What does it take to heal from an emotional loss?

Everybody knows that when you break a bone or twist an ankle, your body needs time to heal. We all know its important to rest a physical injury, to see a doctor and stop participating in some activities to support the healing process.

But anyone who has experienced the end of a relationship, the loss of a loved one, the pain of not achieving a life goal or struggled with an unexpected transition knows the painful emotions involved.

It’s not hard to imagine doing further damage by neglecting a broken bone and eventually requiring surgery to repair it.

Still, it’s common for people to “muscle through” an emotional loss due to its invisible nature. But doing so can result in extended suffering or longer-term mental health problems.

Healing an emotional injury is no different from healing a physical injury. If we deny our pain, we risk missing out on healing that can improve our long-term wellbeing and our quality of life.

Healing with Self-Compassion

The first step toward healing is acknowledging the presence of the injury or suffering in the first place. It’s important to stop and notice that you’re hurting, without denying, ignoring or pretending the pain isn’t there.

Once you’ve done this you can practice self-compassion, which is giving yourself the same attention, care and warmth you would give a good friend or loved one.

Self-compassion requires three important components, and without each our journey to emotional healing can be set back.

1) The first is being kind and non-judgemental towards ourselves. It’s important that we recognize that like all people, loss and change in our lives cause emotional distress.

Often however, we tend to be concerned that we may be feeling too emotional, or not emotional enough.

Being non-judgemental means acknowledging that all loss is unsettling and emotional. Like anyone else, we will require time to adjust to the change, loss and absence of the people, relationships and supports we had come to rely upon.

2) The second part of self-compassion is appreciating that suffering is a natural result of emotional loss. While love and attachment bring us comfort, unwanted and unexpected changes are distressing because it re-awakens us to the impermanent nature of life.

In our culture we tend to celebrate the future. As a result we often forget that peoples lives (including our own), as well as all relationships, jobs, dreams and goals have both beginnings and endings.

Not denying, resisting or expecting life to be any different than it is, can prevent us from added suffering.

3) The third part of self compassion is allowing ourselves the time we need to recover naturally, without denying our experience or magnifying the pain and adding new layers to the hurt.

It’s important to acknowledge that each situation is personal and unique. Two people can experience similar situations in very different ways.

While we all know what loss, separation, disappointment and loneliness feel like, our expectations, experiences and individual circumstances will determine the extent of our suffering and the time it will take to heal.

 

“The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until
you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.”

Unlike with a broken bone, there isn’t a specific timeline for emotional healing. It’s important not to ignore your suffering, but it is just as important not to ignore those things that make you happy.

Remember that suffering is the opposite of wellbeing.  We can’t have one without the other. Give yourself permission to enjoy the presence of both in your life.

By acknowledging feelings of happiness and making time for things that nurture your wellbeing, you will suffer less.

 

Derrick McEachern

Counselling Therapist & Founder of Five Star Wellbeing

Learn more about Five Star Wellbeing or Take The Quality of Life Assessment

 

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