Casually scrolling through Instagram I came across a post from a therapist I started following during Covid. What I read sent off an alarm in my brain.
I didn’t know what to make of this but as I read on I started to feel the truth of what she was saying. In essence, the way that we talk about “healing” today implies a complete pause on everything we do until some miraculous point of healing is reached.
Therapist, Tory Eletto insists that no, we should not stop living in order to “heal” – whatever that might mean – but instead, we should do our healing as we are living. This idea reminded me of a hospice nurse (Barbara Karnes) who talks about how dying people are still living people. The two exist together, as odd as that may sound or seem. In the same way, just as we actively live, we actively heal.
1. Healing is not a destination, it is a journey. Eletto beautifully writes, “There is no healing that stops us from feeling pain, from making mistakes, from slipping into old parts of us. There is no healing that creates perfect relationship, or a pain free one.” I would add to that, there is no healing that makes things like they were before. Once we lose someone forever, we change forever. No healing reverses that loss.
2. Healing is not a singular act or objective. Healing is living – moving through each day, one at a time, with the courage it takes to face a new world and way of life. Every act of living in the wake of grief is an act of healing.
3. The process of healing doesn’t feel good. And because it doesn’t “feel good” we don’t think that that’s what is actually happening. It makes me think of my son and the scrapes he got on his knees over the summer. He fell pretty bad on a hot sidewalk and got those glossy kind of scrapes on both knees. After a few days, the really itchy scabs formed. He wanted to just take them off, but those itchy scabs were his skin’s way of actively healing. And this is where we make the final misconception about healing – that it’s when the bandaids come off that we’ve arrived.
4. Death is not a scrape or minor inconvenience we bounce back from after spa treatments and therapy. Death is a form of amputation – a catastrophic and life-altering loss where healing isn’t the goal – adapting is. With a death, we are forced to learn a new life. Putting on a bandaid and waiting for normal to return isn’t an option.
So, to echo @nytherapist, let’s “stop healing” and stop stopping to heal. Live. Keep doing your life, feeling your life, imagining and remembering your life. There is no magical healing-place here on earth where the pain of a death is erased or made ok. We live on, we keep crying and laughing, adapting to our new way of life, not knowing all the time that we are healing as we hurt, and hurting as we heal.