Why does the pain seem to intensify when we take steps to heal it?
I think of this process as illumination. When we actually make the effort to understand what is happening inside ourselves--our insides are like, “Hooray, check this out!”--like a child who wants to be witnessed by a parent. Acknowledgement is illumination.
Shining the light of attention on parts of ourselves which we bury in the name of function and survival is a slow, uncovering process. Illumination can really hurt, but once you examine what is there--with great interest so you can see all the nuances--the pain and the loss become more manageable. You can see the small parts rather than just the giant overwhelming whole.
Why is there always grief?
Grief always comes. No matter what we are working on, it comes. Grief is the feeling that accompanies loss and separation. It is sometimes felt as crying, or pain in the heart or gut. It can be deep regret or pure sorrow. Grief is a major part of the human experience. To live is to experience loss almost constantly.
When we are reviewing painful events in our own lives, we have often separated from ourselves during these experiences. For example, an assault survivor may feel that s/he checked out in order to survive an attack. A person who struggles with co-dependency in relationships may feel that s/he has to stuff personal needs in order to be in relationship. In these moments, we essentially abandon ourselves, and for that we need to grieve. After all, we are the caretakers and watchdogs of our well-being, and when we cannot be present to our experience, its a major loss.
Can I go back to what I was doing instead?
When the pain associated with healing arrives, we can think, “Oh no, I cannot do this--this is way too much. I was better off ignoring this!” But think again. In order to evade pain, people do all kinds of things--avoid meaningful relationships, stay busy all the time, work and accomplish incessantly, drink, use drugs, etc. Maybe you lost a job, your savings, a dear friend, your spouse, or your sanity avoiding your healing process. My guess, its not worth it.
So what next?
Trust the process. I find grief to be an emotion that is an exceptional leader. It comes and goes in waves and when its done, its done. Give grief the support it needs to be in your life. Increase self-care, hydrate, eat well. Get support from trusted people; find a family therapist or counselor. Then, be with it--be with yourself. Keep illuminating, keep trusting that if you continue on your healing journey, you will indeed heal yourself.