Friday, April 10, 2015

What does healing look like anyway?

My friend Bridgette and I were chatting recently about grief. She lost someone close to her when she was young and it's had a lasting effect. I asked her about healing, how she knew when she was moving through the grief, and she replied, "What does healing look like anyway? I still miss him, even years later. The loss is still there. It's just easier to bear."

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Having just passed the year mark of Kevin's death, I already have people say things like, Well, it's been a year, you must be better now, right? I know these things are said lovingly, with hope and encouragement behind the words. The honest answer is no, I am not better. I don't know if I ever will be better or what better looks like.

What I do know is I experience more ease. The pain of losing Kevin is not gone. I doubt that wound will ever heal. But it is easier. Sometimes. I still have days when I wake crying, when I can barely function. They are slightly less frequent now. I am more likely to have days that are a blur where, while I may not be sobbing, I still am shrouded.

Rose Kennedy, a woman who knew something about love and loss, said, "It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone." I think she's right. I have the thinnest layer of scar tissue now, easily scraped away, but there nonetheless. The grief still comes in waves. I still drown sometimes. Now, at least, I know the wave will pass.

So what does healing look like? For me it seems to mean that I can talk about Kevin without immediately crying. It means I can visit some of our shared pleasures without falling immediately apart. It means I am beginning to think about what the coming days and weeks will be like without feeling only the lack of my heart. Healing looks like crying, like staring off into the distance, like laughing and stopping with a start. It looks like good moments mixed in with the bad. It looks like me.

I don't think I will ever recover from this loss, in the sense that I will recover who I was before he died. I am and will be different. A loss of this magnitude should leave scars. A love of this magnitude changes you. So does the loss.

My heart is still broken. It beats in a different time now, without Kevin's heart in rhythm. I am learning to hear the new rhythm and I may eventually find the dance in it. Not today. But I am still here. I am able to feel the sun on my face. That, perhaps, is what healing looks like. I am still here.

p.s. I've hesitated to publish this post because I don't want anyone to think I am done grieving. All I am noting is that things change. To deny the change would be as false as denying the pain, would be as false as denying the ease.

(c)2015 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

1 comment:

  1. RIGHT you are-time does not heal the wounds- it's what you do with the time that helps. But we will never heal totally. I lost my Alan the day before you lost your Kevin.

    Here is a list I think I got it from an book about transcending loss. I revised it and made it about myself to remind myself that I
    AM recovering . . . . I have come a long way in a year but am not 100% healed and probably never will be......


    I have returned to my normal levels of psychological, social, and physical functioning in most all realms of my life.

    I am not overwhelmed by emotions in general or whenever Alan's death is mentioned.

    I can enjoy myself without feeling guilty.

    It is not that I don’t hurt, but the hurt now is limited, manageable, and understood.

    I appreciate how I am similar to and different from other bereaved persons.

    I lead the pain, it doesn’t lead me.

    I don’t become anxious when I have nothing to do. I don’t have to be occupied all the time to be without tension.

    I can remember without pain, and can talk about Alan and his death without crying.

    I no longer feel exhausted, burdened, or 'wound up' all the time.

    I can look forward to and make plans for the future.

    I have a healthy perspective on what my grief resolution will and will not mean for myself.

    I can realistically remember the good and the bad, the happy and the sad of both my husband and our relationship.

    After a stressful week and Saturday, I am doing 'ok' today...but you know how that goes...up and down...doesn't take much to change my mood....
    I am trying to get household stuff today
    and not let my mind drift to what life used to be like....the great marriage I often took for granted...
    I read somewhere...about a man who was dying and his wife was at his bedside and asked him "How am
    I going to live without you?".... he was unable to talk because of tubes but was able to write and he wrote to her...
    "You have breathed my breath, shared my thoughts, tasted my tears, a part of you is me, look no further than within and find me loving you".....
    There are so many people suffering from the loss
    of a beloved spouse so I know there are a lot of us widows out there but yet we can feel so alone most of the time...
    thanks again sweet sister widow- friend for your blog & love & words - they always help...xo -Shell


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