I met a lovely little dog yesterday, and her name is Sophie. Sophie is 12 years old, deaf, and just as smart and sweet as can be. When her owner picked her up, Sophie seemed to melt into her arms. Sophie was so completely content and trusting in her owner’s actions, I could actually feel it.
I then learned that Sophie had a traumatic past. Her new owner actually rescued her from near euthanization just one year before. It was such a trip to me because without knowing about her past, it seemed like Sophie and her owner had been together forever, and that Sophie hadn’t experienced one second of fear or pain.
Actually, someone had told Sophie’s owner that it takes dogs six months to forget trauma. Whether or not that’s true, I love the way that idea sparks my imagination. Here’s what’s delicious about it to me – why can’t I (or can I?) be dog-like in that way? What if I gave myself six months to grieve/be pissed/hurt about my non-preferred experiences and then move on, healed, renewed and better than ever?
In my case, I was a pro at holding on to resentment and hurt. After experiencing my own trauma as a little one, I held on to it for decades. I kept all of it secret, and my pain jumped from back burner to front burner at different times, but it always stayed with me.
I used to think that if I started to cry, I’d never stop because my pain was so deep. To me tears equaled death. However, once my choice became face the pain or die (yes, I went to the cliff’s edge), facing my pain didn’t kill me, it ultimately freed me! By facing it, I mean safely releasing my anger and hurt (with harm to none, including myself) without judgment.
It felt like I found the formula to release hurt and reconnect with my good feelings (and, by the way, this formula isn’t new, nor is it a secret). I use this formula all the time. Sometimes I “get over it” very quickly, especially when it’s a minor annoyance. And even when I give myself six months (or however much time I think I need) to get over the bigger hurts, invariably I move through them more quickly.
One time I was particularly heartbroken and I allowed my pain to just be. It was simmering inside of me. I let myself feel it without judgment. I felt a pang in my heart for months. Then one day it just bubbled to the surface. I was driving my car, and the song “Since I Fell for You” came on, and my feelings came to a head.
It felt like a dagger pierced my heart. I started crying. And crying. Then I stopped crying. And then I started crying again. I played that one song over and over again whenever I was in my car. Sometimes I would scream, other times I would cry, talk aloud and even laugh. Whatever my emotions needed to express, I let them out safely. I was “in it,” if that makes sense.
I played that one song for about a week. I immersed myself in it and just let my emotions out. All of them that had something to say – about my heartbreak, him, myself, and whatever else – got their turn.
I could literally feel the cloud over my heart lifting. My pain was diminishing and I started to feel a sense of lightness again, or perhaps I lightened up first, which, in turn, soothed my pain. Whatever it was, it happened gently and naturally. My emotions simmered down around my breakup and pretty much went away for good.
I didn’t need to play the song over and over anymore. Actually, I got sick of it. I was done grieving! From that moment on, whenever I think about that breakup, it is now simply a fact. It was an event that had occurred in my life, and now without pain attached to. Actually I was (and am) very grateful for the relationship. I keep with me what I learned, liked and disliked about it, and I continue to let it teach me more about myself. It is very, very cool.
Something tells me I’m not alone when it comes to holding on to painful experiences. Suffice to say, to transform it in six months or less for me means immersing myself in the pain (emotionally speaking) until it naturally heals. I’d still live my life while doing it. I’d still work every day, enjoy my family and friends, and allow my feelings to ebb and flow without judgment and with harm to none, including myself. I would acknowledge and embrace my unfulfilled expectations, and that’s how I break (what feels like) a spell of sadness that I’m under.
Now, when it comes to smart, sweet and trusting little Sophie and those six months, I read that because dogs totally live in the moment they don’t remember past trauma unless something happens that triggers it. I’m thinking that perhaps Sophie’s current environment is so peaceful that she is just completely chilled out. There’s no longer fear and pain, just love.
If only it were that simple for humans – to have a peaceful and trigger-less environment in order to forget all the pain. My experience is that it doesn’t happen that way… I used to find triggers regardless, even if they were only in my mind and I’d relive painful experiences over and over again.
But what if we allowed ourselves to feel the pain with the intention of getting through it rather than avoiding, judging or trying to ignore it? Why not embrace hurt and sadness, giving them some attention just as we would a more pleasant and likable aspect of ourselves? After all, they do coexist. We can feel pain alongside joy, curiosity, etc.
What if you face your pain and tell yourself the truth about how you feel about it with harm to none, including yourself? What if your triggers only summoned the memory of the event with no pain attached to it? I believe it is possible for you, and possible to live each moment, having been enriched by all of your non-preferred experiences.
At all times, I wish you Sophie’s unwavering contentment and love!
If you’ve ever suffered the loss of a loved then you understand that there are times when getting out of bed or up off of the floor seem impossible. It doesn’t matter if it’s a day after their passing or months later grief takes over and there seems to be absolutely nothing you can do about it. What you’re experiencing is not only natural, but in my opinion, a necessary part of healing. That doesn’t mean however it’s easy.
Easy isn’t word in my vocabulary when it comes to my grief. Grief comes in waves. Sometimes it’s a gentle ache and other times it knocks me to the ground, literally, and I find myself sobbing in a corner of the room.
I use to tell myself that I needed to be strong. I am alone now and Jack isn’t physically here to help me through this. Not long after his death, in the middle of a crying jag, I realized that feeling this pain was an important part of the healing process. After all how could I pretend to be strong when I was standing alone for the first time in decades?
We have the right to feel every moment and the very depth of our grief. Losing the love of your life, a child, a parent or a best friend, irrevocably changes your life. They are no longer a part of what you’ll experience from this point forward and that hole in your heart if huge. The key however is in recognizing all of that.
Rather than trying to buck up and be strong I tell myself, as my tears flow, that I need to have this experience. I need to feel the grief to its fullest. Yes, it drains me and yes, I come through it feeling down and blue… but I come through it and so will you. It’s when we fight it or berate ourselves for being overwhelmed by it that our energy gets tied up in feeling bad about ourselves instead of feeling bad because our loved one died. Can you see the difference?
Grieving has everything to do with the loss. That is natural and honest and necessary. Berating ourselves is a choice and one that is unnecessary and hurts us even more.
So when you are on the floor next time say to yourself, “I need to feel every part of my grief.” Let the tears flow and the pain overwhelm you. As it starts to abate, even just a little, remind yourself that this is all part of your healing and a natural part of life. You will get through it… as you need to for you.
With love, Cheryl
One of my talented and sensitive friends talks about a client who is hard to please. The first time she cut his hair, he complained about it. She was certain he wouldn’t return, but he did. At his next visit he expressed dissatisfaction again. And yet, he would keep coming back to her for haircuts.
He was also flaky. He would text her to call him and then not return her call. She didn’t want to continue cutting his hair because every time she saw him, she’d end up feeling badly about herself in some way.
It’s like, “Mr. Grumpy, if you don’t like the way she cuts your hair, stop going to her!” But, obviously he liked going to see her. Perhaps he’s just a glutton for punishment, or he might be someone who is only happy when there’s something to be unhappy about. Who knows?
We’ve talked about it and can’t figure out why Mr. Grumpy keeps coming back. She could just cut to the chase and ask him why he keeps coming back if he’s unhappy with the way she cuts his hair, but that would be too easy. Sometimes she prefers to bear a burden or take one for the team than put someone else on the spot.
Another choice she could make is to stop cutting his hair altogether, but she’d rather work through a challenge than slam the door on it. I look forward to seeing how it goes. Perhaps one day when he walks in she will be detached enough to allow him his grumpiness while she stays in her optimism. That’s the positive wish, anyway.
So we talked at length about that challenge. Exactly how could she use this opportunity to stay in her optimism? I have heard it said that for anything someone says to us that hurts our feelings, it takes us hearing at least seven positive things about ourselves to counteract that hurt. So, just to get back to neutral takes some doing for us! (By the way, I believe it has to do with our neuropathways being set that land in a certain place, such as a habitual thought we may have about ourselves being no good in some way. I don’t have a source to cite, so if you know of this research or information, feel free to drop me a line).
So we decided to conduct an experiment. It was her task that whenever she sees Mr. Grumpy, she will:
- Notice when her mood starts going south.
- Identify the habitual belief she has about herself when dealing with him (such as: “I’m not a good hair stylist”).
- Tell herself seven good things about herself, such as:
- “I love being a stylist”
- “I am excellent at what I do”
- “I am kind”
- “I am caring”
- “I am a good friend”
- “People love to come see me”
- “I am thoughtful”
As she stays diligent about checking in with herself in this way, maybe when Mr. Grumpy walks in the door she will immediately associate it with pouring extra love on herself. She can be free – she can release her attachment to wanting Mr. Grumpy to change while she reconnects with her optimism whenever she wishes! We’ll see how it goes.
Do you feel badly about yourself when interacting with certain people? Since you cannot change them, why not take control by being extraordinarily kind to yourself? You deserve that.
If you are willing to say at least seven nice things to yourself when you’re feeling badly (and yes, be creative and make it fun!), you will find yourself feeling better… and faster!