While walking up and down the shore at low tide, I’ve been hunting for seaglass. These white, aquamarine, green, and blue "gemstones" were once sharp fragments of broken glass. Now they are rounded and smoothed: shaped by time and tide.
It takes a really long time for the jagged edges to be worn down by the sea: up to fifty years. Sometimes I find pieces that are still “works in progress”: they are getting smoother but they’re not there yet.
Healing from emotional pain can be like this too. It takes time to understand ourselves and to make sense of the events that have shaped us. It takes time to recover from trauma. It takes time to learn new patterns and unlearn old ones. It takes time to soften our rough edges. (I’m not saying that having the odd spiky edge is bad … but things are likely to go better for us if we at least get to know the triggers that bring out our spikiness, and learn when to tone it down a bit). Therapy can help speed up the process, but even after therapy ends, there will be more learning and growing to do. More softening and shaping. Personal growth is a lifelong thing.
Seaglass is also a reminder that things that once seemed broken, worthless, and rubbish can become something different. I find it beautiful to look at, especially when it is still wet and shiny from the sea, twinkling like jewels in the sand. Maybe you don’t see it that way. Maybe when you look at the picture you notice all the little scuffs and chips in the surface of the glass. Yet you’d probably agree it no longer looks like sharp fragments of broken bottles. Seaglass is a reminder that change is possible. In fact change is inevitable. We just don't always notice it's happening, because it's so slow.
In the same way, with time, the parts of our stories that once seemed the most rubbish, the experiences we’ve had that seemed the most useless, the times when we’ve felt the most broken - can become something different. They may even become useful and meaningful. One simple example would be finding that we have more compassion for ourselves and for others because of the pain we’ve been through.
One day, I will make a mosaic or picture out of the seaglass. So the pieces of smooth seaglass, (that were once broken glass, and before that bottles filled with liquid, and before that grains of sand), will, again, become something different. I can't guarantee that the finished result will win any prizes, but whatever it turns out like, it will be a reminder of change and hope.
The word “recovery” has several different meanings. One of them is “retrieval”, and the Collins Dictionary therefore defines recovery as: “The extraction of useful substances from waste”. Even though this definition is about a different sense of the word “recovery”, I think it’s a great way of describing the process of emotional healing.