Last week we talked about Cathy Loerzel’s U-diagram and about the importance of engaging particular scenes of heartache and harm in order for healing to begin to take place for you. Today we continue our discussion of what the process of healing requires and what it looks like. If you linger in death, if you dip down into the bottom of the U-diagram, you will enter sorrow and grief… and grief is met by the comfort of God which brings a newness to your heart, and a restoration of vitality and joy. This is the path of healing.
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Let me begin by saying that if you haven’t listened to last week’s episode—How Healing Happens Part 1—you may feel a little lost at times during this episode.
Last week we talked about Cathy Loerzel’s U Diagram, about the necessity of lingering in death in order for healing to begin to exist for you.
Let me clarify that entering the U isn’t in order to relive or re-enact the heartache or trauma, but to follow the pattern of Jesus’ life that I believe we are each called to follow: the narrative of Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
On Friday, the crucifixion – torture, trauma, death. On Saturday, the descent to hell, separation from the goodness of God in the valley of the shadow of death.
On Sunday, deep joy, hope of resurrection, and most of all surprise. Sunday is always a surprise when it happens.
Sliding down the descending left slope of the U is to slide down into the reality of a particular story of heartache and to remember in our bodies and spirits the bodily sensations and emotional realities of those moments.
We don’t do this in order to be martyrs, but to truly face the truth contained in those moments so we can confess to God what has really happened to us.
And last week we talked about common ways we try to avoid the pain of this process.
My personal experience of the U is that on the slope down you experience sorrow, rage, and shame.
The absolute bottom of the U is despair. Lingering in the despair ultimately gives way to grief.
And that grief is actually what begins to propel you back up the other side.
Today’s main point is: If you linger in death, if you dip down into the bottom of the U-diagram, you will enter sorrow and grief…
And grief is met by the comfort of God which brings a newness to your heart, a restoration of vitality and joy.
Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. Matthew 5
Grief. Grief is the body’s natural response to seeing the truth… of the heartbreak.. of your story.
When you enter death deeply, when you actually allow yourself to dip down, you will begin to experience grief.
I’m often asked, “How do I learn how to grieve?”
You don’t have to learn how to grieve. Your body already knows how to do it naturally.
The real question is, “How do you bring yourself to actually feel your feelings?”
Another way of saying that is, “What are you doing to refuse to feel your feelings? What are you doing to resist spending time in your limbic brain?”
So it’s not that you have to “learn to grieve,” it’s merely that you have to
stop refusing to feel, stop numbing out, stop closing your eyes to the truth, stop doing an end run around death,
stop trying to walk along the top of the U diagram, skipping merrily from Friday to Sunday.
I will never forget when I was at the Allender Center and Cathy Loerzel said, “True grief is when you are captured by your story. It is this sense of “Oh, yes, that is what happened.”
You cannot enter the grief that is yours until you engage your story, but far more… until you are captured by your story.
To be captured by your story is to have your mouth hanging open as you reflect on what you endured as a boy or a girl.
Again, the invitation is to awe. Do you have a sense of awe about your story?
If you don’t have a sense of awe, what is keeping you from seeing that little boy or girl well?
And if you can’t find awe about your own story, can you find it while listening to the stories of others? Sometimes the heartache of another connects us to the grief that is ours.
You will not be captured by your story until you are willing to name the fullness of the harm you have experienced.
Very often, we’re willing to name some of it but we stop short of the really nauseating parts—and those are the parts that will midwife us into grief.
For example, perhaps you have named that you were sexually abused by your cousin.
But you have not yet named that when you told your family about it, your grandmother was quite upset, but your mother didn’t seem to care at all.
You have been faithful to enter the death of the sexual abuse proper, but no one has helped you name that part of you died when you realized that your mother had no reaction.
Naming this allows you to engage a new level of sorrow, a death that you have been suffering in your body for decades but that has never been named and therefore could never be grieved and therefore could never be comforted by God.
Just as an aside… to be captured by your story also involves being surprise by your glory.
What do I mean by that? Your glory. Your glory is simply those aspects of your being, your person, that reveal the character of God.
Glory means goodness, weightiness, substance, and above all splendor.
Q: Do you know that, as someone created in the image of God, you bear an immense amount of glory?
Consider the story that I just shared.
Why did part of that girl die when she realized that her mother was unmoved by her daughter’s sexual abuse?
Because the girl in the story has a deep need and longing for her mother.
The girl in the story longs for her mother to protect her, to fight for her, to be overcome with anguish because of her deep empathy for her daughter.
That longing for connection and tenderness from her mother is glorious. It’s so good. It’s the heart of what it means to be created in the image of a triune God. The girl in that story has not yet killed her desire for Mom’s protection.
The girl’s desire for Mom to want to protect her, to want to fight for her, this is such a holy and glorious and good desire.
Part of naming the full truth of your story, part of being captured by your story, is naming the immense glory of the young girl in the story.
You won’t be fully heart-broken about Mom’s hatred of you as the daughter until you name how good it was that you longed for your Mom to be a good mother to you in that moment.
As small as the hope may have been, that hope for her mother to care—maybe she’ll fight for me if I tell her about the abuse—that hope is what prompted the daughter to risk reaching out for Mom by telling her about the sexual abuse.
Now, the daughter likely HATES that she had such a longing for her Mom to be a Mom in that moment.
But her hatred of her longing in no way minimizes the immense godliness and goodness of her heart’s longing for her Mom to step in and protect and care.
Okay, that was an aside, but it was important.
Back to the U-diagram.
Q: Have you grieved your own deaths? In this girl’s story, her death is not merely the sexual abuse as awful as that may have been.
Another death, and often times a more grievous death, is her realization that her mother didn’t care that she was abused.
You have experienced the death of Christ. What if you took seriously your stories of death?
Q: What if you helped a friend take seriously her stories of death?
The invitation is to grow in sorrow.
The more sorrowful we are, the more open we are to the comfort of God.
It’s only the truth that sets people free. And the truth is often very disruptive and disturbing.
By the way, when you are the listener to another’s story rather than the storyteller, is your aim to help midwife them into the bottom of the U.
Anything short of that lacks kindness. But it can be very hard to do.
Why? Because when someone shares part of their story with you, they will often invite you to lie to them—to agree that their story isn’t that disturbing.
You are not called to be helpful, you are called to be truthful—and the truth will invite people into the valley of the shadow of death.
There’s something in us that resists naming what has been true of our story and to resist naming what has been true of another’s story.
Every one of us has made sense of our story somehow.
More often than not, the way we have done this has not been accurate.
But in order to engage in true grief, your story has to be told truthfully.
You have to be named well in the story.
If someone is having a difficult time entering grief, it is often because they have not been named well enough yet in their story.
Q: Who are you protecting in your story?
Every time you defend those who hurt you, you are refusing to linger in death. You are refusing to enter the reality of Crucifixion.
You have named that your brother sexually abused you but you haven’t named that you actually got more love from him than from your mother.
You may have named the helplessness associated with your abuse, but you have not yet named the abandonment by your mother or father.
I want to take a minute to talk about Psalm 42 so that you can see what descending down the U is like for the Psalmist.
There are dozens of Psalms that include the language of someone who’s sliding down into sorrow, grief, despair, but we’ll just look at Psalm 42.
In v. 5 we read this:
How bent, my being, how you moan for me!
The New International Version of the Bible translates this line as “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?”
It’s not a bad translation, but it’s not what the Hebrew literally says. And in order to understand how raw the Psalmist is here, you have to look at the Hebrew.
The Hebrew literally says, How bent, my being, how you moan for me!
And the Psalmist says this line three times in the poem. V. 5, 7, and 12. He repeats himself.
What’s going on here?
Well, the Psalms are such an astonishingly raw and honest reflection of what life is actually like… what the Psalmist is talking about is being in the fetal position on the ground moaning.
How bent my being.
The Hebrew word for “bent” here means to be crumpled [pause] or to be in collapse [pause] or to melt away.
Many English bibles translate this word “downcast… my soul is downcast” but it means a lot more than that.
The root of this word appears also in Psalm 44 where it says, ”We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground.
Q: Do you see it?
The image is of a human body melting into the earth, collapsing on the floor. The Psalmist is in the fetal position, his body bent over itself.
This is a very accurate description of what it’s like at the bottom of the U.