Healing often requires us to go back to old hurts and revisit them again. When we face trauma, rarely are we equipped with the proper tools and support to handle it at the time. Whether from youth or inexperience, oftentimes both, we simply don’t have the capacity to process our pain. Healing is a process that requires us to work through our feelings, and when we don’t do that, those wounds don’t simply go away. They lie dormant in wait, resurfacing once we have the tools we need to properly deal with them, heal, and move on.
On the topic of healing, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
“Those hurts and pains that we experience in childhood don’t just magically evaporate as we grow older. They rumble around in us, and when we have reached a level of strength, maturity, insight, and awareness to handle them, they come up to be worked through. This is one of the ways our inner being is loving to us. It gives us every opportunity to heal the hurts that we need to heal, and it gives us that opportunity when we are strong enough to handle it.
Frequently, as children, we have experiences that we simply aren’t strong enough to handle without a lot of support and help, and often that support is absent. So we push them down and we wait. When we are ready, they come back up. This gives us the chance to work through these old anguishes when we have what we need for this task.”
A personal story through which I relate to today’s topic concerns the loss of my mom. At the age of 46, the prime of her life, she was diagnosed with early-onset dementia. It progressed rapidly, and over the course of eight years, quietly stole away her independence, confidence, and free spirit, along with her memories and eventually her life. I was 14 when she was diagnosed. I had barely finished puberty and was just starting to learn how to be an adult, though I was a decade away from actually feeling like one. I had no idea how to cope. I had no support, nor the mental faculties to ask for it. I had to deal with growing up before I could even begin to process what was happening to my family. It destroyed my world.
It is truly devastating to admit, but for years I numbed myself to the emotions with a whole host of destructive behaviors, though my habit of choice was smoking pot. How unnerving to realize once I got sober that those feelings of grief and heartbreak were still there under the surface, lying in wait for the older, stronger me to deal with them. I have still not worked through all of them and fully healed, but I have at least started the process. I imagine it will take years, and I may never fully recover from the loss of my mom, but at least now I recognize how I feel and am dealing with it.
Pain eventually comes back. We can’t numb ourselves to it forever, or else we numb ourselves to all feelings, even the good ones. The world is a colorful place with room enough for both joy and grief. Our grief can be beautiful, too, because it brings us closer to those whom we loved. It helps us see the world and ourselves more clearly. Healing is a journey we all must take.