Support Q & A
Self Shame and Blame: An Old Habit to Break
Dear Ted: My mother died this last year and her death has brought up many issues in my life. For example, I feel that I have wasted time in my life and I regret previous actions that I now find embarrassing. After a loss like I have suffered do many people look back at their lives and feel shame for their past? What is this about and how do I move past this awful self-hatred? Thank you, Turmoil Within
Dear Turmoil; I believe your question is pertinent to many people, whether in the midst of healing from loss or not. Shame and guilt can confine and define you, keeping you imprisoned in an internal jail for actions from the past that you do not feel have served you well or have produced guilt. This “psychic” jail can be overwhelming and lead to feelings of not being deserving enough to enjoy life and reach your potential. However, honoring your mistakes as well as your experiences can allow you to glean the wisdom from the experience and let the story itself be just another episode in your history rather than a trigger that controls many of your decisions and actions in your present life. I like to think of shame as an acronym of “Should Have Already Mastered Everything”. Although on some level we realize that this is not true and we are learning and growing daily, our stubborn psyches can often get in the way of rational thought. We need to give ourselves a break for NOT being a “master of all.” When you stop and think about it, your experiences of the past are what give you wisdom. With this type of thinking, you can realize that all of those experiences and “loss of time” actually act as teachers to help you know who you are! It is as if a large percentage of your choices early in life actually teach you who you are NOT and allow you to become the person you are today.
Grief has no Timeline
I lost a loved one last year in a horrible accident. People have told me I need to heal, move on, and forgive. This has been very difficult for me and I feel I must be doing this entire “grief thing” wrong because I still feel sad and angry. Can you help me out with this quandary? Thanks, Feeling Pushed
Dear Feeling Pushed,
This topic is very important in the emotional healing world and so I thank you for having the bravery to bring it to my attention with your question. Emotional healing has no timeline or measuring stick and whatever loss has disrupted your perception of reality and your illusion of safety is important and real. Loss is lifetime work so to put a timeline on your healing is not fair to you and can actually impede your progress. I can honestly say that over time grief changes and your emotional triggers around grief will not be as sensitive as they may be at the present moment in your life. Finding ways to express your emotions in a healthy manner allow you to heal and grow.
Within the phases of grief there is a place that I happen to call the “unknown”. Within this phase you’ll find forgiveness, healing, compassion, spirituality, self-realization and so on. You cannot force these components of healing into a timeline or equation, they happen over time and with conscious healing from loss.
Forgiveness can be a particularly difficult piece because it seems so “loaded” with meaning. I don’t believe we can force forgiveness -- it is a process of letting go of our anger and finding mindfulness, understanding or just acceptance of our current state of mind. Holding on to anger will only continue to hurt your internal, and, possibly your external world. Often anger is the first relationship you may have with your loss and to let go of that anger may leave you fearful of losing the relationship entirely. However, holding on to the anger only keeps you confined and defined by the events from your past and may leave you in a place of being caught in the past with no energy to be in the present. Allowing time, conscious healing, and finding ways to express and honor your loss while moving into the present can open up new energy and insights allowing forgiveness, grace, gratitude and other emotions that can give you the fuel to fully live and celebrate life once again. You cannot push the river yet you are allowed to navigate the rapids of the emotional world and navigate new passion for life while healing from your loss. Until next time, take care
Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing. Direct any questions to Ted Wiard, LPCC, CGC, founder of Golden Willow Retreat and Clinical Supervisor for TeamBuilders Counseling at (575) 776-2024 or GWR@newmex.com