fix” it: where I should go next. Where I should live. What job I might maybe want. How to find a partner. Not finding answers, I fed the loop more and more.
The thoughts also made me feel more sad that I already was feeling – a way to tell me that I wasn’t letting myself go all the way into the emotion. Even though I thought I had expressed so much (and I had!) I was still quite sad. Of course I was sad. I was in mourning. So I let myself be. I was sad and draggy and mopey. I told people how I was feeling. They listened and understood.
Since I had let myself feel the acute grief as it arose, once I went into the sadness, and truly accepted and myself be in it, it felt safe to be there. In that safety, I remembered that all along I knew I was exactly where I wanted to be right now: at home. That’s where I wanted to be and that’s where I was. There was nothing more to figure out than that. It was the thoughts of a fictitious future that were afflicting me. As I stopped, and allowed my sadness, I heard the words, “be here now.” It was as if Ram Dass had floated down beside me. I smiled.
Be here now.
And I am.
I am where I want to be.
Allowing, accepting, and sharing my sadness shifted everything. The thoughts dissipated (and haven’t returned). Even without answers, I felt instantly lighter and more at ease. The next morning I woke up feeling like I had energy for the first time since hearing all the news.
Now I can feel how the foundation of all the healing work I have done is serving me so well. Before I stepped onto this path I wouldn’t have been able to manage so many big things simultaneously and incorporate them so well. I would have (and did) let myself get lost in that drift that started to pull until it turned into a tidal wave. It’s no longer about healing that one experience that oriented so much of my work. It’s through that trauma and healing that I now have the ability to continue to heal with whatever arises. To move through it, to know that it will resurface and be triggered at moments, and to be okay with that too. I don’t need to safeguard or worry or avoid or blame, I can handle it.
There is no timeframe for healing with grief. For me, I’ve had to learn how to grieve fully so as to not let myself get stuck in any one moment. To know that it’s okay to let go.