How Healing Happens

Posted on: March 2nd, 2015 by Kay Swatkowski


The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

-Psalm 34:18

You can’t hurry healing. A patient recovering from knee replacement might push  himself more than recommended during physical therapy sessions then fails to rest at home. Overdoing it causes him great pain.  Not only might he not make the gains he hopes for, he actually delays  the recovery process. We can’t hurry healing.

How many times while suffering from the flu or a cold do we impatiently demand, “Why am I not better yet?”  The answer is simple. We can’t hurry healing.

All healing takes time. It takes time to mend a bone. It takes time to heal a wound. It takes time for the immune system to fight off an infection. It simply takes time for the process of healing to occur. We need to trust the process.

 The same is true of emotional, relational or spiritual healing. Healing takes time. Healing is a process. We need to trust the process of emotional healing.  And, if we submit to the process, a measure of healing absolutely takes place.


” I just want to heal from this loss (or betrayal, or trauma, or abuse).”

 If we haven’t said it ourselves, we certainly have heard it from others.  When life wounds us, we just want healing.

In my counseling ministry, I watch in awe and wonder as people go through the healing process. While it looks differently from person to person, healing is  always a beautiful thing. Often they do not even realize what is taking place. They make even think they are not making progress at all.

Frequently, at our final session, they thank me for all I have done. I have to smile. I’ve done nothing! All of the healing has been done by the Holy Spirit as the person has faithfully worked through a process of grieving, acceptance and growth.

Other times, individuals get stuck and do not move forward to healing. They have become locked in a particular part of the process and either can’t or refuse to go on.Sometimes, the trauma was so devastating that they can’t seem to get the inner resilience needed to do the work. Other times they refuse to trust the process of healing and want to jump ahead and be well now. Or, they stay immobilized not exercising the healthy parts of them to aid in healing.

There is no formula for healing. Just as every patient must be treated as an individual so every person seeking healing will go through their own personal process. If the loss or trauma is an isolated event, the process will proceed in a different way than someone who has a past history of abuse and loss that has not yet been resolved.  If early or violent trauma has occurred, the road to healing may require the support of professionals and much loving care. There is no one prescription.  But the goal is always the same: To be healthy, whole and holy.

While everyone’s healing path is different, there are common elements in the process of healing. Perhaps being aware of those factors could be of help to us all.


What do we mean when we say we want healing? If we are saying we want to be free of all pain, I am not certain that is true healing.

Two weeks after we were married, my husband was working construction and had a run in with a circular saw.  He came home to his terrified bride with a bandage over three fingers with multiple stitches. Needless to say, he healed quickly.  But, even now forty years later, he has nerve pain in those fingers in the extreme cold.  The pain is a reminder of the past trauma they experienced.

Healing is not a total lack of pain. Some situations are so painful that we will occasionally remember them with tears.  At times the tears will surprise us.  The key to healing is that we do not let the pain of the past dominate the relationships and responsibilities of today – or rob us of the joy and peace God has promised.

So, let’s scratch “no pain” off our definition of healing. We can also scratch “no memory” and “no more questions” from the definition. They do not fit in to a realistic definition of healing.Healing isn’t the absence of something, it is more about what is added to our lives.

 Perhaps the question we need to ask ourselves is how do we see ourselves functioning when we have healed from this trauma? How do we see ourselves in our relationships? What about our peace and joy? How will healing affect our work and interactions with others? What doors  might it open for us? When we get a realistic and accurate picture of our future self as healthy and whole, we can begin to set goals for our healing process.

For many they see healing as living in a more healthy fashion – emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Making better choices. Handling future conflict more effectively. Regaining self-respect and restoring confidence. It may include putting the trauma or loss in to a healthy perspective and not allowing the trauma to define them personally. As Christians, it also means having the ability to see the hand of our Loving Heavenly Father in the midst of the loss or pain. Healing always includes forgiveness.

How would you define emotional healing today?  We will each have a slightly different take on it. And each situation may have its own particular definition. But, here is mine in a general way. It is the answer to the question, “How will I know emotional healing is happening in my life?”

I will know emotional healing is finally happening when the loss or pain no longer dominates my every thought. nor determines how I interact and make choices. I will be well on the road to emotional healing when I respond to life in a less  reactive fashion and am able to reach out to others in love, compassion and forgiveness. I will have made peace with the trauma and rather than allowing it to define me, I will use it to remind me of God’s grace and love – which truly defines me.

Can you answer that question today?  How will I know I am on the path of healing?  What will that look like?

When we have experienced a recent loss or trauma, we are not always able to give emotional and mental energy to defining healing. There is no hurry. It is helpful, however, to remind ourselves that there is a goal and that healing is possible.

We want to be healthy, whole (no hidden parts) and holy.


Emotional healing is not a final destination. It is an ongoing process.  A cancer survivor endures countless checkups for up to five years to make sure that all is well. With any condition, we keep our antennae up to see when we need to do a little extra work on a health issue.

We will arrive at a day when we realize that the fear or pain no longer dominates our days and significant healing has occurred. That will be a day of rejoicing. But, occasionally we too will see little scars or symptoms that tell us more work needs to be done.  We need not be terrified or dismayed but accept these moments as God’s desire to heal us more fully.


As stated before, there is no formula for healing. There is no fixed template. However, there are common characteristics to this incredible journey.  Below you will find a brief description of what I have observed and personally experienced.

Any trauma, relational breakdown, devastating illness, tragedy or grave disappointment is worthy of grief.  God’s original intention was not for us to experience these events and grief is His answer for us to process and recover from our loss.

When the loss happens, it is as if we have fallen off a cliff and don’t know how to break the fall. Maybe we feel like we are attached to a bungee cord and have been pushed over. Just when we think we are going to hit bottom, the force of the fall makes the cord recoil and we bounce around wildly. Each down motion makes us wonder if we are getting closer to the bottom.  Eventually, we find ourselves just dangling there praying someone will pull us up.

As we flail around, we go through the various stages of grief again and again. Elisabeth Kubler – Ross made the five stages of grief popular in 1969. She addressed these stages in terms of bereavement. However, we have recognized that all sorts of loss and trauma can cause grief – perhaps to a different degree—but the stages are present nonetheless.

Some call this period the “reactive phase.” All we can do is react to the loss in the most natural ways possible. Before long, we will want to process our pain with another. So, even though they are reactions to the loss, they are THE WORK of the first stage of healing.

Denial is often a part of the grieving process and that is God’s way of shielding us from the full force of the reality of the loss. It is a protective mechanism. We are in disbelief.  Our emotions are numb and confused.

Denial is often accompanied by isolation. We have no energy to tell and retell our trauma, or no desire to share it at all. And, when our loss is the dominant factor of our days, we lose the desire to be around people and pretend that life is all good.

Anger quickly follows. The anesthetic effect of the denial and isolation have worn off. We begin to feel the full force of the pain and may even lash out. How did this happen? Why did this happen? Who is to blame? Where was God? Our fuse is short and we aim our anger at others when the frustration gets too much to bear. We need understanding family and friends to support us during this time and listen to the anger in our grief. Our feelings are what Norman Wright calls “a ball of grief.” We are angry, frustrated, fearful and sometimes feeling guilty.

Bargaining is often a time of great questions. What if? Should we have…?” As we ask these questions, we come to grips with more of the reality of the situation and this is an important stage. Family, friends and even counselors try to reassure us that we couldn’t have prevented the loss (or prevent the soon to come loss), but what we really need is someone to hold our hands while we go through this time of bargaining and often self-doubt. Eventually, we will see the situation with more clarity.

Sadness is part of this “ball of grief.” It is with us all the time. And, it is appropriate. The appropriate response to losing a loved one, a terminal illness, financial disaster, loss of friendship, marital betrayal and many other losses is sadness. It would be wrong to respond otherwise. Feelings of depression, lethargy, lack of interest in normal activities and changes in many daily routines may signal a need for supportive care.

Denial, isolation, anger, bargaining and sadness are important aspects of the work of grieving and moving to healing. We will think we are done with one stage to find ourselves back there a week later. Don’t be discouraged. Take heart in the words of C.S. Lewis. After losing his wife Joy, he said that grief is going around and around in a circle through the same emotions again and again. Then one day you find that all along you haven’t  been going in senseless circles but up a spiral staircase.  And, at the top of that staircase you see glimmers of hope and healing.

Next Sunday, March 8th

What does it mean to process loss?  

What steps can we take during the grieving process to clean, medicate and bandage the wound so healing takes place in a healthy way.

How do we move to acceptance and growth?

Looking for a devotional and prayer guide just for grandparents? Please check out my book (released March 1, 2015) on

from Miranda

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