Wounds, Scabs, and Scars- Don’t Rush Your Healing!
So last year I went to Bali (one of the most amazing experiences of my life). The night before departure I was experiencing cold symptoms and decided to make some Theraflu. In a rush, I went to grab my mug of boiling water and spilled it all over my forearm. I don’t think I have been in that much pain in a long time and I’ve had a child! Carelessly, I failed to seek medical attention and went on with my travels. I had an untreated second/third degree burn that I battled for the entire trip and even days after I returned. Now a year later I have a noticeable scar that has faded but will never go away. I was looking at the scar one day and realized that I made several mistakes in taking care of this wound to my skin which led to a painful, prolonged healing process. Then it hit me, (que teachable moment) we often make similar mistakes when it comes to wounds of the heart.
We have all experienced pain in some form (grief, loss, heartbreak, disappointment, betrayal, etc.). During times of heartache, our initial reaction is to do whatever it takes to alleviate or numb those unwanted feelings. This can often lead to a delayed or damaging healing process. If you truly want to move past the pain you have to go through it. Usually healing happens by enduring three stages- the wound, scab, and scar.
Think of the first few days after a bad breakup, losing someone you loved, or receiving devastating news. You may recall being flooded with complex emotions that left you open and vulnerable. That is why it is considered a wound because emotionally you are in a very raw state. It is important to care for yourself during this stage because how you respond determines how you will recover. Wounds need time and tenderness.
How to care for your wound:
- Identify the wound
As uncomfortable as it is, you have to sit in the pain for a while, acknowledge its presence, and give it a name. For some the hardest part is admitting that they’re hurting but this step is actually the most necessary as healing really cannot begin until you do.
2. Do nothing then do something
This may sound like a contradiction but it is actually an act of balance. It is important to be in tune with what you need when you need it. Your needs may change day by day, moment to moment and that’s okay. You will need to take some time to unplug, rest, and step away from the world for a while. Then you will also need to get up, get out, and start moving slowly but surely.
3. Avoid quick or unhealthy fixes
Sister Solange teaches us that we cannot drink, smoke, sex or shop it away. These are just temporary distractions that deter us from dealing with the real problem. I also must note that seemingly positive actions done in excess are not helpful either. Working long hours, becoming obsessed with exercise, and participating in a million activities is not being productive. Instead you are just running away from the pain that will inevitably catch up with you.
4. Beware of self-defeating thoughts
“I’m not worthy”, “I will never get through this”, “I deserved it”. This kind of thinking is toxic and leaves you broken, bitter, or both. The more you feed yourself these destructive messages, the more you will internalize them. Be gentle with yourself! The last thing you need on top of the pain you are already experiencing is an additional wound by way of tearing yourself apart.
5. Create a space for healing
With all of the memories and triggers lurking during this vulnerable time, you have to be intentional about your environment. This includes engaging with positive people and discovering positive coping skills. Surround yourself with those who make you feel safe and supported. Do what gives you a sense of peace.
Time has gone by and you have a better handle on your emotions. You aren’t suffering as much and you almost feel like yourself again. You might even be thinking “Hey, I’m good”. Please stop right here! You have to be very cautious during the scab stage as it is easy to deceive yourself. Just like with any physical injury, a scab is a sign of healing but it is not indication of being fully healed. Don’t forget that there’s still a wound underneath that could easily be exposed again. It is possible for people to go on for years dealing with scabs that have never healed because they didn’t take the time to do the heart and soul work. Emotional scabs require patience and practice.
How a scab becomes a scar:
- Be honest and transparent with yourself
The truth may set you free but transparency gives you wings. The more you are able to dig deep and examine your raw emotions the more awareness you will achieve. Be honest with yourself about what exactly you are feeling. This is where the real growth happens.
2. Forgive then forgive again
We know that we need to forgive but we don’t always grasp the actual process of forgiveness. You have to not only forgive others but you also must accept forgiveness for yourself. Then there is the understanding that forgiveness does not happen all at once but in layers. You may have reached a place of resolve for one aspect of the situation you’ve been dealing with only for a new memory or thought to surface, reminding you of the remaining hurtful pieces you have yet to release. Those who move on successfully are not completely void of the need to forgive but instead they have learned the practice of doing so repeatedly.
3. Relinquish your need for closure
You have this preconceived idea of how this is all supposed to end and you will not allow yourself to move on until this scenario comes to fruition. Closure really begins when you decide to let go, it is as simple (although not easy) as that. You have come to terms with the fact that you may never receive the apology or have the opportunity to say goodbye and be at peace with that.
4. Learn the lesson
Sometimes it can seem as if your life is on repeat. You keep getting hurt by that one person or situation. Maybe you have made the changes you thought were necessary to move forward but find yourself in the same mess only now with someone new. Pain is an uninvited guest that comes in and refuses to leave until you learn what it was there to teach you. A major part of the healing process is gaining the wisdom that derives from it.
Let’s face it, the process can be brutal but once you reach this stage of healing you should begin to see that it was all worth it! The scar signifies a sense of overcoming. You are better, stronger, and wiser. You do not see yourself as a victim and you are walking in your victory. Your scars should be a source of your mission and your magic.
What your scars will inspire you to do:
- Tell your story
There is purpose behind your pain and the world needs your testimony. The trials that you have endured are not yours alone. Once you’ve healed you have the power to heal others so tell your story, boldly and unapologetically. People are counting on you, including your future self.
2. Have a healthy sense of regret
Often times I hear people say that they have no regrets because what they went through made them who they are. I personally don’t believe in having no regrets. Yes it is a beautiful thing to become a survivor of your suffering but let’s be real, not all lessons have to hurt. Not all wisdom has to come from weariness. In other words, sometimes our scars were once self-inflicted wounds that could have been avoided. I don’t know anyone who would choose to repeat the same mistakes if they could know better without them. Healthy regret is saying that while you see the value in your journey, there are decisions that you wouldn’t make again even if you had the chance to.
3. Stand in your strength
Like my burn some scars have a nasty healing process so they are more prominent. These are the scars that forever changed you, made you who you are. The ones that bring tears to your eyes not from sadness but sincere gratitude, the “never would have made it” ones. You should never lose sight of these scars and the wounds that they once were. Embrace your strength, celebrate it, and tap into it, as you most certainly earned it!
A moment of reflection:
Let’s do a quick heart check. What stage of healing are you in and what is your plan to heal properly? Have you been dealing with something for a while and can’t let go? What is holding you back? What do you need to do to move forward? Set an intention and take that first step. In the meantime, be patient with yourself and remember that healing is a process.