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Ask Me Anything: On Letting Go, Family Feuds & Grief. {Weekly Advice Column}

dennis the menace

*Disclaimer: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal opinion, view or experience of the authors, and can not reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here. 

~

Dear Elephants,

Welcome to this week’s “Ask Me Anything” weekly advice column! To ask questions for next week, please email me at [email protected] All queries will remain anonymous and I do try to answer every letter whether they appear in my column or not.

Also, feel free to leave comments on the comment board– I love hearing your thoughts and value your input.

~ Erica

Dear Erica,

I feel so confused about what to do. I am graduating from college tomorrow and have yet to find a job or even a place to live in the upcoming month.

I am dating a wonderful guy that is long distance and he is literally every girl’s dream guy. He’s smart, incredibly loyal, handsome, sensitive to my feelings, has a great job, strong… the list could go on and on. Even though he is all these things and I love him, the distance makes me question if this relationship is serving me.

When I talk to him on the phone every other day I feel like I am taken out of the here and now; that I become ungrounded from the here and now. I find that when I am on the phone I want to multitask and not pay my full attention to him. I feel guilty. I feel guilty for not giving him my full attention, for not showing up for him.

Since we have been together I have been struggling with emotional eating again and it makes me question why? Is it a random correlation, or is it connected? Why does such a wonderful, beautiful relationship make me unsettled?

Sometimes when we talk, he says he loves me more than he has ever loved anyone or anything; and I know he is telling the truth. I don’t know if I feel the same way. I have SO much love to share and find that I like to spread it across my friends, family and him. This happens to me in every relationship– the love changes, the excitement fades and I question: I know I love them, but do I really love them romantically?

What would you do in my situation?

Unclear

Dear Unclear,

Your mind is telling you one thing and your gut is telling you another—the emotional eating is one symptom of your actual gut trying to announce something important. Of the two, the gut is always wiser.

This guy may indeed be the greatest guy in the world, but if the timing isn’t right (and it clearly isn’t), nothing else will be either.

It sounds to me as if you are in a major emotional growth spurt and that you need space to bloom in any and every direction your wild spirit feels like taking you. This is a rare and precious time in anyone’s life and should be honored. Lucky for you, it isn’t happening while you are already married, or have small children or an ailing parent to care for. You are relatively unfettered. Be grateful for that and capitalize on it.

You asked what I would do. At your age, I would’ve clung stupidly to this guy and wasted our time fearing that I would never find someone better to love me. At my age now, I would trust my instincts, go my own way, and work on becoming the kind of woman who can reciprocate that kind of love.

Remember that though your departure will hurt this man in the moment, your staying with him when it’s not right will ultimately hurt him a lot more. Give him the space he doesn’t even know he needs so you can both realize your destinies.

P.S. Don’t worry—if you stay true to yourself you will find the right guy at the right time—usually in the most unexpected place and in the least likely person.

men argue angry

Dear Erica,

My dad has always been one of those prickly, easily misunderstood, alienating people. He cheated on my mom, breaking up their 19 year marriage, (he moved in with someone a month later), skipped the country under suspicions of tax evasion, and has been married four times. His life choices have upset a lot of people and made him a lot of enemies, but I truly believe he means well, beneath it all.

He’s been living in China with his new wife (who is only a few years older than me) for about five years, and just yesterday told me he is moving back to our country with his wife and their adopted toddler.

He’s moving to a part of the country far away from my sister and I, but close to his two siblings. However, he isn’t talking to either his brother or his sister. (I was actually the one to tell my uncle that my dad had adopted a baby after three years.)

I’m not sure why he’s not talking to his sister, but he cut communication with my uncle because my aunt told him off and stood up to him—my dad asked my uncle to choose between them, my uncle told him to stop being childish, and that was that.

I so want to help reconcile the brothers. As is, my uncle was one of my dad’s only friends, and they will be living only hours apart. I’m sure my uncle doesn’t know my dad is moving so close within a matter of weeks. My dad’s nearing 70 and my uncle is around 65—I can’t stand the thought that they are giving up so many years of their life being angry (at my dad’s behest).

But they are adults.

My dad won’t budge. And I’m worried that if I encourage my father to talk to my uncle then he will break off communication with me.

Do I just let them go and figure it out on their own?

Troubled Daughter

Dear Daughter,

Family feuds are tough. In this case, you have enough perspective to see what’s happening but you are unable to do much about it.

You say your aunt stood up to your father, and that your uncle (her husband) backed her up. They made clear statements about boundaries, and stood by them: I respect them for that. You should, too.

As I see it, the only real option you have is to inform your uncle that your father is planning to move nearby and then leave the rest of it, (if there is any “rest of it”) up to him. My suspicion is, he won’t want to have anything to do with your dad, but you will have the peace of mind of knowing that you cracked the door open in case he does.

Also, by only talking to your uncle, you will preserve the delicate balance you’ve somehow managed to achieve with your father, causing as few waves as possible. In order to protect yourself and maintain your own boundaries, I do believe it’s best not to beat at this hornet’s nest with too big a stick.

woman distance pose

Dear Erica,

I have read many articles about people losing loves and all the stories and articles about letting go and loss, and still I am just unsure how to go about moving on after a year and a half now—when I so badly want to let go.

I know that we weren’t right for each other (which became even more evident when he moved in with a new girl three days after meeting her two months after our breakup and then married her a year after we ended our seven year relationship).

However I can’t stop wanting him back in my life, just to be there—he was my best friend and I am still grieving the loss of him and that.

I guess I just want to be okay and move on and to stop being haunted by him so that I can find a fulfilling love.

Heartbroken

Dear Heartbroken,

You hit the nail on the head when you used the word “grieving.” Grieving is the period of time your heart requires to catch up to reality—and usually that is a long stretch.

The good news is, you are not in denial about what has happened, you are simply resistant to processing the feelings—and who can blame you—sadness and loss sucks!

The only healthy option we have when something happens to us that really hurts, but which we cannot change, is to sit on that roller coaster of pain and ride it out until it stops. Like any such ride, there will be moments in the middle that are less horrible and frightening—when you look out at the beautiful scenery arrayed below and think, “Hey, this is not so bad!”—right before you fly off yet another terrifying cliff.

Those ups and downs diminish with time, leaving behind a more mature person, who has been forged in the fires of life, and who can take on the bigger, more advanced rides with impunity.

Treat yourself gently and kindly during this process. Speak to yourself as you would speak to a cherished friend. Reach out to others, even of you feel like you are being silly, repeating yourself, or are asking for more than you can give right now.

You will get through it, and when you do, you will be stronger and wiser, and will be more able to help others as you draw from your real life experiences.

Love elephant and want to go steady?

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons

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Erica Leibrandt

Erica Leibrandt is a licensed psychotherapist, registered yoga teacher, published author, and imperfect mom. Visit her at PsycheFinder, her new website—the only site that finds your mental health professional for you. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.