Why Grieve When You Can Just Move On?

September 25, 2017

“There are those hearts, reader, that never mend again once they are broken. Or if they do mend, they heal themselves in a crooked and lopsided way, as if sewn together by a careless craftsman. Such was the fate of Chiaroscuro. His heart was broken. Picking up the spoon and placing it on his head, speaking of revenge, these things helped him to put his heart together again. But it was, alas, put together wrong.” (Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux)

On Friday I wrote that one of my top priorities for this next season is to focus on emotional, spiritual and intellectual healing. The question I’d like to ask today is why? Why is this aspect of recovery so important. I’m answering that question for myself as much as for anyone else who still needs to grieve a significant loss.

Because the truth is, sometimes I think I’d rather forget the past and just move on. My body is finally healing! Why not leave the agony and desperation of my illness in the past? Why not just focus on creating a happy future? Why not strive to forget what happened? Why not distance myself as much as possible from that girl screaming in her bed and writhing in pain?

Well… first off, that girl is me and screaming and writhing in pain is part of my story. I can pretend it never happened but that doesn’t change the reality. Those things really did happen. To me. Whether I like it or not, my illness is a huge part of my story and it has played a very significant role in making me the person I am today. I’m not the same woman I was before the illness and if I want to truly understand who I am I need to process the difficult events that led me here.

Some might not think it’s that important to understand who you are so long as you can be happy or love God or whatever you happen to think is the highest good. I beg to differ.

I believe knowing who you are and understanding your story enables you to engage in relationships more deeply and effectively. It enables you to find your place in the world and your role in history. To put it in Christian terms, understanding your story and the way it has shaped you, enables you to recognize the good works that God has uniquely prepared for you to do. It helps you to live a more fruitful life.

They say time heals all wounds and I think that is probably true. I suspect that even if I never went back to intentionally process my story my heart would stop hurting after a while. It would probably heal crooked like Chiaroscuro’s heart but I would move on and likely live a happy life. However, happiness and relief from pain isn’t what I need most. I need wholeness, and it matters to me more than almost anything that my heart heals straight, not crooked.

I want to experience true healing of the soul so that I can move through the world with courage and strength that suffering can’t take away. Because the ugly truth is, the world is still just as dangerous a place as it was in 2012 when I fell ill. My story is moving towards a happy ending but bad things are still happening every day. Someone else is still screaming in a diseased body. If the only way I can make peace with that is by pretending that it isn’t true, what have I gained from my experiences? Nothing, not even wisdom.

I could shove aside the questions that suffering burned into my mind but what good is that to me or anyone else? I already know that my previous understanding of God and the world was too small for reality. To move really forward, I’m going to need to face the sorrow, wrestle with the questions and come to a deeper understanding of God and the way the universe works.

Because in the end, I want the truth however unpleasant it may be. I don’t want to construct an artificial peace that will fall apart as soon as anything of substance touches it. I want to make peace with reality as it actually is. No doubt it’s a harder path than moving on but I’m convinced it’s also a better path. A path I believe will lead to a more meaningful, fruitful, and joyful life.

By the way, Brett and I made a beautiful PDF of my favorite resources for suffering souls. I created the content and he made it look fancy with his superduper graphic design skills. It’s available for free to my email subscribers. Click here to sign up and receive 5 Resources for the Suffering Soul.

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  • Lisa

    I want the truth too, Ana. And in every ugly truth I’ve struggled to embrace I’ve found Jesus waiting there for me. More of Jesus than I had before.

    September 25, 2017 at 4:27 pm Reply
    • Ana Harris

      That’s so encouraging Lisa! ๐Ÿ’•

      September 25, 2017 at 6:38 pm Reply
  • Kris

    Well said and yes…process. ..grieve…lean into His embrace and let Him bring wholeness…i applaud your journey!!!

    September 25, 2017 at 4:47 pm Reply
    • Ana Harris

      Thank you so much Kris!

      September 25, 2017 at 6:38 pm Reply
  • Patty Hicks

    Appreciate very much the wisdom you share on this Ana. It gave me pause as I considered my own journey. Conti using to pray for you and Brett.

    September 25, 2017 at 5:10 pm Reply
    • Ana Harris

      Im so glad it resonated Patty. Thank you so very much for your prayers! ๐Ÿ’•

      September 25, 2017 at 6:39 pm Reply
  • Ruth Meyer

    Beautifully said, Ana. I’ve gone through many seasons of grieving, and no matter how much I try to deny or put off the process, God always gets me there in the end. I cry, I hurt, I struggle back towards the light, but it’s always worth it. My path through life may be strewn with sorrow, but the seeds of peace those moments have sown will continue to bloom into flowers of grace for the rest of my days. When the Bible says “weeping may endure for a night”, I’ve learned that night can last a very long time, but the morning will come, and it always comes, just like Jesus is always there to bring our ship safely to the other side. Having just read Acts recently, I can imagine how Paul and those with him felt in Acts 27, as they spent 14 days tossed around like a can of beans in a terrifying storm at sea. I’ve never been through a storm like that, but I’m learning that the storms of my life can’t be denied, and though the ship and supplies may all be lost, my soul is safe in the Lord. Always. Paul didn’t go from a storm to freedom, though. He was still a prisoner, and still went to Rome, and to the end of his life. He couldn’t change his circumstances, but he did keep his heart fixed on God, and never stopped thinking of others. I pray I have a heart like that, a heart like Jesus; and, though my hands aren’t nail-scarred, I pray the scars of my life will remind me of my need of God, and be used of God to point others to Jesus.

    September 26, 2017 at 1:16 am Reply
    • Ana Harris

      This is beautiful Ruth! Thank you for sharing. I so agree with you. God bless you dear sister. ๐Ÿ’•

      September 26, 2017 at 9:41 am Reply
  • Jenni

    Amen. I have many of the same questions and admire your determination to find a healthy way forward. I know it may not follow a clear route, but I’d love to hear what you find helpful whenever you want to share along the way, Ana. Your words are a gift.

    September 26, 2017 at 5:48 am Reply
    • Ana Harris

      Thank you for the encouraging words Jenni. I do plan to share as I work through things. It may take some time for me to feel ready but if I have something I think would be helpful to share I want to share it. I pray you find wholeness and healing in your journey as well.

      September 26, 2017 at 9:43 am Reply
  • Mary

    In college I wrote a paper on Job and what we call “the problem of evil” or “why do bad things happen to good people?” What I learned has really helped me as I processed living as a missionary in a community that experiences terrible loss regularly. And when my new friend’s brother was senselessly murdered. And even now, as I begin to raise a family and deal with my own less-than-ideal childhood.
    Everyone’s loss is different and I cannot imagine how difficult yours has been, but we all live in a broken world and have much to learn. So I would recommend a good study of Job and I don’t have any in mind. Perhaps just a Bible and some study notes. It’s a bit long and sometimes hard to understand but don’t get bogged down. Look for the big picture and Job’s conclusion–what he learned. Read it all like a story, not a chapter-a-day devotional. God bless.

    September 26, 2017 at 6:42 am Reply
    • Ana Harris

      Thank you for sharing your story Mary! A good friend is writing a book on Job that I can’t wait to read. Especially since I’ve found Job to be more troubling than it is comforting up until this point. I think a study would be helpful.

      September 26, 2017 at 9:45 am Reply
      • Mary

        It is important to note that much of what is said in Job turns out to be wrong by the end. Job does have poor comforters in his misery! That’s why it’s so important to read it as a whole and not try to read something nice into each chapter. โ˜บ๏ธ

        September 27, 2017 at 7:09 am Reply
  • Mary Taylor

    Again – so well said. Your courage gives me courage. Trusting God with you.

    September 26, 2017 at 8:26 am Reply
    • Ana Harris

      Thank you so much Mary! I’m so encouraged to hear that… as I don’t always feel very courageous. ๐Ÿ’•

      September 26, 2017 at 9:48 am Reply
  • Lizbeth

    Amazing post, so profound. This post was so beautiful, thank you!

    September 26, 2017 at 12:38 pm Reply
    • Ana Harris

      Im so glad Lizbeth! Thank you! ๐Ÿ’•

      September 26, 2017 at 3:58 pm Reply
  • Carissa

    I love this!!! <3

    September 26, 2017 at 2:21 pm Reply
    • Ana Harris

      Aww… ๐Ÿ˜Š

      September 26, 2017 at 3:58 pm Reply
  • Carilyn

    Do you have any resources you can share that deal with specifics of /how/ to process through something? It seems like it’s my default to just go on acting as though nothing was wrong even though it sometimes still is! I want to be able to draw from my experiences to be able to minister in some way to others but I also don’t want to wear everything on my sleeve like “woe is me”.

    Thank you for writing this blog. I remember you and your husband from Pilgrim Bible Church though I don’t think I got a chance to really talk with you there. At the time I was still with my family but now I am married and have a newborn and live in Kentucky. God has blessed me greatly, and yet the last year has been the hardest of my life.

    September 26, 2017 at 4:39 pm Reply
    • Ana Harris

      Thank you for commenting Carolyn! I still miss Pilgrim sometimes. It was such a special church for us. The specifics are hard because I think what’s helpful is different for everyone. Learning to lament and journaling about it to the Lord has been helpful to me. Also, learning to talk with people about it and not shy away when they ask questions. Obviously, it has to be someone you trust. Also, just making space for crying rather than stuffing it when the desire comes because I’m too busy or it’s an inconvenient time.

      One book that I found helpful is No More Faking Fine by Esther Fleece. I’m not sure if I agree with her on every single theological detail but it was her story that I found helpful. Just seeing the journey she went on to process her traumatic past and how she learned to lament and found deeper healing. But yeah, it’s something I’m still trying to figure out. God bless you sister! I was just reading your blog a little. I pray your heart can heal. ๐Ÿ’•

      September 26, 2017 at 7:24 pm Reply
  • Patricia Margaret

    I come down your courage and I think your right. Some say the only way to get over it is to go through it. I’ll have that job in Jan. . when we move. But speaking my about two past PTSD experiences, it really is important. Good for u. Hugs.
    Remember there are lots of resources out there. I joined a online group about abuse that helped a lot. Too. We played we studied we cried. It’s all part of living. What you can hope for is compassion! Right?

    September 27, 2017 at 5:16 pm Reply
  • Chris Barratt

    Ana. I think this is the reason why Gerald Sittser wrote A Grace Disguised. Because of the need to process his grief. I totally agree with this post. Your words are very wise.

    September 29, 2017 at 11:51 am Reply
  • Birgit

    I can relate to your desire to process your journey of suffering more deeply, and “I donโ€™t want to construct an artificial peace that will fall apart as soon as anything of substance touches it” really speaks to me. As a buddhist, I’m a trying not to hinge my happiness on conditions, to ‘be free of attachments’, and that would include health. But that as you know is extremely difficult, and I certainly have not been successful myself. Your search to some answers to this life’s riddle remind me of that struggle to let go, and to find that inner peace and happiness that is not tied to anything.

    October 14, 2017 at 2:32 pm Reply
  • Nancy

    Ana, this post is so very wise. Truly wisdom far beyond what one would expect from one of such tender years. The easier path is to turn one’s back on the past and “forget” the pain, but it is not the path to freedom or peace. And I don’t believe one can truly “forget” the pain or the questions that come from the depths of one’s soul. I tried, and found that pretending that I didn’t have those questions, or that I was fine with what God had allowed in my life did not bring me closer to him, but was a huge barrier. It was not the truth, and both of us knew it. He is not afraid of the truth, he IS the Truth! He is not afraid of our feelings or our questions. He bids us come to him, all who are weary or heavy laden… He does not say “unless the burden you bear is difficult questions for me” ๐Ÿ˜‰ it took me 30 years to discover these things, and to come to love and trust the Lord at a deeper level after sharing my questions and my feelings from the depth of my soul. Bless you for seeing this so much sooner!

    December 25, 2017 at 7:34 pm Reply
  • Vanessa

    Thank you for this post, Ana. I suffered through a very difficult pregnancy 4 years ago, intense postpartum depression, and now have an autoimmune disease. I haven’t even really begun to process the pain of my pregnancy, but I know I need to. I saw a couple of books you or others recommended above; I’ll have to look into those. I’d also highly recommend The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. It’s definitely from a secular perspective, so you have to read it through the lens of Scripture, but it’s helped me understand normal human responses to trauma, so I can feel less confused about my own body and mind.

    I’d also chime in with Nancy – I’ve tried to skip processing my emotional pain, but God knows it’s there even if I don’t want to admit it. And He will hold me fast through the journey of processing. <3

    January 13, 2018 at 6:36 pm Reply
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