Longing for the Past Can Be a Symptom of Unhealed Grief

dock at sunset over lake

Up until about a month ago, I wore my little sister’s salmon colored American Eagle hoodie that she wore in middle school. My little sister wore this sweatshirt before my mom and step-dad divorced. I rescued it from one of her Goodwill piles back in the day, and I’ve kept it all these years. It barely reached my waist, so I only wore it at home for fear of proving my “I’m-so-dorky” complex. I liked this sweatshirt because it reminded me of the life we once had, the life that vanished like cash in a 16 year old’s pocket at the mall.

It gave me tangible evidence of what once was, and made me feel like I could hold onto the past by wearing the threads that were left of it.

My heart wants to hoard all good things forever and ever and ever. I have the most difficult time letting go of good things in my past that are no longer in the present.

But just like your closet runs out of space on the shelf for your little sister’s 7th grade hoodie, your heart has a limited capacity for what it can hold in the present. You might need to take that hoodie to the thrift store, like I did last weekend, so that there’s space on the shelf for what comes next.

If we hold onto all of the good of the past, we are not making room for the good that can come to us. We’ve got to develop the discipline to make space, in a prophetic, hopeful, & expecting kind of way, for good to come into our lives and fill us up.

Where I get stuck the most is that I don’t care about what good could come to me next, because I only want the good I had in the past. So I want to go back in the past, and have that good, and nothing else. I close off to what could be next, and I uncomfortably become handicapped from savoring the present. I just want to go back and re-live the good times.

When I get stuck like this, there is usually a very specific, pinpoint good thing from my past to which I long for in the same way that Gollum wanted “the ring”. That’s how I get about certain good things in the past that are now long gone.

Because the past can never come back to me, this situation is a life-choking booby trap.

Here’s what I’m learning—

When I find myself caught in this kind of muck, it means two things:

  1. There’s some kind of unhealed pain associated with the lost, past good that’s no longer in my life in the present.
  2. There’s something associated with the lost, past good that needs to be grieved.
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One Response

  1. Susan. Haessly

    Archer, Your post today was very good, proud of you, and the work you are doing! Your going to be a great doctor! Love to all


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