by Heidi Vermeer-Quist, PsyD
Remembering is a necessary and important step to good grief. People often avoid remembering because they don’t want recount past painful events. They don’t want to re-experience all of that pain again. Or they may remember and find themselves stuck back in anger and depressed stages of their grief. In his book, Finding Our Way Home, Dr. Mark McMinn encourages people to engage in “Incarnational Remembering.” Or, quite simply, “remembering with God and not by myself.” McMinn reminds us that as we remember the past experiences of our lives, God wants us to invite Him into our remembering.
Remembering is painful because it requires us to face our fear and shame. But pain opens us up if stop and listen to it. We can keep running faster and faster to try to get away from pain —and sometimes that seems the easier way or we can rest assured in the incarnation [Jesus and His saving work on our behalf], knowing that God understands every throb of a broken heart. Having faith that God is with us can give us courage to stop, remember, and turn toward deep sources of meaning and hope...God remembers us, knows us by name, and chooses to love us...God not only remembers but breaks in, bursts in to human form [in Jesus], and lives with us— Emmanuel, God with us.
It is natural to not notice God’s presence with us when we remember, recount, and grieve. We forget that He is with us in every moment of every day—no matter what we are doing at the time. It is easy to get stuck in a hole of self-centeredness and forget that God is right there, longing for us to come home to Him.
HOW we remember is very important. Frankly, we are going to remember, whether we want to or not. Hopefully, this idea of “Incarnational Remembering” can be an encouragement to you as you remember. You have options regarding HOW you remember. Apart from God, supportive others and a supportive self, we actually risk re-traumatizing ourselves when we remember. So no wonder it can be frightening to revisit the past.
God invites us to remember, and do all things, within His presence at all times. So the KEY to healing, restorative remembering is not just DOING it. Try to focus on BEING with God as you recall and work through your grief. Allow God, your Creator and the ultimate Lover of your soul, to minister to you and help you learn from your past experiences.
Heidi Vermeer-Quist, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist working at the Pine Rest Des Moines Clinic since 2002. She provides psychotherapy to people struggling with depression, anxiety, relational conflicts, unresolved grief and adjustment, and personality disorders.