They say that time heals all wounds. Those of us who have been wounded cling dearly to this platitude knowing that it isn’t completely true, but it’s a start. While time will heal some wounds, there are others time just changes.
In dealing with the loss of someone, it can truly feel like the end of the world. Especially with the death of a loved one or the breakup of a long term marital or live-in relationship, it can feel like the world has indeed collapsed in on you. It’s like being a victim trapped under a building’s rubble after an earthquake. We need help, we need support, we need air, we need medical attention (and a shower), but most importantly we need hope. We need to believe that someone will rescue us, or more importantly, that we will find the will to rescue ourselves. What’s important to reinforce is that we are trapped…we aren’t moving without great pain.
It’s almost alarming when you become aware that the world continues on like nothing has happened. When outsiders look at us, they don’t see the crushing concrete lying across our chests, pinning us in a holding pattern. They don’t see the cement dust that coats our skin, streaked with tears. They don’t see all of the abrasions and lacerations.
So what do you do? Self-rescue.
I started with talking to a counsellor. I was able to access free counselling through my work employee assistance program. Then I called to talk to family and friends for support. I also made an appointment with my medical doctor to discuss anti-anxiety medication and sleeping pills.
Any counsellor worth his or her salt, or someone who has been through the loss of a loved one or a bad breakup, will tell you that there are many things that you need to do to deal with grief. Included among them is to: get out of bed and shower; exercise and even better if you can get out into nature; make sure you are eating healthily; get plenty of sleep; turn to your support network of people; avoid drugs and alcohol; acknowledge your feelings, and start making plans for the future.
The problem is, how can you even get out of bed to shower, exercise, or eat, when you are trapped under metaphorical slabs of stone? You may have years of good and bad memories burying you. The fact that the person left and there is nothing that you can do to get them back can add extra weight to the burden. While there is no physical wound, the festering anguish is very real.
I learned to pack my problems into a box, allowing myself momentary superhuman strength to put the weighty problems somewhere on the other side of the room. This freed me up temporarily to do at least one healing thing off the list. Some days it would be a shower, or a small healthy snack, other days I’d go for a walk, even if it was only to the mailbox. I moved the alcohol to a place out of sight and out of mind. (Luckily I knew that with my waning motivation, I wouldn’t make the effort to go get it, even if I thought drinking alone might lessen the pain.).
I gave myself permission to feel a full range of emotions, the helplessness and the grief, when I was capable, but I didn’t have to carry it around with me all day long. I was allowed to leave it in the box for a few minutes, hours, days, or weeks in order to try and get some work done, or long enough to get groceries without falling apart in the store.
I knew that my box of regret, sorrow, and torment would be there waiting, and I could open it when I was capable of dealing with a bit more. Some days it remained closed. As time passed, I found myself emptying the box, and I felt the load get lighter. So while time does not heal all wounds, what it did do is provide me the opportunity to chip small pieces off the big blocks, making it easier to emerge from the rubble.