What Is Healing, Exactly?


This past Tuesday, for National Suicide Prevention Week, I had a piece in the Presbyterians Today online blog.  It garnered some attention, and I discovered, after one friend and colleague had shared it, that another had posted that I demonstrated “how much healing I had been given.”

I protested the idea that I had somehow been healed, telling him that, while people long for others to be healed, that is probably not a concept that applies to the death of a child.  Not usually, anyway.  And that increased power and strength do not equate to healing.

Now I find myself wondering: What is healing,  exactly?  Does it happen?  Or is it one of those words like closure, which people insist upon so that they can believe that life is not as scary as it is?

It feels like a word of assessment, of judgment.  Have you made it?  Are you healed?  If so, then you may move forward.  If not, then you are stuck, incapable, incompetent.

I have a variety of physical scars on my body, the remains of various surgeries.  Certainly at this point my body has recovered from each of them.  My body works as well as one might expect.  I think that I would call it healed, despite the ugly, jagged and, in one case, uncomfortable, lines engraved into my skin, and the hardware and saline left behind.

I have experienced a fairly significant amount of mental and emotional trauma and loss in my life ~ several sudden and unexpected losses of very young people in my family being the cause.

Has there been healing?

I go on.  I have found success and joy , even as I have not since age seven felt the universe or its God to be particularly trustworthy.  I have pushed my children into the world, even as my anxiety about their safety has skyrocketed with every trip, every endeavor, every relationship.  I have become an outspoken advocate for suicide prevention, even as I hide my anguish when I hear about the achievements, weddings, and children of my children’s peers.

I don’t consider myself healed.  I think that there are some people who, despite severe loss, do in fact experience profound healing.  But I am a pretty ordinary person, and I don’t think it’s coming my way.

That’s ok.  I just wish that we could all be spared the judgment of others, whose words insinuate that “healed” is a state that, unless achieved, leaves us damaged and “less than.”

We “wounded healers,” as Henri Nouwen called us, are rather powerful people, if I say so myself.


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