17 December, 2015
As if loss isn’t tragic enough, it is often followed by a rotation of well-meaning platitudes like “It will get better with time” Or “There are plenty of other fish in the sea.” Does time alone really do the trick or does one have to actively pursue a path of healing?
While undergoing my training at the Grief Recovery Institute I was presented with the following analogy: Imagine you walked out to find that your car had a flat tire, would you pull up a chair, sit next to the tire, and say “It will inflate with time.” That’s preposterous. You’d immediately call for help or get to work fixing the tire.
So why do we not approach deflated hearts in the same manner? Rather than reach out for support, or believe that there are clear steps to mending emotional wounds, we shut ourselves off, hold our breath, and wait for time to pass, until that day when things are “hopefully” better. Here’s the problem with believing that “time heals all wounds.” Simply waiting, without embracing the pain, growing from it, only results in greater heartache and resentment.
Recovery from any loss–a job, a relationship, a loved one, isn’t about crossing your fingers and waiting. It’s about taking a clear course of action. Being open to the possibility of feeling better some day. Being willing to rid of old habits of mind that have never served you well. Being willing to reach out and let people help you through it.
Aside from simply waiting for time to heal, there are two other mistakes we tend to make when grieving a loss. Some of us will go out and immediately try to replace the loss. How often were you told growing up, following a breakup that “you’ll find another one.” “There are plenty of fish in the sea.” We plunge headlong into the pursuit of another relationship, having never entirely resolved our pain from the last one, which also can lead to greater heartache and resentment.
Finally, the notion that we must “stay busy,” to keep our minds off the pain is problematic. The bulk of society is comprised of human doings as opposed to human beings simply as a result of this lie. Somewhere we learned that our worth is measured by the many things we DO in life. So we fill our lives with hefty and oftentimes impossible “to-do” lists. Well you guessed it! This also leads to greater heartache and resentment.
The comedian Louis CK offers a hilarious take on the importance of being able to embrace sadness. You can watch it here. He makes the point that we must be able to embrace sadness and pain in order to fully enjoy happiness.
If you’re grieving a significant loss, embrace your need to feel it, then take action. Give yourself a chance to explore and find completion with your pain as opposed to drowning it out.