Healing: The Misconception



“I just want you to reach total healing.”

His words were dripping with cautious pity. My eyes closed and I let out a heavy sigh. He doesn’t get it. He couldn’t, because he’s never experienced it.

I grow so tired of defending myself. I grow so tired of fighting for my right to feel, experience, or walk in any realm of grief.

I did my best, and gave the most considerate lashing I could conjure. He didn’t understand why I – or anyone – would show pictures of my dead baby. He didn’t understand why after three years, I still incorporate Harlynn into as many areas of our lives as I can.

Honestly, he didn’t understand “total healing”, even though he spoke his desire for me to achieve it.

I know why other loss parents struggle to speak about their experience and struggle to give voice to their children who have died. It’s exhausting to defend the heart’s right to be damaged, let alone broken. Standards and expectations, all of which are completely different depending on who harbors them, are impossible to meet or maintain by those actually walking through the grief journey.

We don’t fit in your box. We can’t. We understand life – and death – on a level we pray you never have to. And we are all but condemned for it.

For three years I’ve come alongside grieving families as they bury their children and watch the futures they dreamed about shatter before their eyes. For three years I’ve been on the receiving end of phone calls, emails, text messages, and outreaches of complete strangers looking for help. For understanding. For validation.

And I’m happy to give it. I know how hard it can be to find any in a world that expects you to dust off and forget.

There is no forgetting.

For three years I’ve leaned into a God I don’t understand, pleaded with a Father I believed would spare us from this, and for three years I’ve allowed Him to walk us through a valley I’d previously pretended never existed.

I had to learn to pray again. To sing. To trust.

And my journey is viewed as my weakness. But I’m here to tell you, there is nothing but strength and conviction in my veins. Even when I fall apart.

You see, friends, there is no healing in denial. There is no healing in avoidance. There is no healing in disallowing myself to experience every step of the journey I’ve been called to walk. I can blaze new trails if I run away and pretend this road is not part of who I am.

But that would be the opposite of healing. That would be adopting a false identity.

I am a bereaved parent. We buried our daughter after her life ended. Every day I wake up, pray up, and hold up another broken heart of another fellow bereaved parent.

And I’m still able to praise God in the storm.

That is healing. And that is a concept those who haven’t lost a child will never understand.

My ultimate healing will come the day I’m called home. The day my heart stops beating and my spirit transcends life as I know it, I will be healed by the standards of the world today. I will not cry anymore. I will not ache. I will not feel sadness.

Until that day, I will continue to trust His leading. I will continue to acknowledge sometimes I still hurt. I will continue to experience exactly what I need to at the exact moment it’s supposed to happen. I will continue to depend on the God who has carried me through every step in this path of life – no matter how small or significant.

And I will continue to defend my right to grieve messy. Three years or 30 or 300 – no matter how much time I have remaining to open my eyes this side of heaven – I will have to remind myself my healing is no one else’s declaration. No one gets to decide for me how well I’m doing.

When I was five, I got the chickenpox. When I “healed”, my scalp, back, and left eyelid were covered with scars. Thirty years later I bear the physical proof of one of the most miserable illnesses I’ve ever recovered from. I’ve got all kinds of scars from all kinds of incidents, and not one single person has ever held it against me. Until now.

I’m not ashamed of scars. In fact, they show just how hard I’ve fought.

Three years later, I’ve figured out how to keep a broken heart beating. It healed. You might not believe me, but I’ve got the scar to prove it.

What Good Am I?

I’ve fallen behind from where I wanted to be with my book-writing, but I’m still plugging along. It’s at a slower, less productive pace than I was aiming for, but it’s progress, nonetheless.

What Good Am I-

One thing that has really surprised me in writing this book is how much I’ve forgotten about my own marriage, and life in general. All of these memories and circumstances that have been crowded out by new memories and circumstances, have been finding their way to the surface of my mind. I’ve found myself reminiscing about a lot of my past experiences, what they were, who was involved, and how they might have contributed to the person I am today.

Along those lines, there’s been a giant dose of self-consciousness heaped upon me, especially in moving forward with the book.
“Oh dear…I did that.”
“Oh gosh, I forgot about how foolish I was when I….”
“Ugh, I was hoping to never remember that again…”

These are some of the thoughts I’ve wrestled with as I type along, hoping to impart wisdom on relationships and marriage to anyone who might read it one day.

And “wrestled with” is putting it lightly. My emotions have taken over in an all-out brawl at times as I recall choices I made, people I hurt, or promises I broke.

Many mornings I’ve woken up with some great ideas, only to talk myself out of them. You can’t do that because you lost credibility when you ____(fill in the blank with something from my past)____. No one will listen to you, because they’ll remember when you said, “___(fill in the blank with something hurtful or unfounded)___.” 

I’m constantly talking myself down. I struggle, also, with whether or not I’m being narcissistic in this venture. Why would anyone trust I have anything helpful to share about marriage, or life in general? Why, when we live in a world where everyone wants to be heard, do I think I need to be heard above any single one of them? How does my message benefit anyone? What hasn’t been said before? I don’t research, I don’t counsel, I don’t have any degree or letters after my name that credit me as any kind of authority on marriage, or relationships.

What good am I?

I slink back in my own little shell, being a mama, a wife, and employee. I have nothing to offer other than what’s before me. What I’m required to do well in. My worth is counted in my pre-programmed tasks. I loaded the dishwasher today – score! I kept Little Man from bathing himself in yogurt today – score!

Honestly, some days, that’s all I can manage. But that’s not all I was created to be, and certainly not what all of my days were meant for.

Those self-deprecating statements, those triggers from my past that hold me down in a pit of unworthiness, and those burdensome chains of doubt and insecurity are all gifts to me from the father of lies. He wants to hold me in bondage. He wants to shame me. He wants me to forego healing, and cling to hurt. His business is keeping me out of the business of helping others, and of helping myself. His business is ruining marriages, and anyone who tries to build them up. His business is destruction.

The other morning, as I was reading my Bible, I read this passage from Psalm 139:

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

I’m a crier, admittedly, but I only remember crying fewer than a handful of times with regard to scripture. Until I read that passage. I surprised myself with how choked up I became. This beautiful depiction of God’s omniscience nearly did me in. He knows me. He knows everything I’ve done, everything I’ll do, and still, He lays His hand upon me.

He doesn’t reject me. He doesn’t show me every way in which I’ve failed. He doesn’t tell me I’d better not pursue anything better than what I have right now because what I’ve done in life prevents me from deserving more.

He lays His hand upon me.

When you’re at your worst, scared you’ll be unaccepted, shunned, dismissed, and you’re embraced instead – you know unconditional love. He doesn’t want to condemn me – He invites me to continue on with Him.

He knows everything. Everyone. Eternally. It’s not my story I’m telling. It’s not my mistakes or shortcomings I’m proclaiming victory over. It’s His story. His glory. His purpose.

He lays His hand upon me. And I keep writing.