Over ten years ago now, my oldest son was just beginning 8th grade and was seeking more independence. We encouraged him to walk or bike the two miles to school to allow him more space and responsibility. It all made logical sense, in theory, but when I kept thwarting his attempts at independence, by picking him up mid-route, or coming up with some after school plan to run errands together, I realized why. It was when I was in 8th grade that the most horrific thing happened in my life. A close friend was killed after walking home from school to an empty house. It took relating the entire event to my priest, something I had never told anyone aside from my husband, for me to work through that old terror, wound, and sadness, and move past my inability to allow my son the additional freedom that was appropriate for his age and emotional growth.
While reading through Healing Your Wounded Soul: Grieving from Pain to Peace I recalled this moment of struggle and then healing from years past. The author of the book, family therapist and Orthodox priest Father Joshua Makoul outlines how, in psychology speak, I had “transferred” my own experience of trauma and placed it upon my son. With grace and patience, using layman’s language, Father Joshua walked me, the reader and someone who has never been to therapy, through all sorts of potential psychological blocks and hindrances, where my past could be holding me back from finding peace and a fuller unity with God.
Thankfully, aside from this one horrible event that happened in my life in 8th grade, I am grateful to have survived childhood in Los Angeles in the 70s and 80s with very little trauma hitched to the bottom hem of my flared, then straight-legged jeans. Most of my friends had terrifying sob stories. Divorced parents, sexual abuse, drugs and alcohol instead of dinner… I still marvel at how many bullets I dodged. I was an LA anomaly—a young athlete— with an intact family who went to church.
Fast forward to me in my 50’s. Sitting in my backyard during a pandemic reading this book! What an odd time we are living through, yes?!
Though I didn’t have a series of giant “Aha!” moments while reading Healing Your Wounded Soul, I was struck again and again with its purpose—of highlighting potential struggles that may live inside our heads and hearts that might be keeping us from deepening our spiritual walk with Christ. I found myself setting the book aside again and again to work through the concepts that were being presented. It created in me a deeper sense of compassion for those who have survived profound personal traumas, and it made me so grateful that this sort of resource is now available. It is a book that guides the reader back in time. It asks you to examine elements of your life, through the lens of Orthodox Christianity and the tenets of human psychology, considering past experiences that may have left you unhealed and wounded. We have all endured sadnesses and grieved losses. We have all wounded others or been wounded ourselves. We are all in need of healing—and have endured events that have led to shame, guilt, or a loss of trust. Through Father Joshua’s straightforward, yet loving words, we learn how old pain disrupts our present life, and how to go about rooting out that pain so that we can ultimately move closer in our union with God.
And, I am just as appreciative of what the book does NOT do. The book does not lead the reader to become a mini-psychologist, ready to diagnose a friend or neighbor. Instead, the information leads one to be less judgmental toward those who are still struggling with trauma. I found my heart opening a little more toward those in my life who didn’t dodge quite as many bullets as I did.
Finally, being a mother of a child on the autism spectrum, I was especially aware while reading the book of the traumas that my own son has suffered. I have spent the last many years trying to create a healing space for my child—a home where he can laugh and learn and be himself. Where he can grow in his strengths, and slowly work on his weaknesses, and eventually become the young man God has called him to be. I outlined almost an entire chapter that caught my attention and caused me to pray right there on the spot. Father Joshua writes:
We would do well to think on the effect we have on the lives of others. Do we truly grasp the impact we all have on each other? Every act, every word, every gesture, and every interaction are stored away in some part of our mind. Indeed, all of us are memory makers. Everything we do in the lives of others is stored away in their memory. Is this not an awesome responsibility? None us is perfect; we all make mistakes. However, so often when we continue our lives having forgotten our error toward another, the other has not forgotten it. Whether we like it or not, we are responsible for those memories. Is this not a wonderful and terrible power?
As Dr. Albert Rossi writes in his endorsement of the book, “I would recommend this book to all wounded souls, that is, to everyone.”
Published: October 30, 2020 | Filed under: Books