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A reminder that you CAN heal from grief

This is your annual grief-healing reminder. Or perhaps your bi-annual reminder. Though the fact that healing completely is possible after a death in your life is a constant theme threaded through all of my writing, now and again I like to write it as a blog itself. To remind you of the possibility.

It’s considered common knowledge (and probably, unfortunately, considered common sense too) that you simply can’t heal from grief after a death. That dealing with grief is a long arduous process that will never quite be over. And that it’s meant to be like this. Indeed, that you shouldn’t even want it to be any other way.

Recently I read a book and watched a movie that, like so many mediums that touch on the topic of grief at all, demonstrated the prevalence and normality of these ideas.

The movie was “Mr Harrigan’s Phone”. In it the main character’s mother dies when he is very young. During the movie it’s hinted at once that he does not go to the cemetery with his father, who regularly goes to visit the grave of his wife. You see that they are both very sad and there is an emptiness to their lives, their home and their relationship, without the mother there. The Dad is shown to be a practical figure who moves forward with life and does what has to be done, but who lives with sadness. At the end of the movie, at least 10 years after her death, the protaganist goes to the cemetery and visits his mother’s grave. He says sorry to her and cries, and the viewer understands (well at least this is how I interpreted it) that he hasn’t been to see her in a very long time, if at all since her funeral.

I don’t imagine anyone has trouble suspending their disbelief to take in this part of the movie, as this is how grief is usually seen. That it’s understandable and normal that the boy can’t visit his mother’s grave for years, because it’s too painful to go there to think about her death, indeed just to think about her at all.


In the book I read, some Karin Slaughter thriller (don’t judge me. I like an easy read before bedtime), one of the characters has moved away after her husband, a cop, was killed during a violent interaction. She has lived away for over 3 years, returning finally to visit her family for Thankgiving for the first time since leaving. She comes relucantly and immediately wishes she hadn’t. She won’t drive past the house she and husband once lived in and struggles with all the memories of him that the town brings up. When she bumps into his son, who is the spitting image of him, she absolutely crumbles.

Again, no-one reads this book thinking “yeah right, as if anyone would do that! Have to leave a whole town because the memories of someone they love so very much are too painful. That’s unrealistic”. Because, to most people, this is an accurate depiction of what happens in grief. It may seem extreme (most people don’t up and move away) but you probably understand her decision and reason why she left and also why she wishes not to be reminded of him.

These two examples are a pretty good representation of how grief is so often potrayed, and how most people accept it. Now I know I’m not the only one sitting there thinking “Gross, what a horrible message to be reiterating about grief! And it’s crap!” but I know I’m one of the few.

So let me take a minute to remind you that just because something is normal, doesn’t mean it’s natural.

Just because something is accepted as the common way, doesn’t mean it is.

Despite the messages about grief after a death that we are so commonly sent wherever we look:

…you CAN heal completely and permanently after the death of someone you love

.. this is actually a desirable and wonderful space to be

…being unable to think of them without pain is NOT the best way to remember them, honour them, or love them

…you should be able to visit their grave whenever you like( if that’s what you wish to do), think of them, see things that remind you of them and have all of this be a nice experience

….you should be able to talk about them, think about and love them…without it hurting you

…just because people around you haven’t healed, doesn’t mean it’s not a possibility. It just means they haven’t known how to do it. They probably don’t even know they can.

…time will not heal you. It’s the actions that you take that do this. It will not just magically happen to you as time passes. The world around you (and the two examples I’ve given) is a good example of what happens when you just leave your grief to time.

…the belief that you can’t heal is your biggest barrier to healing. When you simply accept that you’re in grief forever, or at least for most of your life, your brain takes that as an instruction (the idea that “I will NEVER get over this” is an incredibly power affirmation) and shuts all doors that could lead to any other possibility.

So watch the movies, read the books, listen to the songs, and hear the people talk about grief. But hold on to even just that single grain of salt as you do. Because the first step towards healing is holding open to that idea as a possibility. Now it won’t simply happen on it’s own, but to believe that there is absolutely no way to heal is what will keep you stuck in grief the way this book and this movie depict it to be.

And this is no way to remember and relate to and love someone important to you who has died.

You CAN heal completely from grief after the death of someone you love…so that all that is left when you think of them is love. This is how it should be.



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