Carried Grief: Going Back in Order to Go Forward

As much as I believe in the power and importance of being present and future focused in order to bring about changes in your life, revisiting the past can bring insights and emotional release of any carried grief from the past that can help you to get unstuck.

I recently was looking for an important document that I had put somewhere- years and years ago. I have to admit that after my divorce, I basically threw all of my past documents as well as photos and keepsakes, literally, into a large storage container when I moved. Even as the container continued to piss me off taking up space at the bottom of my closet, I avoided going into it, telling myself that at some point I would dump it and go through it all. Then the day came. I couldn’t put off any longer going through the box because in order to move forward, I had to find that document.

The tears came. Sadness, anguish, and some feelings of not even recognizing my old self as I re-read old journal entries and went through old photos. But in that time-warp with the papers, photos and old letters spread out all around me on the living room floor, something else released. As I started to organize the things I wanted to keep and made a toss pile for the things I was ready to let go of, a sense of forgiveness and relief came over me. I began to forgive my younger self for the mistakes as well as seeing the successes during that beginning period of my life as part of my personal story that was my own. I realized I’d been putting off a lot of grief and mourning —and it had been keeping me stuck. It’s completely exhausting to hold onto feelings like self-punishment or self-hate, anger, sadness and even regret. You can be carrying it, and not even realize it, as it just becomes part of how you experience yourself in the world. The heaviness and lack of emotional energy and reserves can become your new “normal” slowly over time.

Carried grief can be a strong factor in staying stuck in any area of your life. You can begin to recognize it because it feels HEAVY. We tend to put it off, minimize it or distract ourselves when we have stored or carried grief, but it just stays there, starting out as a pebble, then turning into rock in your bag, silently pulling you down over time until it’s grown so large and heavy you can barely bear to move or carry it any longer.

If my personal story resonates, what can you do to gently confront any carried grief from the past you may be taking with you as you try to move forward? The grief you may carry can be varied. Some carry the grief of lost loved ones or it may even be an old version of yourself or your life that you’ve had to let go of. It’s not easy work to do alone, but if you’ve been really stuck and have a hunch that this may be a reason you’re not making progress, you can start to unearth the grief and start to mourn by way of a journal, a trusted friend, therapy or with a coach (like me!) experienced with releasing and integrating carried grief.