Recovery is very often about grieving— which is confusing sometimes, because often we’re not quite sure what we are or should be grieving.
Many of us think about “grief” primarily in the context of losing a person or a pet who was in our lives.
Most people have at least a few of those types of losses in our lifetimes— but the feelings of loss we experience often seem to be disproportionate to what we lost.
The truth is, recovery often puts us in touch with losses other than death.
As we come to terms with things that have happened to us and things that were denied us, we start to realize we’ve lost more than we realize along the way.
Maybe we lost, or never had, a sense of safety.
Maybe we lost, or never had, a sense of belonging.
Maybe we lost, or never had, a sense of possibility.
Sometimes we get up in our head about whether our life experiences were “bad enough” to produce the struggles and symptoms we experience today.
What we remember may not “seem” like a recipe for the kind of fallout we’re now experiencing— which can mess with our heads. Because, well, we ARE experiencing EXACTLY what we’re experiencing.
Part of the struggle is realizing, as we regain control of how we feel and function, that we were more hurt than we thought— and that we’ve lost more than we realized.
You’re not wrong for experiencing the love and safety you didn’t experience, as a loss.
You’re not wrong for being angry or sad that you didn’t get the chance to explore and develop your identity in safe, supportive relationships.
You’re not oversensitive or overdramatic for feeling exactly as hurt as you feel— whether you remember every second of your past, or whether you are missing entire years from your memory.
Mourning the past we should have had and the person we could have been is a complicated task.
You might have a voice in your head demanding to know why you think you “deserved” certain things growing up— after all, life is unfair, who is anybody to think they “deserve” anything there than what they got?
It’s not a sense of entitlement that feeds the grief you’re feeling.
It’s the instinctive knowledge that any person, any kid, should have a baseline level of safety and support that makes it possible to develop who they are and explore the world.
Some people don’t even realize that the fact that they DIDN’T get that safety and support significantly impacted their beliefs about who they are, what they can do, and what they deserve.
We’ll never have a better past.
Our past will always be exactly what it was. The goal of recovery isn’t to change that.
In recovery, we change how we RELATE to our past.
We challenge the negative beliefs that our past “taught” us— that we somehow “deserve” to suffer, that we don’t have a right to be happy or be ourselves.
And in recovery we mourn the life we could have had.
We mourn the love we didn’t get.
We mourn the safety we didn’t feel.
We get in touch with our right to BE angry at what happened to us. Our right to acknowledge, no, I didn’t deserve to be hurt. I didn’t deserve to be ignored. I didn’t deserve to be excluded. I didn’t deserve to be shamed.
Building a new life often happens while we mourn our losses and tend to our emotional wounds from the past.
You have the right to acknowledge exactly how hurt you were, and are.
You have the right to grieve and mourn.
Even if the losses you’re grieving and mourning aren’t that straightforward.