Gaining Wisdom on the Journey of Healing

There is a great deal to learn on the journey of healing. I would have preferred to have skipped the reason for some of the lessons, but as we have no choice about being on this winding road, it’s a good idea to know where we are, where we’re going, and what to expect along the way. I believe that those of us traveling with the unwanted hitchhiker named “Grief” need to know how our journey will be different, and how to make the best of it.

I’d like to share several kinds of wisdom I have found important to keep me healthy and on track.

The Wisdom to Prepare
• For dates you want to remember and dates you want to forget.
• For places that were special and places that hurt.
• For people who know and people who don’t. Most of us remember the first time someone asked us “Hey, how’s _______ doing ? ” and the awkward pause while we tried to think of the best way to answer.
• For those who say the WRONG things – and those who offer comfort.
• For pictures!
Going through old pictures is like handling pieces of a broken stained glass window. Every piece is still beautiful, but every piece can cut you to the bone. Put on your gloves, concentrate on the good stuff, handle with care !

Here’s a question I sometimes ask fellow travelers: Do you hide potentially hurtful things from the grieving? From yourself?

The Wisdom to Step Back
• From looking TOO closely in the mirror
• From things that still hurt TOO much
• From the edge

Step back from the darkness and back into the light.
Step back, breath, and breath again. You might be able to avoid a prolonged battle with depression. You may need to pause long enough to see a clearer path to peace.

Ask yourself, “Can I help pull someone else back from the edge?”

The Wisdom to Speak Up
• When you need to share.
You should find a way to tell your story as often as you need to. When you find others who truly understand, listen to theirs and tell your own! It’s ok. The sharing and caring is healthy.
• When you need to ask for help.
People will give you your space and your privacy, but that’s not always what you need most.
• When you need to call time out.
Everyone has limits and everyone’s limits change. I see no reason to feel guilty about letting the people you care about know when you’ve reached yours.

Ask yourself, “When are the times when I most need to be heard?”

The Wisdom to Seek Help
• Not just once but often
• Not just in books but in music and art
• Not just from friends but from experts
• Not just for your emotions but for your body and spirit.

Ask yourself, “Where else can you find help?”
“Am I ready to offer MY help? Am I willing?

The Wisdom to Let Go
• Of “what if”
• Of “if only”
• Of “why”

Ask yourself, “What else do I need to let go of?”
“Am I able to suggest to someone else that they need to let go of something?”

The Wisdom to Hang On
• To good memories
• Good friends
• Hope
• Joy

Ask yourself, “What else do I need to hold on to?”
How can I help someone else to ‘hold on’ ?”

A widely recognized authority on sagacity once wrote;

” Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting, get understanding.”

I think it’s still sound advice.

Michael Nunley

More Articles Written by Michael

Michael Nunley's love for music began in his youth. He was singing in churches and sharing the stage with well known performers in shows and television appearances all across the Ohio Valley. Growing up in a military family, Michael traveled extensively. He considers himself blessed to have experienced the beauty and diversity of so much of our world and it's people. Michael was a music scholarship recipient at Walters State College and at The University of Tennessee. As a member of the U.T. Singers, he toured and performed as a soloist with "Tennessee's Musical Ambassadors." He continued his involvement in the performing arts, playing guitar, bass, synthesizer and percussion as well as expanding his vocal abilities. He began to write and record his own music while serving as Interim Worship Leader at his church. It was during this time he produced his first CD of original songs as a music department fund raiser. In 2010, the Governor of Kentucky awarded Michael membership in The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, the state's highest title of honor, for writing and performing the theme song, "Because We Care", for the Kentucky Employee Charitable Contribution campaign. In 2000, tragedy struck twice, causing Michael to have a deeply personal change in his attitude and understanding of loss and grief. His sister, Cyndy, took her own life shortly before his father, Col. Billy F. Nunley (U.S.A.F.) lost his fight with a cancerous brain tumor. Michael is profoundly grateful for the opportunity to have written a song for The Compassionate Friends in 2011, and he found the experience brought him a new level of healing. He hopes to pass along some comfort with his poetry and music. He encourages others to use the creative process of writing, as he has done, to take care of "spiritual housekeeping" and help "Define, Confine, and then Refine " the sorrow into a more constructive energy. Michael says, "Grief is natural. What's UN-natural is dying from it in solitude. Accepting help, learning from it and passing along the healing is far better. That seems to me to be a cycle of life that will expand our compassion without killing the possibility of joy." You can hear more of Michael's music at his Web page: http://indiemusicworks.com/Michael_Nunley/

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  • Dear Michael,

    I agree with the points you make and the way you’ve organized your article. As someone who has experienced multiple losses, I think bereaved people have some common ideas, but each of us develops our own wisdom in our own time.