Is there healing from grief? Do we ever really recover from grief? Well, yes and no. The undeniable fact is that we're forever changed by the experience of grief. And just as a wound to our physical body leaves a scar, grief leaves an indelible mark on our heart that cannot be entirely erased, either by our human will or even by time. Gradually our scar fades and becomes less noticeable, but this tender reminder of the death of one we love remains with us always – always – because it’s now part of who we are.
If you think about it, death wounds our heart, our soul, and our spirit. For some, the wound is caused by slow leave-taking from a loved one after months or even years of chronic illness. For others, the tragic, sudden death of a loved one causes a gaping wound in need of immediate trauma care. Our wound may feel so acute, so deep that we cannot imagine ever being healed from our grief. The greater our love for the one we’ve loved and lost, the larger and deeper our wound.
We actively manage our wound through the experience of grief. First we must decide whether we want to live with a permanently broken heart, or if we can actually envision being healed from grief. And if grief is especially tenacious, our healing may begin only when we consciously affirm that we want to be made well so that we may live again beyond our daily grief. In truth, healing and wholeness are for those who want to be restored, for those willing to stretch and grow and be made stronger through the painful experience of grief. And so it takes courage, fortitude and sometimes a very proactive commitment to rehabilitate ourselves from grief. We do this through introspection, forgiveness, and a view to the future with hope and joy.
Our spiritual and emotional healing from grief is perhaps best described as recovery. If you’re finding satisfaction in life with renewed self-confidence, likely you’re recovering and on the way to the other side of grief. Perhaps you’ve heard yourself say – maybe to your own surprise and amazement - “I am better,” “I want to live,” “Life is good,” or some other self-talk that’s affirmative and positive. This is a sure indication that you’re recovering from grief. And if we do all we can toward our own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual restoration, ultimately we can recover from grief.
We convalesce for a while and recuperate from grief. One day we reach a turning point when we discern that we’re less focused on the daily pain of loss and sorrow and nearer acceptance of the death of our loved one. For some of us, this may be about as close to recovery and healing in grief as we ever get. But when we turn a corner and forge ahead in life we’ve reached an important moment of self-understanding that has nothing to do with forgetting our loved one. We realize, we gratefully acknowledge that gradually, steadily we’re incorporating our loss into our life as part of who we are now and who we will still become. And it’s this incorporation of what’s happened into our living, breathing, daily existence that makes us well again and makes us whole.
Healing from grief is the grace of God's wholeness. God binds up our wounds with infinite, never-failing love. We are healed by God’s triumphant adequacy.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Psalm 147.3 NRSV
Keep me this day, O God, in the strength of your healing. Amen.