Not long ago, an ex reached out to me. He typically reaches out once or twice a year and I never respond. My relationship with and departure from this particular ex was one that was life-changing due to the volatile and deleterious nature of the relationship. We haven’t spoken in years so I assumed he was reaching out to say hello, to see how I was doing and maybe even to ask about my daughter.  This time, I decided to respond. I thought to myself, “You know what? I am going to be the bigger person and just respond with a hello and wish him well. No harm, no foul…” So I matched his “hello” with a “hello”. He immediately expressed how happy he was to hear from me and went on to say that if I am not happily married, he’d love to talk to me sometimes. I immediately blocked him as I have no interest in allowing this person back into my life, not even as an acquaintance. The past is the past.  

Although I’ve forgiven and have moved forward with the lessons I learned from that relationship, my initial reaction surprised me. It took me a couple of days to process what I was feeling. It was recognizable but not quite familiar, like someone you had Algebra with freshman year but you didn’t keep in touch.  It was uncomfortable and weird and haunting. It was shame.

Shame surfaced and flooded my consciousness.  I was ashamed of the decisions that I made that lead me to that relationship. I was ashamed of ignoring my own instincts. I was ashamed for being naive. I was ashamed that I had given every fiber of my energy to that relationship, only for it to fall apart anyway. I was ashamed that I didn’t leave the relationship sooner. I was ashamed that I had responded to his seemingly innocent, “hello”.

Some of my clients experience shame as well. Sometimes they are ashamed that their spouses cheated. They may be ashamed that they allowed their ex to disrespect them repeatedly. They are ashamed that they believed lies. And lots of them are ashamed that they experienced domestic violence. That was my shame as well…… 

Although I have done tremendous amounts of work to transform into who I am today, that moment of interaction with my ex surfaced some shame I didn’t even know I had and reminded me that healing in a circular and continuous.

In fact, healing is like a cold virus. It’s always deep, deep in our soul and it’s usually dormant but every once in a while, it surfaces and you have to immediately spring into action with rest, fluids, and sometimes medicine to treat it with the hope that it goes back into hibernation as soon as possible. I also had to spring into action that day and remind myself how much I learned during that dark time. I reminded myself of how much work I had done to protect myself against unhealthy, dysfunctional relationships. I reminded myself that I am human and that I make mistakes. I reminded myself of my mission to help people to share their truths and bounce back from break-up and divorce, no longer surviving but thriving in their new lives.

Brene Brown says,

“Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it-it can’t survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy. When we bury our story, the shame metastasizes.”

I hope that someone who is reading this decides to tell their story and begin to release shame and begin the healing process.