I am super, super particular about language.
The wrong word choice grates on me, even in the best of times.
When I was first widowed, hearing words like “recovery” and “healing” really bothered me. People asked me if I was “feeling better” a month or two after Matt drowned. I kept my answer largely to myself, but in my head, I screamed “I did not have a cold or the flu. A little rest and some ginger-ale is not going to make me all better!” Death isn’t exactly a condition that can improve, so healing sounded ridiculous.
How can you heal when the one you love is still dead?
Honestly. A loss of this magnitude is not something you simply recover from.
Recovery, as defined in the dictionary, means to restore oneself to a normal state, to regain what was lost, or to be compensated for what was taken. I hear from a lot of people grieving the loss of a child, or grieving the loss of their best friend and partner, grieving someone who should have had 20, 30, 80 more years. There is absolutely no point in time when you will recover from such a loss, as though the hole in the universe could just close back up and things go back to normal.
The person you lost can’t come back, therefore there is no “better.” The whole context of healing and recovery is just plain strange in this kind of grief.
And that makes it tricky. If there is no “healing” in terms of being as-good-as-new, if we can’t “recover” any more than someone who has lost their legs can simply will them to grow back, how do we go on?
I think it depends on who does the asking.
For me, any outside source or force asking me when I’ll get better is going to be met with irritation. But if I do the asking, if I wonder – for myself – then it becomes a very different question. What would healing look like, for me? Given that I have no choice in this, given that I cannot go back, what would living this well look like?
It’s not an easy question. If you are very, very new to this grief, this may not be the time to even wonder about these things. But in this season of resolutions and wishes for a better year, I wonder what your answer would be, if you asked this of yourself.
Given that your loss cannot be restored, given that what was taken cannot be returned, what would healing look like?
What would it look like, for you, to live well in the face of your loss?
What would healing really be?
If you are so inclined, share your thoughts in the comments. Or send me an email. If you’re completely stuck as to how to even begin answering, let’s mess around with the question, and see what might feel true.