Dying to heal

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on

Image credit: © 2011 Adrian Scottow, from Flickr | used via CC-BY-SA licensing

Healing is a restoration to wholeness. It's the process that knits those broken places in us back together after we have been wounded.

But even in the process of restoring us to wholeness, healing does not leave us unchanged. It does not restore us to the person we were before the brokenness occurred.

In my experience, healing is more like a resurrection or rebirth to new life than a resuscitation of an old one. And there is no resurrection without a death first.

Letting the old die

Many times, a feeling of brokenness stems from a loss that has caused the death of some part of our life as we had lived it.

It may be a relationship that has ended, a job that has been lost, a sense of security or safety shattered, or any number of other losses that we encounter in life. Something we valued is gone from our lives, and we can't reclaim it.

Even more, the loss of something (or someone) we treasured almost always involved the death of some part of our identity along with it.

For example, divorce is not only the loss of a spouse, but also the end of the identity as a spouse. (This is in addition to many other accompanying losses in terms of finances, physical possessions, and often collateral relationships.)

Ironically, the first step in healing is letting go of that which is gone. Letting go not only of what we've lost, but also allowing the parts of our identity, hopes, and dreams wrapped up in what was lost to die as well.

This is not easy to do. When I am in the midst of a loss and its associated grief, the last thing I am eager to do is to let go of anything else, especially not something as dear to me as a piece of my identity or any of my hopes or dreams associated with that identity.

I cling to those as tightly as I can, not wanting to face even the tiniest bit of additional loss. Unfortunately, this clinging only keeps me stuck in the loss and brokenness.

As painful as it is, letting go of these parts of me and allowing them to die is the only thing that sets me free to continue the healing process into rebirth.

Waiting in the grave

Healing is a form of transformation, and it follows the usual stages of transformation from loss to new life, including that "primordial goo" stage when the old has died and the new has not yet emerged.

It is ever-so-tempting in this stage to want to run back again to try to cling to that which has died. We long to recreate our old life—even if it was one that made us miserable—because something known is better than the uncertainty of the nothingness of this stage.

But this in-between time is necessary. Deep underground our new life is beginning to take root, even though we cannot yet see the form in which it will emerge from the soil of our lives.

Healing is taking place under the surface, and the jagged edges are beginning to mend as we wait.

Nurturing new life

In time, as the healing process progresses, the shape of the new version of our life begins to emerge.

Our grief over our losses eases, a new version of our identity becomes clearer, and new hopes and dreams come to life. We find ourselves moving toward a new wholeness—a wholeness that is different from the one we started with but that is whole nonetheless.

And in this healing and emergence of new life is where we begin to find the gold in our scars, where we discover what we have gained in the healing even in the face of our losses.

But we can only reach this place of healing, of wholeness, of new life, of gold by traveling the path of dying to the old. We have no space for embracing the new when we are still trying to cling to what was.

It is only through dying that we can heal.

For reflection

Where are you resisting dying to some old part of your life that is interfering with your ability to heal? What might you need to let die to make space for healing?

Can you think of earlier times in your life when allowing some part of you to die made space for healing to return you to wholeness? How does that inform your current situation?

What new life can you see trying to emerge from the broken places in your life? What has died to make space for that new life? How well are you letting go of that which has died?


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