Q & A - WEEK OF AUGUST 9, 2021
Q. MY GRANDMOTHER JUST PASSED, AND I'M HAVING A HARD TIME LETTING GO OF THE GUILT AROUND NOT SEEING HER IN THREE YEARS, NOT TALKING TO HER MORE REGULARLY, AND JUST A LOT OF REGRETS. HOW DO I LET GO OF THE GUILT AND REGRET AND STILL HONOR HER?
Q. I HAVE BEEN FEELING STUCK IN MY LIFE WITH EVERYTHING. CAN YOU PLEASE GIVE ME SOME ADVICE? I'M LETTING FEAR TAKE OVER MY LIFE, HOW CAN I GET RID OF IT?
Q. HOW DO YOU STEP AWAY AND LET GO OF A RELATIONSHIP?
* Please note that all answers are based on the limited amount of information obtained from each question and Ally's personal opinion, experience and interpretation of the question, and should not be construed as medical, mental health, legal, financial, or advice. Ally always encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a professional.
A. First, I just want to say I’m so sorry for the loss of your grandmother and I’m sending you prayers for healing during this time.
As is typical, the answer I’m going to give you is multi-faceted.
And I want to preface this by saying, my response is pretty long, but I wanted to fully flesh out all the parts of this question.
The first layer I want to talk about is the idea of letting go.
I see letting go as a process, it’s not a one time event.
This means that we have to practice letting go in the same way we have to practice learning a new skill.
Especially because this pain and loss is so fresh, you will most likely have to let it go multiple times.
So you may let the guilt go, meaning it leaves your mind or awareness for a while, you feel a sense of relief or a weight lifted, and then you may (and probably will) find that it shows back up again.
It’s normal that these feelings show back up, but I believe that what matters most is what you do with them when they show up.
Which moves us into the second layer of this, what you are doing and how are you treating yourself when the guilt and regrets show up?
Are you beating yourself up? Are you punishing yourself?
Or are you being kind and compassionate with yourself?
If you are beating yourself up or punishing yourself, what does this do for you?
Your initial response might be, that it’s not doing anything for you.
But what I often see is that when someone is struggling with guilt they believe that if they punish themselves, or if they beat themselves up enough, that it will somehow change or make up for whatever it is that they’re feeling guilty about.
On a rational level, you know that it won't change anything, but on a subconscious level there may be a story you're creating around this.
In your case, perhaps beating yourself can make up for the fact that you didn’t see her or talk with her as often as you would have liked before she passed.
The false belief may be “if I can pay enough penance for not showing up in the way I wish I would have, if I can punish myself or feel guilty enough, then eventually I will feel better.”
However, all this does is continue to create separation from generating compassion inside of yourself and it continues to create separation from your grandmother, and ultimately I believe stunts our healing process.
I also think that during the grieving process the last thing we need is to layer guilt and judgement upon ourselves, what we really need to do is generate compassion toward and for ourselves.
The third layer is, “okay now that I realize that holding onto guilt doesn’t do me any good, what do I do?”
I want to give you some practical steps to cultivate and create connection with yourself and your grandmother vs. separation and stagnation as you go through the healing process.
1) The first connection I want you to create is back to yourself.
I don’t want you to spiritually bypass what you’re feeling and jump straight to forgiveness of self.
So I’m going to encourage you to allow yourself space to feel ALL the feelings.
I’d encourage you to do some release writing around it.
For me this is allowing ourselves to tap on each emotion to see what’s there and allow it to come up - real, raw, vulnerably without any filters.
The prompt I would give you if we were working together would be:
When I think about my grandmother passing…
The second way I want you to create a connection with yourself is through generating that compassion for yourself.
I would encourage you to get a picture of yourself as a small child if you have one, and if you don’t, I just want you to visualize yourself as a small child.
I want you to visualize your little girl coming to adult you with these same feelings of guilt and regret that you’re currently experiencing.
What would you say to her?
What would you offer her in that moment of her vulnerability?
Spend some time with her, connecting with her, creating that connection of empathy and compassion.
Finally when you feel ready, (you may have to repeat the above steps more than once before feeling ready to move on) I’d encourage you to write out a letter of forgiveness to self.
I forgive myself for…
I forgive myself for…
I forgive myself for…
Again, you may have to repeat these steps, depending on what comes up for you as you go through the process.
2) Cultivate connection with your grandmother.
I don’t know what your relationship with your grandmother was like, so I’m going to share a few things with you and depending on what your relationship with her was like, they may or may not resonate.
The way that you posed the question, it sounds as if you believe that if you let go of the guilt and regret, you won't be honoring her.
So here are some questions to consider as you think about how you could let go of the guilt and also honor that relationship to her:
Next I’d invite you to write a letter to her expressing your gratitude for her, for the relationship you had with her, and anything and everything you wish you could have said to her.
I know that this is getting rather long, but I have one more thought to offer.
3) Guilt can be an indicator that we are or were not living in alignment with our core values.
In a sense it can feel like a betrayal of self.
I don’t know the details of why you didn’t see your grandmother.
But maybe this feeling is just an indicator light letting you know that in some way you were out of alignment with what you really value.
Because I do believe that our emotions are not good or bad, they are just messengers waiting for us to hear them fully and completely, without judgement.
In this case, can we reframe guilt from being this bad thing that continually pulls you into the past, and instead look at it as something that pulls your forward toward being more aligned with your values?
I know that this was a lot to take in, but I hope that all of this makes sense and that it was helpful.
If you end up going through any of these exercises, feel free to send me an email and let me know how it went for you.
Again, I’m sending you prayers and lots of love as you continue to grieve and go through this healing process.
A. Thank you so much for your willingness to share so vulnerably how you’re feeling.
I fully understand that feeling of being stuck and it is not fun, but the first step is always awareness, so I want to acknowledge and validate that you already have this awareness.
1) The first thing I want to highlight is that we often stay stuck because sometimes it can feel like there are so many directions we could move in to get unstuck and that can feel really overwhelming.
I’m wondering if that’s how it’s feeling for you?
So many options and areas of life that feel like you could make a change, but you’re not sure where to start?
If this is the case I’d encourage you to do a life inventory exercise to see which area you want to focus on first?
Because we literally cannot change all the things all at once, and if we try, we will often give up because of too much overwhelm.
Here’s what a life inventory could look like...
Journal around the following:
1) what's going well,
2) what's not going well,
3) where do you want to be/what you'd like it to look and feel like in the following areas of your life:
Hopefully this will help you to get clarity about how you want to move forward and which area of life you want to focus on, and reduce the feelings of overwhelm.
2) The next thing that came up for me as I was reading your question was the way that you shared about the fear.
You shared about it as something you want to get rid of and as if it is a bad thing.
And I agree that letting fear hold us back from living the lives we want to live can become a bad thing, if we let it rule our lives and control us.
But as I stated in the previous question, emotions are just messengers - I believe they’re neutral and they just want us to pay attention to them without putting labels of good or bad on them.
So, I’m wondering if we can shift your relationship with fear?
Could you potentially see how your fear is protecting you and keeping you safe from something?
Whether that’s a real or perceived threat.
I’m not sure what it’s protecting you from, but if we were working together, I’d encourage you to get more acquainted with your fear, invite it in or when it shows up sit with it, and then ask it what it’s protecting you from?
If it’s something that you no longer need protection from, my encouragement to you would be to thank your fear, because at some point in your life maybe you needed it to protect you from whatever this is, and it just got a little confused on its job description and it stayed a little bit beyond its expiration date.
Thank your fear for the ways it’s protected you in the past and then let it know you don’t need it anymore in this area, but you’ll be sure to let it know if you need it.
Then I’d ask you to make a list of all of the things you’re afraid of and rank them from what brings up the least fear to what brings up the greatest fear.
Then focus only on the thing that brings up the least amount of fear.
Think of one small action step you could take to face that fear.
And just focus on this one small thing for a period of time.
And the reason why I’m asking you to do this because you need to build up your trust muscle within yourself and you do this by showing yourself that you’re ready, willing and able to show up consistently for yourself.
I don't believe that fear every fully goes away, because it serves a purpose in our lives, but we are meant to be in right relationship with it.
I do believe that the fear voice gets less loud, once we pay attention to it, and by that I mean face it and listen to it, vs. running away from it, ignore it, or try to get it to go away.
I hope that this was helpful, if you end up doing either of these exercises, feel free to send me an email letting me know what came up for you.
A. In regards to stepping away and letting go of a relationship, sometimes I feel or I've observed that we think it needs to be this big grandiose or dramatic act of stepping away.
Maybe in some cases it does need to be a complete cut off from the person, or it might involve confrontation or a lengthy conversation, especially if there's any type of abuse.
But more often than not, we can gradually start distancing ourselves from a person, if we don't feel like we want to have an in depth conversation with them about why we're stepping back.
Maybe you’ve noticed that this person doesn’t bring out the best in you, you feel emotionally drained when you’re around them, or they’re not supportive of your goals, etc.
So you’ve decided to create an internal boundary for yourself and while you’re grateful for the role this person played in your life, as you’re growing and transforming you’re realizing that there’s not room in your life for them anymore.
This doesn’t mean that this person is terrible or toxic or anything like that, but you do get to determine who has access to you and how much access they have to you.
Stepping away and letting go without having to overexplain is perfectly okay, because you don't really owe anyone any part of your story, especially if you are tending to and taking care of yourself.
As for letting go, I want to say first and foremost that it is a process.
It is not something that you do one time and then poof you're done letting go.
It's something we have to practice doing over and over again.
Here are some ways that you can practice stepping back and letting go:
I hope that this was helpful and I'm sending you lots of love as you determine what the best course of action is for you!