“I’ll always feel this pain” are words I hate to hear. They feel like the person is resigned to live with pain – like there is no hope.
Guess what? There is hope for hurts that “never heal.”
When I see people who tell me they will never heal, there is one of two things going on: either they don’t want to heal or they don’t know how.
I Don’t Want to Heal
Everybody is not ready to heal. Healing can feel like a scary place. If the emotional hurt came from a betrayal or death, healing might represent accepting life without that person. That can be too much to bear. If the pain came from a rape or domestic violence, healing could feel like giving the perpetrator a pass. Healing from the impact of physical or mental illness could mean taking on responsibilities or facing truths that you’d rather avoid. There are many reasons why some people might not want to heal.
It’s okay to be in “pause” mode for a while. Sometimes we are in shock and need some space to process our feelings and new situation. There is no time line for this process. It takes as long as it takes.
This space is like the inner workings of a cocoon. It’s the between space of what was and what will be. It’s a magical place where anything can happen, so be intentional while you are here. You can learn, grow, and emerge much more fabulous than before, or you can come out the other side a shadow of yourself. Until you’re ready, the best that you can do is cope with the pain. It’s okay. We have to be ready to heal, and this is not that space.
I Don’t Know How to Heal
“I don’t know how to heal” is quite a different story. There are things that we can all do to open the door to healing. If you are willing to do the hard work of healing, you can put anything behind you.
Keeping your pain to yourself sustains it. Your story needs an outlet. Tell it to someone who can hear you without judgment. Tell it over and over. Speak the parts that you don’t want to say. Guilt and shame are huge barriers to healing. Carrying those things around don’t make you a hero. Keeping those emotions inside won’t make them go away. It makes them stronger. It takes a lot of energy to hold it all back. So let it go.
If you think that you can get away with keeping your story to yourself, you may find that the healing feels incomplete. You may need to hear yourself say things that you only kept inside. Sometimes we need to feel seen or heard before we can heal. Having a witness does that for you. Talking about it also leads to acceptance.
Feel Your Feelings
I know it’s great to be around positive people who say things like “It was meant to be” and “Everything happens for a reason.” Frankly, sometimes those kinds of things feel invalidating and keep you from feeling your feelings. Healing is not about what you say or how you appear to others. It’s about what’s happening inside. If you feel like crying, screaming, shaking, flopping over, or even dancing or coloring your feelings, give yourself space to do that.
Feel the tingles, movement, heaviness, and pain as it moves through your body. Those feelings want to be acknowledged. They need freedom to be.
Don’t judge them, shut them down, or try to change them. Accept that this is where you are right now and let yourself be. We don’t give ourselves space to be with little things. When big things come along, they can feel incapacitating. So this may take some time. You may need to do this over and over. When your body is done, you will know. It will feel lighter and more responsive.
Focus on Yourself
Your healing is about your experience, not another person. If your story is about blaming, complaining, or being a victim, that won’t help you heal. To emerge as the hero of this story, you first have to be the one who experiences the hurt. Taking care of other’s feelings or blaming others is a way of avoiding your pain and healing. There is no way over, around, or under the pain. You have to go through. No one can do it for you.
Let Yourself Be Comforted
I was talking to a friend once about an incident that felt unresolved. She asked me what would have made it better. I said, “To be held.” I was really surprised by that because I wasn’t aware of that in the moment nor was I thinking that seconds before she asked. It’s a common human need though.
Often people rush in to comfort those who have been hurt. I put this step at the end because if you rush in too quickly it can send the message that it’s not okay to hurt. If it doesn’t happen at all – or at least isn’t offered – it can feel isolating and incomplete. So, let yourself be comforted by someone safe if and when you’re ready.
Learn From It
Pain always comes with lessons. When we learn from our suffering, the pain transforms into something meaningful.The lessons could be things like:
- I never knew how much my mom loved me. I am so grateful for her.
- I didn’t realize how selfish I was. I will pay more attention to how my behavior impacts others.
- Life is short. I will be more mindful of how I spend it.
- “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” ~Maya Angelou
As a trauma therapist, I’ve seen many people heal from horrible situations. I’ve seen people heal from traumas that are deep within their past. All went through these steps in one form or fashion.
Healing is possible. When you’re ready and wiling to do the work, it’s waiting for you.