I've learned some incredible lessons as a result of my biggest source of emotional pain: the grief and loss of my beloved father.
My father taught me many things with and without knowing it. His greatest ability was his strength during the years he was sick. It has been just over 5 years since the anniversary of his death and this year I wasn't sad but grateful. This year I had perspective. This year I knew I had both his strength and mine to carry me forward and live another amazing year.
I truly believe that people come into and out of our lives to teach us valuable lessons about ourselves. Some of the lessons I've listed here took me months or years to fully comprehend. It was a slow and gradual process of changing my internal beliefs about myself and what the grief I was experiencing was there to teach me. The lessons I have provided here helped me overcome victimhood and to truly own and understand the emotional pain and experiences I needed to let go of in order to start living my best life.
Here are three lessons I've learned so far:
1.There is strength in vulnerability.
I used to think that hiding how I felt was the best way to get through tough times. My best friends were repression and denial and the voice inside my head was consumed with repetition of "you're fine, act fine." I remember feeling so broken on the inside and the thought of anyone else knowing that was terrifying to me.
What I learned was that "acting" fine until completely disassociated from emotions is not fine, it is actually one of the most toxic things you can do for your mind, body and spirit. Repressing emotions has serious overall health repercussions. There is nothing fine about not feeling emotions. It took me a long time to give myself permission to feel the emotional pain I was experiencing. I really avoided it as long as I could until I realized it was my responsibility to take action for my own happiness. The first step was to be vulnerable with myself and to witness my emotions with compassion and without judgement. I had to start with myself otherwise I couldn't take action and make changes if I didn't know how to be real with the people who could help me.
Dropping the mask and processing emotions require courage and strength because you are allowing the brokenness within you to heal. I will not lie it is frightening, but not as frightening as remaining broken by your unhealed emotional wounds.
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.”
- Brené Brown
2. Forgive yourself for the choices you made while you were grieving.
If you are in a human body, you have definitely made mistakes, experienced negative emotions, and have limiting beliefs about yourself. I often wish I was exposed to healthy Emotion Focused Coping habits from the get go but the reality is, I was not. And just like so many people I somehow decided to get myself into habits that allowed me to escape from my reality and fill the void of loss.
Sometimes life experiences can be too painful. I believe that the root of all addiction is avoiding. Looking back, I realized that I was scared to be vulnerable with my emotions. Why? Because I did not believe I could trust myself to handle all the pain in a healthy way, without all the "stuff" I was using to cope. And I also did not know how. When I became aware and started to seek out other healthy ways I came to know and love one of the presuppositions of NLP; that everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they have available. This applies to everyone, parents, friends, and yourself. Forgive yourself and have compassion for the choices you made when you didn't know better, or knew better but didn't choose differently. Forgiveness is the key, and now that you know better, you can do better.
"Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain. Whatever the substance you are addicted to - alcohol, food, legal or illegal drugs, or a person - you are using something or somebody to cover up your pain." -Eckhart Tolle
3. Forgive your loved one for dying.
Forgive your loved one for dying. Forgive them for triggering your deepest fear of being alone. Forgive them for leaving you to start a new life without them even though you would give anything to have them back. Forgive them for making you feel that you have to hold onto the grief and pain to keep them alive. Forgive them for possibly contributing to their own death by a lack of awareness. Forgive them for leaving the world before you could say goodbye. Forgive them for breaking your heart and for leaving you to collect the pieces.
Most importantly, forgive the part of you big or small, that wanted to die with them. The part of you that did not want to live without the person you love. As hard as it is, you're already doing it. You already have for days, weeks, or years now. This transition has no timeline. I challenge you to honour the courage and strength that it takes to pick yourself up when you're down. I challenge you to live with purpose simply because you can.
When I think about my dad, I know he would want me and the many who loved him not to drown in the grief he left us with, but to rise up not only for him, but for ourselves. To recognize that the resolution and peace many are looking for come with the simple act of forgiveness and willingness to detach. Life moves with or without us and it is our choice to participate. When you make the conscious decision to start participating in life without your loved one, you are giving them the greatest gift; the gift of liberation, love, and growth.
“If you truly want to be respected by people you love, you must prove to them that you can survive without them.”
-Michael Bassey Johnson, The Infinity Sign
The truth is that everybody dies. Everyone at some point will experience the loss of someone they love. No one escapes the pain that death can bring so own the pain, honour it, and allow it to move you. Maybe to see the world in a different light or to see yourself from a different perspective. Keep the memory alive without dwelling in the loss.
I believe that when life experiences leave us completely shattered it is an invitation to rise up and face life’s challenges whatever they may be with grace, strength, confidence, and support from others.
"Don't run away from grief, o soul. Look for the best remedy inside the pain. Because the rose came from the thorn and the ruby came from a stone."- Rumi