Being unable to let go of the past can drag down the body and soul. In the immediate aftermath of a tragedy or trauma, feelings run high. This is an extraordinarily stressful time. However, you must move on. Somehow, you must make peace with what has happened.
That may mean having to pick up the shattered pieces of your life and put them back together. This allows you to move forward. Dwelling on the past and the “what ifs” is normal, but there comes a time where it has to end.
Holding onto what caused emotional and spiritual pain prevents a person from moving forward.
As hard as it might be, the ghosts of the past must be banished to where they belong in the past. They’ll be a part of who you are going forward, but they cannot be allowed to own you.
Most people eventually move on from the events that caused them to be hurt and devastated. They put their lives back together and carry on.
A lot of people who’ve lost loved ones to suicide say they struggled but succeeded in finding a way to move forward. However, they continue to feel like something is missing.
“It will always be in the back of my mind that my husband was unhappy enough to take his own life and I couldn’t see it,” Jan said. “I spent many years feeling like something was missing. I realized that what I was missing was the answer to the only question I had: ‘Why?’”
Accepting that you won’t have all the answers and won’t necessarily understand the reasons for what happened takes time. Until you’re able to do so, that missing piece will continue to wear you down and prevent you from healing.
Feeling trapped inside a set of events and circumstances that have caused loss or trauma leaves a person unable to help others. Even though they might see someone who desperately needs their help, they are unable to give it. The paralysis their own situation has brought about leaves them incapable of helping others.
Being able to help others is a great healer. Putting one’s own problems to one side for a brief period helps with the process of moving on.
Wanting to help others is one of the first signs a person is recovering. Getting to that point is often the biggest challenge.
If, months after the event, you still feel you don’t want to help others, it’s likely you are not yet on the path to recovery. Your heart and soul are not yet on the mend. This might indicate you need help to start moving forward.
Isolating yourself from others when you’re undergoing a stressful situation is quite a normal reaction. You might feel that no one understands what you’re going through. A fear of judgment and ridicule will stop you from reaching out.
When you are in contact with people, you pretend that everything is fine when it isn’t.
To avoid the pretense, a lot of people withdraw from others. It’s easier to be alone than to maintain a façade for friends and family. This means making excuses to avoid social gatherings. A person may accept an invitation but cancel at the last minute. Most often, it is their intention to go. However, at the eleventh hour, they change their minds.
Avoiding people and canceling at the last minute are indications that you haven’t fully confronted the events you’re dealing with. The process of healing hasn’t started, and it’s holding you back.
When a person is dealing with a painful time in their lives, they might be inclined to let others take advantage of them. Being emotionally vulnerable makes them the perfect target for manipulative people.
“I was so traumatized by the abuse I suffered as a child,” Mandy said. “I always panicked when someone wanted something from me, and I would be so terrified of the consequences of saying no. As a result, I was taken advantage of at work and in my relationships.
“Dealing with what happened and all the consequences gave me the power to stand up for myself and not allow others to walk over me.”
During times of stress and grief, it might be easier to say yes to something than explain why you’re saying no. Allowing others to take control might be less taxing than being in control.
A person who has experienced a loss or trauma may lose their perspective on relationships. They often hold onto bad relationships. The toxicity of those relationships continues to harm them and prevents them from moving forward.
To outsiders, it looks like a form of self-punishment. It may seem that the person is actively seeking the toxic relationship. They are so absorbed in what’s going on in their lives that they cannot see the harm they’re suffering.
Often, the toxic person is a connection to their past that they’re not quite ready to let go of. Toxic relationships become something of an addiction.
At the same time, they are parasitic. They suck the joy out of a person’s life and prevent them from living to their full potential. The person may see a toxic relationship for what it is and still won’t be able to let it go.
Going through difficult times can leave a person feeling that no one loves them. Even though they might be withdrawing and avoiding people, the person will feel unloved. They feel alone and also misunderstood when they’ve imposed that on themselves. Others might feel unworthy of love and unable to see why they deserve love.
“I was driving the car when my best friend died. I didn’t think I was worthy of forgiveness, let alone love,” Sarah said. “Everywhere I looked, I saw people I thought couldn’t love me again after what I’d done.”
Feeling unloved or unwanted is harmful to the healing process. One of the best motivators for recovering from a terrible event is the love and support of others.
Feeling like no one loves you can hinder or even halt the recovery process. Identify the people in your life who love you, and lean on them for support.
5. You are prepared to go against your own morals and principles
Some emotional vulnerability can cause people to make some uncharacteristic decisions and choices. They are not thinking logically, and this can result in reckless behavior.
Others might feel that they don’t have anything to lose, so they do something they normally would not.
Act in haste, repent at leisure, or so they say. The ramifications of a poor decision can be life-altering. A decision to engage in risky sexual behavior can ruin someone’s life. A time of emotional turmoil and struggle is not the best time to make big decisions. Even after the situation has passed, a person’s judgment may still be affected.
Not having dealt with what has happened will lead to a continuation of poor decision-making. The bad decisions and choices can lead the person on a downward spiral from which they will struggle to recover.
When going through a lot of emotional strife, people feel helpless and hopeless. The struggle is so overwhelming. The person will look around for something to help dull the pain. Anything that will stop them from having to deal with their problems becomes an attractive prospect.
A person struggling to deal with their problems may turn to alcohol and illegal drugs. They may also start to abuse prescription medication.
The mood-altering properties of these substances can help the person to forget what is going on in their lives. It’s a sure-fire way to avoid problems and not confront them. Using and abusing substances can trigger an addiction. Treatment and recovery from addiction are difficult.
Breaking the cycle of addiction will take a visit to a rehab facility and lots of counseling and therapy. Avoid self-medicating, as it has some lasting consequences that might be difficult to shake.
Suffering a loss or trauma leaves a permanent mark on a person. The mark will become smaller over time, but it’s there for life. Grief and turmoil change a person forever.
With time, a person will start to recover and return to being the person they were before. Taking the time needed to recover and deal with what has happened helps a lot.
However, it’s not that easy for everyone. There are people who struggle terribly to get back to their old lives. Some are unable to do so at all. They become a totally different person than who they were before.
If you look in the mirror and you can no longer recognize yourself, you might be struggling to recover from an event that has changed your life. While any change will challenge who you are, your true essence and character should remain.
Grief and emotional struggles leave a person feeling unmotivated. Not feeling able to motivate yourself is a red flag.
In the initial stages after the event that triggers your struggle, self-motivation will be a challenge. However, if it continues after the fact, you need to think about getting some help.
A human being is motivated from within. Self-motivation is combined with motivation from external sources. Motivation makes people ambitious and able to set goals for themselves. Without motivation, no one would ever try anything new or go out on a limb. Most of the world’s inventions would not have been discovered without a healthy dose of motivation.
When getting out of bed is something you need to motivate yourself to do, your body, mind and soul are exhausted. A lack of motivation can lead to depression and seep into all aspects of your daily life.
Laughter is an expression of joy and happiness. Often, when people have experienced a loss, they feel they’re not entitled to laugh or find joy. They actively censure themselves and don’t laugh at anything anymore.
Even those who want to laugh find it an enormous effort. A smile feels like a strain and laughter seems impossible. This is normal in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy or sad event.
It should recede over time, and the person should be able to find things that make them smile or laugh. When nothing can bring a smile to your face or make you laugh any more, it is a sign of emotional or spiritual exhaustion.
Addressing the cause of your struggle can help you find yourself again. And, along the way, you’ll find that life will present you with many reasons to smile and laugh.