Dear Ted: Last year my child died, and I have been struggling with that enormous loss in my life and can't seem to move through the mountain of grief. People keep telling me that time heals all and I'm not feeling it as time does not seem to be lessening the enormous pain and anguish. My question is: Does time really heal or is this going to be my emotional state forever? Thanks, Feeling Destroyed
Dear Feeling Destroyed: Thank you for your question and for sharing part of your story of a difficult healing process. I remember so clearly that after my daughters died, it did not matter what anyone said. I felt those same feelings of being shattered and destroyed. It was a very difficult time as it was hard to look forward to each day if it meant the same situation. What I can say is that over time, life does slowly start to seep back into your world, and even though life is not the same and there may be enormous and excruciating voids within that life, you begin to rebuild a new relationship with yourself as well as the world around you.
The first year is incredibly difficult as each day and possibly even each minute is an anniversary and brings you face-to-face with your loss as the mind is ripped back to the past rather than the present. Over time, the tenderness of your excruciating wound begins to heal so that not every moment provokes indescribable pain. Life continues forward, and over the next couple years new events allow your world to become more in the present rather than the continuous yanking back to the past and overwhelmed by the future.
Many victories are overlooked during those first couple of years such as choosing to get up in the morning, going back to school, reconnecting with old and new friends, paying the bills, and anything else that is about your present life. This does not mean that you ever forget. But it allows for the love of your child to continue to flourish rather than the enormous pain of the loss.
I talk about frequency, intensity and duration, and the pendulum of feelings during a grief process. Immediately after a loss, the pain is all the time, the intensity is inexpressible, and duration feels like forever. Over time there may be moments of joy, love, hope, and energy. These may be brief moments that are unrecognizable, but it means the pendulum is starting to have some movement and for a quick second, there are feelings of gratitude, love or happiness. As these feelings continue to grow over time, more and more of your life will have these moments increase rather than the painful feelings you are experiencing presently.
Giving yourself time, and consciously grieving, allows your emotional world to settle while your memories can be cherished as a new relationship with yourself and the world around you is redefined. Thank you for the question. I wish you well. Until next week, take care.
Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Ted Wiard, LPCC, CGC, Founder of Golden Willow Retreat at (575) 776-2024 or GWR@newmex.com.
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