Joy was a young woman who seemingly had everything going for her. Yet, if you took a closer look, Joy lived everyday reliving the pain she had caused her parents.
Her grandmother was dying when Joy was a teen, and instead of helping out, Joy wanted to do her own thing and have a wild and fun time. But she did it at the expense of worrying her parents and missing out on saying goodbye to her grandma.
Whether it is the result of selfish actions, a death, a failed relationship, chronic illness or many other causes, many people find themselves unable to resolve a loss in their lives. That results in a heavy burden being born, instead of lifted. If a person leaves an unresolved loss unchecked, it can deprive them of joy, peace and living.
In his book, "Making Peace with Your Past," author and psychiatrist Harold Bloomfield cites the most common signs that a loss remains unresolved:
- Depression: emptiness, helplessness and hopelessness.
- Physical problems: sleep disturbance, lethargy and various aches and pains.
- Loneliness: This is sometimes an act of self-sabotage intended to keep people at a distance for fear of experiencing another loss.
- Cynicism and bitterness: an attitude of severe mistrust summed up in phrases like, "You can't trust anyone," or "People are basically out for themselves."
- Extreme reaction to present losses: The original loss triggers excessive anguish over each new loss, even a minor one.
- Fear of abandonment: This causes a person to remain in an unhealthy or inappropriate relationship.
- Belligerence: seen in argumentative, defensive, angry outbursts.
- Guilt and regret: often exhibited in self-torturing statements using the phrases, "If only ... ." and "I should have ... ."
- Fear: People with unresolved loss issues can be excessively timid, hesitant and resistant to taking even modest risks.
- Over-romanticizing: evidenced in a constant rehashing of the past or a perpetual clinging to the "good old days."
- Addictions: This can involve inappropriate use of drugs or alcohol in order to numb the pain, as well as other forms of addictive behavior used to avoid or numb pain.
After reading the above, does any of it sound as if it "fits" you? Now, move in the direction of dealing with the issue. Such as: addiction? Immediately seek treatment. It may mean seeing a physician or joining Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics anonymous. A physician can help you with your physical symptoms and a skilled therapist can help with your fear, guilt, regret, depression and other kinds of serious and chronic negative feelings.
In the meantime, trust in God. He desires healing for your troubled past. He does not desire you to spend your life struggling with pain.
He desires to "bind up your broken heart" and to "heal your wounds."
A study at Duke University showed that seriously depressed people who had a strong spiritual focus in their lives recovered 70 percent faster than those who had no spiritual help.
Forgiving one's self is also an important step in recovering from something unresolved. When you have an inner civil war going on, you simply must learn to forgive yourself. Stop rehashing the harsh words, scorn and impatience, and anger. You desire to make amends for all the wrongs, but what is past is past. Every single person on the face of the earth fail people we love. We all allow loving feelings to go unexpressed. Accept the fact that you are human. What you can do now is avoid in the future what you regret in the past. Now you must learn how to forgive yourself.
Maintain an open optimistic attitude and seek support: Support groups and people-helpers abound in even small towns and cities. And good friends are worth their weight in gold as you embark upon this journey. Remind yourself that the only way this unresolved loss can remain unresolved is if you let it.
There is a story of the great escape artist Harry Houdini. A small town constructed a jail. Officials claimed it was escapeproof, and to prove it, you guessed it, they invited Houdini to come test it.
Houdini entered the cell, and as the jailer closed the door behind him, Houdini heard the sound of the key being slipped into the lock. The jailer then withdrew the key and left. Houdini took out his tools and worked, but nothing he could do would open the door. Houdini was more than frustrated as he had never failed to open a locked door. Finally, he admitted defeat. But when he leaned against the door in resigned exhaustion, it suddenly opened. The jailer had never locked the door in the first place. The only place where the door was locked was in Houdini's mind.
Take heart dear one, if you see yourself as "locked" into a cycle of endless grief and depression, you may remain that way. However, if you believe the cycle, by the help of almighty God, can be broken and ended, it definitely will when you take the steps to break it.
Forgive yourself, your past and the pain behind you and move on to live joyfully in the present. Harold Bloomfield said: "If you feel stuck in sadness and self-pity over a past loss, one of the best remedies is to reach out to others who need help. This is much more than a great way of taking your mind off your troubles for a while. It gives you something to feel good about, something to restore your sense of purpose and make you feel like a worthwhile human being."
Philippians 3:13b-14 - "Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
(Kimberly Short-Wolfe, MA, is a counselor at Cornerstone Christian Counseling. Call: 304-637-7018 or email@example.com.)