It Ain't Over 'til It's Over

In my experience, people these days are in too much of a hurry to "move on" and "let go." It seems that most of us have a natural tendency to minimize the importance of experiences that have been emotionally difficult. We want to stop hurting quickly, and we don't want to feel embarrassed or stigmatized by difficult aspects of our past or present. What happens when we think we've reached closure, and we really haven't?

Not too long ago, I asked a woman who was having some marital problems about the most significant events she could tell me from her life story. She mentioned several things, including a teenage car accident; but for the most part, she was at a loss. Everything had been quite normal, she told me; her family was intact and there was nothing unusual to report.
When we spoke the next week, she told me with considerable surprise that when she told her husband about the session, he asked her if she had remembered to discuss the sudden, premature death of her younger brother when she was in her teens. How, she wondered, could she have left something so significant completely out of the story?

She and I have come to understand that her parents' mute, unbearable grief was so intense that after her brother's funeral, no one in the family tended to say much about it – almost as though they were ashamed. Everyone tried to go on about their business, and dropped the subject. Did her subsequent heavy drinking in high school, and the car accident that followed, perhaps have something to do with how quickly everyone in her family had tried to "move on" and "let go?" And her marital problems now, the distance she feels from her husband - could it have anything to do with her old habit of pushing feelings down, avoiding thinking or talking about what's painful?

"What's the use of getting into all that now?," I'm often asked. "That was 30 years ago. What good will it do to bring up all those feelings?" For the people who ask these kind of questions, "those feelings" too often never had a chance to be known, articulated, expressed – and thereby processed, digested, made bearable. Buried feelings about painful experiences reverberate in people's lives, and when unprocessed, come back to haunt in ways that are not always obvious. Rushing by the painful times, pushing the painful feelings away, doesn't really work out in the long run. As one of my favorite sages – Yogi Berra - once said, "it ain't over 'til it's over."

Wise advice can also be found in the words of Ecclesiastes: "There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak." These different times that the Prophet speaks of are the times of our lives. Moving on and letting go doesn't have to mean pushing feelings away, keeping things on the surface. Moving on happens when we are living fully, awake and filled with feeling, through all the different times, up or down, that the unfolding of our lives will bring.

© Daniel Shaw 2007