“To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever….”
I found that quote credited to JK Rowling tonight as I was looking up quotes on grief on Pinterest. Some reading this may find it odd that I start a post with this title by sharing a quote about grief. However, anyone who knows my story well knows that an experience with grief ties in very closely with the idea of being fully known AND fully loved.
Back in March, as I was beginning the journey of learning and growing and healing that God has so graciously taken me on, I tried to write and journal as often as I could – even if that meant small bits on my phone here and there. So, one night while I was out, God put something on my heart that I ended up writing down. And, well, this something has gone on to rattle around in my brain since that night early in March. I’ve shared it with some people, but in all honesty, many of the people currently in my everyday life don’t know much about my story with Jillian. So, before we go any further, let me give you a little bit of background.
I met Dr. Jillian when I was 18, having just graduated high school and shortly after experienced my first hospitalization. She was my assigned case worker at our local behavioral health day program, and she and I instantly hit it off. We got along well… and, well, she just got me. She got me in a way that no human ever had. By the end of the summer, and after a second hospitalization, she was my full time outpatient therapist. She remained my therapist for another thirteen or fourteen months, until September of 2013. She walked through two more hospitalizations with me, and she changed my life for the better in so many ways.
Unfortunately, she passed away in January of 2014. I still remember the night I heard the news… that night changed my life, and that night is ingrained in my memory and will be until the day that I die. I cried harder than I ever have – and it remains that way five years later. She saved my life in some very real ways, and all of the sudden – she was gone. I never had any closure; I never got to say goodbye. Fortunately, over time God has brought about some closure for me, but it has been and remains incredibly difficult today.
So… back to that night in March, that night when I wrote a little bit on my phone about Dr. Jillian. As I had finally come to realize the huge burden and wound of shame that I had been carrying, I was pondering the reasons as to why Dr. Jillian had the impact on my life that she did. Let me take a moment and share what I wrote that night:
“3/5, out driving, 6pm
I feel like I know why Jillian meant so much to me. She saw through to me and knew me in a way that no human ever had… I had never experienced the feeling of being that truly known. And, with the recent realizations… just like, the fact that she still knew me so well and knew all of my junk**(words changed and sensored)… and still loved and cared for me, probably more than a therapist usually should… oh man. It was a glimpse of what that freedom would taste like. That freedom of being fully known… and yet fully loved.”
So when I wrote that, having realized only just a few days prior what really has been underneath all of my depression and darkness all of these years? I was a little dazed and lost. I mean, yes I knew what was going on. But I was definitely overwhelmed. So much made sense now… so many things about my time with her and my relationship with her, but in all honesty it only made the grief that much stronger. I felt this way that night, and I still feel this way now… however, I would give absolutely ANYTHING to be able to sit down and tell her what I have finally learned.
Over the next two months, God would end up taking me on a journey that even then – merely a couple of days after I finally realized what needed to happen in my relationship with Him – I never imagined possible. I was so grateful to finally be headed in the right direction and to finally be seemingly headed towards some real and lasting healing, but even in that short time frame… I still managed to get so incredibly discouraged. I knew what needed to happen, but I just wasn’t sure HOW to make it happen. I even thought that, well, maybe some big realization or moment will happen Easter weekend. And while it came and went without any major emotional implosions, it did exactly that… it just came and went. Easter was over, and I was still hopeless as to HOW I could make this happen, how I could finally start to internalize that Jesus loves ME, Mary, and that the cross was truly for ME.
But then it happened. After breaking me even more and helping me realize in a beautiful and loving way that it would be HIM doing everything to heal me and me doing absolutely nothing other than letting go… God landed my plane. I finally began to understand what it’s like to be fully loved AND fully known… and not just in a temporary human way, but in an eternal, everlasting, and heavenly way. The day program where I met Jillian often talks about how “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. And as far as I can remember, that was a truth that Jillian also lived by. So this revelation, this knowledge, this healing that has come with experiencing God’s unconditional and radical love for me in a very real way… it has allowed the hellish suffering to dissipate. The pain is inevitable, yes. God may or may not heal my physical/clinical depression. But knowing I am fully known AND fully loved by Him, by the creator of the universe? It means I feel worthy to take care of myself. It means I feel worthy to use the coping skills, many of which Jillian taught me herself. It means I can wear that flower on my head with pride – that flower that, according to Jillian, came as a result of me saying something healthy and even positive (gasp!!) about myself. (Side note – it’s an adorable story, the one about the flower on my head… ask me sometime!!)
If I could thank Dr. Jillian for just one of the many things she left me with? One lesson, one gift? It would be the gift of a life living fully known AND fully loved. She was only able to give me that in human form, emphasis on the temporary part of human form. But… as a result, she has impacted and touched my life in a way that no one else has. Even after she died, she left me with enough hope and enough strength to keep moving forward until I was ready to hear from God Himself. He knew when I would be ready to face the fact that I was living my life shrouded by shame that told me I deserved to go kill myself, but God also knew that if I tried to hear the message before I was ready… it would end very badly. And a few times, I think it did. But because of Dr. Jillian’s amazing gift of feeling fully known and fully loved? Even though hers was in human form, it was enough to get me through to when I was finally ready to feel it and experience it in heavenly form from our creator and Abba Father.
I’m thinking now that if someone told me I had mere seconds to share a message, I would say something along these lines… “Thank you for knowing me and still loving me. All these years later, I finally get it, and I finally believe it in the depths of me that Jesus loves ME, Mary, and that He died for ME. And I’m sure you can imagine what that means moving forward.”
Dr. Jillian… thank you for taking the time to know me in such a beautiful way that I had never experienced, and thank you for loving me through all of my junk and darkness and ugliness.
And Jesus… Father God, Abba, Emmanuel, God with us… thank you for loving, me, your daughter, in such an incredible and beautiful way. Thank you for knowing me better than I love myself, and thank you for loving me even despite all of that. Thank you for that truth that gives us freedom beyond our wildest imagination.
I’ll close with a quote by Timothy Keller…
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”