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How to Let Go of Painful Memories and Find Healing

From pretty early on, I’ve learned to stuff down my painful memories. I didn’t have the resources or the understanding to work through them on my own and so naturally, I did all I could to forget them.

And well into my teenage years, these memories stayed as far down as I could get them. Occasionally they would catch up to me. I’d spent many nights dealing with their heartbreak, but for the most part, I lived daily as if they didn’t exist.

It wasn’t easy, but it was all I knew how to cope with them.

When I learned of Jesus’s love for me, and gave my life to the Lord midway through high school, I began to see myself and my past differently.

How to Let Go of Painful Memories and Find Healing

Over time and because of those who invested in loving me, I began to see that God didn’t want me running from these painful memories.

When we run from the painful memories of our past, we allow ourselves to be wrapped tightly in bondage by them.

And I was in bondage, big time.

[bctt tweet="When we run from the painful memories of our past, we allow ourselves to be wrapped tightly in bondage by them." username="NicoleAKauffman"]

I wanted nothing to do with these painful memories and the powerful emotions they brought with them. But as I grew in my faith, I began to find the courage and the desire to stop running.

I had a few really amazing friends and mentors who stepped alongside me in this process and I began to face these painful memories. 

I want to share some of the ways that I’ve begun to learn to let go of the painful memories of the past. I am still a work in progress and I believe that “letting them go” is a lifelong process.

BUT I do believe that God will bring you peace and begin to restore and redeem this painful parts of your life. So don’t become discouraged and keep fighting the good fight!

First-Embrace Them, Feel Them

One of the most important first steps in letting go of painful memories is to allow yourself to embrace them.

After years of running from memories, I finally had to let them in for all that they were.

As long as they were in the dark, Satan had a hold on them. They felt shameful, guilt-ridden and hopeless.

In order to bring them into the light, I had to acknowledge the painful parts of them.

It wasn’t easy, accepting the hurt and the pain. But as I allowed myself to feel that pain, I began to find peace.

You have to allow yourself the space to feel the painful parts of those memories before you can truly let them go.

If you’ve been running from the painful memories of your past, or if you’re like me and you stuff those memories down, I want to encourage you to allow the door to be open in God’s timing.

Don’t force it open, but pray that God will direct you as you open your heart to the possibility of embracing the painful memories of your past.

Taking Every Thought Captive

If you are in the process of letting go of painful memories, you must be ready to take every thought captive to Christ.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. -2 Corinthians 10:5

This means that you must commit to surrendering each of your thoughts to the Lord. One of the biggest roadblocks to letting go of painful memories is: rumination.

When you ruminate on something, it means that you think it through over and over again in an unhealthy way.

I have spent years ruminating on painful things and it has gotten me stuck in the pain and wallowing.

God wants us to see our pain for what it is. Satan wants us to see it as bigger and all-consuming. Which will you choose?

The next time you find yourself thinking about painful memories, consider whether you are thinking in a healthy way or in an unhealthy and ruminating way.

In the Light

Letting go of painful memories does not mean that you will never feel the pain of them again.

I wish that I could say that as I’ve faced them, I’ve moved past the pain. I haven’t.

We live in a broken world and the memories of how this brokenness has impacted our own life will not disappear.

But, we can view them in the light of God’s grace and mercy.

As you work through them, in prayer, in counseling or therapy, with mentors and friends, you will begin to view them within the hold of God’s unfailing love and grace. And as you do, the pain will fade.

I love this song as I consider the painful memories in my own life.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full upon His wonderful face
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

As you surrender your painful memories to the Lord and cling to the light of His grace, you will find hope and joy, even in the pain. God is working to redeem and restore your heart right in this very moment.

How have you seen His grace in your life this week?



  1. Hey Nicole! It was so great meeting you tonight. Thanks for sharing, you write so beautifully and from your heart! Thanks for being open and vulnerable and sharing your journey! Keep it up!!! ❤️

    1. Thanks, Charity! It was great to meet you too 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement! I love seeing all the pictures from your life in Turkey. Hope to see you again! 🙂

  2. It’s important to only open up to a mature Christian who loves you unconditionally. If you open up to just anyone about your pain, you can actually make your life way worse with way more pain. We should ask God to point out to us who He will work through to help us process the pain.

  3. Great advice, Nicole. Ruminating is the enemy of healing, isn’t it! The words of that hymn are beautiful truths on which to meditate instead. Of course, as you have pointed out the important thing is to bring them out in the light and look at them in view of God’s mercy, grace, and sovereignty. He can and will use everything for good if we’ll do that.

  4. “You have to allow yourself the space to feel the painful parts of those memories before you can truly let them go.” That is so hard to do, but yes, it is so essential if we want to truly lose our chains. Thanks for sharing of your courage, Nicole! It helps us all be a little more brave too.

  5. We can’t let go of the pain until we embrace it! When painful memories of the past haunt me, I like to look for what God was doing in the midst of it…that’s the nugget I want to hold on to. So much truth here! Blessings!

  6. We can get so tied up in our hurts in life. We hold grudges and we can’t let go. This post was very valuable to me. Thanks for sharing on the #LMMLinkup this week.

    1. Wow yes. Helpful article for me as I navigate through recent painful memories. Thought I had forgotten well enough and moved on but nope! Back at square 1 now. Pain is real. So hard to face it and let yourself experience the memories and work through them.

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