Have you ever experienced something and once you were done with it, you were left in a state of complete and utter bewilderment?
A breakup. A fight with a best friend. A disagreement with a coworker.
During it you speak slowly, try not to overreact, and do your best to stay calm. You struggle to maintain every meager ounce of self-control. You try to distance yourself from the sudden flood of emotion that is washing over you, try to give pause and to stop yourself from the very real possibility of completely losing it. You bite your tongue. You fumble your way through it without saying anything mean, or rash, or unforgivable. You maintain the appearance of calm rationale, and afterwards you are left sitting there like a deflated balloon.
What the hell just happened?
Days pass. You talk about it with your friends. You talk about it with your therapist. That’s what healthy and well-adjusted people do, right? You cry. You journal. The confusion and anger simmer, and they don’t leave quickly like you want them to. Weeks pass. Things aren’t really better, they are just different. Time is passing. You have some distance, but you don’t feel like you are any more over it than you were the day it happened. You try your best not to be bitter.
People expect you to bounce back. They expect you to carry on like normal. They don’t know how you are feeling, nor are they responsible for your inner turmoil. This is your deal. You are strong. You just wish you were over it already, like everyone thinks you should be.
You turn the conversation over and over in your mind. What you could have said better. How you could have been more to the point. Did you overreact? Did you not react enough? Could you have done anything to prevent ending up where you are, feeling so alone and abandoned?
The hurt shifts. It doesn’t hurt less, it just hurts differently.
You have to see that person. You feel you have to pretend like it is all okay. You smile, and even though your smile doesn’t reach your eyes the way it used to for them, they don’t seem to notice. They don’t seem to see the sadness that now rests in your eyes either. Nothing seems wrong with their smile, and you try not to let that drive you crazy.
They can’t take it back. You can’t take it back. You press forward, both trying to be mature adults who didn’t do this ugly thing to each other. You feel guilty about all the complications, for not being able to just be cool about it.
You will the guilt to go away. You will it to disappear. You just want it all to go back to the way it was, before it all fell apart.
Sometimes the conversation that you always wanted to happen actually does. A heartfelt apology from a best friend that pieces your broken friendship back together. A work lunch invite extended as an olive branch, and suddenly you have a new-found understanding and respect for your coworker. That love that you thought you lost asks for another chance, and the world seems to have magically righted itself.
Then sometimes, most times, that conversation doesn’t come. We work on accepting that that is for the best. We work on accepting the goodbye.
We never know how these things are going to turn out. We try our very hardest to not be crappy people. We try to be kind, and understanding, and forgiving. We try to carry ourselves with grace. We hold out hope, and hold on to the belief that everything happens for a reason. We practice believing that this person is supposed to teach us something. We try to believe that they are helping to make us better than we were. Or, we think, maybe we were supposed to teach them something. Isn’t that ironic.
Loss changes us. What remains with us after the loss helps shape us into who we are. It makes us stronger, it makes us unique, it makes us resilient. It teaches our heart to use our brain as an ally. Loss teaches us that we can never be fully prepared, because life is only lived forwards and not backwards. It’s okay to have a hard time pretending. It’s okay that it hurts. It’s okay to want to be able to turn back time. It’s okay to want to have done something differently so that you could create an outcome where there isn’t so much pain.
Even while trying our hardest, sometimes we come up short. Sometimes it is too painful to try and simply get over what happened, to act towards that person like the repercussions of their actions aren’t creating giant ripples throughout our entire life.
It’s a process. Time heals all wounds. You will heal in your own time and no-one else’s. You make the changes you need to. You also don’t apologize for setting boundaries, or for avoiding certain people so you don’t have to pretend. That is standing up for yourself. That’s true strength. That is you taking care of you. Ultimately, taking care of yourself is the strongest thing you could possibly do.
It would be nice to be able to forgive and forget like it never happened, because that ignorance would allow us to avoid a lot of pain. However, truth is more resilient than pain. Being honest builds the courage you will need to repair and rebuild. Honesty gives you the necessary fortitude to become a better person than you once were.
Should we have to apologize for that? To say we are sorry for not being able to carry on the lie?
I say no.
I say we shouldn’t apologize for having a hard time or for not being able to constantly carry ourselves forward without falter. The fact that we are trying speaks volumes. People hurt us. The hurt we experience does not warrant us to hurt them in return, but it does teach us to protect ourselves. We should not be ashamed for being honest about the fact that it is difficult to lose something, and someone, from our lives.
We will give ourselves what we need to move on. Whatever it is, space, time, honesty…we are allowed it. We must allow ourselves room to process, and feel, and breathe. Time to assimilate, to heal, and to move on. We must drop the guilt, and release the expectation that we should handle things perfectly.
These experiences make us better people. They make us kinder. They make us more understanding. They ready our hearts for the lessons we have yet to learn. We aren’t perfect people, and we aren’t meant to be. Mistakes mean we are trying, and failure begets new beginnings.
Thank goodness for new beginnings.