Grief Opens the Door to Healing

[Written in late 2009.]

Grief is painful, but opens the door to healing and growth.  If there were no grieving, we would stay stagnant—the numb, seemingly comfortable stagnancy that is the goal of the norm.  When we are in the midst of grieving we might wish to have it all go away, because in a sense the pain of grief is terrifying, but this is only the terror of facing ourselves—a deeper, more vulnerable, more hidden side of ourselves that we are usually able to plug up in our daily lives.

We grieve because we have lost, and because the loss is poignant.  The loss we experience, the loss of today, the loss of having something we value ripped out of our guts, taps into all the losses we have experienced from our entire lives, going right back to the loss on the day we were created by our imperfect parents—parents who could not love us in the way we so desperately needed.  The losses of our earliest years form the basis of the tragedy of our childhood—and the template for the shadow side of our adulthood.

As children we were forced to be resilient and bury the pain of these losses, because we had no choice.  Our parents, who let us down in similar ways to how their parents let them down, could not bear to see our expressions of the damages they had inflicted upon us.  They forced us to be good little boys and girls and bury our torment, and parrot the lines that “life is inevitably hard” and “you are good enough, Mommy and Daddy.”

But they weren’t good enough, and deep down we always knew it, even if we couldn’t face it consciously.  And whether we can face it now or not, the losses we suffer today tap into that truth of yesterday.  We may not know that this is what is happening, but if we study our histories it becomes clear all too quickly.  This just causes more pain—a true, clear pain so necessary for self-actualization.  For that reason so many people live lives with the primary goal being the maintenance of safety—safety from feeling pain.  They choose safe relationships where they risk little of depth, little of passion, little of hope or realness, and instead just live a charade, a game of pretend that they hope will last for decades—until death do they part.

But are they lucky if they avoid their pain?  Are they lucky if they never grow?  Are their children lucky to inherit their shallowness and lies and repressed misery?  Are their grandchildren lucky to inherit a world that is build upon layers and generations of avoided grief?  And will their grandchildren’s grandchildren be lucky when the world is so clogged with unfelt grief and its consequences that the whole planet is no longer livable?

9 thoughts on “Grief Opens the Door to Healing

  1. Hi Daniel,
    I have had persistent grief for the last 9 years over an ex-boyfriend. It was an abusive relationship and I go through a continual cycle of despair and longing that we are no longer together. I can’t seem to get out of it. His presence feels as alive as if it was 9 years ago.

    I am wondering if you have any approaches to dealing / helping / healing with grief? Or persistent grief?

    Many thanks,
    Aimee D (Syd, Aus)

  2. Hi Daniel,

    great article.
    how do we avoid retraumatization ourself during the process of healing?
    I ve been curious about that since I started healing.

    All the best

    • brian,
      i think the best way to avoid retraumatization is to be gentle with ourselves — and take a pace that feels comfortable. if it feels like it’s going to fast then i slow down……and keep assessing how things feel…… sometimes i do push myself too hard…..but i learn from it and try not to go too hard—though i admit i still do push myself to some of my limits….for better and perhaps for worse!!
      all the best

      • Thanks Daniel for this exellent reply.
        I do push myself to hard sometimes and than loose motivation or don’t finish the thoughts and end the process to early to come to the right solutions. Taking it step by step may be the hardest thing to do.

        On a different note, I have experienced anger when somebody at work, a foreworker, wants to tell me how things are. Or worse a coworker tries to interfere and correct me and wants to show me her autority. I know it has something todo with self esteem, as high self esteem makes these things easier, but I also have an other theory, why I experienced these feelings of distress.
        Could it be that it lies in the unhealthy relationship my father held with me as I was a child? As I was dependent on him to care for me but only hurt me, that I grew untrusty, for my own healthbeeing, of people who are in power over me?
        I try to figure out the reasons for these things right now, trying to make sense if the now in perspective of what happens to me in my past. Could this makes sense? Or what are your ideas?

        Best regards,

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