I feel that I have many tragic moments with my younger self, and I think we all do. Moments where we look back and think of so many different things. Moments where we imagine scenarios differently and think of new endings. Moments of regret and moments of gratitude. A combination of longing for the past and running from it.
I have moments where I look back to myself at 8 years old and dream of the things I could have told her about the world. I look back to myself at 15 and regret the way that I treated myself. I look back to myself a mere year ago and think about the decisions I made that lead me to heartbreak. I look back to the girl who has fallen in and out of love. I look back to the girl who has lost friendships and discovered new ones. I just look back to that girl.
The honest truth is that sometimes I’m filled with such a longing to just go back to my past. I tell myself that I just want to go back to those moments and fix her. I want to travel back in time and align the pieces so that they fit better. I want to rescue my past self from heartbreak and devastation. Sometimes, I don’t want to move on from her. I want to run back into my past and sweep her up, wrap her in love, and tell her that in the future it does get better.
As I take this mental journey back in time, I am reminded that sometimes you have to grieve the loss of your past self. Sometimes you have to try with everything to let go of who you used to be. You have to learn to move on from the times where you said the wrong thing or you left the wrong person. Sometimes you have to grieve your past self in the way that you would grieve a lover or a lost loved one. Not because it is the same intensity, but because you can’t stay connected to the you you used to be forever. Sometimes in order to breathe out fully, you have to leave her in the past.
Sometimes you have to grieve the loss of your past self. You have to grieve the chances that you didn’t take and the mistakes that you made. You have to take these feelings through each stage of grief as you would anything else. You have to feel the anger, the shame, the denial, all of it, to no longer yearn for your past self. These stages and this process of grief weren’t just made for you to go through them when you need to grieve other people. They were made for you to grieve yourself too.
Sometimes you have to grieve your past self in order to realize that the future will be different. You have to leave behind your ex-lover’s belongings and their broken promises. You have to learn to move on from the scars that you have caused and the wounds that others have given you. You have to grieve the people that have left you when they said that they would stay, and you have let go of the weight of the life you thought you would live.
Sometimes you truly have to grieve the loss of your past self.
You have to sit down with who you used to be and tell her that it’s okay that she failed. You have to help her see that the future is coming together, and even when it isn’t, that it’s not her fault. You have to remind your past self that healing does come, and that when it does, things will be different. In grieving your past self, you will experience the pain that comes from any other grief. You will endure each stage, but it will feel different because it’s for you this time.
So I hope you look back to your past self and grieve what it feels like to lose her.
Ruminate about what you were like back then, and then move forward with who you are now. Move through each stage of grief for yourself and understand that you’re no longer that person. I hope that in doing this, you will find that it’s okay to look back with regret, and it’s okay if things didn’t make you stronger. I hope that you will find that it’s just as important to carry the loss of ourselves as it is the loss of others.
Most importantly, I hope by grieving the loss of your old self, that you will find your new self.
The self that is ready for new adventures, new beginnings, new healing, and a new you. The self that is begging you to quit looking for closure. The self that wants to take everything you’ve been through, and becomes better because of it.
Sometimes we have to grieve the loss of our past self. Ultimately, this is what sets you free.