A woman who opens her heart to love you, when it’s already broken, is braver than any person you’ll meet. – Steven Benson It takes more than just effort to pick yourself up from a fall. It is only natural to fear experiences that have […]
We put in so much effort to remember happy occasions (e.g. birthdays, wedding anniversaries). We mark these dates in our calendars, save reminders on our phones, take pictures, post them on social media and even make the occasional “throw-back” reference. Despite these efforts, it’s inevitable that one day, we might not remember these moments as vividly or as spontaneously as we have before. Naturally, we get occupied with living life, hustling through daily tasks, creating new goals and making newer happier memories.
So why is it difficult to forget the not-so-great moments? No one makes the effort to remember the bad times. If it was up to me, I would never have to relive those memories again. As Brene Brown wrote about numbing emotions “We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” I suppose memories work the same way. Our brain is not wired to select between favourable and unfavourable memories. However, not all memories are created the same, the memories that our brain tends to store are the memories that have the strongest emotion associated with it. Emotional events are more accessible than non-emotional events. It is a form of human survival through self-protection.
Today marks one year of my break up. Loss anniversaries can be difficult as we may have flashbacks and re-experience several uncomfortable emotions. Remembering is also our brain’s way of processing a traumatic event. Emotion processing is a normal and unavoidable part of grief (i.e. loss of safety, familiarity, trust, friendship, etc.). Days leading up to today has been an emotional roller-coaster ride because flashbacks are NOT fun.
To anyone who may be re-experiencing unwanted emotions, through flashbacks and triggers of places and events, here are some things I’ve learned in taking care of myself:
- Be kind to yourself by focusing on your progress. Despite the discomfort and setbacks, I am doing much better than I was a year ago today.
- Be kind to yourself by NOT comparing progress. Loss affects everyone differently, so do not ever compare. Comparisons are not only a thief of joy, but it is also an unfair way of validating yourself. We cannot truly know what someone is going through by looking at photos or through their social media updates. We tend to only broadcast positive moments. You won’t be able to truly know the feelings someone is experiencing without talking to them.
- Be KIND to yourself. Surround yourself with support, do what your heart desires, find comfort in things that ground you. Give yourself permission to “ask for help”, consider seeing a psychologist that specializes in addressing issues on trauma or grief.
- Practice gratitude. Honour and be thankful towards those who have loved and supported you on your journey. Be grateful to being alive and to having new opportunities to live your best life.
- Stay present. Focus on what is in front of you. The time and situation are no longer the same. The worse is already over.
Feeling beautiful is personal and for some an ongoing journey. Feeling beautiful differs from looking beautiful because feeling beautiful needs only to be validated by one person.. YOURSELF. Recently, I reflected on my own ideas of beauty and how it had contributed to deep seated […]
“It takes a lot more courage to let something go than it does to hang on to it, trying to make it better. Letting go doesn’t mean ignoring a situation. Letting go means accepting what is, exactly as it is, without fear, resistance, or a struggle for control.”
— Iyanla Vanzant
I always knew it would be this hard to say goodbye. Ten years is a long time to give someone. In the past decade we became part of each other’s family and adopted each others quirks and habits. We grew together and understood all the ins-and-outs of each others temperaments, our fears and desires. We were truly transparent with each other, I did not think there was anything to hide or be embarrassed about. Unfortunately one day (5 months ago to be exact), this relationship came to an abrupt stop.
My heart was broken into a million pieces and my trust in everything I knew about him, myself and my world was completely gone. The hardest thing to admit, was that hanging on still felt like an easier option than letting go. Someone once told me “there is nothing scarier than fear itself” and although I have always agreed, I have a whole new understanding of the reality of fear.
To others it did not make sense.
Why hang on to someone who broke all the boundaries in a relationship? How can you still love ‘that’?
Truth is, it did not make sense to me either. It is true that we tend to judge ourselves in the most unforgiving ways. While I was waiting for my heart to catch up with my head, my intellectual self began to despise what I was feeling…sad, fearful and doubtful.
The fear in letting go is far greater than logic. I hung on to this relationship despite knowing it was time to “move on”, despite knowing I struggled to be happy, and despite knowing that things were becoming unhealthy. I know I am not the first person to feel ‘stuck’. I am not the first person to feel abandoned and betrayed in a relationship. It can truly happen to anyone. Familiarity brings comfort and comfort always feels good. Here were my personal fears of letting go that got much bigger than anything I else I knew I wanted and need. Maybe it rings the bell for you too?
1. I feared that I had failed.
When you invest so much time and energy into someone, you want to be right about them. You want to be right about the hopes and expectations you have built together. When things began changing I started questioning my decisions and my knowledge about him and our relationship. I was looking for reasons for our pain and explanations for our behaviour.
Fear held me back from accepting that:
- The only certain thing in life is change, and that is OK. People change, hopes and expectations change too.
- We both had a role in the quality of our relationship. It was not all me, and it definitely was not all him.
- We are responsible for our own behaviours.
- Love is not enough in a relationship.
2. I feared that I was unlovable.
I should not be surprised but feeling unworthy and unlovable became ingrained in me. Similar to many co-dependent relationships, I took on the caretaker role in this relationship because being needed made me feel wanted. We developed an unhealthy routine that his well-being, his needs and desires always came first. Although I did not believe that his needs were more important than mine, I found satisfaction in being the one to ‘rescue’ and help him as his reliance on me increased. I was stuck in a constant cycle of satisfaction and grief.
Fear held me back from accepting that:
- I am worthy of love. I am extremely loved by many people.
- We cannot change people, we can only love them.
3. I feared the unknown.
I love being spontaneous and I would not say I am one for constant routine. When I was 21 years old, I left the comfort of my childhood home, traveled half way across the world and began a new life. I made new friends, created a home and found new purpose. Yet it happened to me. I was stuck because I feared the unfamiliarity of no longer having him in my life. There’s a comfort level that we develop in a relationship even though it might not have always been the healthiest. I found comfort in the predictability of our arguments. I found comfort in his physical presence, even when he was the source of discomfort. I feared the unknown of dealing with loss, because grieving really really sucks!
Fear held me back from accepting that I could grieve. That the future is bright and although it is uncomfortable, I will be able to live with the sadness that I have lost my best friend and a love in my life.
Grief and loss is an unavoidable experience in life. Many say ‘time heals all wounds’, but I’d like to emphasize that it is what we do with the time to help us cope. I took a long break, I allowed my heart to hurt, and most importantly, I tried allowing my heart to lead. It has been one of the hardest, and most emotional experiences I have had to face. I am now diving head first to confront fears I have avoided for years. Most days I am praying so hard for this journey to end. Yet, there are glimpse of moments when I’m starting to see the light at the end of this very dark tunnel. A light that seemed like it would never come. A light full of hope, peace and joy that this journey even started.