Dear Jane: You are correct in that healing needs to start with an internal process before stepping out to the rest of the world.
Dear Dr. Ted: I have noticed that most people seem to disappear after a loss and then they seem to reach out to the world or others. Is this a normal process or what appears to happen? Thanks, Jane
Dear Jane: You are correct in that healing needs to start with an internal process before stepping out to the rest of the world. When you have a loss, it is similar to a physical wound and your first response will be to retract inside yourself in order to assess your wound and mend before you step back into the world. This is a natural and normal reflex as you want the highest level of health in order to navigate the world around you.
Even within a family or an organization, the same process happens, where there is the need to have internal stabilization from the chaos that a loss brings, and as the center core begins to have its new baseline, there can be more outreach as the person, family or organization steps back into the world. I often compare it to a medical procedure in which you have an injury, are surrounded by medical supports with the focus on your injury, then after surgery you move into the recovery room where you are still isolated from external factors; as you heal, you go home and heal more. Then you are slowly ready to reintegrate into the world once again.
This scaffolding process or continuum of care is important as it allows time for you to integrate the present situation into your own consciousness, and become aware of how the event has possibly changed you in ways that now impact how you interact with your family, work and others.
Loss can have such a profound effect that you may find it changes how you interact with yourself internally. There are often a lot of interruptions in emotional healing and becoming more skilled in being able to reestablish your own baseline before other issues arise is always beneficial. Self-care such as rest, diet, exercise and solitude and/or spiritual disciplines can help you start to move from the emotional free fall you might be feeling. Avoid behaviors with addictive tendencies, other people's dramas, unnecessary arguments and other behaviors that only exacerbate the present situation as well as build future problems. Similar to the airline protocol of setting your own oxygen mask before you help others, a loss needs you to take care of yourself first, and then reach back out into the different outlying circles so that you are make conscious and healthy decisions as your own needs are being covered. Thank you for the question. 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 Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, founder of Golden Willow Retreat at GWR@newmex.com.
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