Two Steps on the Road to Healing Suffering and Regret

These two steps can help you to heal and let go.

Posted Jul 15, 2018

I was talking to my friend, Marcia Cebulska—playwright, novelist, and wise woman—about how we can stop digging a big negative groove in our brains about past hurts and losses and move on. 

One way is through writing, something we all know how to do. For years Marcia led writing groups of people who had something they needed to get over or through. She worked with survivors of rape, others trying to get over relationships that ended badly, and people who regretted paths they had not taken. She gave them exercises—scribbling with crayons, writing to music, writing to prompts—and they wrote, then shared their writing. 

“Troubles go around and around in our heads but if we write them out, they become more linear, we can see the story more clearly” Marcia said. “We can write our own ending. Writing is one path to healing.”

Another powerful path to healing is through ritual.  Performing a ritual gives us a way to put the past to rest and mark a new beginning.

In Marcia’s wise words: "There are reasons we mark life passages with ritual.  Showers, naming ceremonies, weddings, funerals. Once I was hanging on to some regret and my friend Georg’ann suggested we do something about it.  She asked me to write down what I wanted to purge myself of on a piece of paper.  She then took me to some woods where we used to walk.  We walked up a hill and to a stream. (This took some time and effort which are both important to ritual.) There, she asked me to tear up the paper into the tiniest bits. She then put the bits into a bowl she had brought along. She handed me matches and I set the paper pieces on fire. Then, she instructed me to send the ashes down the stream. I sprinkled them on the clear clean water and even blew on them to send them on their way. I let go.”

There are other ritual options, of course, but as Marcia notes, an effective ritual has certain key features. "The important elements are that it has to take time and effort and there has to be at least one witness to the ceremony or event. Pronouncing words, making a declaration helps. Good-bye to . . . Farewell to. . . I’m done with . . . I let go.” 

Of course, we don’t just get over grief and regret in several easy steps. Healing is a long-term project. We don't move on from a significant loss or searing emotional injury by going to a writing workshop or learning to have a brighter attitude and a set of new skills.

But we do need to start somewhere, and this includes a new action. One step forward will lead to another step forward, and ultimately toward a more expansive and empowering view of our possibilities.