If there is any advice that I could give you that is vital to your health (besides forgiving, that is) it is to NOT cry over the past. And not just cry, complain. Or visit it daily. Or stress about the could haves, the should haves, the would haves. When pain happens, crying is a perfectly acceptable response. But crying about the past years later is only self-destructive. The only time we should be reflecting back on the past is to visit good memories, or perhaps visit a lesson we learned. It should not be a place to go to visit hurtful, painful events or conversations. Accept the past is gone, because no amount of wishing or lamenting over what happened in the past will ever change it. At the end of the day, all that matters is what you have learned from the past. Your past will not resemble other people’s past – everyone is exposed to different families and life events, so please don’t compare yourself to others. That can open another whole can of hurt. You only have one life to live – YOURS, so don’t ever compare your life and your life story to another.
PAIN IS REAL
No matter what is in your past, your pain is real. You are not over reacting. You have genuine emotions that do need to be validated. Pain can happen in so many ways. It can be caused by lying, betrayal, a loss, a relationship break up, gossip, abuse. It’s important to work through the causes of our pain, and then slowly deal with it. Everyone grieves in different ways, so we can’t be compared to anyone else. The only thing that I want to point out – is that until you forgive the person who caused the harm, you will not be able to heal. Did you read that? You will NOT ever heal or “get over it”, or be able to “let go” – UNTIL you learn how to forgive. Please remember that forgiving is for your health, and for you to be able to move on in life. It isn’t saying that what happened to you was okay, far from it. You forgive for you, and that’s it. You can forgive someone even if they never apologize. When you forgive, you cut the cord holding the two (or three, or more) of you together. You are deciding that the event that took place can no longer hold any emotional power over you. If you choose to stay angry, then you are choosing poison. It will kill you, over time. Anger, rage, revenge, hostility, all those things will consume you and cause irreparable damage to your body, and your emotional state. Why choose anger over love? It doesn’t make sense to me. Your brain decides what to do, not your emotions, so don’t let the angry thoughts win. No matter what was done to you – you can choose to forgive and walk away from the pain of the past. It doesn’t need to hurt you or haunt you any longer.
PACK UP YOUR PAIN, AND FILE IT AWAY
What we need to do is learn to forgive, pack up our pain, put it in a box, file it away in the deepest corner of our minds, and tape it shut with duct tape. Or gorilla tape. Or whatever tape you have that makes it impossible to open up without a packing knife or scissors. Imagine a long corridor five miles long. Take your pain package, trek down to the end, open the door, toss the box inside, and then LOCK that door. Then you can throw away the key. Seriously. Toss it. You do not need to open that door again. Those memories don’t need to be opened again, because they are not happy memories. There is no need to visit them. Think of a broken arm. If you broke your arm today and had to wear a cast, a year from now when it was completely healed, you wouldn’t deliberately choose to break it again so you could remind yourself how painful it was. That’s silly! But yet we harm ourselves just as much as breaking our arm every year when we keep revisiting painful memories. Your brain cannot tell the difference in time. It can’t tell that the event didn’t just happen. Your brain will re-live and give you all the same emotions you had the day the event happened. OUCH! Don’t do that! Don’t re-break your arm, just so you can dwell on the pain again. Don’t revisit the past hurt. Don’t revisit painful abuse. What you need to do is forgive, and then pack up those memories, and file them away.
YOU CAN RECOVER FROM A LOSS
Yes, yes you can recover from a loss. When someone close to you dies, it’s painful. It’s really awful to lose a parent, and it’s devastating to lose a child. It is also seems impossible to deal with a miscarriage, but you need to move on, and not stay stuck in grief. When people get divorced or separate, it is a loss of relationship. We all grieve in different ways, and there is no right way or wrong way to grieve. The only thing that I would say is it is harmful staying STUCK in grief. It is not a place to live. Of course everyone has to deal with their emotions, and it’s up to you how long you stay there. Some take weeks, some take months, and some take years. However, if you are still stuck more than five years after a painful event, you should probably seek some professional help. When my dad was killed by a drunk driver, I was able to easily forgive, and I wasn’t stuck at all. Of course I miss him, and every time Father’s Day or his birthday comes around, I think of him. I also remember his death date, but I do not have any anger or pain associated with his death. I truly forgave the man who killed him (by accident) and so I don’t have the pain. I had an ectopic pregnancy and lost twins. The story is long and complicated, and was the final event that caused me to end my marriage and file for divorce. But yet, I don’t agonize every year on the anniversary of that death date, and I chose to forgive my ex for all the hurt he had caused me. It took me much longer to forgive myself, so I just didn’t snap out of it. No – it took me over a year to heal. Time does heal, it truly does, but it goes hand in hand with forgiving, whether it’s yourself, or someone else. I think it’s healthy to allow yourself to feel what you need to feel, but it’s NOT healthy to become depressed and be gloomy every year on that date. That is not living. When you allow your thoughts to keep opening up that box on the anniversary of painful events, you are poisoning yourself, and it will make you sick. Acknowledge your feelings, but then pack them away. Instead, on that date choose to remember something positive. Switch the script that your brain plays. Instead, why not say, “I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity of getting pregnant. I’m thankful for my husband. I’m thankful for friends that love me. I’m thankful for my health”. “I’m thankful I’m not in that relationship anymore.” Whatever is helpful, focus on that instead. Don’t lose yourself in grief, over and over and over and over again. It’s not healthy, and it’s certainly not healthy for those with whom you live. Grief can seriously damage relationships, so if you are struggling with it right now (no matter what it is) I would strongly urge you to get help. Counselling can help you tremendously, but remember, it is your choice to forgive that will actually heal you, and heal your pain and make that loss easier to bear.
FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN DO
Instead of focusing on your disappointments, choose to find new things to do or accomplish. Sit yourself down, and change your life goals and plans. Nothing ever stays the same that I can assure you. You never know if someone is going to get sick, be in an accident, have a failed marriage, have kids disown and ignore you, get fired, or live to 85 years old. We have no ”for sure” things in our life, other than we need to eat and sleep to live. That’s it. Everything else is up in the air. Where we live, who we marry, if we have children, our career, our pets, where we live – it can all change at any time. We need to become flexible if something doesn’t go the way we want it. My hubby and I in the last year tried to sell our house and move to Vancouver Island (where, coincidentally Prince Harry and Meghan just moved) – a lifetime dream. What happened a week after listing? The real estate market crashed. We had the most desirable home in our neighbourhood, the only house with three levels and a legal basement suite. Even though we had multiple buyers come and look and say they were going to make offers, nothing materialized. Not.EVEN.ONE.Offer. However, I also need to point out that we also prayed extensively about this move, and we said to God, “if you don’t want us to move, then please don’t allow anyone to make an offer”. So – instead of being angry about not being able to make our dream happen (and it really was a beautiful lakeside home on property with acreage where we wanted to move) we are at peace about it, because we feel we are in God’s will. What you choose to think about will dictate your life. If you choose to always focus on hurts and disappointments, you will never be happy. If I stayed stuck and complained and was angry about not being able to sell the house, then I would become resentful every time I pulled up in my driveway. I don’t need to keep talking about the failed house sale. I don’t need to keep complaining about the housing market. I don’t need to pine about the “what could have been” in our new place. Forget that noise! I am grateful for my beautiful home, and it doesn’t matter to me where I live. I can rejoice, be happy, and love my friends and family NO MATTER WHERE I LIVE! Learn to focus on what you CAN do, and leave the disappointments of what didn’t work behind. Once in a while I do think of the beautiful house we made an offer on, but then I pull my thoughts back to my blessings that I have now. You will harm yourself if you keep wishing for what didn’t happen in your life. Learn to train your brain. You have the power, and you can do it. It takes discipline, but that’s what makes us strong.
LEARN FROM YOUR PAST
Life is so much easier if you can just accept that you made a mistake, and own up to it. Don’t let a mistake slip through, and then keep on repeating it because it’s easier to leave as is, rather than admit you were wrong. A mistake calls for an apology – no matter what the mistake. It could have started off as an innocent white lie, or it could have been an actual bald-faced lie. Whatever the mistake (and mistakes are not just restricted to lies) make sure you don’t repeat it, or it WILL become a habit. All we have is our integrity people. If you don’t have integrity – what do you have? Your word means nothing. You cannot ever be trusted if you don’t have integrity. We should all strive to have our integrity remain intact. However, if you mess up – own that mistake, and carry on. There are consequences for our actions, but that doesn’t mean you have to beat yourself up the rest of your life because of that action. Allow yourself to fail, but then get back up. Ask for forgiveness, and move on, instead of staying in the rut of mistakes.
THE PAST DOES NOT DEFINE WHO YOU ARE
You are NOT your mistakes. Read that again. Seriously. Because we live in a fallen world, we can’t help but make mistakes. We are not perfect. We get angry. We yell. We mess up. We sin. We fail miserably. But we DO have forgiveness, phew! God always forgives us when we ask. Because none of us can be perfect, we need to cut ourselves some slack. Yes, we may have royally messed up, but that doesn’t mean we’ve ruined our lives, or that we are horrible people. We need to remember that our actions have consequences, but those actions do not define us as a person. Some of us have a wonderful childhood, and had parents who loved us, cherished us, and encouraged us. Some of us have had terrible parents, who mocked, ridiculed, and abused us. We don’t have a choice of what kind of family we are born into, but we just have to learn and make the most of it. Some people become damaged because of what happened to them in their toddler years.
Have a look at this quote:
“Beliefs fuel all of our choices. When we don’t like the consequences of our actions, we must turn inward to shine a light onto the unhelpful unconscious beliefs we formed as children. Only awareness can help us find and soothe them. Only understanding can help us make sense of them. And only compassion can help us forgive ourselves for the patterns we unknowingly perpetuated.” ~Marlena Tillhon-Haslam
A lot of the things we do are because of habit, and what we saw modelled for us growing up. If we had road rage parents, we probably road rage. If we had courteous parents who said please and thank you, we probably say please and thank you. If we had parents who didn’t think we measured up, then we will act like failures our whole lives. What we think about ourselves is important. The worst thing you can do is say your life is ruined. No it isn’t. If you believe that, you are believing in a lie. No life can be ruined by someone else, or by you. You may have events that happen that are awful, but it didn’t ruin your life. It may have caused damage, but you can move on from that. Every day is a new day to start afresh, with new friends, new relationships, new jobs, new pets, new you name it. No-one’s life is ever ruined. Change your thoughts, and change your life.
IF YOU HAVE A PAINFUL PAST
I want you to know that you can heal. Don’t beat yourself up because you feel you made wrong choices. Don’t beat yourself up for the mistakes you made. Don’t beat yourself up for the mistakes you allowed. You cannot change anything about the past, and it is useless to stay there, pining forever for something that can’t happen. It’s like dropping yourself in the middle of the ocean, and wishing you had bought a boat. You can float for a while, but eventually you will get tired, and you will drown. That’s what happens when you stay stuck in your past. You’re drowning, but on dry land. You need to learn how to forgive, and you need to forgive yourself first – because you won’t be able to have and experience other relationships if you hate yourself or others. We all have pain, each and every single one of us. So, be careful not to fall into a victim mentality and think you are the only one who suffers. I have heard so many times, “but you don’t know what happened to me.” No, I don’t, but I can assure you that pain is pain. Whether it’s the pain of divorce, or the pain of death, or the pain of abuse – it’ still pain. We can’t measure our pain against someone else. All we can do is see how different people respond to pain, and that reflects the kind of person we are. Some are resilient, and bounce back, no matter what happens. Some forgive right away, and move on and have successful lives. Some stay angry, and they are filled with bitterness and anger. And THAT is the only difference to pain. How we react. There is a quote that forgiveness is only for the strong, because weak people can’t forgive. That isn’t an insult, it’s true. You are in charge of your thoughts, and so it is your will that decides to forgive. If you decide you like staying angry, and want to complain and be bitter the rest of your life, complaining about things that happened over a decade ago, then yes, you have a victim mentality, and will probably stay stuck until you die. That’s not strength, that’s weakness. I may seem harsh pointing that out, but it is truth, not my personal judgement.
GIVE YOUR PAST TO GOD
The best advice I can give to you is to give your hurts over to God. Just hand them over. He is big enough, he has big enough shoulders to lean on, he is strong enough to carry you AND your hurts. He holds your tears, he knows exactly how you feel. Just talk with him, and ask him to carry all your hurts, because you cannot carry them anymore. Then once you have dropped them off, forgive those who caused your wounds. Forgive each and every person. Write down a list of every offence you were carrying, and choose to one by one forgive each person who caused you harm. Once you have done that, you will feel like a weight has lifted. When you bump into that person again, instead of feeling anger and rage, choose to smile and be kind. You are capable of doing it, oh yes you are. It’s a matter of your will, not your emotions. Just as you get up and get dressed in the morning, training your brain to think different thoughts about someone is also easily done. Once you start, it becomes a habit. Whenever you think of an old enemy – train yourself to say only positive things about them. “I like the car they drive”, or “I like the style of their hair,” or “I like their shoes”. Whatever it is that you can find to like about them, think that instead. What will happen after years of positive thinking thoughts towards someone who hurt you, is that you don’t even think about the hurt anymore. It’s gone – because you’ve forgiven them, and you haven’t allowed yourself to trek down the five mile hallway, search for the missing key you tossed, unlocked the door, and ripped open the box with scissors that you taped shut with gorilla tape, and filed away. Instead you’ve chosen to walk down NEW hallways with new memories instead. Now, that is living, don’t you think?
CRYING IS OKAY, AND NORMAL
Crying is okay, we need to grieve. It is healthy to cry and to release our pent up emotions. What isn’t healthy is to stay stuck. If you need help getting out of grief, please seek help. Please feel free to contact me as well, as I will pray for you. I am not a counselor, but I can and will certainly pray for you!
SAY GOODBYE TO YOUR PAINFUL PAST
I encourage you to wrap up your painful memories right now. Forgive, and then forget by filing them away where you can’t easily reach them every day. You ARE strong enough to do this. Say it, and believe it.