Fading Self-Harm Scars and Letting Go
For some people, fading self-harm scars are a cause for celebration, but for others, fading scars can be a surprising and profound source of grief.
Are Your Self-Harm Scars Fading?
My self-harm scars faded a long time ago. They're still with me, but they're so faint that no one would notice them unless I pointed them out—and even then, the lighting would have to be just so. For me, their lack of visibility came as a relief—I recognized it as a sign of healing, and I was grateful when I realized I no longer had to worry about hiding scars or trying to explain them (unless I wanted to).
But since I began writing for this blog, I've seen more than a couple of comments in which people expressed the opposite—they felt upset, in some cases even triggered, by the impending loss of their scars. And the more we've talked about it, the more I can see where they're coming from.
Your scars are proof of what you've been through. For some of us, this is exactly why we're happy to be rid of them. We don't want to look back. We don't want to constantly have to choose between hiding a part of our lives or explaining it whenever someone notices those lingering signposts that mark the dark paths we once tread, and hope never to revisit.
But your scars are also proof of life—that you've been through something difficult, and more importantly, you survived it. I remember I used to long for scars because, to me, having scars meant having stories in your life, stories worth telling and remembering. I wanted that more than anything. Viewed through that lens, it's no wonder that losing those scars can feel like losing a part of yourself because, in a way, you are.
It's important to recognize, however, that the self-harm scars and the stories they tell are two separate things. Losing your scars—or even never having scars in the first place—doesn't make whatever you've been through less real, or less important. You don't need the scars to have those stories, nor do you need your scars to tell them for you. There are other ways to remember—ways that don't require you to make new scars.
Processing Grief Over Fading Self-Harm Scars
First, don't tell yourself (and don't let anyone else tell you) not to grieve your fading self-harm scars if you feel so inclined. It's okay to feel sad, upset, or whatever you feel about it—there is no right way to feel here.
Second, if you are upset about losing your scars, give yourself permission to not only feel those feelings but also accept and work through them on your terms. Consider trying any of the following that speaks to you (or use this list to come up with your own solution—just be sure it isn't harmful to yourself or anyone else):
- Writing—journal about how you feel, or write poetry, stories, songs, or whatever you feel moved to try
- Art—create art that expresses how you feel, or use it to visualize the positive aspects of letting your scars go
- Self-care—treat yourself kindly and use positive self-talk to self-soothe (imagine what you would say to a friend in your situation)
- Talk it out—express how you feel to a mental health professional or a trusted friend or family member
- Get physical—try a safe, physical expression of your emotions (e.g. cry it out) or do some yoga or exercise to boost your mood
If you're feeling extra creative, you can also try creating your own grief ritual, sort of like a funeral for your scars or whatever it is you feel you're losing. This can be as simple or elaborate as you like; it can be private or shared with others.
For example, I've coped with various types of loss by writing letters to whoever (or whatever) I was missing. I wrote anything I wished I could say to them, whether I had already said it or not, and anything else that I needed to get out. I wrote until I felt like I had nothing left to say. And then I said the only thing left, the one thing I'd needed to say all along—goodbye.
When I was ready to, I destroyed the letters. Not because their contents were some big secret. Not because I was upset or angry about writing them. I destroyed them because it helped me visualize what I was really doing—letting go.
Your version may look very different than mine. That's all right. There is no one right way to grieve, just like there is no one right way to heal. But allowing yourself to grieve if you need to is important—so make sure you give yourself the time and space to do so.
Kim Berkley (2022, September 22). Fading Self-Harm Scars and Letting Go, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, September 29 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2022/9/fading-self-harm-scars-and-letting-go