Living In The Past

by Rayola Kelley

     Q: In the past you have talked about how people handle reality. I know a person who, after her husband passed away over five years ago, only lives in the past. All she can talk about is their former life together. I know this cannot be healthy for her, but I do not know what to do for her. 

      A: You are right it is not healthy for a person to live in the past. The harsh reality is that people either live in the past or in light of the future but rarely in the present. The reason people fail to live in the present is because it is either unpleasant, full of drudgery, or their life is not going the way they think it should.

      As for your friend, she lives in the past because she lacks purpose for the present and hope in light of the future. It also appears that in her mind she has nothing to live for and nothing to look forward to because the essence of her life ceased upon the death of her husband. The loss she has experienced appears to be impossible for her to face, making it hard for others to address her in her plight. The other repercussion is that because she is not moving forward, her relationship with others is also becoming stagnated and morbid, causing an unpleasant atmosphere for those around her.

      The truth is life is a current and it goes on. We can sit on the sidelines and wish that our present life was like the “good ole days” when we were happy and content, but the reality is we are not moving with the present current to embrace the life that is yet before us.

      Life is a gift from God. It is to be lived day by day, knowing that the life we live in these bodies is temporary. As Christians, we are indeed passing through as pilgrims and sojourners. Since this life is temporary, God as well as different cultures have devised means to honestly mourn such losses with the intent of letting go of what was, to discover what can be. I am not sure your friend wants to face the devastation of her loss with the intent of mourning and accepting it as so, so she can move on. In truth, she could be in a type of shock that keeps her numb to the present. After all, the future has to be frightening to her and the present without her husband has to be despairing. As a result, she is locked in  a type of “time zone” that keeps her divorced from the present and indifferent to the future. 

      I do not know if your friend is a Christian, but if she is she should take comfort in knowing that this world, along with things and worldly relationships will cease, but the best is yet to come. It is for this reason that we are told to walk by faith and not by our understanding, and what we see before us. As Christians, we must seek the One who can comfort us to help us walk through the emotional fallout from such losses. No one can face the fear, anger, and anguish that will follow such devastation without the supernatural comfort of the Lord.

      I cannot begin to imagine where your friend is, but it appears that she has not found healing. It also appears that your friend is seeking the memories of what was for some semblance of comfort or hope, instead of seeking the One who can settle the storms of the present and give hope for a better future.

      The best advice I can give you is to pray for her that she sees the morbid pit she is in. Until she has a reason to face the present and have a hope for something better in the future, she will see no need to leave the decaying rags of the past behind her. Meanwhile, the life she could have with its different joys and challenges keeps passing her by day after day. Sadly, while she misses the past that will never be again, she is missing the opportunity to make the life she has been allotted by God to count for something, which would ultimately bring a greater sense of satisfaction and contentment to her.