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  • When Losses Stay Loud

    How to wrap past losses in self-compassion

    by Dianne Presley, LCSW

    You know life has been hard. There have been so many challenges and so many things and people coming against you. Some of the memories you have and the pain you have experienced have left you feeling wounded. And all of that is real and there are a lot hurt and deep emotions that you have experienced on the journey and that you are experiencing now. So how do move forward in spite of all this pain? How do you stand up under the weight of it all? One way is through wrapping the pain in Self-Compassion.

    Think of it this way. Your life is in a brown cardboard box sitting on a table in front of you. You are looking down into the box. In it are the people, the stories, the pain, and the hard times you have experienced in your life. In the box may be parents who didn’t do their job, failed relationships, bad choices you have made, things you regret. But if you’re honest, the box also contains times when you were really amazing, resilient, strong, and kind. Times when you carried so much baggage around with you but you still kept moving forward. There probably were a few people who supported you for a time, and people who were kind.

    Now that you’ve spent time looking through the box, lightly close it but make sure you can reopen it if you need or want to later. Look all around the box. Notice how you are breathing. Slow your breath, be fully present in the moment. The lid is on the box and the story is contained inside. Remember with self-compassion and tenderness the struggle and the successes. Tell yourself in this moment that you are going to be ok. That you did your best, and that you are doing your best today to live fully in the moment you have been given right now. Take 3 more deep breaths in and out and smile.

    Now bring out the most beautiful box you can find. Think of this box as the box of Self-Compassion. Pick just the right color and pattern. Place the brown cardboard box containing your life story inside the beautiful box of Self-Compassion and place a lid on top. One that fits securely but that is easy to take off and on. Now place a brightly colored bow – the prettiest you’ve ever seen – on top of the box. Stand back and admire this box of Self-Compassion. Feel the way this box covers all parts of the brown cardboard box so well. Look at all sides of the box of Self-Compassion to take in its beauty. Close your eyes and know that the lid to the box is now closed. Take several deep, calming breaths in and out, resting your folded hands on the top of the box.

    Now place a beautiful label with your name written clearly in a whimsical script and stand back to admire it. It is your name. Your one and only name and it represents who you are and the life you have in front of you. The closed box is only a part of your life. It is a season in your life and the season has passed. The lid is now closed, and you are resting your hands on top of the lid of the box of the past. Take a few more deep breaths.

    Now that the box is finished and you are seeing it through Self-Compassion, it’s time to sit the beautifully wrapped box on a high shelf in your closet but within reach if you need to go back through the box and take another look. Step back and admire the placement of the Self-Compassion box. See how it fits exactly right in your closet. Gently close the door with a smile. Take a few more deep breaths and turn to leave it.

    Be reminded of this process as you open your closet door to start each brand new day. Look at the Self-Compassion box as a reminder. Remember your goal to live fully, compassionately, and mindfully in today. In the gift you have been given of this moment. The past sits on the shelf, available to you if you need to go back through anything to gain understanding or perspective. With Self-Compassion you can choose to leave the past behind. You learn from where you’ve been and make a deeper, richer life today with the knowledge you have about your strength, your resilience, and your compassion. When you are done with the box you can move it to another place out of the way or let it live on with a new meaning. After all, it’s your box.