“I should be over her death by now?”
20 WONDROUS STORIES OF RADICAL SELF LOVE
Exclusive Excerpts from Acclaimed Author Andy Chaleff and His New Book Release: “The Wounded Healer”
In This Story: Andy visits the graves of his mother and high school friend, reflecting on just how hard it has been to recover from the loss. 30 years later the feelings are just as raw as they were then.
Exploring the Series: Andy is leading the way in supporting people to fully love themselves. Through the “projection and reclamation” method, he holds the hands of many as they discover newfound freedom and radical self-love. In this series of 20 stories from the book “The Wounded Healer”, we examine some of the most familiar archetypes as real people overcome common yet deep struggles we all face that get in the way of loving ourselves completely.
“We are all just walking each other home.”
After the session with my brother, I drive to San Fernando Valley, where I was raised. On the way, I remember that somewhere along this freeway is the cemetery where my mother is buried. I don’t pull over immediately, but rather watch exit signs to see if anything catches my attention. Then I see the San Fernando Mission exit. My stomach drops as I remember going to the cemetery almost thirty years ago.
It feels like fate is bringing me here. I turn off the freeway, pull over, and open Google Maps. Sure enough, the entrance to the cemetery is close by. As I drive through the gates, it feels surreal—just as the experience of my mother’s death felt surreal.
It takes me just minutes to find my mom’s grave. Everything I have avoided for all these years is lying right in front of me. The headstone is weathered and grass has grown over the sides. I grab a water bottle from the car and use it to clean the dirt off the headstone.
As I stand looking at her grave, I struggle to let the emotion in. Even though I have spent so much time sharing the pain in sessions, standing back in this moment isn’t easy. I am opening a traumatic part of my past, and the patterns from that moment are still connected to it. Namely, when I feel emotions, I turn them into thoughts, instead of just feelings.
I feel the tears come up, but they are just a fraction of the emotion underneath them. I realize I need to sit quietly. Pushing the experience too quickly prevents the emotions from coming up naturally. Words start to come up. “Mom, I have missed you. For many years I was lost without you. I know that you are guiding me now.”
Speaking these words, I feel the pain of the past. Speaking to her directly makes it real. I am not thinking about her. Instead, I am with her. I feel a deep well of tears come up, the pain I’ve suppressed for all those years. I sit and clean the headstone, knowing it is nothing more than a symbol for someone who once existed. Yet at this moment, it is more than enough.
I sit for the next few minutes, recalling memories as they stream back in. I see the birthdays, the days when she’d be crying after arguing with my father, the happiness she felt while making Christmas decorations. I hold the memories with love.
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As I stand up to walk back to the car, I remember that a dear friend from high school, Gina, is buried close to my mother. Gina was a bubbly, loving friend who died from stomach cancer soon after my mother was killed. We spoke on the phone a few times before her death. Her voice was weak and it was hard to share anything without feeling that it was all so insignificant. I just told her I loved her and I was going to miss her.
Mom and Gina were close, so it is fitting that their final resting places are close to each other. I have often thought that I could have died in the place of Gina. I’ve been lucky to enjoy an additional thirty years to live. I have always been grateful for that time, knowing how quickly it can disappear.
While leaving, I ponder on a question that arises. What is the balance between looking into the past and bringing up the pain, and just moving on and leaving the past behind? I have seen people stay in a perpetual state of wishing for a moment in the past to return. In the past, I have judged this as futile, as if two lives were lost in that moment—the one who died and the one who couldn’t let go.
In this moment, the question feels like it is being answered. When I ran away from the loss of my mother, I was avoiding the pain. I was searching for peace by way of activity. Now, I am bringing the past to give it a place today. I am not managing the emotions, as I have for so many years, either through denial or escapism.
I see clearly that it is not about managing the emotion, but rather embracing it. Loving it. Knowing that every memory is a gift. Every tear a sign of love for a woman who shaped so much of my life. In many ways, my feelings haven’t changed, but my experiences of those feelings have. I say to myself out loud, “I am a sad and emotionally incapable imposter, and it’s okay.” I smile, knowing I have moved beyond the captivity of that statement. I am no longer wallowing in the pain. I am giving it a place. I am welcoming it and cherishing it. It is part of my past and apparently, part of my present. I am going to turn fifty and I have never gotten over my mother’s death. And it’s okay.
Andy Chaleff is one of our heroes in the profound work of healing our world’s heart.
He is an acclaimed author, motivational speaker, talk show host of “A Wonderful Chaos”, a conscious business advisor, and a beloved mentor to many.
He dropped everything and devotionally toured across America for three months holding “Last Letter” healing circles for a wide array of communities to safely explore the depths of their grief, giving people permission to release suffering and move forward with an opened and unburdened heart.
This recent body of work, “The Wounded Healer”, showcases personal stories of breakthroughs where most people deprive themselves of self-love. We are honored to showcase excerpts from this transformational series. A voice of clarity and wholeness in our transitional time.