Throughout our lives, you and I will accumulate a string of disappointing losses, and quite often those losses will go ungrieved. Like ships collecting barnacles in the ocean, our hearts collect injuries, and we aren’t always adept at sufficiently grieving them.
No one is immune to wounding, and even the most brilliantly lived lives will tow some un-mourned losses behind them. The reason these hurts are largely ungrieved is because, even though we feel their pain and trauma, the pressure and pace of life often compels us to move on before we have had time to truly heal.
Some of our griefs are big ones, gigantic losses that could destroy us all by themselves, and others are much smaller, like the constant annoyance of a blister or an unhealed papercut. Both the big ones and the little ones need attention.
We are usually better at dealing with the big losses because we can’t help ourselves. The shock and severity of their damage force us to respond. But with the smaller losses, we often shrug them off and continue soldiering on, even though they are adding weight and damage to our souls.
Sometimes we need to take intentional time to grieve. While not always appealing, grief is a necessary practice that can cleanse and reset the soul.
If we took time to sit with our losses, pondering fractured relationships, and unfulfilled dreams or expectations, we would inevitably recall the names, details, and sources of some of our unhealed wounds. As those memories surfaced, we could then employ a pattern for releasing them.
In the New Testament, Jesus, Stephen—the first New Testament martyr—and the Apostle Paul each modeled a powerful two-step process of forgiving offenders and entrusting one’s spirit to God.
When Jesus was dying on the cross, He said of His persecutors, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And then, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:34, 46).
Before Stephen’s execution, he followed Jesus’ pattern, “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit…do not hold this sin against them.’” (Acts 7:59-60)
And in the Apostle Paul’s final letter, he wrote similar words, “At my last defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength…the Lord will rescue me…and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom.” (2 Timothy 4:16-18)
Those are powerful steps: Father, forgive them. And I entrust to you, my spirit.
And in addition to praying those prayers, if we repented for the times that we have harmed or disappointed others, if we asked God to heal the damage that we unleashed in them, and if we extracted and absorbed the crucial lessons that loss and grief can teach us, while rejecting their untrue counterparts, our traumas would lessen, our burdens would lighten, and we would have fewer dangling issues to drag behind us.