The pain of loss can hang on us for a long, long time, perhaps even for years. And we may sometimes feel that we are stuck, that we’re not getting any better. How do we know—in fact, can we know—that we are healing?
One thing that I have found helpful is to make sure I am being honest about the past, the present, and the future.
Being honest about the past means: (1) we have dealt with or are in the process of dealing with regrets, (2) we are able to both give and receive forgiveness where needed, and (3) we are not allowing our memories to be exaggerated or embellished, not making any more or any less of them than what was true.
Regrets, forgiveness, and memories . . . I’ll say more about these in later posts, but for now let’s agree that the past is what it is—past. We can do nothing to change yesterday, and any effort to do so will rob us of strength we need for today.
Being honest about the present means that we are dealing in reality, we are accepting that the loss is real and that life has changed. We also are admitting that we need help.
Being honest about the future means that we are “absorbing” the loss rather than trying to “get over it,” as if that were possible. This is a concept I have borrowed from Gerald Sittser, author of A Grace Disguised (Zondervan, 1995), when he wrote: “I absorbed the loss into my life, like soil receives decaying matter, until it became a part of who I am. Sorrow took up permanent residence in my soul and enlarged it.” (pg. 37)
The future is uncertain; in this we are all on equal footing. However, our loss will shape our future, and the shape it takes rests not so much in the loss but in how we respond.
We can go forward.