4 Steps Toward Healing the Hurt
Updated: Oct 17
You’ve experienced it … most likely in a countless number of ways.
Even as you read these words you may be battling fresh wounds within your heart and soul.
You can find healing in your hurt … it’s within reach.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon in mid-July the phone rang. It was my stepmother. My Dad and I talk weekly, so it was unusual for her to call, and I was immediately on alert. My Dad was sick with covid, and incapacitating complications caused by dangerously low potassium levels. My 81-year-old father is healthy, active, has a sharp mind, and continues to work full-time, so this news was shocking to hear. My mind and heart were racing as I took in the details. In between hearing the news, and later speaking with my dad, I wept. And I prayed. The following day he was re-admitted to the hospital, where the care he received stabilized his potassium levels and provided what he needed to recover.
In the meantime, I had to wait. Wait to talk to a nurse. Wait to know the facts of his condition. Wait to hear his voice. Wait to know if I could book a flight and see him (no visitors were allowed in the hospital for c+ patients). In that kind of waiting, hours felt like days. I could think of little else, and all the things I had to do faded into a blur, like the background through a camera lens focusing in on a close-up shot. In moments like these, all the things I think are so important suddenly are not. I just wanted to be there to hold his hand. To sit by his side. To spend more time together. Perhaps you too, know how this feels.
In the past two years, we have all collectively been through so much hurt, fear, pain, upheaval, and uncertainty. It’s almost embarrassing to admit, but at first I didn’t think I was directly affected. Inconvenienced, yes. Confused, yes. Afraid, yes. But I thought everything would resolve in a few weeks and we could go on with life as we knew it. (Was I the only one that thought that?) Initially, I didn’t personally know anyone who tested positive or who got sick. Then friends lost loved ones. In time, just about everyone I knew, including my husband and other family members, got sick with the virus. Suddenly, that impersonal sense of this affecting others – that emotional distance we can tend to create to feel safe – became intensely personal.
After a year passed, I began to realize the stress and anxiety just beneath the surface. Unacknowledged and unexpressed emotions build up like a dam. The longer we avoid dealing with what we are feeling – in a healthy way - the more pressure builds on the dam, until cracks begin to emerge. Our behavior, words, and actions indicate the cracks. The harsh tone, the unkind word, impatience, irritability, interrupted and fitful sleep, the inability to focus or make sound decisions…can all indicate feelings of fear, isolation, anxiety, sadness, frustration, anger, and a heightened sense of vulnerability. The reality that we are not in control, hits us like a forceful gale wind.
For each of us, in one way or another, all that was familiar, predictable, routine, and what felt safe was suddenly turned upside down. This was intensified by disasters such as tornados, floods, and fires as well as political and social unrest and upheaval. Weeks turned to months, months to years. The impact on all of us has been incalculable as we have struggled to find some semblance of normal amid the chaos and constant change.
A truth I cling to like an anchor in the storm is that while our world is constantly changing, God is unchanging. His character and promises are timeless. James 1:17 says,
“Every good act of giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father who made the heavenly lights; with Him there is neither variation nor darkness caused by turning.”
Another truth that gives me hope, comfort and courage is John 16:33, where Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But be brave! I have overcome the world.”
I feel there is an aspect in what we have all experienced that is important to acknowledge in order to heal, and that is the concept of “social distancing.” Words have meaning. There is a significant difference between “Physical Distancing” and “Social Distancing”. One implies maintaining a physical distance with others, which is actually what we have been asked to do. “Social Distancing” however, implies something else entirely. Put together, these two words are contrary to how our brains are wired and how we are knit together by a relational Creator to be social and to connect in relationship with others. I find that this terminology - while it may not have affected us much over 2 or 3 weeks, has now become part of our vernacular and long term - has caused great damage, including increased isolation, anxiety, fear, depression, loneliness and despair. I sense that it has also insidiously undermined our trust in those around us. This is also a loss.
In my own experience with loss, I have discovered the tendency to try and go back to the moment when everything changed. To pick up the shattered pieces and attempt to make whole what was broken. Yet the more I tried to go back in order to move forward, the longer I stayed stuck. Loss comes in many forms. And loss can often be traumatic and life-altering. One of the keys to moving forward and healing the hurt is to identity our feelings and name what we have experienced. When we name something, for example, “Yes, this was traumatic,” it loses its power over us. Naming, identifying, acknowledging…is like pulling back the curtains and flooding a dark room with sunlight.
There are 4 Steps I have found most helpful in the healing process. They are Awareness, Acknowledgement, Acceptance and Action.
Step 1 – Awareness: First become aware of what you are really feeling and name it. This takes courage, honesty, and the willingness to feel vulnerable. Here are some questions to ask yourself: What am I really feeling? What am I feeling underneath that? And what am I feeling underneath that?
Step 2 – Acknowledgement: Identify what you experienced and acknowledge how it affected you. Here are some questions to ask yourself: What did I experience? How has that affected me? What has changed as a result? How is this impacting my life now? How have I dealt with it/how am I dealing with it?
Step 3 – Acceptance: This means accepting things as they are. This is not about liking or approving or condoning (more often than not, we don’t). It is about acknowledging the reality of what happened, what was done, said, felt, and/or experienced. There is tremendous freedom in this step. When we only look at the parts of reality we like and discount the rest, we stay stuck in our pain. But when we can look at all of reality – even those parts that are uncomfortable, scary, or painful – we then have the courage and strength to move forward. Here are some questions to ask yourself: Am I willing to accept this? If so, do I feel more at peace? If I am not willing to accept this, what is getting in the way?
Step 4 – Action: This step is about intentionally moving forward in a positive direction in every area of life. In order for this step to be effective, it is essential to walk through the first three. Here are some questions to ask yourself: What would I like to see happen? How would I like to feel? What is the next step I can take to move forward? Is there someone I need to forgive, including myself? What would I do if I were not afraid? Could I benefit from support or the help of a professional?* Realize that asking for help takes courage and is a sign of strength, not weakness. Just because we are dealing with something does not mean we are equipped, prepared, or have the tools to deal with it effectively. Having the support and perspective of another can make a huge difference.
Last, and most important of all, I have found that while I have my part, ultimately, God is the healer of my heart. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus said,
“Come to me all of you who are struggling and weighted down
and I will give you rest.”
God cares about you, what you feel and what you are going through. He longs for you to draw near. When we pour out our hearts to Him and invite Him into the healing process, we will find comfort, peace and strength to move forward one step at a time. Awareness, Acknowledgement, Acceptance and Action open the doors to a path of healing and to freedom.
This blog is by Freedom to Flourish Life Coaching Founder and Christian Life Coach, Jen Stone-Sexton. She is currently accepting new clients. You can learn more about Jen here.
Christian Counselors specializing in Grief or Trauma Counseling and Christian Life Coaches can provide support in the healing process. If you want to know more about the possibility of working with me us a Life Coach, we offer a complementary no obligation 30-minute online Create a Life You Love intro session. If coaching is not a fit, other professional referrals can be provided. What’s important is that you have the help and support that you need to move forward.
Jennifer Stone-Sexton © 2021 Freedom to Flourish Life Coaching All Rights Reserved.
Photo credits: Unsplash.com | Photo 2: Ben White on Unsplash | Photo 3: fa-barboza on Unsplash