What Passing Time Has Taught Me About Grieving Unresolved Trauma

Amber Ginter

iBelieve Contributing Writer
Updated Jun 12, 2023
What Passing Time Has Taught Me About Grieving Unresolved Trauma

I firmly believe God never wanted us to experience things like trauma and grief, I'm confident He can and will use every trial we've walked through for our good and His glory. 

"He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday." Psalm 91:4-6, New International Version

On July 20th, 2022, my boyfriend of 4 years proposed on the boardwalk of Atlantic Beach. White powdery sand sank into my toes as I splashed in the edges of a surrounding sea. I was ecstatic. The photographer captured every moment. It is a memory I never want to forget. A sacred space I pray always to remember. But a few hours later, as I sank into the arms of the fold-out couch in our family condo, I wept. I looked at my mom and my fiancé, and to and from nearly a dozen times. But the more I saw their smiles, the more I crumbled inside. 

Don't get me wrong. I was happy. It had been a beautiful day, and I was relieved to finally be engaged to my boyfriend, who also happens to be a huge procrastinator. But amid the joy, my soul shook. I've always hated change, and I was about to undergo one of the biggest grown-up moments of my life. "I'm scared," I whispered to my fiancé, looking for comfort in the crevice of his arms. "It's like I don't want to grow up, but I do," I sobbed to my mom, stroking the matted hair on my back. "I know," they both said in unison. "But there is beauty in every season," my fiancé gently cooed. "And God will be with us every step of the way."

I am less than a month away from marrying the man of my dreams today. I am happy, but I wish someone or something would've prepared me for the stress and numerous changes I'm encountering. In a slew of emotions, I've felt joy and sorrow, confusion and chaos, stress and madness, love and pain, fear and excitement. Truthfully, I've heard this is normal. But if I could advise my younger self, I would tell her two things: 

1. Allow Yourself to Grieve Time.

One of the biggest reasons I've struggled to prepare for this Miss. to Mrs. transition is that I never allowed myself to grieve time. Time passes and progresses from seconds into minutes and hours. It's how we know when to get up and go to bed. We learn to set alarms so that we won't be late. But those minutes and hours turn into days, months, and years over time. Before we realize it, nearly a decade has passed since we graduated high school. 

At 14, my family began to face some of the greatest turmoil I've ever encountered. After my Dad was placed on disability for a significant injury, everything else seemed to crumble--family, sanity, unity, and love. Over the next decade, I never imagined becoming a victim of emotional and verbal abuse. I also never imagined losing my relationship with numerous people I held close due to their addictions and pain. As I suffered from mental and physical health disorders, I tried to push back the pain, work a little harder, and put on a brave face. I should've taken the time to grieve the relationships I'd lost. Grieve the childhood I didn't get to experience, how I harmed myself, and times I took life too seriously though my Mom pleaded, "Lighten Up, Lucy."

 2. Allow Yourself to Resolve Trauma.

When I was fourteen, I didn't realize the scenarios I encountered were traumatic. I'd always heard of people going through big T trauma, things like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, sexual abuse, physical abuse, living through natural disasters, serving in the war, being in a serious car accident, and surviving a shooting. But I didn't comprehend that my little t Trauma could be just as impactful and serious.Things like eating disorders, verbal and emotional abuse, witnessing drug overdoses, physical violence, and unhealthy relationships can be just as damaging and impactful as what constitutes big T trauma. According to Newport Institute"there is now evidence that repeated exposure to little t trauma can cause more emotional harm than exposure to one big T traumatic event." 

As a Christian, my Mom often told me to be thankful and realize that someone always has it worse. While she meant well, and I believe it's important to be grateful as Christian men and women, ignoring my circumstances and trauma didn't help me heal. It made them worse. Over the years, the countless rounds of mental, verbal, and emotional abuse I encountered began to boil. And although I was praying, reading my Bible, and attending church, I greatly suffered from severe anxiety and depression. These are battles I'm still fighting today and wars I wish I had taken the time to process while they were occurring.

Newport Institute further explains that big or little t trauma is "ultimately, any event or ongoing situation that causes distress, fear, and a sense of helplessness." Both qualify as trauma and can cause severe mental, physical, and emotional issues in adolescents, from how they function and grow to how they later form and create relationships with others. The stress trauma creates over time puts them at a higher risk of suicide, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and eating disorders. 

Hope For the Future:

In 2019, I went to my first counseling session. Recovering from the trauma I've encountered over the decades and continue to encounter has been no easy road to follow. But it's certainly one I wish I would've started earlier than twenty-three years old. At the time, I truly believed that I was strong enough to get through the trauma on my own because I was a Christian. God would help me with my weaknesses. But while God does and can help us to heal, He's also provided numerous resources to help us here on this earth. Counseling is just one of these tools. 

Today, I am still healing. I see a Godly counselor weekly who helps me with coping skills and techniques I need to recover. But we also pray together and recognize the power of God. I'm still praying, reading my Bible, journaling, and meditating on God's Word. I'm still attending Church, writing about mental health, and wrestling with my emotions and pain daily. But I'm pressing on knowing God and the resources He's blessed me with (medication, counselors, resources, therapy, etc.) are on my side. 

As I prepare for a new journey, my fiancé and I hope this season will be healing and helpful for both of us. Because while I firmly believe God never wanted us to experience things like trauma and grief, I'm confident He can and will use every trial we've walked through for our good and His glory. 

He's kept my tears.
He's held my heart.
He's wrapped His arms around my breaking mind.
And He loves me the same. 

Photo Credit: ©Raychan/Unsplash

amber ginter headshotAmber Ginter is a teacher-turned-author who loves Jesus, her husband Ben, and granola. Growing up Amber looked for faith and mental health resources and found none. Today, she offers hope for young Christians struggling with mental illness that goes beyond simply reading your Bible and praying more. Because you can love Jesus and still suffer from anxiety. You can download her top faith and mental health resources for free to help navigate books, podcasts, videos, and influencers from a faith lens perspective. Visit her website at amberginter.com.