Learn to heal and move forward from painful ‘unresolved stories’

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category icon Columns, Opinion
Jill Pariera, LICSW

An unresolved story is something in your past that you are stuck on. It could be a painful memory that comes up when you least expect it. It could be something that is halting you from moving forward in any aspect of your life. Unresolved stories are associated with pain, and result in lack of growth and positive movement in your life. Many people who have unresolved stories feel confused about why they are in that space and unable to move forward. Maybe you have everything going for you but you don’t feel like you’re getting ahead. Maybe you feel overwhelmed with sadness and you can’t figure out why you can’t move forward from it. Maybe you are constantly telling yourself you don’t deserve good things and you can’t understand where those words are coming from.

As you read this, are you saying “that is me!”? Or, maybe you know somebody in that space? Many of us have been there. Many of us have unresolved stories from things that happened a lifetime ago, and some of us have painful events that have happened more recently. Regardless, there is hope to move forward and resolve your story by writing a new narrative.

Changing your narrative about an unresolved story is work. This will only happen when you put intentional effort into the process. You may be wondering, “how do I do that?” As you go through this process, it is helpful to keep a journal or maybe tell yourself aloud a new truth about your story.

The first step is to reflect back and identify a painful event or series of events in your life. This is very personal and subjective: What may be painful to you may not be painful to somebody else and vice versa. Examples of painful events include the loss of a loved one; loss of a relationship; a physical, emotional or sexual assault; attachment trauma; abandonment; infidelity; family discord; or even a confusing upbringing. Truly, this list is endless. Many painful events lead up to not feeling worthy or not feeling like you are good enough or safe enough.

Resolving your story means changing your narrative about an event. By changing your narrative, you can come to a place of acceptance and healing — you can move forward. This is different than “getting over it” in that you are giving yourself permission to heal and find new meaning.

I’ll give a brief example: One person’s untold story may be that they were abandoned by a parent when they were a young child. Their narrative is that this happened because they were a bad child. Now they are an adult and they can’t figure out why they have difficulty in relationships; they are fearful of being left, they are clingy and “needy” even though they are successful in all other aspects of their life. This is an unresolved story. It is a stuck point. For this person to move forward, they need a new narrative to that story. Maybe they start journaling about this and realize they were not abandoned. Maybe they realize the parent left because of their own mental health issues; or maybe that parent did the best they could at that time in their life. This person then develops a new meaning to their story; they heal and realize nobody else in their life has left them. They know they are worthy of people staying. They change their narrative and they resolve their story, so they can move forward.

You can begin your own journey as soon as you’re ready. It is never too late or too soon. There is hope for healing, finding meaning and moving forward in your life.

Jill Pariera graduated in 2012 with a master’s degree in social work from Portland State University. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Washington and Oregon. Jill has a long history of working with children and families in the Head Start system, where she held positions of teacher and family advocate. Her post-graduate experience includes working with chronically homeless veterans suffering from a variety of mental illnesses and working with military members and their families. Jill can be reached at