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.