The healing happens gradually.

That was the first thing that came to mind as I watched the sun rise over the Atlantic this morning. As the moon lovingly receded and the stars slowly died and the sky surprised itself pink with dawn.

And then I thought: Be soft.

I thought this as I thought about forgiveness on the path toward wholeness and that the integrity of our spirit cannot be based on anything but love. This as the sound of the waves washed over me, cleansing my heart.




After twelve years, I’ve returned to the Outer Banks to make peace with some things, as well as pay my respects. It’s storm season now and the waves appear busy with a certain kind of determination. A hardy resolve that reminds me of birth, as well as the strength and endurance that help us remain.

I first came to these shores the summer after my mother passed away, and it was a time of great nurturing and peace I remember. I spent my time kayaking the Alligator River and inland marshes. I also made jewelry and served coffee at a local coffeeshop. And each morning I ran or walked along beach and I ate well and I didn’t drink too much. I wrote letters and ate ice cream and everything had an easy feeling. And once, I even held hands with a girl for her first time stepping into the ocean— a moment which touched me with the wonder of motherhood, to share such a precious first time.
However, a more honest portrait of that summer would describe myself as a young person who was unable, and likely unwilling, to dip her toes into the murky waters of bereavement. Because instead, I sliced the hurt part of myself off, reserving it for later, as if it were a piece of pie and another scoop of ice cream. Except, the unmanaged well of grief is wildly unpredictable, and the damage is both enduring and systemic.


Suffice to say, after that summer, I stepped off of the path of integrity and into a long phase of fear. Years of unresolved grief relentlessly surfaced, overwhelming me with feelings of blame, regret, and pervasive self-mistrust.

And I think we are never more strangers to ourselves than the moment we lose footing in integrity. When we disconnect from our inherent goodness. When the lights in our hearts have gone out.

This can happen to any any of us. Loss of any kind inserts itself into our hearts and starts rearranging things. Where self-worth deserves attention, feelings of failure and estrangement move in. Where love is needed, the architects of fear, such as anger, regret, resentment make plans. Even shame makes an appearance and total discomfort roots. All the while, we deceive ourselves into thinking that the range of our experience is not wholesome. Not perfect.

But the problem with perfection seeking is that it keeps us stepping forward and backward and sometimes sideways in a tireless search for an aesthetic of wholeness. A search which only renders us lost, alone, and fearful, limiting the extent of our authenticity.

Suppose then, what if all desire, all of that searching, is really an effort to return home?

I grew to be an expert runner from any uncomfortable feelings, as well as quite tragic and artful at self-sabotage. The most immutable interpersonal conflict was that I didn’t always align what I said with how I was feeling. This made being involved with me (on any scale) difficult, while my true self was somewhere far away and distant. However, the peak of my disengagement surfaced in recent months, when I was overcome with periodic thoughts of ending my life. Twelve years is a long time to be searching and I was tired.

I would come to understand that returning home would require many things. Such as the healing work of time, total presence, and more importantly forgiveness. Though, it would also require a startling level of compassion. Some might even say bravery or courage. I think it starts with truth.

That’s how I started writing. More than just catharsis, writing has served as an invitation to look honestly and gently at my experiences, as a means integrating them into who I am today. It has also helped me create strength from perceived weakness. Strength to fuel more substantive, clear, and loving contributions to my peers and my surroundings. It’s a rich, truth-seeking process rooted in my own wisdom. The same wisdom we all have, where instead of being victims, we are teachers.


Integrity helps us keep our feet, while also helping us commit to goodness. It stitches together our insides and our outsides, enabling us to experience a true consonance with nature. And in the sea of our thoughts, integrity is the current that runs below it with intention, veracity, and innocence. Integrity is the invitation to return home.

We can no sooner settle ourselves than the moment we realize our communion with nature. And that the essential truth of all nature is love. If we can allow a deep and profound self- love to be the helm of our integrity and test everything against it, we may find that we experience peace in our spirits and forgiveness starts with forgiving the self. And maybe then can we lovingly listen to the waves.


Jocelyn M. Ulevicus is a writer, painter, novice photographer and wanderer. Her work wishes to tell stories in a capacity for which to assign a meaningful, accessible, and loving language to themes of loss, trauma, and heartache. Her work can be viewed on her website:; IG @beautystills; or she can be contacted directly: She currently working on a collection of short essays.

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