My initials are drawn into the cement path beneath the back porch; it took us months to find the land, and my father built the home—my childhood home. If I close my eyes, I can still see how bright the fresh paint was on the walls the day we finally moved in, still smell its new bones.
Next month, my parents are having its face painted white. Every now and then, my mom makes a comment about what they still need to fix while my sister adds in that she wants it to be her home forever, but we all know what’s really going on: they’re moving on. They’re preparing to sell, to move out, to find somewhere new. And now, as I find myself looking for my own first home, I am realizing that there is a strength to be found in this tangible transition of packing and scrolling on real estate apps: moving from home to home is the only control we get to have over change.
In house hunting, you get to step back and look at a seasons’ start and finish, when you moved in and when you plan to move out. You’re ready for the ending.
So, while I’m standing in what feels like the one hundredth open-concept living room that has updated floors and appliances, I am wishing that loss felt more like this; I wish we got a contract to sign that said we were ready to give old things up; I wish there were boxes to tape and a timeline to look at.
Because in real life? In real life, we don’t get to prepare. In real life, most of the time, we don’t see the ending coming. No, in real life, we don’t know when a simple inside joke shared in a text is going to be the last one; in real life, we don’t know when we’re about to walk into the meeting that leaves us gasping for breath and choking on bad news; in real life, we don’t know when 9 months is going to get cut short to shut three or four.
In real life, we aren’t ready. So it really just feels like everything we stood on, everything that built us, is just falling apart beneath our feet while we’re still trying to catch up and come to grips with what we’re losing.
A close friend once told me that I “heal well.” I laughed. Then I confessed that I wasn’t healing at all. I told him about the new tattoo, the new extreme haircut with the bangs, and how I had successfully planned a whole trip across Europe that I had absolutely no time to go on; I was staying up until three in the morning reading the same book over and over again, and my trusted therapy of carbs was well worth the money spent.
“That’s not healing,” I said.
And can I tell you what was spoken over me when I was sitting in the deepest hurt of my life?
“Who told you what healing is supposed to look like?”
At one point or another, it was decided (either by someone else or in our own heads) that moving from broken to flourishing is supposed to be this moment—a hard line in the sand where we can put down our ebenezer of God’s faithfulness and say, “Here, this is when it happened.”
But has that ever actually been what healing looks like?
I think the hardest part between the moments of loss and healing is that we don’t know how to start. At the end of the day, we want the twelve step process; we want someone to tell us how to feel better. Except, no amount of healing ever came from having a box to check off; healing never happens in a day. Sometimes, healing takes a seat next to grief in the driver’s seat; sometimes, you have to carry both at the same time.
It’s interesting that when you look up the meaning of the word, “healed,” the meanings you find look like “to alleviate a pain,” or “to become sound or healthy again.” It’s interesting because when you alleviate a pain, it doesn’t mean it goes away, and when you become “healthy,” again, it doesn’t mean the wound isn’t there anymore. In fact, if you keep reading, you’ll come across this:
“But one can grow and heal without a cure.”
So this is your permission slip: get the big haircut. Take a seat in that tattoo chair. Make the plans and buy the plane ticket. Because, darling, this is your starting line. Pain and growth can still make something beautiful. Grief and victory can breathe in the same room. Just because it hurts doesn’t mean you aren’t healing. This part can be just as painful as the loss--but hold your chin up because this isn’t a breaking pain--it’s a healing one.
Jenna is a 23 year old storyteller, wife, taco connoisseur, apologist, and hair-dye enthusiast. She asks a lot of questions and quotes a lot of Kanye. Right now she’s learning about becoming fluent in God’s language of hope. You’ll enjoy her abstract writing that’s filled with hope and a truly poetic bend. To learn more about Jenna, follow her on IG.