How to Love Someone Who Has been Changed, Altered, Diagnosed, Victimized, or Traumatized

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With all change comes loss.

Loss of time.

Loss of control.

Loss of power.

Loss of options.

Loss of consistency.

Loss of relationship.

Change is rarely the problem. It’s the loss that comes with change that most of us don’t like. My parents have said that loving me through the season of losing my husband, Robb, as a young wife and mother of two was probably akin to loving someone who had experienced a traumatic brain injury. On the outside, I looked the same. But I processed my thoughts, my days, and my world entirely differently. It felt different to everybody. My healing was slow, and the strides were subtle.

About a year into this new normal, my mom confided in a friend of hers, “I keep waiting to see signs of who she was. I’m afraid I might never get my girl back.”

In pure honesty and compassion, this wise mentor told her gently, “Truthfully, you might not. This may be who she is now.” My mom recalls that moment as one of the hardest in the journey of our family. There’s a long list of things that time and therapy can heal, but some changes come to stay.

My brother is like sunshine in my life. He is reliable, steady, and perpetually present. And if I look very hard into the kaleidoscope of what he means to me, it feels like I’m burning a hole into my soul. It’s too hot to touch. I adore him, and his eloquent perspective on loss and change was so valuable. Rob said, “I spent years getting used to my sister’s new normal. She changed so much, and we all had to learn her quiet, reserved, introverted side. I learned how to be with her, how to talk to her, the patterns of what we talk about and what we don’t talk about, what makes her laugh, and what will never be funny. It sort of felt like somebody turned the family system upside down. It felt like I walked back into a room I had memorized, but now the furniture was all moved around and I didn’t know where I was supposed to sit. I felt like, Just give me a minute. I know the couch is here somewhere, and I’ll find it. Nothing is where I left it. It’s all new and different. Somebody shook the house like a salt shaker, and everything landed in different places. I didn’t know it would look nice this way, but it really does. I’m getting used to it. I just can’t find my shoes. I’m waiting to see where we’ll all sit in this new living room.”

Maybe you love someone who has been changed, altered, diagnosed, victimized, or traumatized. And maybe the wait you’re in has a lot to do with being patient for them to come home, come back to you, come back to themselves. If that’s where you are, your journey may feel even more hopeless and out of control. It’s hard enough to control our own outcomes, but it’s painfully worse to be patient for someone else’s.

Jesus Doesn’t Rush Our Sorrow

If you cannot understand what God is doing, either in your life or in the life of someone you love so much that you feel their pain like your own, trust that he is for us. You don’t have to believe this; he won’t make you. But it makes the dark nights more than a little easier if you can believe that somebody else is watching, listening, and in charge. He is on our side. He is patient. Jesus doesn’t rush our sorrow. He will lead you through—not around—the valley of this shadow of death.

Please, for the sake of all the hurting hearts, be brave enough to walk in the dark.

~ ~ ~

For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone. – Lamentations 3:31-33, NIV

He will never leave you. – John 14:16, TPT

Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy . . . Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. – John 16:20, 22, NIV

However long the night, the dawn will break. – African proverb


You’ve been reading with Tricia Lott Williford from her book Just. You. Wait. Read the first chapter for free here. Get your copy of Just. You. Wait. at Navpress.com. Tricia also wrote You Can Do This: Seizing the Confidence God Offers. Check it out here. 

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