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Will working on grief open up old wounds before it starts to heal?

In a word, yes.

If you have a wound that hasn’t healed and you’ve covered it over with a whole bunch of bandaids, then, if you wish to heal it, you’re going to have to get the bandaids off to get to it. And when the air first touches it, yes it might hurt.

It isn’t even that it’s going to ‘re-open’ it. It wasn’t closed, simply covered over and hidden.

Actually, in my work, the aim of the game is not to get to the grief itself or stir it up or make you feel it. It’s to get at your story of the death and transform that story into something beautiful and empowering instead. It’s just that looking at the story of their death, and usually the story of their life or even the thought of them at all, triggers the grief that’s there to pop up with a painful ‘hello’. This is one of the reasons healing is so important. Otherwise, it hurts when you talk about their death. It might even hurt when you talk about them at all. This is what your grief does.

I’m only speaking for my own work here – to do the healing we want to do, we do need to get to the sucker. It may well hurt when it first sees the light, but it gets better and better as we progress through our work…until it’s healed and the wound is gone. I am very specifically not speaking for other grief professionals. Regular counselling, for example, does seem to be about getting into the wound and looking at it and looking at it and looking at it some more. This may have its uses – at least initially – but it won’t heal you. Way back when, I spent many years in therapy doing just this, and found this out first-hand.

People can, understandably, be worried about facing their pain head-on when they begin grief work like mine. But what’s the alternative really? Face it briefly on the road to healing it completely so there isn’t anything there to face again (except for love!)? Or push it down inside you, never to be healed, instead to fester and infect your life? It’s not a great alternative! I can promise you that the quick experience of feeling this on a road to healing is nothing compared to the dull ache of carrying this pain around for the rest of your life.

Something to realise is that if working on grief starts by bringing up the pain …well, where did that pain come from? If it can come up, then it still existed, so where was it? It wasn’t in the cupboard, your handbag, the boot of your car, in that expensive storage unit you’re renting, or buried out in the garden. It’s in YOU. You are walking around, day to day, carrying this in YOU. And you may feel that this is fine – because on an average day you aren’t aware of it and aren’t having to deal with it. On the contrary, you ARE dealing with it, all the time! Whatever you are carrying around is impacting you, it can impact your moods, it can impact your relationships, your decisions, and your feelings about yourself. If you take a bag of toxic rubbish and bury it under your garden, you may think ‘out of sight, out of mind’. But the bag of rubbish is still there. And whether you are looking at it or thinking about it or not, it is affecting whatever grows out of that garden.

Your grief, even though perhaps deeply buried, is affecting you. And you know this – what I’m saying probably isn’t news to you.

So, might it hurt? Yup, just at first. Your grief may feel big, but you are bigger. And you have to get at your story of them (which brings up the grief you still have) to work your way through it and then completely out of it into freedom, gratitude and love.