Monday, September 26, 2016

Grief Healing: Where Did You Get That Name?

[Reviewed and updated October 4, 2023]

Heal-ing: (n) - the process of making or becoming sound or healthy again; (adj) - tending to heal; therapeutic. Example: "a healing experience." Synonyms: alleviate, ease, assuage, palliate, relieve, help, lessen, mitigate, attenuate, allay. ~ Marion Institute

When I was deciding many years ago what name to give my collection of Grief Healing websites, I struggled with whether to use the word “healing” in my title, because I knew that the notion of healing from grief can seem offensive to some. After all, those of us who are anticipating or coping with the loss of a loved one know full well that grief is not an illness to be cured or a physical injury from which we will recover.

As I began to investigate the meaning of healing, I decided that, like most words, it all depends on how it is defined, used and understood.

As I researched, read and listened to what some of my colleagues and other mourners have to say about the notion of healing in grief, I became convinced that my title choice was sound.

Here is just a sampling: 
Healing and Grief. 
In my mind like fire and water, they just cannot coexist. Grief is painful. It hurts! Who wants to feel sorrow and despair? Who wants to wake up every morning, longing for the contentment of an old life that will never be? Grieving, in my opinion, is devastating to the soul. How can it possibly heal? 
Healing, on the other hand, soothes and calms like the soft flow of water over parched skin. Healing is synonymous with hope; hope that the pain will eventually diminish to the point where we can sit up and take notice of our surroundings and begin to engage in Life once again. Hope can help to change our focus from that awful void, that ache in our heart to perhaps a teeny bit of enthusiasm for a new life just beginning to emerge, somewhere at the end of that dark tunnel. 
Healing through grief, I’ve discovered, is a process. It takes time and pain and tears. But if you allow those tears, if you sit with your pain, if you acknowledge where you are in this life (not where you want to be – life is not lived looking backward) you will eventually come to a place of healing.  ~ Wendy Willow, in Silver Butterfly Wings: Signs from The Other Side
Healing doesn’t mean that what happened to you is okay, rather it means that you can be okay in the face of your adversity . . . Your healing will ultimately bring a new balance to your life, a different way of existing. ~ Annah Elizabeth, in How Can I Fix My Grief Pain?
Curing of a particular wound implies the elimination of that wound, and healing implies enhancing a person’s life even if that wound is not eliminated . . . Providing someone a cure is like giving that person a welcome gift (which is certainly nice). Healing someone is like teaching that person how to find gifts wherever they are (which can be wonderful) . . . ~ Douglas C. Smith, in Being a Wounded Healer
Healing is a holistic concept that embraces the physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual realms. Note that healing is not the same as curing, which is a medical term that means ‘remedying’ or ‘correcting.’ You cannot remedy your grief, but you can reconcile it. You cannot correct your grief, but you can heal it. ~ Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD, in Understanding Your Grief
There is a difference between healing and curing. Healing takes place at the soul level and the process has less to do with getting better than it does with getting real. Healing is about learning to better play the hand you've been dealt rather than asking for a new deal. ~ Carl Hammerschlag, MD, HealingDoc
I don't care how people define healing. I like to see people who are locked in sadness open the door and step out; even if for a little while. However, I don't define healing for you and I don't want you to define it for me. ~ Jan Warner
Healing is not the outcome of an interaction between an expert and a problem; it requires a relationship between two whole human beings who bring to a situation of suffering the full power of their combined humanity and all of its potential. When this happens, many things that cannot be cured can still heal. ~ Rachel Naomi Remen, MD
If there is a single definition of healing it is to enter with mercy and awareness those pains, mental and physical, from which we have withdrawn in judgment and dismay. ~ Stephen Levine, in A Year to Live: How to Live This Year As If It Were Your Last
What is healing? It is peace of mind. As we heal, we grow in peacefulness with what is. Many who are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness will go to great lengths to increase their chances for survival. Some will survive their disease; others will not. Healing takes place on a deep inner level that delivers us to a sense of peace about however things turn out. As a friend, we create a loving vessel to safely set sail together. By being present and accepting where they -- and we -- are at this moment, we shine a candle of faith which helps to light the way. It is the most we can do, and all that is needed. ~ Marianna Cacciatore, in Being There for Someone in Grief

In the first years after my son’s death, the mere mention of the word ‘healing’ made me recoil . . . Yet, in these four years since my son was killed, I have learned that healing is possible. It doesn’t look or feel like I thought it would but the fact is that it can and is happening. A work in progress. Day by hard day. It’s tough, grueling grief work. Often I’m too tired to even contemplate the rest of my life without my son but I sense that healing is happening nonetheless. And that’s because healing following the death of our child is all about transformation. It has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘moving on’ or ‘forgetting’. It’s about inner change. It’s about becoming the best new version of ourselves as we wrap our heart around our grief. It’s about using grief to teach us how to build a new, different life where joy and loss reside together. It’s about gently cradling the grief like we would our child and using it to help us towards the light. I liken it to a metamorphosis. This healing changes us to our very core. We are no longer who we were. The death of our child transforms us so profoundly that it’s as if we emerge into a new world, never to return to our old pre-loss state. Katja Faber, in Why Does Healing Feel Like A Betrayal? 

Healing is a spontaneous event that comes about through a kind of grace. It can happen anytime, and in any place. It may or may not happen in the context of a healing session. It may come about simply with a smile from a stranger, the breeze blowing through the trees, the song of a bird — some reminder of our connectedness and wholeness — the beauty of Life just as it is at this moment for us. 
Healing can happen on many different levels. Sometimes our healing is not what we expect. We need to be open to the gifts which life is always ready to give us. It may be that a physical problem heals, but it may also stay awhile to teach us something. Sometimes a health challenge is a doorway to a deeper healing, a cry from deep within for attention to some part of us that has been unloved and feels separated from the Whole.
Regardless of whether our focus in healing is on the physical, mental, emotional or spiritual level, all levels are invariably touched by the process, and none can be separated out from the rest. ~ Mary Maddux, Meditation Oasis
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