Making Peace with Your Past

 

You tell your friends that you’re over it. That you’ve moved on and that the past no longer matters.

Yet, you still can’t seem to let go of the pain after a loss or break-up. You can feel the anger bubble up and take hold when you least expect it. Even a random commercial on TV can set you back and leave you in a puddle of tears.

You want to be over it, but the emotions remain churning below, waiting to erupt like a volcano.

We’ve all been there.

Often we want to rush to let go of the past without having allowed our emotions their moment in the sun. We wish we could simply bypass the hard part – which is feeling the intense pain. 

So instead of leaning into our feelings and allowing them to be there, we stuff them down hoping that if we simply tell ourselves that we’re ok, that we will be.

For so many of us, connecting with our emotions can be a difficult process. We may have been told that showing our emotions is indulgent or that it’s somehow weak to sit with our pain.

 

The truth is that you can’t heal what you can’t feel.

 

After my divorce, I simply wanted to be done with my ex-husband. We even had an agreement in our divorce decree that we were not to speak after the divorce was finalized.

But that didn’t stop my grief from showing up in waves. We had been together for 18 years and it was inevitable that my loss would demand to be heard.

Letting go of the things we held together and grieving the loss of who we were, what we might have been and what would never be didn’t just end on the day we signed our divorce papers. 

No, sometimes the grief would show up like a sucker punch to the gut – being reminded of some aspect of our marriage out of the blue, would take me right back to the throes of the emotion.

For example, when I left my marriage I also left the dog we once shared. Leaving my dog was one of the more painful aspects of my divorce. To accept that I couldn’t bring the dog with, I had to grieve him as if he had already died.

So, six years later when I received word that our dog had died, it was as if a wound was ripped back open. I had to mourn the loss of my dog again – and with it, my marriage. After all, for my ex and me, the dog had been the last link to one another.

 

So many of us want to put a final period on the past and move on.

 

We want “closure” so we can draw a clean line and move on. But truth be told, I don’t really believe in such a thing as 100 percent closure. 

Yes, I agree it’s important to let the past go – but  I don’t think that growth is linear. 

Many of our issues and our hurts come back from time to time. We might work out an issue and believe we’ve let it go, but then out of nowhere . . . there it is again. 

And instead of recognizing that it’s only normal to have hurt feelings come back up, many of us use these moments to beat ourselves up – like we haven’t done “enough” to let go or that we haven’t somehow done it “right.”

We treat grief and recovery from grief as if it’s a destination rather than an evolution.

Most of the time when the issues we’ve consciously worked on come back, it’s because a new layer of that issue needs to be addressed. And rather than stuff it down, we can use the opportunity to give our emotions their stage so we can move through our feelings and allow them to heal.

At this point in my life, I’ve become incredibly conscious that feeling my feelings is the best way to move on and find peace.

Instead of resisting and holding my pain inside, I’ve learned to give my pain a voice. I respect each emotion and give it the space it needs so that I can truly move beyond my past and step more consciously in the future.

The same can be possible for you.

If you are currently stuck in the pain and loss of a past relationship, here’s an exercise from my book Permission to Put Yourself First that you can use to help move you beyond the pain of your past and make decisions that support a healthy future.

  1. Grab your journal and begin by airing your grievances. Think about your relationships over time and write down all your resentments and complaints. Write freely and allow yourself to see what you’re still holding on to. 
  1. Next, let yourself simply feel whatever emotions are present as you reflect on what you’ve written. It’s understandable if you feel vulnerable during this process, so be gentle with yourself and use this opportunity to simply “be” with your emotions without any judgment or blame. 
  1. Then, acknowledge your own role in these situations. How have you contributed to your current circumstances. This last one might be harder, but for me I had to own that throughout my marriage, I fell into a pattern of constant people pleasing because of fear or habit. 

This last piece is essential so that you can see the patterns, learn the lessons and make new choices for yourself in the future!

As you work through this process, you’ll be able to let go of the things that keep you anchored in the past and step more boldly into a future of your own design!

And again, if you’d like to see the complete exercise and find additional prompts to help you make peace with your past, check out my new book Permission to Put Yourself First!

xo
Nancy

P.S. My book, Permission to Put Yourself First, was released yesterday in paperback and ebook! If you’d like to see the exercise outlined here in more detail, as well as others like it that can help move you from the bottom of your personal list to the top, then grab your copy today!

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