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“Healing takes time”—this is what we say to one another after experiencing a loss, and loss takes many, many forms in this challenging life. It is a sound statement of truth. Recovery does take time, however, we seldom understand (until we ourselves are experiencing it) that healing entails many layers of restoration. Meeting and attending to the initial wounding is just the beginning.

We must allow ourselves to be helped by others.

For example, when we are in an accident, we are taken to the hospital to get stitches placed or bones reset. When we are physically intact enough to go home, we can begin to pick up the emotional pieces. When we lose a job (especially if we are fired), our entire world, as we know it, crashes down and we are transported into the unknown. On the surface, we appear unchanged, but we feel shaken to the core. We often remain unsettled even after we have secured a new position. When we receive a scary diagnosis, experience a heart attack or a stroke, undergo surgery, etc., many critical steps of action must take place immediately. Quite suddenly we have a host of new advisors who poke us, prod us, direct us, and warn us. They give us a list of instructions and send us on our way.

We remain so deeply grateful to our first responders. It is their job to rush in to help us. It is the correct and necessary order. But as the physical wounds heal, we often question why we don’t feel better even when we “seem” so much better. Our loved ones who have worried so much about us are greatly relieved to witness our “outer” gains. At this juncture they often voice their confusion: “You made it through the toughest part! Aren’t you happy?” Little do they know that we are wrestling with the same question, and feel very alone and confused about why we still don’t feel great.

The Value of Vulnerability

This tender place of vulnerability is a sign we are actually right on schedule. In addition to the physical healing, we now need to turn to the deeper layer of emotional healing in order to feel whole again. Not only is this timing normal, it is necessary and well deserved. Perhaps you have observed this in your life. You get through a crisis period (which, rightfully so, gets tremendous attention) and then, when things quiet down, the floodgates open wide with overwhelming emotions. We feel overcome by so many conflicting feelings, and are unable to pull ourselves out of it.

In this posttraumatic period, we feel confused and helpless and often hopeless. At this point, the question is not, “Why do I feel this way?” The appropriate and supportive question is, “Given what I have been through, why wouldn’t I feel this way?”This validation is the critical beginning of compassion that let’s us gain entry to the next rewarding stage of healing. This part will require ongoing courage to identify and name, listen and process the accumulated emotions that have waited their turn for recognition and expression. The key here is that no one should ever try to do this part alone. We must allow ourselves to be helped by others. It is critical, at this time, to continue sharing our feelings with our family and trusted friends. Additionally, we can seek professional support from a trained counselor.

In this study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers found that women with breast cancer who were socially and emotionally isolated had a 66% increased risk of all-cause mortality and a twofold risk of breast cancer mortality, compared with women who received social and emotional support.

We now realize that emotional time is not the same as clock time. Our inner healing will catch up with our outer healing—but it cannot be measured in minutes, hours or days. Instead, it will be measured, over time, by a new currency of awareness, attention and compassion. Through group support and vital companions, we find the strength to gently and steadfastly continue to process our numbness, despair and tears, in order to move on towards relief, reawakening and restoration. Healing does take time, inside and out. We require, and deeply deserve, any and all love and support in order to continue on this sacred path of recovery into wholeness.

How have others supported you, making a meaningful difference during an emotionally difficult time in your life?

Contributed by

Mimi O' Connor
Group Support Specialist

Hearts linked, together we heal…

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