Articles: Recently Bereaved

First You Hurt

I hope you will find this article to be source of encouragement, information and support to you on your grief journey. 

But I have to make a confession. There are a couple of problems! 

So often the focus these days is on hope and healing. I have listened to what people say after a tragedy such as a shooting or the loss of life, and within a short time, we hear the words, “The healing has begun.” 

I understand that this is the fondest wish of us all. But here is the difficulty. How can the healing begin when the hurting hasn’t even begun? As much as I would like to be able to jump straight to the hope and the healing, it is important to point out that it hurts to lose someone you care about.

Grief is a painful protest against something that we don’t like, and worst of all that we are unable to change. Yes, we must hold on to hope and how we can find ways to go on with life and living. But it is important to say “First you hurt, then you heal.” 

The other problem is this. Books, websites and videos relating to grief can help you … but they can’t fix your situation. Information is important, but it is not the only consideration in dealing with grief. You will soon discover, albeit frustratingly, that although many people and resources may be helpful, they can’t do the one thing you really want. 

So, you may ask, what is the one thing that every grieving person wants? 

They want their loved one back. They want their world, as imperfect as it may have been, to be returned to normal. But we soon discover there are no wizards to magically wave a wand or sprinkle fairy dust that enables us to get everything back to where it was. And most often that is the most frustrating and infuriating aspect of the whole experience. 

Sadly the same applies to well-meaning families and friends who desperately want to do something to “make it better”. They are genuine in their desire to help … but what they really hope is for you “to get back to normal”; to “move on”; to “get over it,” or “pull yourself together” and other similar well-intentioned yet misguided sentiments. Let me say it again: they sincerely mean well, but “fix it” statements do not help because unfortunately that is not how it works. 

Grief hurts, and you can’t avoid the pain of losing someone you care about. Sadly, those who say in so many words “Let the healing begin,” are really in effect saying “let’s move on”. But how can people begin to heal when they have only just begun to hurt? 

So, I can offer no easy answers or cookie cutter solutions, because frankly there are none. Trust me, I wish I had a magic wand that would make the hurt all better and enable us to go straight to hope and healing, but sadly it doesn’t work like that. 

But don’t despair! All is not lost! If you are willing to go through the hurt, you will discover that is the way to healing. You have embarked on a grief journey. With the death of someone you have loved and cared about, you may feel like your whole world has been turned upside down. Trust me; I know from personal experience that losing someone you care about is not easy to endure. The days and months after my wife’s death were the most difficult, painful and challenging times of my entire life. 

While your situation may be very different from what I underwent, I have walked where you walk, and I found it was a painful journey. But that said, I can also now state that I did make it through the situation … admittedly not without many stumbles and hurts … yes and maybe even a few scars. But that’s OK. Scars simply mean you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you. What matters is that I survived, and more.

As Maya Angelou once observed, “My mission in life is not merely to survive but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” The wounds of grief that hurt so much in the weeks and months that followed my wife’s death have healed.

Since that time, I have made it my life’s work to try to find ways to help others as they navigate the challenges of the grief journey. So, here again is the formula, as difficult to accept as it may be: 

“First you hurt, and then you heal.” 

This “no pain, no gain” principle applies in surgery, fitness and in many diverse areas of life. From my experience, both personal and professional, it also applies to grief. I wish I could find some way to make it “pain free” but sadly I have not found such a formula. No-one has, and no-one will. 

But as difficult as it may seem and actually be, it is important to remember that you are not alone. As Helen Keller once said, We bereaved are not alone. We belong to the largest company in all the world – the company of those who have known suffering. When it seems that our sorrow is too great to be borne, let us think of the great family of the heavy hearted into which our grief has given us entrance. Inevitably we feel about us their arms, their sympathy and their understanding.”

While no-one has a magic formula to fix the situation, I sincerely believe there is a way through the maze and my hope is that we can help provide something of a road map for you as you make your way through that journey.


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