When I walked into my closet and saw that every thing from his side was gone, my heart sank to a place that felt like quicksand. Like it would never rise again.
For a second, everything went black. There were thousands of drums booming inside my ears, my palms went clammy, and I knew I was about to pass out.
As I sat down on the floor to put my head between my knees, I fell to the floor, it felt as if my entire life was falling into a deep, black, cold cavern.
As soon as my forehead was resting on my knees, the sobs erupted. I could not even conceive of ever being whole again.
You know those moments. Hopefully you haven’t had many of them. But at those moments, everything you believe to be true becomes mere ashes. And it seems as if life will never be the same.
Last week I wrote about the seven things you simply must do when you have wounded someone. My hope and prayer is that the one who wounded you read something similar to what I wrote, and followed the steps in order to become a part of your healing process.
Sad to say, there are people (whether they wound others accidentally or on purpose) who are simply not aware of what they should do. Or perhaps they don’t care enough to be a part of the healing process.
This week I am writing to you. To the ones whose hearts have been wounded. To males or females. To the young or old. To those recently wounded, or to those who are still raw from an old wound.
Whether or not you have someone who desires to be a part of your healing process, here are seven things you simply must do if you have been wounded:
1. Do not assume that the one who wounded you will come and be a part of your healing process. But that whether or not they return says nothing about you deserving to have someone who cares enough to be a part of your healing process.
I wish more than anything that I could have an opportunity to speak to the one who wounded you. I would help them understand the great benefits not only to you, but to them personally, when they turn in and complete the seven steps I outlined last week.
Unfortunately, not everyone knows what to do, or knows the value in returning to complete the healing process. And sad to say, there are likely some who do know, but do not care.
So I will start by saying that my heart truly cares about what you’re going through, particularly if your wounder has not turned in.
Trust me, I know what it’s like to walk into your home and find the closet that once had their clothes in them … totally vacated. And of course, as I mentioned last week, that creates a double wound. The original wound, and the wound of abandonment.
I know how deeply it hurts. I know the temptation to think and feel that you are not worth returning for.
Please believe me. That is not the case! You may be thinking, but you don’t even know me. Perhaps not. However, No one deserves to be wounded, and left alone to heal, particularly when the wound was inflicted by someone you love.
But whether they return to be a part of the healing process or not, these are seven things that you simply MUST do to ensure your healing process.
And it begins by knowing you are worth all of the help, love, and support you need in order to heal! Please breathe that in!
2. Ask for help and support. But don’t let your need for help be drowned out by your anger.
This is difficult. Because many times people reach out only to throw their wounder under the bus, and somehow expect people to know that they need help.
Remember this: no matter how much someone loves you and cares about you, if all they see and hear is your anger about what happened, they may not assume that you want or need help.
It’s OK to be angry. It’s OK to share it with a trusted mentor, coach, counselor or clergy member.
(Let me insert here that social media, and family, (rarely, if ever) are good places to air that anger. Social media is only a good place to do so if it’s inside a private support group setting. Otherwise you will get very unhelpful, unsolicited advice that often comes with no compassion.
It is unfair to family, because if you and the wounder are able to reconcile things, your family may have a difficult time letting go of their bias or anger).
When you do ask for help, and it’s OK if you do it after you share your anger, be specific in what you need. We assume everyone will just know. But I know that if we are specific, they will be more likely to hit our target of the support we need. After my situation, I chose to speak to my therapist, and a mentor.
I asked the therapist to help me heal enough to make a wise decision about what to do next. I acknowledged that the decisions were mine to make, but I did ask for wise input. I asked my mentor to check in with me daily to keep me focused on my healing process and hold me accountable to not misusing my anger (the anger was really just an protective cover for my brokenness).
Be specific. Be bold in asking. If you have the kind of awesome people in your life that I hope you have, they will be honored to help and to support you.
3. Allow yourself a full array of emotions. But don’t buy a ticket on the emotional train.
You will find yourself experiencing almost every emotion known to humans. Anger, grief, deep pain, confusion, anxiousness, emptiness, nausea, guilt, shame, fear, and the list goes on!
Experiencing those emotions is understandable and acceptable, as long as you don’t buy a ticket on the emotional train. What does that mean?
On an emotional train, you buy a ticket and jump on, and allow the emotional train to take you wherever it would like. That is very different than allowing yourself to experience your emotions and learn from them.
I recommend to my clients that they journal about their emotions, that they write letters or poems to their emotions.
But beyond the first 24 to 72 hours, I tell them to set time slots to feel, deal with and heal their emotions. And when the emotions come up at inopportune times, to simply tell their emotions: “I will give you my undivided attention at the set time.” Then process them at the time slots you have set! Do not allow them to control you. That’s what happens when you buy a ticket on an emotional train. It takes you for a ride.
Yes they will come up unexpectedly. They will be triggered by things you could not foresee. But they can only take you on a roller coaster ride on a runaway emotional train if you allow them to do so.
Take a deep breath first. Jot down the name of the emotions for your set time slots to feel, deal and heal. Then keep moving forward.
Clients often say things like: “Well I just can’t stop them!“ Or “I need medication to do that!“
I’m not suggesting that you deny yourself a medical consult if you believe you are in need of medication. But until that consult, practice two things: focus and gratitude.
We experience more and more of what we focus on. At times I had to turn up loud music to take my focus somewhere else. In my second career, I was an interpreter for the deaf. I loved signing to music. So when my emotions would show up, I would turn on music that I did not know the lyrics to. It forced me to concentrate on (focus on) listening to the words in order to sign it. So obviously I would choose songs with upbeat lyrics.
Do whatever it takes to focus on some thing other than your emotions once you have informed them that you will process them during your set time.
Gratitude? Yes! Gratitude. If you have read any of my work, you have probably read about the research of what gratitude does to the neurochemistry in our bodies that creates negative, undesired emotion. Those kinds of emotion simply cannot exist in the presence of gratitude. In as little as three minutes of gratitude, there is a neurochemical transformation that occurs that chases those negative emotions out.
I implore you to stay off the emotional train, because you will be guaranteed an emotional train wreck. You are too valuable for that, don’t let it happen to you!
4. Do not allow yourself to get stuck. You may have been victimized, but you are NOT a victim!
Please don’t misunderstand this as a command to “just get over it.” If it were that easy, we could bottle that and become billionaires.
How do you keep yourself from getting stuck? By putting one foot in front of the other. Decisively and consciously.
There will be moments when you want to hide under your covers. There will be moments when you want to lay down and cry. All of those are OK as long as they are just “moments.”
When I allowed myself my “moments to process my emotions“… as directed by my therapist, I would get up from that place after the allotted time and walk at least a mile.
That was to define the urge that we all have to curl up in a ball and cease existing. With each step I would say to myself: “One foot in front of the other foot. I will NOT get stuck in a rut! I’m moving forward the best way I know how!”
There is a song called “Moving Forward” by Israel Houghton. I would blare that song through my headphones as I walked. When I was in a place away from other people, I would sing the lyrics at the top of my lungs:
I’m not going back, I’m moving ahead
Here to declare to You my past is over in you
All things are made new, surrendered my life to Christ
I’m moving, moving forward!
One of the ways that many people who have been wounded get stuck is by falling into the victim position. I do understand that many times wounds do victimize us emotionally, mentally, spiritually and/or physically.
How ever, it is very important that you make the decision early on that you absolutely refuse to stay in the victim mode. Despite what horrible thing happened that wounded you, do not let it define you by changing your identity to that of a victim.
Why? Because victims don’t heal once “victim” becomes their new identity. You don’t want that for you, and contrary to popular thought, being a victim does not make your wounder feel sorry for you.
That’s not who you are! Do not allow yourself to get stuck there. I know you have healing to do, but then you also have great things to do.
Things that you cannot accomplish as a victim. Remember, someone else who has been wounded will need your help. And though you may not feel at the moment that you could possibly help another human being, after a period of time you will be among the most qualified!
5. Pour soothing oil into the hurt and fill the empty spaces.
The first thing my therapist told me to do was to take that empty space in the closet that was a constant and ongoing reminder of the emptiness in my heart and the emptiness in my hope, and to make it a beautiful, inviting place. Knowing that I loved the beach, it was suggested that I fill it with things that reminded me of the ocean.
You cannot even imagine the healing that brought to me. No longer was I reminded of the wound, and I loved going in there and seeing a beautiful ocean like scene.
What soothes you? Make special time and effort for those things.
Although Dallas is five hours from the beach, we have lakes. And the water soothes me. So I would go to the lake and sit and watch the sailboats, or those on wave runners. I loved hearing the laughter as they zoomed across the lake.
Worship music soothes me, so I kept worship music playing softly 24/7 throughout my home.
Sounds of the ocean washing in and out, and the sound of seagulls soothe me. I bought a white noise machine that combined those sounds, and I turned it on often.
Fill the empty spaces, whether they are in your heart or in an empty closet. I filled the empty space in my heart by doing some additional volunteer work at a homeless shelter. They were so grateful to have someone there helping them find purpose and hope.
Do some things daily that soothes you and fills your empty places. You are worth that, and you so deserve it!
6. You simply must forgive.
Yes! You must forgive. But remember … forgiveness is not an event, it is a process. The sooner you make the decision to forgive and begin the journey toward it, the sooner your freedom and healing will come!
I know! I know! I’ve heard what you’re likely thinking many times:
- But they don’t deserve forgiveness
- But I don’t ever wanna see them again
- But if I forgive them they will think what they did was OK
Let me clarify. It doesn’t matter whether they deserve forgiveness or not. The forgiveness is not for their sake, it is for your sake. I tell people that refusing to forgive it’s like keeping the wounder chained to your back. That does nothing to harm them, but it will wear you out!
Secondly, do not mistake forgiveness and reconciliation. I have forgiven people who I had no desire to ever interact with again. Forgiveness and reconciliation are two totally separate decisions and processes. When you clump those together, you just keep your self burdened.
“Forgive and forget?” I’m amazed at how many times people tell me that the Bible says we must forgive and forget? I don’t put myself out as a Bible scholar, but I can assure you that the Bible does not say that. However, it does tell us to forgive. I believe we are told to do so because of the many physical and mental health benefits that accompany forgiveness.
Brain research shows that when we’ve been wounded, it is highly unlikely that the memory of the wound will ever totally fade. But … the one thing it also reveals is that forgiveness turns the volume and intensity of the wound down dramatically.
It’s actually a gift to yourself to forgive. Whether they deserve it or not. Make the decision to forgive today, and at least begin the journey.
7. Rise again!
It may take some time to actually accomplish this, but make an immediate decision to rise again.
I know that you might feel like that is virtually impossible. But I promise … it is not! There is a line from Greek mythology that refers to a “phoenix rising from the ashes.” I prefer the Hebrew proverb that says: “God will pull a bouquet of roses from the ashes.”
I think I liked that proverb, because it gave me the assurance that I did not have to do it alone, or on my own.
I remember the night I was standing in my closet, looking at the beach scene that I had arranged with candles, canvases, posters, starfish, etc.
I have to admit that I was not feeling well. The familiar nausea was with me, the fear that I would never be whole again was still quite near. The “chatter“ that my dream to be loved would never be fulfilled was lurking.
I was still devastated, still angry, still in dismay. But I did not get on the emotional train. I just made note to my emotions that it was not their moment. As I stood there, I made the conscious decision to rise again.
I wish I could tell you that there was a miraculous moment when everything changed. It was not a miraculous moment, but the miracle began. I was able to sleep most of the night. I woke up the next morning without dread.
The miracle unveiled over the course the next few days and weeks.
I don’t know if you have seen the ad on television for closet organization, but it’s about a mom who had taken a 10 year break from her career to raise children. And now she’s returning to the workplace. She’s talking to her self in the mirror, as she is putting on her earrings in her beautifully organized closet. At the end of the commercial as she stands tall and walks out of her closet, she smiles confidently and says: “Here we go!“
When I saw that, I realize that that’s exactly how I felt when I walked out of my closet the night that I decided that I would rise again.
You too, my friend, can and will rise again! Make the decision today. Like me, your miracle may take some time to unveil itself. Make the decision, look yourself in the mirror, and smile! You are so worth smiling for! Then, after taking in a deep breath, say out loud confidently: “Here we go!”
Your miracle will begin in that moment.
You will heal. You will be whole again. You will help others! But for now, do these seven things. Look out world, because here you go!