Healing is not curing.
There I said it.
It stings doesn't it?
Truth is I feel the sting, too.
After a few months of working in hospice as a spiritual counselor I quickly realized just how sucky and unfair life can be.
I felt the sting that winter afternoon I connected with WALTER a 90 something year old WWII veteran. He shared with me how music brought him back to life after an unspeakable year of being a prisoner of war.
It was then that I noticed his hands, crippled and cold. He could no longer play any beloved instrument. We both cried.
What does healing look like for Walter in this circumstance?
After all his hands cannot be fixed.
Furthermore, he's now trapped by a culture who sweeps the elderly under the rug, so to speak. Out of sight, out of mind. Given that Walter isn't formally contributing to society anymore, where might he find a sense of purpose and meaning now?
Our culture has us under a spell, one where we've lost touch with the true nature of the human experience. I'm talking about the full spectrum of the normal human experience.
We've quite literally bought into the notion that we can fix, treat or change x, y or z with the "right" approach or worse by "thinking positive".
*bleh. I have a real bone to pick with positive thinking. While positivity and using the mind to focus on the good is a powerful therapeutic tool we must be mindful of it's slippery slope into spiritual bypassing and fantasy land (both of which are no longer therapeutic).
We've been conditioned by our pervasive culture to avoid embracing the sting of life. If only you have the "right" mindset and focus hard enough. Just use your incredible self will and resilient spirit to create the live you've imagined. (I kid.)
Each of these shiny approaches comes at the cost.
For it is only when you experience, embrace and engage life of life's terms do you uncover a great depth and intimacy with life, others, and yourself.
And this... this is deeply satisfying.
More satisfying than a buzz.
More satisfying than skin on skin and pleasure abound.
More satisfying than lavished praise.
More satisfying than (you fill in the blank).
Let's circle back to Walter. Put yourself in his shoes.
Close your eyes and connect with his pain.
War. Violence. Service to Country. Isolation. Pain. Sacrifice. TRAUMA. Returning to "normal" life. PTSD. Pushing forward. Reconnecting. Reinventing. Creativity. Joy. Music. LOSS. Grief. Sadness. Disconnection. Memories. More sadness. EMPTY.
Before we can entertain "what healing looks like" for him we must first feel what he feels. This is empathy. This is connection and understanding.
As a helping professional I am fully invested in witnessing the pain of others and far less so in solving problems.
Witnessing is a sacred act and is deeply transformative.
When you offer yourself as a witness to another you honor the pain and suffering, the desperation they feel. This is the power of empathy.
Instead of minimizing, fixing or stealing their pain you acknowledge that while wounded, yes, they are still a wise, powerful being capable of enduring the blows of life and finding healing.
You see illness, change, trauma, pain and grief are the gateway to healing.
When you accept reality, life on life's terms, you surrender to what is.
This alone creates a shift, the start of the healing process.
As sweet as it sounds, understand it's often messy-as-hell.
And sometimes a bumpy-start-stop process.
the true nature of healing
Healing is a journey.
It's a process.
Spiral in, spiral out. Rinse and repeat.
Sometimes it's super straight forward and simple.
Sometimes it comes in the form a cure.
Sometimes death is a healing.
Yes, it's true. I know it sounds unfathomable and yet I cannot possible recount the number of people who have shared with me in their end of life journey how death is the relief and end to suffering and discomfort they seek.
Death also qualifies as a healing in a metaphorical sense. Think re-birth / total transformation and reconfiguration.
More often than not though healing looks like a negotiation.
A negotiation between pain and joy, your hopes and fears, expectations and desires, and your physical body / physical resources.
Plain and simple, healing is a negotiation between your mind, body and soul.
Ask any trauma victim whose done 'the work' and they will tell you: it's a long road and yes! you can transform your wounds into a source of strength and gold.
Often, healing is on-going negotiation requiring daily surrender, focus, and flow.
For example, recovering addicts and alcoholics create healing immediately and in the long-term by...
1: admitting they have a problem,
2: creating awareness around the breadth and depth of their disfunction,
3: changing lifestyle choices,
4: consistently addressing emotional, mental and spiritual needs,
5: accepting and addressing the demands of life on life's terms
Healing here takes the form of "recovery".
But what of WALTER?
Can you see the gateway of healing for Walter?
It lies in embracing his grief and loss. Next he must adapt and adjust to his new limitations and circumstances and find a new connection to love, joy and creativity.
You see, the burden of healing lies within ourselves to recalibrate. Doing so generally requires the assistance or input from an external source of wisdom (i.e. a book, a trusted friend or helping professional).
Healing always involves shifting your perspective but only after feelings the feels.
- Healing is not curing.
- Healing is not a linear journey but rather a spiral journey.
- Life of life's terms is unfair, sucky and down right difficult, at times.
- Pain, trauma, suffering and illness are the gateway to healing.
- Keep an open mind about what HEALING looks like.
- Remember healing is an on-going negotiation, bring your seat to the table.
- Enlist helping professionals and trusted sources of wisdom for support.
One final remark:
You don’t have to suffer alone, in silence and isolation.
Find one person you can share your truth with.
Let them in. Let them see your pain. Let them LOVE you without attempting to fix or change it. I know this sounds risky, and in some ways it is, BUT your a wise person. You can trust your gut to lead you to the *right* individual.
Oh and love, heals.