A few days ago, one of my family members passed away from complications of COVID-19. We weren’t close. In fact, as adults, we haven’t spoken since his mother’s funeral in 2010. Yet, his passing has hit me – hard. There’s so much there, mostly regret. Regret that I didn’t reach out to him as an adult. Regret that I didn’t get to talk to him extensively before he passed to learn about who he became, what he did for a living, what he enjoyed in life, what made him smile, all those things that right now seem to matter more than anything. Now all I can do is patch together my understanding of who David was through his friends who knew him best. I am grateful for the short call I had with him a few weeks ago. It was nice to simply hear his voice despite the sound of the oxygen machine tethered to him.
I share this with you to help spare you from a similar fate. If COVID-19 has done nothing, it has helped remind most of us how precious life is and that the things that used to really bother us and take up valuable real estate in our heads no longer seem to matter as much. COVID-19 has given us a great excuse to reach out to those with whom we may be estranged, or with whom we have simply lost contact, to reset the relationships.
The pandemic is also a great catalyst for letting go of grudges. Letting go is wonderful for the person you are reconciling with and is equally or even more beneficial for you and your mental health. Holding grudges over past ills only makes you bitter. It literally ages you. Further, when you live in the past by holding onto old wounds, you are unable to live up to your full potential. Your quality of life and your happiness quotient can be extremely compromised – and who wants that? Why color your world in the negative when a positive hue is so much brighter?
In homage to my cousin who died way too young, I formally pledge in 2022 to reach out to mend fences and to reconnect with those who I have lost touch with because I never want to feel like I do right now ever again. I invite you to do the same. I promise you will be enriched by the effort.
Before my brother Michael died at just 30, I decided I would always tell those in my life I loved them because I didn’t want them to have to guess or wonder how I felt about them if something happened to me or vice versa. It’s been a wonderfully healing tactic for me. You should try it as well if you don’t practice this already.
Never be fearful of telling those in your circle, or others know you value and appreciate them. People may not remember your name, but they will always remember how you made them feel. Being open with your emotions is a fantastic start as you focus on healing – for your sake! Your outlook, demeanor, and mental health will thank you. As always, be authentic, but be kind.
Sometimes the process of forgiveness can be excruciating. We all know someone who is too stubborn to ever admit they are wrong. Verbal and emotional wounds run deep. It’s easier to harbor the hurt than to work through it and come out the other side. If this is your experience, you are not alone. Below are some tips to help you let it go so you can live a more joy-filled existence:
-Remember saying your sorry does not make you weak. In fact, it demonstrates your emotional strength and willingness to put things behind you and move forward.
-Saying ‘I forgive you’ is cathartic. Think of all the anger and hurt you are carrying like an overfull balloon. It’s stiff and ready to pop. When you let the anger/hurt/air go, it softens and is less rigid and unyielding. Saying sorry helps you breathe (metaphorically) and smile again.
-You really don’t always have to be right. I am sure you’ve heard the term “pick your battles”. Ask yourself, is losing an opportunity to renew a relationship worth insisting you are right? At the end of the day, most likely not.
If the person you want to reconcile with rebuffs your efforts, it’s ok. Just remember you will be mentally healthier by trying and now that you’ve said how you feel, you no longer have to carry that burden with you. You can now dedicate those emotions to finding your joy.
In honor of my cousin David, and my brother Michael, I am embarking on a quest in 2022 of forgiveness / rekindling / moving on. I hope you will try it too. Let’s let some of the air out of the overstuffed balloon to live a more content, happy life. If you are willing to try, know that we are here to help if you need us. RPSV supports individuals with mental health, substance use, and homelessness issues across Northern Virginia and virtually. Our programs are free. The ‘stigma’ around mental health has subsided since the pandemic has begun as nearly all of us have been impacted by the stressors it has created. Never be ashamed of reaching out for help. In 2020, 1/3 of 3 Americans were diagnosed with clinical anxiety or depression because of COVID-19. Last year, 1 in 6 Americans sought the help of a paid counselor for the first time. It’s really ok to seek out help. Do it – for your emotional and physical sake!
I wish you a happy year full of reconnecting, reconciling, and moving forward in a mentally healthy, wellness-centric way. Just remember, letting go is your mental health gift – to you! #selflove comes first. rpsva.org