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Trauma Healing as a Sacred Gospel Practice

Believers in Jesus know exactly what to do when we’ve been hurt by our own (sinful) actions— thanks to the practice of repentance. But when we are hurt by someone else’s actions, the pathway forward is far less clear.
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One of us recently began working to support a mother of three, who—with her precious children—has been terrorized by years of heartbreaking cruelty at the hands of the very person whose primary job was to make sure that she and her children were protected and cherished. And the second author grew up subject to regular verbal and sexual abuses—at the hands of multiple perpetrators—starting at a young age and continuing into her teens.  

We were both moved by Elder Patrick Kearon’s crystal-clear words at the recent General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ regarding how God sees such abuse—and what he feels for its victims. As he said earnestly, “You are not defined by these terrible things that have been done to you. You are, in glorious truth, defined by your eternally existing identity as a son or daughter of God and by your Creator’s perfect, infinite love and invitation to whole and complete healing.” 

I, Diana, experienced Elder Kearon’s words as direct answers to the pleading prayer I recorded in my journal prior to General Conference: “Heavenly Father, How do those sinned against learn to feel again, to trust again, to have corrupted experiences of sacred things be healed …? In what ways can I better understand and use my agency so that the effects of others’ sins no longer plague me? 

Elder Kearon added that the Lord Himself “has suffered the very torment you are suffering and endured the very agony you are enduring” so as to “give you power to not only survive but one day, through Him, to overcome and even conquer—to completely rise above the pain, the misery, the anguish, and see them replaced by peace.”

As beautiful as that possibility is, it’s exceedingly hard to imagine for some. How exactly does something like this come to pass for someone who has passed through something awful? What does it really look like in the real-life messy experiences of day-to-day healing for beauty to arise from ashes? 

These answers are not so clear to many people.  By comparison, whenever there are instances of significant harm that we have caused ourselves (by betraying God’s ways through sin), thankfully believers in Jesus know exactly what to do—with examples of repentance clearly and repeatedly delineated in scripture. Repentance is a dependable process that believers know they can trust— with specific steps we can encourage each other to follow and aspire after together.   

But when it comes to instances of harm we receive from other people—being “sinned against”— there often exists far less clarity on how and what we can do to facilitate healing. Years ago, Bruce and Marie Hafen wrote, “We cannot repent when we have not transgressed. Is there some process analogous to repentance in such cases?”

Although there is rarely detail about how people worked through difficult situations, the scriptures contain a remarkable number of illustrations where individuals pass through intense trauma—from times of hard imprisonment (Joseph of old, the Apostle Paul, Joseph Smith), to severe beatings and scourging (Alma and Amulek), to periods of starvation and great loss (Job) to brutal war-time conflicts (Captain Moroni, sons of Helaman). We also witness the anguish of families bubbling over with violence and threats of violence. As Lehi tells Jacob, “in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren.”

And then we read of the pain involved in witnessing the acute suffering of others—from parents sorrowing over the murder and brutality of children (Adam and Eve, Jacob and Leah, Lehi and Sariah), to those witnessing war and other mass casualty events (Amulek, Alma, anti-Nephi Lehi survivors, Noah’s family on the ark). After witnessing in a vision how the “floods came and swallowed them up,” the prophet Enoch “had bitterness of soul, and wept over his brethren, and said unto the Heavens, I will refuse to be comforted.”

Our conversation about what to do when sinned against is far less developed than what to do with our own sin.

Despite many such examples in scripture, our conversation about what to do when sinned against is far less developed than what to do with our own sin.  Aside from occasional helpful conversations about forgiveness, there hasn’t seemed to be any comprehensive practice like “repentance” to guide us—at least none as clearly understood and defined. Given the mounting incidences of abuse—and the refuge many survivors seek in true religion today, getting clearer on what a comparable practice might look like could benefit us all.

“Just forgive and move on.” Our usual response to such a question is to say—yes, that analogous practice is called “forgiveness.”  We say this for good reason—because forgiveness is, at some point, a critical part of any true healing process from serious trauma. But we make a significant and potentially costly mistake when we assume that is the whole of it.

I was sitting in a Sunday School discussion recently about the trauma inflicted on Joseph of old, when a member of the class said, “If it happened long ago, forget it and get over it!” Then another chimed in: “We should forgive immediately!” 

I wish it were that simple; maybe it is for some, but that hasn’t been my experience. Often, those who make such comments do not realize that such quick forgiveness simply is not possible for many who have experienced severe abuse(s)and to insist that it IS possible often adds an extra burden on those doing all that they know how to do to faithfully navigate their healing journeys. 

For example, after a funeral several years ago, a loved one overheard me say that the deceased’s death had brought up several painful and confusing memories; this person interrupted me saying, “You’re still bothered by that! Why don’t you use the atonement, like me!” I was shocked and thought, “You have no idea how often I have fasted, how often I have prayed, how diligently I’ve worked, year after year, seeking help and healing from the Savior so that I can not only ‘get over it’ but gain wisdom to help others find help and healing in the Savior too.”  But I didn’t say anything. This family member simply didn’t know how intimately and patiently the Lord tutors and walks with those who endure longer healing journeys.  

What Diana just related is one significant part of this healing practice people miss—the remarkable patience often required of afflicted victims, who receive precious insights and relief line upon line. Even so, some may wonder, “What’s the point in paying attention to these past hurts if you can’t go back in time and change anything? Wouldn’t you be better off just forgetting about it?”

 The reality is this:  If this kind of deep pain is ignored or avoided, it doesn’t usually just go away on its own. More often than not, it still bothers us—still weighing us down. 

Long-term rippling effects. That comes through loud and clear in long-term research. For instance, compared to those without early childhood traumas, a landmark 2001 study by Dr. Vincent Felliti found that those with at least four traumatic experiences early on in their home have a 700% increase in alcoholism and a doubling of the risk of being diagnosed with cancer. And those who had six traumatic events as a child are 4,600% more likely to abuse drugs, and approximately 4,000% more likely to die by suicide—with rates of serious mental illness also showing a direct relationship to early trauma.  

Think of it:  when a study comes out claiming that something we eat raises the risk of serious illness by even 40%, there’s a public outcry. How about 4,000%

It couldn’t be more painfully clear how much early trauma sets people up for later problems— especially (and this part is critical) if nothing interrupts the normal course of someone’s life trajectory to encourage more healing

Despite this all, it’s surprising how little we ask people facing physical or mental conditions, “What’s been happening in your life? Is there any other reason you might be in so much pain right now? Is there any way you’ve been hurt now or in the past—that we can help you with?” 

Thankfully, that’s been changing.  As Dr. Toby Watson put it, “We’re starting to come back to recognizing that when people suffer, it’s a sign that something is not right in their environment … there’s been some sort of injury to their humanity.” Eleanor Longden, who experienced healing from severe trauma and serious mental illness in her life, suggests that rather than fixating on “what’s wrong with you?” we ought to more frequently ask, “what’s happened to you?” 

At 6 years old, we were moving to a new state. Standing on the curb next to my mom, just moments before we were about to leave, I pointed down the street and said in the angriest voice I could muster, “I don’t like that boy. He’s mean!” Rather than ask, “Why do you think he’s mean? What Happened?” I was scolded, “Diana, we don’t say naughty things about people we don’t know! I don’t ever want to hear you saying anything naughty about that boy again.” 

I retreated inward; I didn’t say another word about that boy to anyone until a post-partum depression many years later dredged up a fragmented memory of what he did to me. But it was still too muchand my emotional weight deepened to the point that I thought of ending my life. That shocked me; I didn’t want to die—I just wanted to feel better! I reached out to someone for help, and thus began my healing journey.

Note:  In an increasingly fragile society where everything from upsetting jokes to hurt feelings in university classes is labeled “traumatic,” it’s important to clarify that we’re talking about something more here. As Dr. Van der Kolk clarifies, true trauma is something thatby definitionexceeds and overwhelms normal capacities to cope and endure. As he puts it, “Trauma starts with the feeling of ‘Oh my god, my life is over’… it’s a situation characterized by the inability to take the actions necessary to protect yourself. Trauma is about being in a state where you feel that nothing you do can stop what’s happening to you.”

In what follows, we highlight four foundational elements of healing from trauma that are often overlooked in our own discussions as people of faith. Compared to some of the more advanced healing supports offered by trauma-oriented specialists, those below are aspects of healing in which normal brothers and sisters, neighbors, and friends can play an important and profound helping role—comforting, listening, and loving afflicted souls, as they walk with them day-to-day to re-learn how to experience new lives of sweetness.   

1. Calming hyperarousal and awakening sensation. The world’s foremost expert on trauma, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk makes clear in his seminal work, “The Body Keeps the Score” how important and how difficult it is for someone to bring what actually took place into more complete awareness. As Diana can attest, remembering something painful that has happened— seeing it clearly—is not as easy as it looks. 

But why? It’s not just because the emotions are difficult to bear. It’s because overwhelming experiences like sexual, emotional, and physical abuse often exceed our physiological and psychological capacities in a way that changes our bodies. As Dr. Van der Kolk puts it, “After trauma, the world is experienced with a different nervous system.”  Starting in the moment of trauma itself, a fundamental reorganization of the central nervous system is often initiated, leaving the body primed to experience the world around someone as continuously threatening— and making the person experience everything else on high alert. 

The opposite can also happen, with the body shutting down brain areas that transmit terrifying sensations—resulting in extreme disconnection from the body, and a feeling of being emotionally deadened. As long as people are shut down or hyper-aroused, it becomes much more challenging to access a deeper awareness of their lives. That’s why Dr. Van der Kolk says, “The first order of business is to find ways to cope with feeling overwhelmed by the sensations and emotions associated with the past”—or as he puts it, “feeling free to know what you know and feel what you feel without becoming overwhelmed, enraged, ashamed, or collapsed.” 

That’s something we can help with! The reality is this: until someone is able to acknowledge what has happened, it will be difficult to move forward and do anything about it. As Elvin Semrad used to teach, “people can never get better without knowing what they know and feeling what they feel.” Arriving at that point is necessarily a patient process—gradually, slowly starting to tolerate feelings bit by bit, without being overwhelmed by them.

I was not aware that I had been experiencing life on high alert most of my life and frequently disassociating from it until after I began getting help to address that trauma more directly in my late 50s. I started to then realize why my memories—good as well as traumatic—are ordered haphazardly in fragments in my brain. Until my mind quieted and sufficiently opened through a variety of supports, I wasn’t functioning well enough to recognize that my prayers were being answered and that the Lord has been in every detail of my healing journey. 

The cultivation of mindfulness and deeper peace can help decrease the activity of the brain’s threat monitor and tamp down reactivity to potential triggers—while fostering a powerful capacity to calmly and quietly observe the full scope of one’s experiences. By learning to breathe calmly and remaining in a state of relative physical relaxation, even while accessing painful and horrifying memories, healing can be catalyzed. And happily, if someone can feel emotions and endure them without getting overwhelmed … they’re at a hopeful turning point. 

2. The work of remembering and seeing clearly. Equally consequential to how traumatized people experience the present world around them is the ongoing way they experience the past. Normally, the brain processes all the incoming sensations—blending them into an integrated, coherent experience of “this is what is happening to me.”  When things are working properly, sensations, thoughts, and emotions are stored in a meaningful way, like putting away groceries—with a place for each item to go.

That’s how most people remember things in the past. But that doesn’t happen after serious trauma—with all the various sights, sounds, smells, and touching encoded in the brain as isolated, separate fragments. It’s all just too much to manage, so the traumatic event often gets stored more haphazardlywithout proper processing. As Dr. Van der Kolk puts it, “Instead of neatly putting away canned goods with other canned goods, frozen things in the freezer, etc., your overwhelmed brain can’t process the memory in an organized way, [and so instead] scoops the whole thing up and crams it in a cabinet, slams the door shut to deal with it all later, and everything inside is just waiting to fall on your head the next time you open that door.”

The breakdown of this normal process in the brain helps explain why trauma is remembered so differently than normal stories, which usually include a beginning, a middle, and an end that allow us to relate to our experience as something that happened in the past. Once again, that simply doesn’t happen with serious trauma, with fragments of the overwhelming experience taking on a life of their own as they intrude in terrifying ways into someone’s present day-to-day experiences—often leaving people feeling helpless in the face of the seeming unending trauma.

As people allow themselves to bring to fuller awareness what happened bit by bit, they can begin to experience whatever happened as an event in the past. 

This kind of flooding of thoughts and emotions is uniquely terrifying precisely because they are not experienced as a memory of a story that happened in the past, but rather, as if the trauma was actually occurring in real-time in the present.

These kinds of sudden memories can be terrifying and paralyzing. At first, all I had were snapshot memories of traumas—images of just before and after abuses but not the middle. When a snapshot would come to mind, I could see and feel that something was wrong, but any memory of what actually took place was hazy or lacking altogether.   

About a year after that first postpartum depression, other snapshot memories were brought to mind during additional episodes of depression. Yet most of the professional support I received focused almost entirely on the symptoms of depression. If I mentioned abuse, it was only brieflydeflecting the conversation to any drama that had occurred since my last visit and not to what was eating at me because I didn’t have the courage to bring it up.  

All of this helps explain why remembering, seeing, and bringing to awareness painful happenings of the past can take time—even lots of time. Along the way, painful snatches of memory and emotion may come back and intrude upon life. But the full scope of what happened often remains difficult to grasp—especially when events took place in childhood when the brain was still developing and young eyes often assume trauma they experience at home is “normal.” 

In many cases, the events are so overwhelming and horrific that people push them far away out of mind—initially just to survive it. That’s why remembering can take so much trust and courage —and why an early step of healing involves working through any barriers to seeing clearly what happened—including confronting lies or distortions people have accepted about what happened.  

Ironically, it’s this very work of remembering the past that is often most forgotten in our discussions of healing, as we neglect to appreciate how challenging bringing some of this to mind can be for those who have experienced deeply painful abuse. Yet on some level, this should all be somewhat familiar to any believer.  When someone falls into a pattern of their own self-betrayal and sin, it’s well-understood that an important part of escaping its effects through repentance is coming to see clearly what actually happened … which doesn’t always happen quickly. That’s because we recognize that sin can distort and shape cognition and perceptions of any of us to the point that we do not see “things as they really are.”

So, in other words, prior to other crucial elements of repentance—and foundational to it—is a process of seeing clearly one’s betrayal, and feeling clearly in relation to it, as reflected in proper feelings of remorse.  In like manner, for victims of abuse there is a crucial and often lengthy process of coming to see and feel clearly—also prior to being able to take other healing steps, such as learning of Christ and how to come unto Him so that the Lord can prevail even in sinned against lives.

3. Finding the words. Alongside the work of acknowledging what has taken place leading up to this moment, naming and identifying what is going on inside with words is another powerful way to catalyze healing—finding ways to put language to the experience.

After a long period of isolating blindness, Helen Keller spoke of being “born into language”— describing how words helped her wake up and experience life around her fresh. Naming our experiences offers the possibility of another kind of control. But this can be remarkably hard for anyone who has gone through severe trauma—with finding the language to describe your inner reality a frequently agonizing process. Even small progress in that direction can be huge, like a moment someone finally lets themselves express what it was like as a little boy to never see his father again, or to write for the first time about how painfully wrong it was to be used and abused as a little girl.

Especially at first, writing something can be easier than sharing in person. Research has shown that writing about upsetting events improves physical and mental health generally—and with trauma specifically. (Even more than writing details of what happened, what’s most helpful is writing thoughts and feelings about the event). One person said that this kind of writing “helped me think about what I felt during those times. I never realized how it affected me ….”  Another person said, “writing about emotions and feelings helped me understand how I felt and why.” 

Among other things, writing can also gradually help reveal what actually happened—putting the remembering and observing down on paper and establishing the emerging truth about what actually took place. As Dr. Van der Kolk says, “The path out of trauma is paved with words, carefully assembled, piece by piece, until the whole story can be revealed.” 

Through the years, writing is how I’ve sorted through jumbled emotions.  Strong emotions came out in poetry and short stories about my pastand I was often surprised by the hurt that flowed from my pen. When I started freewriting about trauma memories a couple of years ago (writing everything I knew or felt had happened with as much detail as possible), that began helping me leave some of them in the past as a regular fading memory.  

I also began keeping a gratitude journal, which has helped me look for and remember the good in my lifeand I’ve been writing some prayers down too. These sacred writings remind me of all the ways the Lord has blessed and is continuing to bless me. I still have trauma memories and responses triggered now and then, but I’m getting better at recognizing good things even on difficult days.      

As people allow themselves to bring to fuller awareness what happened bit by bit, they can begin to experience whatever happened as an event in the past.  And they can also consider sharing this with others—if they feel safe enough to communicate what is going on with someone they trust, “finding words where words were absent before.”

It’s striking how many of the foundational elements of trauma healing can be found anywhere that a healing community exists.

Why can sharing with someone else matter so much? On a foundational level, feeling listened to and understood often helps soften the physiological fight-or-flight (or freeze and appease), while reestablishing the feeling that you are part of a community. As Dr. Van der Kolk has said, “Communicating fully is the opposite of being traumatized.”  Just being able to tell the story has huge value— “without stories,” he adds, “memory becomes frozen; and without memory, you cannot imagine how things can be different.”

The value of sharing is enhanced even more when it’s clear you have been heard deeply and meaningfully. We all know how it feels to be met by silence and incomprehension. One reason so many veterans of war end up being so quiet about their experiences in battle is they discovered so few were able to stomach hearing the truth of their war-time experiences.  

Compared to an experience of being heard, which gently helps the body move away from the hyper-vigilance to a sense of safety, being dismissed or ignored reinforces all the destabilizing patterns inside. 

So, no—talking about a painful event isn’t always helpful—quite the contrary. But with someone who is attentive and tender, this kind of sharing can be remarkably healing. Once again, we find an analog in the well-established practice of repentance—given the centrality of open vulnerability through confession, in the presence of someone we trust to hear what’s actually been going on for us.  

4. Having new experiences that are sweet, edifying, and connecting. Alongside all this healing that can be encouraged through remembering, writing, and verbalizing hurtful things that have happened in our past, another powerful element of this healing practice bypasses all this mental processing to more directly involve the injured body itself. In addition to rich listening, it can also be hugely helpful for healing to simply have new experiences that are sweet, intimate, and joyful—the very opposite of trauma itself. As Dr. Van der Kolk underscores, by “allowing the body to have experiences that deeply and viscerally contradict the helplessness, rage or collapse that result from trauma,” healing can be catalyzed more and more.

As a wounded child, I didn’t know how to trust, so I experienced great difficulty making and keeping friendswith struggles in connecting continuing as an adult. One day after a friendship ended, I remember tearfully petitioning the Lord, “please! I can’t do it; please raise up friends for me!” 

When I stopped trying so hard to make friends, this prayer was answered. The Lord began leading me to friends that enjoy my company, that willingly support me in my healing journey—not because I’m some sort of project or because they feel sorry for me— but friends that truly care; friends that encourage and support as I seek the Lord for comfort and healing. These deep friendships with “Zion brothers and sisters” now bring meaning and purpose to my life, and continue to help restore my ability to trust. 

For those who have endured especially difficult abuse or trauma in the past, their brains can be trained to be alert for emergencies at the expense of being focused on the small details of everyday life. As a result, it can be a practice itself to re-engage with the everyday, even mundane details of life fully—and become able to feel alive in a “normal” life far removed from the past traumas. 

More than just learning to respond appropriately to danger, this is about recovering the capacity to experience safety, relaxation, and healthy human connection. Far beyond just emotional work, this kind of learning to live fully, securely, and joyfully in the present is about bringing back “online” those brain structures that people are used to having desert them when memories of trauma overwhelm them again. 

And once more, this is something that non-experts surrounding someone in pain can help with!   More than simply dealing with the past, this is about enhancing the quality of day-to-day experience—and figuring out how to feel fully alive again, arguably the specialty of Jesus Christ and His followers. 

Appreciating this rich practice. On this journey of deep healing, there are clearly other important elements to appreciate, especially the precious gift of forgiveness that we are commanded to offer to “all”, and to which we rightfully give so much attention. There are also other miraculous techniques and supports being developed to help support those grappling to take the next step, from EMDR to somatic-oriented therapies. 

That’s where most of our attention goes in discussing healing—the value of forgiveness and expert support.  And that’s why we’ve focused above on the richness of other foundational elements of healing that involve normal relationships around us, including the remembering, seeing, and confiding what actually happened to trusted loved ones—and the finding again together what sweetness in life can mean.    

Given the growing waitlists for qualified professionals and the likelihood that the expert class will never be able to meet the scope of the metastasizing societal problem of abuse and violence, it’s encouraging to recognize how much we can do in our own communities and families. Competent therapists can do miracles, no doubt.  But instead of simply waiting on the right professional to deliver healing, we’re heartened by the many steps people can begin taking with their own loved ones. It’s striking how many of the foundational elements of trauma healing can be found anywhere that a healing community exists. As you can see, potentially any neighbor, friend, family member or brother and sister of faith can offer tender support and patient listening—hopefully, especially among those who follow Jesus Christ. 

Although there is never a great deal of detail, we see echoes of this throughout scripture and sacred history. After the trauma of seeing family and friends burned, Almatook Amulek and came over to the land of Zarahemla, and took him to his own house, and did administer unto him in his tribulations, and strengthened him in the Lord.” The people in Quincy similarly received the Saints driven from their homes in Missouri, sharing kindness, shelter, food, and jobs.

Out of their own excruciating agony, we also see in scripture encouragement about where to fix our attention in the healing process. After Enoch experiences overwhelming sorrow in witnessing a vision of Noah’s flood, he was immediately told, “Lift up your heart, and be glad; and look”—leading this prophet to see “the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh; and his soul rejoiced, saying: “The Righteous is lifted up, and the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world.”  Lehi likewise tells Jacob, “thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.”

And, of course, scripture is full of promises to those grieving, hopeless, and lost—thanks to a God who “bind[s] up (heals/comforts) the brokenhearted” and who “proclaim[s] liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” This is the God who “comforts all who mourn” and who, remarkably enough, delivers “beauty for ashes.” As the Psalmist exults, “The LORD is [near or] close to the brokenhearted and saves [or rescues] those who are crushed in spirit.”

Against the backdrop of these sacred precedents, we would love to see a day when the practice of healing from trauma is as widely appreciated, understood, and leveraged in the body of Christ’s believers as is the beautiful practice of repentance. In the future, Diana will share in greater depth what this process has looked like for her from the inside out.   

We end where we began, by joining Elder Kearon to underscore the most important point of all:  how very possible this healing is for those whose hearts dearly need and want it.    

The joyful hope in full healing. Despite the fact that many today wonder whether anyone can fully recover from the severity of some wounds or whether they are “just too deep and too irreparable to heal,” inspired voices have spoken clearly. Elder Richard G. Scott spoke repeatedly during his life’s ministry about the profound relevance of the atonement for all who have been wounded in any way. And Bruce and Marie Hafen elaborated on this in great depth in their writings, underscoring how the atonement of Jesus Christ isn’t just for sinners—but for those sinned against. They write, “The Lord’s grace is a powerful and active force not only in our relationship with Him, but also in our relationships with other people”—attesting that He can “heal any pain and bridge any gap that separates us from God.” The Hafens quote one woman who had found healing from past abuse, saying, “I found I did not have this power fully in myself to reshape and heal my mind, but Christ did.”

As impossible as it may feel and seem, Elder Patrick Kearon likewise witnessed this spring that “healing can come through the miracle of the redemptive might of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” He continued: 

Please know that the Savior has descended below all things, even what has happened to you. Because of that, He knows exactly what real terror and shame feel like and how it feels to be abandoned and broken. From the depths of His atoning suffering, the Savior imparts hope you thought was lost forever, strength you believed you could never possess, and healing you couldn’t imagine was possible.

A final word from Diana:

There is a moving story that feels like my life in the Book of Mormon, where Limhi’s people tried to free themselves from Lamanite bondage multiple times unsuccessfully. They finally found their precious escape and freedom after turning to the Lord for deliverance and covenanting with him. 

That story is my story. In the past, I didn’t know how many of these scriptural passages applied to meand so they caused me distress.  With the help of the Lord and rescuing brothers and sisters he has sent into my life, I am learning to “trust in the Lord with all [my] heart.” In doing so, I’ve been able to see how I had been leaning “unto my own understanding.” Briefly praying, but not having a still enough heart and mind to feel or hear the answer, I’d turn instead to searching online reviews to find the perfect professional that would finally help me overcome my mental health issues. After the last one failed to deliver, I cried out in frustration, “I’m done. I don’t know what else to do. I guess I’ll just have to be satisfied with the way I am.” 

But that didn’t feel right. And I continued to entreat Fatherand to spend more time waiting on Him in stillness. As I have learned to seek help from God with all my heart, I have learned for myself how He can truly “direct [my] paths.” Within days, the Lord began revealing the rescuers He had prepared all along to help me more fully come unto Christ for help and healing. With the Lord now directing my healing paths, I have progressed far more in the past three years than I had in the previous 30 years combined. Truly, the Lord is able to do his work in all of us. I witness that God’s work and glory are not only to heal me but to also purify with Living Water my life and the roots and branches of my tree of life. 

I have been a sacred witness to Diana’s healing journey—along with others—and there’s almost nothing that’s been more beautiful. For the many who labor under aching burdens and agony due to another’s cruelty, we together hope and pray that this message of God’s healing can go to all the nations of the earth as part of our witness to the world—not as a mere adjunct and adjacent to the gospel, but at its core.

Special thanks to Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, from whose work much of the foregoing was drawn. We highly recommend his text, “The Body Keeps the Score.”  Some of this material is also excerpted from the Healing from Trauma Journey, found in the Impact Suite apps for personal growth (Climb), depression/anxiety recovery (Lift), chemical dependency (Turn), and pornography addiction (Fortify). To go deeper into the broader picture of trauma healing, check out the two-week journey on fundamentals to trauma healing within each appor check out the full transcript of the videos here. You may reach Diana at [email protected].  

About the authors

Jacob Z. Hess

Jacob Hess is a contributing editor at Deseret News and publishes longer-form pieces at He co-authored "You're Not as Crazy as I Thought, But You're Still Wrong" and “The Power of Stillness: Mindful Living for Latter-day Saints.” He has a Ph.D. in clinical-community psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Diana L. Gourley

Diana Gourley is a Latter-day Saint wife, mother, grandmother, writer, and watercolor artist. She taught middle school English and was an adult literacy university adjunct. Diana now mentors women suffering from anxiety and depression related to trauma and is preparing a memoir entitled, “With the Power of God in Great Glory: Healing the Traumas of Our Day.”
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