Hope For When We’re Emotionally Numb

{image: egal / 123RF Stock Photo}

{image: egal / 123RF Stock Photo}

Whether we’re trying to heal from a sprained ankle or an emotional wound, at some point the healing process gets tough.

It might sound like one of these:

  • “I’m scared I won’t be able to do (whatever I could do before).”
  • “This doesn’t feel right. Shouldn’t it feel okay by now?!”
  • “This actually hurts worse than it did when it was sick/broken!”
  • “Woah! Nobody warned me about that part of recovery!”

After my surgery, I discovered that last one. My skin’s numb around the scar and it’s like there’s an empty space in the middle of me that can’t feel anything—not my clothes, the water in a swimming pool… nothing.

Numbness isn’t my favorite feature of healing. Then again, the other three above aren’t a picnic either!

Emotional and soul healing face the same struggles as physical healing. They just sound a bit different:

  • “I’m scared I won’t be able to trust friendships like before.”
  • “I don’t feel okay. I don’t feel anything. Shouldn’t I feel okay by now?”
  • “I feel worse than when that situation was broken. Maybe that boundary (or other healthy step) didn’t work right.”
  • “Woah! Nobody warned me people would get mad (or distant or blame me…) for needing to heal!”

More than any of other part of emotional healing, the numbness is hardest for me. It’s unexpected, frustrating—this empty space in the middle of my soul that feels so out of control.

As with my healing body, I’ve discovered numbness while healing in my marriage. When my husband and I took a good long look his challenges and my functional (and not-so-functional) ways of coping and trying to hold our family together, I knew it would be intense to heal.

I expected fears to surface. I expected it to require work. I expected laughter in spite of it all (we’re fluent in gallows humor around here). Deep down I hoped for us to make it as a couple.

I didn’t expect that with each step—progress, setbacks, good moments, hard ones—I’d feel this nagging nothing. After all, when things are healing, we should feel something, right? Happiness? Hope? Gratitude? Some well-meaning people have suggested I should be feeling those things. But I’m not. It’s just too soon to be anything but quietly watchful and emotionally numb.

Could there ever be value in the numbness?

Hope for When We Feel Emotionally Numb

Perhaps that empty chasm in our hearts is taking the place of the broken space. It’s filling the void with something neutral… a buffer. A space to let go of the pain so there’s room for the newness, for life.

We see this idea of a buffer in scripture. In Exodus 23, when formerly-enslaved Israel finds themselves freshly free and en route to the Promise, God tells them He will go before them as they possess this gift. And He says something interesting about how it will happen:

I will not drive [those already in the land] out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. ―Exodus 23:29 NIV (see also Deuteronomy 7:22)

There’s this middle part of healing… this in-between as we go from broken and enslaved to redeemed. A crucial place. Where we un-learn and un-feel the brokenness, making space for God to fill us with His promise and presence.

Just as with physical wounds, we may have to remind ourselves: 

We may feel numb or lost as we heal, but we’re still here. God’s still at work. {<== Tweet This}

The numbness in my physical wound gets less and less each day. The soul-numbness does, little by little, too. For today, I wait on the One who will fill that void with feeling again.

What about you? What helps you get through those emotionally numb stretches of healing?


Linking up with friend, fellow life coach and coffee lover, Holley Gerth today.