"I Am No Longer Whom I Used To Be": Grief Your Past Self
As humans, we grow. We undergo different phases in our lives, and there will be more. Going through these phases has its challenges and rewards, it is certainly difficult and fun to go through. There are times when you would think that you do not want to move forward or you feel that you are going backward, and times when you feel that you grew and then go backward again. Then you question yourself over and over again.
From time to time, I could not help but think of my old self: how I used to be, who I was, what good or bad decisions I have made, and the list goes on. With that, I am leaning towards being regretful, especially since I know that I can do better, I could have handled things better, I could have chosen to do other things instead of the ones I made, I could have treated myself better, and so on. But then, I step back for a moment and think that I can now see that because I knew better now. What I know from before and now are way different, as time goes by there were bits or chunks of learning.
Even so, the comparison keeps happening and there are times that it frustrates or saddens me because I see how hard I worked to be in the place where I am right now and to be the person of who I am now. It is very confusing going through the sadness I felt during the times I realized I am no longer myself, or who I used to be. Even though most of the moments should be celebrated as I was able to improve myself, I cannot help but think and feel sad. I could not find the words to express or explain what I am feeling. It is all mixed up as there were times of longing, caring, regretting, gratefulness, anger, guilt, and so on.
On a random day, I thought maybe I am grieving my old self. The idea seems strange to me. I am very doubtful about the thoughts that I was having as I have no encounters or conversations about it. Then I look at the meaning of grief. Smith et al. (2021) defined grief as a normal response to loss. It refers to the emotional pain you experience when something or someone is taken away from you. Moreover, Mayo Clinic (2016) states that it is both a universal and personal experience. Individual grieving experiences differ, and the kind of their loss has an impact. It gave me validation that it is possible to grieve your old self because as you grew you would eventually lose yourself as you gain your new self.
It is not easy to let go, especially of what we have known for years, what we think is us. The familiarity within ourselves provides a sense of security and with losing it, it would feel like we are being shattered into pieces. It has a sense of being broken as we are about to accept that in a way you are breaking up with yourself as we are about to continue with our newly formed self. But whether we like it or not, whether we can do it or not it has to happen as we are destined to grow and there will be more versions of ourselves in the future.
There is no easy way of letting go but it is possible. By being possible it does not mean that we are required to do it immediately. With that, Sea of Solace (n.d) provided ideas on how to grieve your old self:
Recognition of Past Self. If you can know who you are in the past then you would precisely know who you are grieving for. That is helpful to relate with your new self. In this step, you will be able to grasp the idea that your old self was once a part of your life but can no longer be part of your new self anymore.
Express how you feel about losing a part of yourself. For you to grieve, the first thing you should do is acknowledge what you are feeling and accept them for how they are. This part may be uncomfortable but it will bring you comfort as you start doing it.
Accept that change is part of life. Through this, you will be able to realign with yourself and be at peace with your present self. Keep in mind that changes will not always be good or bad but it is a part of us that needs to learn as we need to adapt to be able to move forward.
Recognize the significance of your old self. As you accept that change is inevitable in your life, you are near to letting go of yourself which will arise some unwanted feelings. Figure out how your old self is important to you and what is something from it that is noteworthy, that even when there will be more new versions of yourself that old self will be remembered as something important to who you are. In that way, you will be able to grieve about it without having horrible feelings. You will be able to fully comprehend the worth of your previous self to be more satisfied with going forward.
When we encounter situations like this, fear is what comes to us. We are getting uncomfortable with emotions that are normal at times like grieving but are generally seen as negative ones. We tend to restrain ourselves to keep in control but as we do it, the more that it hurts us. Letting yourself grieve and feel all the emotions that come to it does not mean that you are out of control, out of yourself. You are allowing yourself to be a human because it is one of the things that makes us human. Nevertheless, it will be a difficult path but keep in mind that you can do it. With that, I am hoping that you allow yourself to grieve your old self or any loss in your life so that you can be at peace with your new self and who you will become in the future. It is a process and as you go through it you are progressing.
Mayo Clinic. (2016, October 19). What is grief? Retrieved March 23, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/patient-visitor-guide/support-groups/what-is-grief?fbclid=IwAR05bFDePgUcIRtLvfdBgIgTQwfxOYuMH6dHgV9PLgKx74XGbxYbCh3L0Uw
Sea of Solace. (n.d.). How to grieve your past self. Retrieved March 23, 2022, from https://seaofsolace.com/blogs/personal-growth/letting-go-of-the-past
Smith, M., Robinson, L., & Segal, J. (2021, September). Coping with grief and loss. HelpGuide.org. Retrieved March 23, 2022, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/grief/coping-with-grief-and-loss.htm