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If you find it comforting to know you’re not alone, then you’ll be comforted here. These tips on how to heal your emotional pain are inspired by a man who lost his wife a year ago. He’s one of the kindest, gentlest souls I’ve ever met, and his story is the most sadly romantic one I’ve heard in a long time.
Ben is a widower; his wife Beth died exactly a year ago. She was 61 years old, fought ovarian cancer for a year, and died in their bed at home. Now, Ben is going through all her closets and boxes of stuff, trying to decide what to keep, toss, sell, or give away. The twist? They were only married for 15 years. Ben and Beth married when she was 45 — her first marriage — and he was 46. He’d been married once before, and was divorced. But wait, there’s more…
The other twist in their love story is that Ben moved into Beth’s house after they got married. Now, he’s going through her garage, basement, and attic. He’s discovering boxes and boxes of stuff she accumulated long before they met and married. Ben is learning more about Beth than he ever thought possible, and he has to make permanent decisions about her keepsakes.
“How do you heal the emotional pain of losing someone you love?” I asked him. “You took care of her through the worst of her chemotherapy and radiation, you were her primary caregiver, and you were there when she died. How do you get over that?”
He told me about his experience and how he heals the pain of an emotional loss. Below, I summarize what he said; I hope it helps you heal your own pain.
5 Steps to Healing Your Emotional Pain
The most important thing to remember is that emotional pain doesn’t go away overnight, and there are no quick tips for healing. In fact, you will probably never “get over” the painful emotions of losing someone you love.
But, there are ways to let go of the past and move into a new season of life.
1. Get it out – and let God mop it up
What is weighing you down? Maybe you’re going through the grieving process because you lost someone you love, like Ben did.
Or maybe you’re dealing with a different type of loss, such as a family estrangement or divorce. Or, maybe you’re just dealing with emotional pain for seemingly no reason…you’re stuck in a dark cloud of sadness and depression and you just can’t seem to get out from under.
The best way to start healing emotional pain is to write it out. The act of writing gives your brain and heart time to process your thoughts and emotions. Writing helps you figure out what you really think and feel, and helps you decide what you need to do. If you don’t have a private journal, feel free to share your story in the comments section below.
2. Look back on the source of your emotional pain
What sent you on this downward spiral? How long have you been struggling for? If you’ve been stuck in the same place for years, then you are definitely stuck in emotional pain. If you lost a loved one a few months ago, then you’re still in the grieving process.
Find the balance between giving yourself time to heal painful emotions, and not allowing yourself to get stuck in your pain. Look back at the past few weeks or months — do you see signs of healing? Are you moving forward in small ways? Notice those small steps, and hold on to every positive move you make. If you’ve been keeping a journal, look back at last week, last month, last year.
3. Tell me what you’ve tried
Have you gone to counseling, or started volunteering with an organization that helps people learn how to heal emotional pain? Have you changed your life in positive ways?
Look back at the attempts you’ve made to heal your pain. Maybe you’ve read books about emotional healing, or even written blog posts or articles on healing the pain of loss. Maybe you called a help line or visited a doctor; maybe you even tried praying for healing from your emotional pain.
What actions have you taken to learn how to heal your pain? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below — even if you haven’t tried anything. If you’re trying to let go of a loved one, read How to Emotionally Detach From Someone You Care About.
4. Try something that worked for me
Oh, the emotional pain I’ve inflicted on myself! I’ve dealt with infertility, death, life-threatening health diagnoses, painful family estrangements, fatherlessness, a schizophrenic mother, and foster homes. But wait a minute…those were events in my life. They weren’t the causes of my emotional pain.
They were problems I faced, and I bounced back because I learned that those things did not cause emotional pain. I chose to hold on to the pain by not letting go of my hopes, dreams, and plans for my life. I was causing my own emotional pain by holding on to my unmet expectations. And, I healed my emotional pain by letting go of what I wanted and accepting what I got.
Basically, I surrendered to God.
5. Allow yourself to rest in faith and hope
How do you heal your emotional pain? By finding practical ways to receive hope, faith, joy, and forgiveness in your life. By stopping yourself from wallowing in the pain, and motivating yourself to move into this new season in your life.
This means different things to different people. For me, it was connecting to God, learning exactly what it means to be saved by Jesus, and eagerly welcoming the Holy Spirit into my life every morning. The more time I spend with God, the healthier I feel emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and even physically.
My best tip on how to heal emotional pain is to listen to Tim Keller’s sermons while walking in the forest or a quiet neighborhood at 6 o’clock in the morning (because that’s how I did it!). Or, listen to your favorite pastor preach the gospel. Learn who Jesus is and what He did for you.
For more tips, read Accepting the End of a Relationship You Want to Keep.
How do you feel – what do you think about my tips for healing painful emotions? Feel free to share your thoughts below. I can’t give advice, but I’d love to hear from you. Ask questions, tell your story, talk about how you feel about God, get it all out.