NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, The Healing Project.
Fifteen years ago, one of my closest friends committed suicide at the age of 32. The day on which I found out was absolutely and unequivocally the worst day of my life. Time seemed to stop and I felt shocked, sad, and numb all at the same time. I cried and cried until there were no tears left in my body and I felt a depth of pain that I didn’t even know was possible to experience.
Time Heals All Wounds – Or Does It?
The tears and the sadness lasted for a long, long time, but I gradually moved past the depth of my pain and was increasingly able to take comfort in my happy memories of a person whom I felt blessed to have known. Although I don’t know if one is ever completely “over” a loss of a loved one, I thought that I had mostly moved on after the passage of so much time. As the old saying goes, “time heals all wounds.” Or does it? Surprisingly, I recently realized that I may still have quite a bit of grieving and healing to do over the loss of my dear friend.
When going through boxes in our storage unit in preparation for our recent move, I came across what I had labeled my “Joe box.” Shortly after his death, I packed away all of the mementos I had of Joe – cards, photos, etc. – because it was just too painful to have to look at them and realize that I would never see my friend again. I have carried that box with me through a number of moves over the years, but I have never opened it. I didn’t think much about this all those times because I was also carrying countless other mementos and collections with me through my life journey. It’s only now, when I’m making a concerted effort to downsize and become more of a “minimalist,” that I actually thought about going through my “Joe box.” Yet, when it came down to it, I couldn’t bring myself to do it…
Exploring the Issues of Loss & Letting Go
My hesitance to revisit my mementos of Joe surprised me and I feel it bears some examination. For this reason, I will explore the issues of loss and letting go in this post. We have all experienced a number of losses in our lives and they affect us in different ways. Although death, particularly that which is tragic and unexpected, is likely the most painful of all losses, other types of losses also have a lasting impact on our psyches and our lives. Included among these are divorce, romantic break-ups, deterioration of friendships, job loss, and financial loss. Loss is an unavoidable part of life, yet some among us navigate its waters more smoothly than others.
Difficulty in Letting Go…
A friend once told me that I didn’t know how to let go of things and pointed out that I held on to people and things even when they were no longer useful or productive in my life. She was right… I would always try to remain friends with my boyfriends after we broke up and held on to childhood, school, and work friends even when we no longer had much in common. I would keep cards, letters, articles, notebooks, and journals from throughout my lifespan such that these items filled countless boxes in my various homes and apartments. My closets would be stuffed with clothes, some of which I hadn’t worn in years, on the off chance that I might want to wear them again one day. The stuff continued to pile up and I didn’t even question it until recently.
My “Stuff” is Affecting My Health
When I look at my laundry list of health complaints in “You Can Heal Your Life” and examine the probable causes outlined by Louise Hay, I see strikingly similar statements over and over again:
- Holding on to old ideas.
- Fear of letting go.
- A refusal to change.
- Stuck in the past.
- Fear of going forward.
In fact, the probable cause specified for ALL chronic diseases is “A refusal to change. Fear of the future. Not feeling safe.” Since at least a few of my ailments may be classified as chronic, it appears that my inability to let go of the past and move forward courageously into the future is adversely affecting my health. As I’ve failed to get the message of my long-standing health issues, new ones have cropped up to capture my attention.
Clearing Out the Backlog
I didn’t really think I was stuck in the past or holding on to old ideas, but I when I was confronted with all of the stuff in our storage unit, I could no longer deny it! Of course, the physical backlog of “junk” that I’ve been carrying around for many years is not the only build up I need to address, but it’s a start!
Change can occur in any or a combination of the dimensions of our life experience: physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. I have chosen to start with the physical in going through all of my stuff and letting go of that which I no longer need. In doing so, I have begun to free up energy which had been tied up in holding on to so many items from the past. The storage unit is almost cleaned out and we will soon be relinquishing it completely. This is a good first step for me in letting go of my past.
Making the Connection
Back to Joe and the issue of loss… I realize that I need to push myself to go through that box. I need to allow myself to do whatever grieving is left to do so I can move forward in my life. Of course, I do not need to throw everything away or forget a person who meant so much to me. I can and should always remember him, but I should remember him with joy and a light heart instead of sadness and angst.
Up until a few years ago, I would always feel intense sadness on the anniversary of Joe’s death. I commented on this to a friend and she said that if I wanted to honor Joe, I should do it on his birthday, not on his “death day.” Wise words from a wise person!
Facing Things Instead of Avoiding Them
I believe it’s important to face things in life instead of avoid them. There are a number of issues from my past that I have been avoiding for years. Some of them are so buried that I don’t even know or remember what they are, but as I progress with my healing project, I am uncovering different layers of my psyche and addressing whatever accompanying challenges arise. I didn’t realize that I still had grieving to do over Joe, but now that I have unearthed that reality, I must face it head on.
Celebrating a Wonderful Person & A Powerful Bond
I have decided to go through the “Joe box” on what would have been Joe’s 48th birthday this September. I will celebrate his life and our relationship and remember the close bond that we once shared. I will revisit the loss of someone so very dear to me, release the sadness of his absence from my present day life, and embrace the powerful truth that he will always live on in my heart and in my memory.
“I joyfully move on to new levels of experience. All is well.” – Louise Hay