“Grief is healthy and it is healing.” ~Richard Moss
When I was a little girl there was this belief floating around in my head that there was only one person. One person who was my soulmate. One person who could love me. I think the belief was formed by some concoction of Disney movies, religion, and American culture.
What’s worse than this belief is that I somehow found myself afraid that I wouldn’t even have one person. I was afraid I would be alone. Forever.
I don’t know when I adopted the belief that I wasn’t enough, that I might not find someone, that I was unlovable. My mom did her best to reassure me, but it didn’t quite do the trick.
Self-love is the work we have to do ourselves. No one else can give us that gift, no matter how young we happen to be.
Into my third decade of life I did the deep work that led me to discover what it actually meant to love myself. My life transformed in so many incredible ways, and then I no longer worried about whether there was someone out there who would love me. I knew I was lovable, and by more than one person.
At some later point I met a man. I liked him, but there were some red flags. He was a bit flaky, and he lacked the ability to communicate maturely. I was about to walk away, and then suddenly everything changed. The red flags turned green, and we pranced off into the moonlight.
That red lack-of-communication flag never really turned green. Nothing had actually changed. He just hid who he really was until he felt suffocated and invisible. After almost a year of living like this he left me with no warning.
For a long time I felt so much pain that my entire being melted into sorrow. I fell into a deep depression and reached out to a spiritual teacher who wrote me this:
Please do not indulge any thought that attacks yourself or even your ex-boyfriend. Grief is healthy and it is healing.
I wrote back to this teacher that I wasn’t indulging in negative thoughts, that the pain was so overwhelming that I felt no anger, just the deepest sadness I’d ever felt.
I spent a lot of time in bed feeling my pain, crying, and thinking. This was a man who I was building a life with. This was a man I opened my whole heart to. This man showed me love and support like I’d never experienced before. And then he swiftly took it all away. As I lay in bed for days with a churning mind the stories began to surface in whispers:
See, I am unlovable. He didn’t think I was worth loving. I’m not enough.
And the stories grew louder.
“Please do not indulge any thought that attacks yourself.”
The stories we tell ourselves that deny the essence of who we are may be so deeply rooted that we’re unconscious of their presence. I was attacking myself. Each time I allowed these beliefs to hold an ounce of truth I was attacking myself.
So I worked on loving myself instead. I worked on seeing the truth of who I was in each moment. The truth I found was this: I am worth loving. I am enough. I am lovable. I am beautiful. I am whole. All of this is true right now, in every single moment I am living.
A few months into my grief, the anger began to surface, and I started to vilify him. I was tired of feeling the pain, so my mind created stories about him to make me feel better. I told myself he was incapable of loving me, that he couldn’t allow me to be fully me. I thought about how he was a selfish person for treating me the way he did.
“Please do not indulge any thought that attacks yourself or even your ex-boyfriend.”
My teacher was right. Those stories didn’t do my ex justice. They didn’t honor the time we shared together. And they didn’t actually serve me. They were a weak tool to help me avoid my pain.
The truth is simply that he wasn’t my person anymore. And that didn’t make him wrong. It didn’t make him bad. I didn’t have to turn him into a villain to heal my wounds. I didn’t have to diminish my pain or justify his actions. I could simply allow for the pain and allow for the healing.
“Grief is healthy and it is healing.”
That breakup took me down, down, down. It made me forget who I am so I could find myself again. It was the greatest gift I have been given in a very long time, and it took me many months to recognize the gift at all.
Grief is healthy and it is healing. I didn’t need to make up stories to ease my pain because the more I hid from it the more it had a hold on me. Instead, I chose to let the pain wash over me. I allowed it to teach me. That’s how grief can become a gift.
We don’t need to hold on to old lovers, torturing ourselves with “what-ifs” that don’t serve us.
We don’t need to condemn ourselves for being imperfect, for being too much, for not doing all the right things.
And we don’t need to denigrate the people we have loved because they hurt us.
I have never been more confident that I will have an incredible partner in life one day. You can too. But first you have to let go of that story, whether you’ve adopted it as a child or created it to feel less pain as an adult. Stop shrinking yourself down because you won’t let go.
Allow for the grief so you can begin to truly heal. Through healing you will grow more fully into yourself, and from that place you will discover the truth. Release the burdens of storytelling. You don’t actual need them. You are strong enough to heal on your own.