We never know what curveballs life is going to throw at us, and while we think we can somehow prepare ourselves, when they hit, we often realize how little control we really have in our ability to deal with them head on.
This is not to say that we can’t ground ourselves in faith, positive thoughts, and a belief in our ability to overcome hardships, but the point is, there’s not always a dress rehearsal for life events.
Dave and I said goodbye to our sweet Allie five weeks ago, and while I knew it was coming, nothing could have prepared me for the pain and heartbreak I would experience. She was my baby, and her loss has left an emptiness inside of me that I’m still trying to comprehend.
And while it’s tempting to distract from and try to push down the pain, I’ve learned over the years that the only way out of it is through it. Which is why the greatest gifts I can give myself are those of grieving and tender self-care.
I pushed all the extras, such as social events, social media, emails, blogging, and dinners with friends to the back burner, because I simply had nothing left to give, so I didn’t. I said no when I needed to and didn’t pretend that I was okay, because I wasn’t, and am still not.
And in a world that tells us that our worth is based on productivity, I put on my sweatpants, closed my computer, and laid on my couch.
Feeling sets you free
For most of my life, I used to be terrified to feel certain emotions. I had come to believe that I couldn’t handle them or that I’d get stuck in them if I allowed them to be felt. As a result, I needed an outlet so I turned to counting calories, obsessing over my weight, and chasing every last food fad I could find.
Doing so kept me from feeling. It gave me something to control, and in my mind, as long as I had the “perfect” body I had a sense of security and could keep life in order. Oh how wrong I was.
Fast forward to dozens of therapy sessions later and I now know that feeling my emotions and letting them move through me is not only healing, but freeing. It also helped me to set my body free so it was no longer held responsible for letting me down or disappointing me.
It doesn’t mean I won’t feel the pain of Allie’s loss for months and months to come, but it does mean that I allow my mind and heart to touch into that pain so that I can process it and move forward.
Not allowing an emotion to do so, can keep it trapped inside of us, taking shape in ways like anger, resentment, anxiety, or, as many of my clients have experienced, an obsession with their weight or turning to food to distract from what they don’t want to see or feel.
And the truth is, while these things look like self-sabotage, they’re simply our minds’ and bodies’ misguided attempts to protect and comfort ourselves from what they view as a threat.
I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t like feeling sad or down, but the more I fight or resist these feelings, the more they persist, and that’s just too much a burden to bear.
I don’t know where you all are today. Perhaps you too are struggling with heartache, loss, or are just going through a difficult time. And no matter what, I encourage you to meet yourselves where you are, and allow for what needs to be felt.
A good cry? Kind, supportive words from a friend or family member? Saying no to something or someone? A hug? Or maybe just an evening on your couch.
No matter what it is, I encourage you to be tender, gentle, and kind with yourself and to connect with the deepest, inner most part of yourself that needs you right now; see what’s there waiting for you.