5 Ways to Let Go of Past Hurts

 

The only way you can accept new joy and happiness into your life is to make space for it. If your heart is filled full-up with pain and hurt, how can you be open to anything new?

1. Make the decision to let it go.

Things don’t disappear on their own. You need to make the commitment to “let it go.” If you don’t make this conscious choice up-front, you could end up self-sabotaging any effort to move on from this past hurt.

Making the decision to let it go also means accepting you have a choice to let it go. To stop reliving the past pain, to stop going over the details of the story in your head every time you think of the other person (after you finish step 2 below).

2. Express your pain — and your responsibility.

Express the pain the hurt made you feel, whether it’s directly to the other person, or through just getting it out of your system (like venting to a friend, or writing in a journal, or writing a letter you never send to the other person). Get it all out of your system at once. Doing so will also help you understand what — specifically — your hurt is about.

We don’t live in a world of black and whites, even when sometimes it feels like we do. While you may not have had the same amount of responsibility for the hurt you experienced, there may have been a part of the hurt that you are also partially responsible for. What could you have done differently next time? Are you an active participant in your own life, or simply a hopeless victim? Will you let your pain become your identity? Or are you someone deeper and more complex than that??

3. Stop being the victim and blaming others.

Being the victim feels good — it’s like being on the winning team of you against the world. But guess what? The world largely doesn’t care, so you need to get over yourself. Yes, you’re special. Yes, your feelings matter. But don’t confuse with “your feelings matter” to “your feelings should override all else, and nothing else matters.” Your feelings are just one part of this large thing we call life, which is all interwoven and complex. And messy.

In every moment, you have that choice — to continue to feel bad about another person’s actions, or to start feeling good. You need to take responsibility for your own happiness, and not put such power into the hands of another person. Why would you let the person who hurt you — in the past — have such power, right here, right now?

No amount of rumination of analyses have ever fixed a relationship problem. Never. Not in the entirety of the world’s history. So why choose to engage in so much thought and devote so much energy to a person who you feel has wronged you?

4. Focus on the present — the here and now — and joy.

Now it’s time to let go. Let go of the past, and stop reliving it. Stop telling yourself that story where the protagonist — you — is forever the victim of this other person’s horrible actions. You can’t undo the past, all you can do is to make today the best day of your life.

When you focus on the here and now, you have less time to think about the past. When the past memories creep into your consciousness (as they are bound to do from time to time), acknowledge them for a moment. And then bring yourself gently back into the present moment. Some people find it easier to do this with a conscious cue, such as saying to yourself, “It’s alright. That was the past, and now I’m focused on my own happiness and doing _______________.”

Remember, if we crowd our brains — and lives — with hurt feelings, there’s little room for anything positive. It’s a choice you’re making to continue to feel the hurt, rather than welcoming joy back into your life.

5. Forgive them — and yourself.

We may not have to forget another person’s bad behaviors, but virtually everybody deserves our forgiveness. Sometimes we get stuck in our pain and our stubbornness, we can’t even imagine forgiveness. But forgiveness isn’t saying, “I agree with what you did.” Instead, it’s saying, “I don’t agree with what you did, but I forgive you anyway.”

Forgiveness isn’t a sign of weakness. Instead, it’s simply saying, “I’m a good person. You’re a good person. You did something that hurt me. But I want to move forward in my life and welcome joy back into it. I can’t do that fully until I let this go.”

Forgiveness is a way of tangibly letting something go. It’s also a way of empathizing with the other person, and trying to see things from their point of view.

And forgiving yourself may be an important part of this step as well, as sometimes we may end up blaming ourselves for the situation or hurt. While we indeed may have had some part to play in the hurt (see step 2), there’s no reason you need to keep beating yourself up over it. If you can’t forgive yourself, how will you be able to live in future peace and happiness?

When Grieving a Sudden Loss

There are always two parties to a death…………….the person who dies and the survivors who are bereaved…and in the apportionment of suffering, the survivor takes the brunt. Any loss of a loved one is tragic and painful, but when death occurs from a sudden, unexpected cause such as an accident, natural disaster, suicide or murder, the reactions of the survivors in coping with their grief are more intense and varied than they may be following a death that occurs after a prolonged illness. An unexpected loss brings with it factors that do not normally exist when death is anticipated. Not only must the survivors cope with feelings of grief, but they often have to cope with intrusion into their mourning by the media or with the vagaries and slowness of the criminal justice system. Other factors adding to the burden of an unexpected death are the lack of an opportunity to say goodbye or to plan for the financial future of the family left behind.

No Time to Prepare

Regardless of the cause, a sudden death deprives the survivors of “anticipatory grief.” This is the grief that begins when a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness. It helps prepare the survivor for the coming loss and reduces the intensity of the psychological reaction to the eventual death.

Violent Death

The mind has trouble comprehending sudden, violent death. Deaths involving violence or mutilation are particularly traumatic because of the frightening feelings—ranging from terror to anxiety to powerlessness—which they engender in the survivors. Often the violence of the act resulting in death arouses strong feelings of hostility in the mourner, causing severe internal conflict leading to guilt, shame or depression.

Suicide

Family members of someone who has committed suicide also face special burdens. Many family survivors of suicide have higher levels of guilt, shame and anger than do survivors of sudden loss from other causes. Persons grieving a loss through suicide are often left with questions, such as why their loved ones killed themselves, and what, if anything, they might have done to prevent the suicide. These questions are often unanswerable and can prolong the process of grieving and coming to grips with the loss.

“Natural” Causes

Heart attacks and strokes are major causes of death in this country, and these deaths are often sudden and unexpected. The sudden loss of a loved one, even from these “natural” causes, can be as unexpected and devastating to the survivors as the death of a loved one from a murder or an accident.

Emotional Challenges

What most, if not all, survivors of sudden loss have in common are a series of emotional challenges, including:

  • Disruption of family functioning
  • Redefining of responsibilities and roles within the family
  • Challenges to the survivors’ belief systems
  • Financial change
  • Public intrusion into private anguish
  • Lack of opportunity to say goodbye and resolve other “unfinished” business with the deceased
  • Hurt—often inadvertent—caused by the well-intended words and actions of other family members and friends.

The Six Rs

There are six mourning processes that survivors of any loss must go through in order to achieve a “healthy accommodation” of the loss.  Survivors of sudden loss often have a more difficult time with one or more of the processes, which are identified as “the six Rs.”

These processes are:

1. Recognize the loss. Acknowledge that the loss has occurred and understand it.
2. React to the separation. Survivors should allow themselves to experience the pain and give expression to their feelings of loss.
3. Recollect and re-experience the deceased and the relationship. However, the recollections should be realistic, both good and not so good.
4. Relinquish the old attachments of the deceased. This involves the attachments of the deceased, not the survivors’ attachment to or feelings for the deceased. For example, just because the deceased’s clothes have been donated to charity doesn’t mean that all memories have been disposed of as well.
5. Readjust to move adaptively into the new world. Survivors need to adopt new ways of continuing on with their lives while not forgetting their old ones. Survivors never fully detach their feelings for the deceased and that grieving should not be looked upon as a means of letting go of the person who has died.
6. Reinvest. Survivors need to re-establish close personal feelings with the living.

There Is No “Right” Way to Grieve

Survivors need to be patient with themselves. Mourning is an individual process that should be done at the survivor’s pace, and not be dictated by friends or family.  There is no “cookie cutter” approach to the grieving process.

Grief is “an uneven process” with no timeline. The circumstances of the loss, as well as anniversary dates of the loss, are significant for the survivors and should be acknowledged.

Grievers need opportunities to share their memories and grief. They are not best left alone and they do need support. Don’t tell survivors to take their mind off the loss or to keep busy.

Becoming Active Again

Survivors of sudden loss should not dwell on the negativity of the event, but rather turn their response to the loss into a positive, active experience. She suggests that a survivor grieving over the loss of a loved one from an accident, campaign for tougher safety regulations. The family of a murder victim could campaign for victim’s rights. And a survivor could positively respond to a sudden loss caused by illness by becoming active in the fight against the disease.

Believe that the loved one’s death was not in vain.  Something positive will come from it. No one experiences or copes with a loss in the same way, but when the loss is sudden and violent, the emotional and behavioral characteristics are intensified. It is this intensity that must be focused upon so that normal reactions to the psychological trauma of sudden loss do not become the foundation of a dysfunctional lifestyle for the survivors.

Live life from here on out, the way that the person you lost, would want you to.  That will bring honor to that person.

 

Coping with Grief

How to Handle Your Emotions

Traumatic events are a shock to the mind and body, and lead to a variety of emotions. Coping with grief takes time, help from others, and the knowledge that grieving isn’t easy.

Grief is an emotion that takes time to deal with, but you can get through it and, eventually move on. Grieving is a healthy response to tragedy, loss, and sadness, and it’s important to allow yourself time to process your loss.

Coping With Grief: The Range of Emotions

Grief doesn’t just happen after someone has died. Any traumatic event, major life change, or significant loss — a rape, a divorce, even major financial losses — can cause grief. Throughout the grieving process, you may find yourself feeling:

Guilty
Sad
Angry
Fearful
Disbelief or in denial
Depressed
Numb

Coping With Grief: Accepting It

Don’t try to run away from it; rather, face it head on.  Acknowledge that something traumatic has happened and that it has had a profound effect on you. Give yourself time to grieve, but seek help when you need it.

Coping with Grief: Finding Help

You may want some time alone to process your thoughts and struggle with your grief, but it’s important to recognize when you need help from others.

You might need more help if you find that, after some time, you are not able to get back to normal activities, you have trouble sleeping or eating, or have thoughts and feelings that interfere with everyday life.

A grief counselor or other therapist may be able to help you cope with grief, and finally start to move past it. Getting your grief out in the open is an important first step.

Talk about it with someone — a friend, family, a support group. Support groups can be wonderful. There, you can relate to other people who understand your situation, and you can get advice on what helped them through their grief.

Of course, expressing your emotions doesn’t have to be done out loud…..write about it.  Rather than allowing thoughts to swirl in your head, put them down on paper. This is a great way of getting out your feelings if you are shy or embarrassed about sharing them with another person.

Coping With Grief: Getting Closure

Closure is also an important part of coping with grief and may help you move through the grieving process.

Depending on the event, developing a ritual to say farewell may be helpful. We have funerals when someone dies and they are a healthy step on the road to acceptance. Rituals can be helpful for other traumas as well.

Coping With Grief: When Will I Feel Better?

There is no set timeline for grieving. And unfortunately, you may never completely get over your loss. But your loss shouldn’t keep you from enjoying life, even with occasional periods of sadness.

Let yourself grieve as long as you need to. You do have to resume normal life, but know that it’s going to take awhile.

Look for small signs that you’re coping with grief and getting past it. Happy times signal that you’re progressing. When you realize that you aren’t always dwelling on the sadness or don’t think about it as frequently as you once did, that means that you’re finally moving on — at your own pace.

Your mind and body need time to grieve after a traumatic event. If you deprive yourself of the grieving process, you may find that you have more difficulty accepting what has happened or that unresolved feelings and issues may flare up later on. Allow yourself to feel sad and even selfish; eventually, you’ll find yourself feeling better a little bit at a time.

Even though part of you may always feel sad about your loss, you’ll find yourself happy and laughing again one day.

Getting Through the Grieving Process

Emotions can be overwhelming in the midst of grief – so much so that just “getting through” each day is difficult. During this time, it’s important to remember that there are no guidelines for the recovery process. People heal in their own time and in their own way.

  • Don’t be in a hurry to get through the grieving process. Allow yourself to do what you feel you need to do from day to day.
  • Know that it is not a betrayal to the memory of your loved one to begin the healing process.
  • Honor your loved one by talking about his or her life and sharing what you will miss the most.
  • Ask yourself what the deceased would want you to do.
  • Find a meaning and a purpose for being here.

Consider the following when you experience a loss in your life:

Give Your Emotions Free Rein
“Initially, you may feel as though you’re living in a fog, simply going through the motions of day-to-day life as if on autopilot.  You may cry so much that your eyes feel parched. It’s OK to spend days where you do nothing but cry. Or, you may be surprised to find that you’re not crying at all. Neither reaction is right or wrong; it just is. If the latter is the case, you may feel a surge of guilt wondering why you can’t even eke out a tear for someone you cared so much about. The spectrum of emotions that you may experience is huge. It can range from shock and numbness, to fear and panic, to anger and resentment.

Sometimes this can be magnified if you have unfinished emotional business with the person who died. You didn’t get to say what you wanted to say, or you didn’t hear the “I’m sorry” or “I love you” that you desperately needed to hear. Or maybe your goodbye did happen, but not the way you planned.

It’s hard to accept that a future without your loved one is your new reality; the mere thought of it can make you feel amazingly empty and alone. The yearning for their presence may feel as if it is going to consume you. As a result, you may refuse to get out of bed, want to go off alone somewhere, or push others away. “You may think being alone will ease the pain, but it rarely does.”

You May Struggle with Your Faith
You might feel a sense of spiritual emptiness, or feel that you were betrayed by your faith, or experience feelings of bitterness, anger and disappointment in your religion. After all, if the God you believe in is so good, how could he take away something you loved so intensely? How could he allow a senseless or violent death to occur? This is painful and confusing and something many, many people experience — especially when innocent children are the victims.

Expect Guilt to Arise
Guilt may also factor in during the weeks and months after a loss — guilt over being unable to save your loved one or about just living your life. At some point you will likely catch yourself laughing or relaxing. It’s natural to actually start to feel better at some point after grieving a loss. It’s also natural to feel guilty about it. You may think, “How can I stand enjoying myself when my son is dead?” If you realize that a day has gone by when you didn’t think about your loved one (which may or may not happen in time), you may feel guilty that you’re “forgetting” him or her. If it takes a short amount of time to recover from a loss, it doesn’t mean you only loved a little. The depth, breadth, and longevity of your grief are not a reflection of how much you cared about the person.

Forgiving Yourself After the Loss of a Loved One

If you are suffering from feelings of guilt after the loss of a loved one, even though the death was not your fault, here is advice on how to forgive yourself so that you can move on.

  • Know that it isn’t uncommon to play the “What if?” game: “What if I could have stopped it?” “What if I had only known the accident would happen?” “What if I could trade places and it could have been me who died?” etc.
  • You may also find yourself feeling guilty if you catch yourself smiling, having a good time or simply enjoying life after your loss.
  • Although there is no set timetable for grieving, if a substantial period of time has passed and you are still not allowing yourself to move on past the grieving process, allowing yourself to be crippled with guilt for something that was not your fault, ask yourself why.
  • Understand that in any situation, even one like this, people don’t engage in a behavior that they don’t get a payoff for. Is the fact that you can’t move forward a payoff in itself? If you feel the only connection that you have with the deceased is your grieving, could that be a payoff? Is the guilt a payoff? Are you punishing yourself because you feel you deserve to be punished for being a bad mother/sibling/friend/spouse because you let your loved one die?
  • If you won’t move on past the grieving process because the grief is your current connection to the deceased, ask yourself how terrible it is that your precious loved one is being remembered as a legacy of pain that you choose to carry around. You’re focusing on the moment he/she died instead of on the moments he/she lived and the joy that he/she brought to your life. Isn’t that a terrible burden to place on your loved one?
  • If you want to forgive yourself, understand that guilt is all about intention. Is there a bone in your body that wished or intended for something bad to happen to your loved one? If not, why are you feeling guilty?
  • There comes a time when you have to say, ‘Enough is enough. If I give up the pain, I’m not going to lose him/her.’ How long you grieve or how deeply you hurt does not reflect how much you loved. The fact that it’s been two, five or 10 years and you are allowing yourself to live life doesn’t mean that you love him/her any less. It doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten your loved one.
  • When you are ready to let go of your guilt and grief, it may help to speak out loud to your loved one, expressing your continued love for him/her while affirming your decision to let go of the grieving process: “I love you, but I have to let you go. I will love you until the day I die, but I’m going to let you go.”