Is the Path Toward Healing Possible without Hope?

Posted by: Debbie Grove on September 16, 2011 2:08 pm

September has been a time of reflection, and, perhaps more so lately with the Ten Year Anniversary of 9/11. Poignant moments of loved ones at the memorial site in New York, celebrations of lives lived and lost and those sacrificed. I was especially moved by the felt sense of the human spirit in its capacity to comfort, mourn, rejoice, and celebrate. During times of such sorrow, there was also hope. This was not confined to New York either, rather, it spread throughout North America and other parts of the world. How do we possibly find hope when tragedy strikes?

Over the course of history, human kind has had an almost inherent capacity for rebuilding when devastating events occur. What does seem key to me, though, is the need for collective efforts, compassion from others, an outlet for expression and emotion, and the passage of time. However, time alone is insufficient. A call to action, translating feelings and thoughts into words, and creating a future narrative all seem critical for healing journeys. There is something about feeling movement, I think, that ignites an early sign of hope that life can be renewed, albeit different, but, nevertheless, that life can move forward. Acts of movement, to name but a handful, include honouring memories and loved ones in symbolic ways, being with others, doing what feels personally meaningful, reaching out to help others, volunteering, and taking time to be kind to yourself. Movement, in many senses of the word, helps shift guilt, remorse, distress, and prolonged mourning toward personal and collective empowerment, energy, and hopefulness.

This is not to say, however, that sadness and grief are extinguished, far from it. Instead, being mindful of the sadness when it comes, feeling it, and knowing that it is possible to move out of the sadness toward active living can be quite liberating for people. Hope is not intended to suppress, ignore, and dampen emotions and those times when a loss finds it way to the heart. It becomes a way for individuals to keep going. Part of the challenge that I experience with clients in the context of therapy is locating personally meaningful pathways and strategies that have the potential to provide hope for change, happiness, and living a renewed life. It is so different for everyone. It amazes me where hope is found. Therapeutic conversations of creativity, collaboration, exploration of life narratives, remembering, and identifying past and present moments of movement and energy combine for a personal pathway toward health and healing. People find their own sparks of hope, sometimes when least expected. An image, personal connection with someone, event, pleasant memory, and new life experiences replenish life when hope has been lost. Life rebuilds and gains momentum in planned and serendipitous ways!

Image courtesy of Arkorn/

The views expressed are mine alone and do not reflect the views of the CCPA. Dr. Debbie Grove is a therapist working in Edmonton, Alberta. To learn more about her, visit her web site at

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

0 comments on “Is the Path Toward Healing Possible without Hope?”

  1. Paul says:

    Hope is so often overlooked when working with clients. I know that I have the tendency to try and “figure out what’s wrong” so it can be fixed. But, if the client doesn’t actually believe that they can be better—if they’re lacking hope—then no amount of fixing will take root.

    I’ve wrestled with how to convey hope to my clients. I wrote a little bit about how I think that happens here.

    Thanks for understanding the importance of hope, both for you and your clients.

    1. Dear Paul,
      Thank you for your post and thoughtful feedback. In writing about hope, you highlight the importance of the client’s role – their readiness to be hopeful. Such an important element in the change process. This raises the question about the counsellor’s role with hope and change — that is a wonderful topic. I think I will carry forth our conversation in my next blog here at the CCPA. Stay tuned, and, I look forward to hearing from you! Thanks again, Paul, for sharing your experiences with hope!
      Dr. Debbie Grove

  2. Elizabeth says:

    It’s great to see your view of hope, from the perspective of a health professional. The idea of hope as ‘movement’ – a forward action – adds a dimension to what we’ve been reflecting on over at Sometimes hope can be seen as static, ‘wishful thinking’ that gets you nowhere. You’re right that the impetus for hope can often be unpredictable and serendipitous, but it’s also something we can cultivate by focus and attention.
    Thank you for this thoughtful post!

    1. Dear Elizabeth,
      Thank you for adding to the conversation about the role of hope and providing your web site information. I appreciated your reflections about the differences between hope as movement compared to wishful thinking. Thanks again for your feedback!
      Dr. Debbie Grove

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