Shayne on You: Begin by letting go

Dear Maggie,

I lost my wonderful husband of 29 years to cancer in May 2005. My best friends held a fundraiser to bring my family and I back home, which is where my late husband wanted to spend eternity. I was so grateful to them, and it was an embarrassing amount of money they raised.

I made my late husband three promises. I would take care of our children, my health, and my career. I focused so much on # 1 that I neglected the others. My health has been very, very bad the last three years. I have multiple problems, but I won’t go into detail. Because of my health, my career has suffered horribly.

My main problem is that I didn’t start grievance counseling until 18 months after my husband’s death. The counselor realized early-on that I was pushing away everybody closest to me, including my family and best friends. Fortunately, my family and a new gentleman friend were stubborn enough to recognize my problem, and we are closer now in spite of it. In fact, I have never been closer to my children.

Last February, I sent all my friends a letter apologizing for trying to distance myself from them, and hoping we could continue forward in a more positive and enlightened fashion. That hasn’t happened. I have been ousted from the inner circle of every group I held dear – online and off – and now have no friends. Let’s face it – women need female friends. It empowers us. I have none.

I really believed those “best friends” would understand what I had gone through, and would support me as I re-emerged into a social circle. But that hasn’t happened. Instead, they have given me the cold shoulder. Two of them have told me they are ridding themselves of “toxic people,” and that includes me ...

Apparently – according to one of them – there is a time limit on mourning and grieving.



These are women I have known and loved – more like sisters – for seventeen years. I can’t begin to tell you how deeply wounded I am. Apparently there is no room for forgiveness. I don’t know how to continue. All I have now is my immediate family and my gentleman friend. Absolutely no women friends at all ... They have all abandoned me.

I am deeply, deeply hurt. I have tried to talk to them, and two of them came right out and said they want nothing to do with me. Losing my husband to cancer, fighting horrific health problems, and raising my children alone, then losing my “best friends ...”

Around the same time – February – I lost an online support group to which I have belonged since 1993 for much the same reason.

Which of the gods or goddesses did I tick off? I’ve lost my husband, my health, my career, and my friends ...

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

You’ve been through a lot. You lost your husband. And your entire focus was on grief and pain. During his illness, your entire focus was on cancer and sickness and disease and fear and loss. You were completely immersed in negative emotion, and when in that state, one can only attract more and more negativity. So more bad things came to you, first in the form of career problems and then in the form of health issues, which grew worse and worse as time went on, and as a result, your focus was on those, and on the pain and discomfort of them. And then that negative focus brought more bad things, and this time it manifested in your relationships with your women friends. And now you’re feeling bad about that and attracting still more. It’s snowballing.

Some people grieve, and yet go on living. They grieve, and yet they begin, slowly, to find things to feel joy about again. They grieve, and yet they learn to laugh again, in time. And gradually the balance between feeling bad and feeling good begins to shift more in favor of feeling good, and that good feeling brings more good into their lives. From the instant that balance shifts, things get better and better for them. In all areas.

Then there are those who become crippled by their grief, who drown in it, and who somehow, never emerge from it. They never find anything to feel good about again. They feel worse all the time, and there is no balance between feeling bad and feeling good. It’s all bad. In such a state, more and more bad things come to that person. There’s nothing else that can come. When your radio dial is on 93.1 FM you cannot hear what’s being broadcast on 620 AM. Your radio dial is tuned in to absolute awfulness, and you cannot pick up the signal of well-being from there. You can only pull in more awfulness.

But you can begin where you are. (There’s nowhere else any of us can begin, after all.) And the first thing to do is to take everyone else, their opinions, their friendship, their approval or disapproval, right out of the equation. You need to do this for yourself and not for anyone else. The most important thing you can do is begin caring more about how you feel than about anything else. Because if you can’t get out of this slump, you’ll be no good to anyone else anyway. So you have to come first here.

I want you to try to let go of all of this, (not forget, we never forget) and start fresh, with the idea that today is a brand new day. That today you are reborn. Today you get to begin all over again. And every time you experience negative emotion, know that it is nothing more than a signal from your inner being telling you that you’re focused on the wrong thing. Adjust your dial. Shift your focus. Find something to feel good about.

At first, “good” might be too far of a reach. So instead, find something that gives you a feeling of relief. Just a little relief, and then a little more and then a little more. Day by day, thought by thought, feeling by feeling, you’re creating new habits of thought. You’re deliberately choosing thoughts and actions that feel good, rather than those that feel bad. It’ll take awhile, but it will get easier and easier. And I promise you, the minute you manage to shift that balance to the point where there’s more feeling good than feeling bad, you’ll begin to see a change in your life that is almost miraculous, it’ll be so dramatic. It will.

So begin by letting go of feeling bad about how anyone else has treated you. Begin by deciding to feel good, and then go about making that happen. We aren’t victims of our lives, though most live as if they are. We’re the writers of our own stories. You need to pick up your pen, and start writing it the way you want it to be. The letter you wrote to me is the story you’ve been telling up to now. And every time you tell it, you reinforce it and create more chapters just like it. Stop telling that story. Start telling a new one. And watch how fast things turn around.

Much love, and best of luck to you,

Maggie

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