May 21, 2013

Love Yourself: In Letting Go

When I was in college, I went through a traumatic experience that shook up my world and the way I saw pretty much everything-- my faith, relationships, good and evil, sin, love, and forgiveness.

I don't think I'll ever be able to share that story in such a public forum as a blog, but the details of that story are not important here. The important thing is how that experience changed me, and ultimately helped me learn how to love myself more.

I held onto the emotional scars and the baggage of that piece of my story like they were my lot in life-- something I would carry with me forever, something that I was kind of afraid to let go of but also absolutely desperate to be freed from. The weight of it sometimes felt like it was drowning me. I had become a shell of the old version of myself, pretending it all was okay, but inside falling further into the valley of depression as a result. I had come to a place where the scar of this ugly thing made me feel unlovable- to anyone down the road who may want to spend their life with me, but most importantly to myself. After several months of holding on tight to the secret, the shame, the wounds that were still open and aching, I knew that I needed to let go. To survive. To breathe again. To find what it meant to be free.

I started climbing towards light. Literally, it felt like the slowest little turtle crawl I could fathom. But it was movement. I wasn't stuck anymore. I started seeing a counselor at my school who helped me put some of the pieces together, gave me helpful terms and resources for processing the experience, and just gave me a place every week that I could tear the walls down that I worked so hard to keep up everywhere else and just cry.

I wrote. I let words fall like tears into my journal. I wrote letters that were never sent just to get the words out. I wrote poems. I wrote short scenes and plays, letting myself relive what happened and giving myself control of the story. I made art. I made art with good friends who knew my pain and we cried together over the therapy of seeing what came out onto the page. I told my story to those few close friends and mentors around me at that time that I felt could handle it, and they poured love on me that felt like soothing balm to my aching heart. I let myself take space when I needed it. I let myself ask for prayer when I couldn't pray the prayers myself. And eventually, I felt like I could trust again.

Neil and I were reconnected towards the end of that healing process. On our third date, I did something terribly bold that I still look back in wonder at and think to myself, 'What were you thinking?' But there, on a September day walking around Boston, I heard my heart. It said, 'You need to tell him.' We sat down for coffee at a sweet little cafe on Newbury Street, and over lattes I nervously told him the deepest part of my heart. I knew that if he could stand with me through that, this was it. And he reached across the table and took my hand.

I took my final (?) step of healing with my now husband, as he encouraged me to write one more letter. It was one of forgiveness. Reading that letter aloud to Neil (and myself) was one of the hardest things we've ever had to go through in our relationship. But afterwards, a chapter had closed, and that nagging scar finally stopped aching. We were married a little more than a year later.

I don't tell you all of this to tease you with a story that I'm only giving glimmers of. Nor do I mean to worry any of my family or friends reading this (that is the farthest from my intentions!). But I do share it to give you hope and encouragement. My faith has become my rock like never before. I see forgiveness and grace and redemption as real, tangible, moving things and not just cliches anymore. I am so happy to have and to know that my dearest friends are accepting of me, scars and all, and that there is unconditional love that surpasses even our worst hurts and griefs and darknesses. But most importantly, I'm so thankful for the healing gift of self-care, and that I took the time and emotional energy to process and eventually let go of this painful piece of my life. It hasn't gone away completely, as it is part of who I am today. But I'm so very thankful to know how much stronger it makes me when I love myself enough to look for healing.

What would it take for you to let go of past hurts, present pains, nagging expectations or guilt or perfectionism or scars that you carry with you today? What would it take for you to let go and start living more fully?

In loving ourselves in the letting go,
Mama Bird 

This post is part of the Love Yourself Link-Up series with Anne the Adventurer. Won't you join us?


  1. you are invited to follow my blog

  2. Oh, I feel the pain, even though I don't understand it. Sometimes we don't even understand our own pain. It is inspiring to hear you on the other side of the hurt. xo, MJ

  3. Heather, this is such a powerful post. I am so glad that you were able to find healing and peace and creative expression through such a difficult time. I still think it is amazing that our school provided free counseling - what an amazing gift. And I am so glad that you were in a community that came around you to support you in your struggles. Even though it wasn't me going through it, and even though I don't know the details, it makes me love our college community a bit more. It really was a special place. I really hope that this post encourages others that they can find healing. It sure inspired me.

  4. Great words! Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing!

  5. Thank you for sharing this, Heather. I have really enjoyed reading your blogs that have come up in my newsfeed. I particularly enjoyed this one because I feel like I can relate to it. It's easy for us to forget that healing isn't an event, but is a process, and an often difficult one at that. It requires a lot of courage, which often times is discouraging, frustrating, and angering after being hurt because it seems doubly unfair- like we are the ones who were hurt and then on top of that we are left to pick up the pieces and heal ourselves. But, it is good to be reminded that while it can feel like we have to do that alone, we are part of a larger body of believers who are there to help us carry our burdens. I remember when I was experiencing something similar and I read 1 Corinthians 1:3-7. That really helped me a lot because it made me see that my pain and experiences can have purpose and help others. That gave me hope and something to work toward and look forward to amidst all of the hurt. Around the same time I also read a quote that says "People all over the world are telling their one dramatic story and how their life has turned into getting over this one event. Now their lives are more about the past than their future." When I read that it made me realize how I was allowing myself to be so focused on that one incident, that I wasn't allowing myself to work through and beyond it. I was stuck in the "getting over it" stage. That really moved me to action. I realized that up until then my story had been "this is what happened to me..." and I needed to get to the point where my story was "this is what happened to me, BUT this is how God and others helped me heal and now I am here." I realized that the "BUT" was the important part that I was missing, and I hadn't even realized it. It was good to read your post and be reminded of our shared human experiences, but also of how healing is truly possible, even when we feel like it is so far away. Hopefully others will read your blog and feel encouraged to take the hard steps toward healing so that they can move into their future and be free!