If my journey to strong, emotional health has taught me anything, it’s this: You must feel in order to heal. In my opinion, there is no way around this.
Feelings are the body’s emotional response to sensations, thoughts and events. It’s how we process the ups and downs of life (and everything in between). If we do not allow our minds and hearts to evaluate and absorb feelings, we are depriving ourselves of the important step of processing.
Think about the process of running your car through a car wash. The car enters and gets a gentle spray of water. Then, soap gets dispensed onto the car and is left to soak in for a few seconds. This is followed by a good rinse and sometimes a “wax” option where the car is coated by a thin layer of protective wax. Finally, the car goes through a couple of big fans that dry the water before you exit the wash.
Let’s translate this to feelings.
If we don’t experience and deal with our feelings, they affect the way we function and show up to future events, especially those that are painful, difficult or traumatic. Pain builds upon pain and hurt builds upon hurt IF it is not dealt with. This causes layers to build-up in our emotional chamber which makes it harder the next time to work through feelings. It’s a vicious cycle.
You HAVE to give your feelings space. There must be a regular release of the pressure. Since I started grieving my mom’s death, I have recognized that there are certain triggers that ignite my feelings of sadness and loss. Some examples of this are: looking at cards that people have sent, reading messages on social media, seeing her handwriting, flipping through her photos, coming across a gift she gave me, or listening to an audio recording that we made together in the hospital. I set aside time every morning to intentionally think about and process my triggers and the subsequent feelings for my mom. This is when I open cards that people sent, the time when I scroll through photos. It’s the time when I talk with her and tell her how much I miss her. I also let myself visit my regrets and picture my life without her moving forward. These sacred moments often activate heavy tears and I let them flow freely and use them to mourn the loss of someone I loved with all my heart. They are an expression of my deep love for my mom and an acknowledgment of my new reality without her. This is my tribute of love and adoration to the woman who gave me life and has been a nurturing force and also a dear friend to me over the past five decades.
It’s how I connect with her. This is how I express my love for her. This is how I heal.
Just like the carwash, I let myself enter a space each day where I can freely work through things in order to come out the other side refreshed and unburdened.
And yet I know that as the day builds on, the sadness will creep back in and I am at peace with that. It’s actually healthy. The little triggers chase me down and sometimes even bring me to the point of tears, but they are different from the tears I cry in the mornings. These tears are often short, emotional reactions to something I see or a response to the kindness of an empathetic friend. I remind myself that this is not the sacred daily time I set apart for the deep exploration of my soul. If something hits me particularly hard and it’s honestly not the right time to process, I tuck it away in my heart and push “pause” until the next day. And then the next morning I close my eyes and let myself go to that painful place of recollection where Jesus and I meet, in the middle of my despair. We work through the list together and He reminds me that my mom is completely healed and restored and she is worshipping her Savior in the streets of heaven. I let Him walk me through this exercise daily. It is a powerful way to connect and receive His peace in my heart.
We’ve been taught not to dance with the darkness and God does speak of darkness in His word. There are several scriptures that talk about not walking in darkness, turning from darkness and not fellowshipping with darkness. But there are also scriptures that talk about God lighting the darkness, God delivering us from darkness, God calling us out of darkness, and God turning darkness into light.
I have learned to make peace with the dark places because it is there that God’s light can shine the brightest. It is in the darkness that God radiates His love, plan and purposes to me. It is where I get a visual of the light overcoming the darkness which fills my heart with hope. If we ignore the darkness and pretend it isn’t there, it doesn’t go away. It just holes up in the corners of our hearts and if we allow this, things become seemingly darker. Exposing it early and often is the key to replacing it with God’s truth, love and care for us. I literally picture God’s light shining in on whatever I am working through and completely exposing the pain of the darkness.
I ordered my mom’s urn this week. If I’m to be honest, I had been putting it off. I found one that has a lighthouse engraved on it. My mom has always loved lighthouses because to her they represented the homes of their ministry leaders; beacons of light and hope in neighborhoods across the globe. I had Matthew 5:16 engraved on it, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
As I finalized the order, I realized that this scripture references the light my mom had in her life—the light that she allowed to bring healing, hope and wholeness to her own heart and to the hearts of those around her. She had the light that God speaks of in His Word. It was authentic and contagious. And I know that this same light will slowly fill my heart as I allow God to illuminate those dark spaces that represent the void that was once filled with my the deep love I had for my mom. Imagine replacing a void of love with the one who is love, the one who created love. I could use a little of that right now. Sign me up.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.