Vitality - Healthy Aging NewsletterFall 2011

Unfinished Business Holding You Back?

If you're having a tough time discovering your path to true happiness, you may find that you need to forgive the past, make peace with a friend or family member, reconnect with someone you haven't seen in years, or come to terms with loss.

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"These things accumulate over a lifetime and if not addressed, can drag you down into an unhappy life," says Brenda Arzillo, MLT, geriatric mental health therapist. "People tend to rationalize their sorrows and cope by telling themselves that they should be able to overcome them because others have. Nothing is too trivial. If it's bothering you, it's worthy of therapy."

Here are a few tips from Arzillo on how to recognize what's holding you back, free yourself of emotional burdens, and gain a sense of peace.

Acknowledge it: To deal with loss and grief, keep a journal, talk to a professional, or attend a support group. You can also create rituals, such as honoring a loved one's birthday or death anniversary, or making a history graph of all your losses to reveal how you handled loss in the past.

Tell your story: If you're holding pain inside, tell your story to a friend, family member, therapist, or chaplain. Speaking of it to just one other person can bring relief. If this is too difficult, write it down.

Consider your actions: If you're thinking about airing a longheld secret, carefully weigh the pros and cons. Consider whether it would be damaging to others, and whether you would benefit in the long run.

How did it start: If you haven't talked with a friend or sibling in years, think back to what originally caused the rift. Consider whether the benefits of renewing the relationship outweigh those past issues.

Forgive others: Do you need to forgive others in order to move on? Letting go can be liberating, but it's not always easy. Get some ideas from the book "Forgive for Good," by Fred Luskin.

Fogive yourself: Do you need to forgive yourself? It's not uncommon to get stuck because you blame yourself for not being the perfect child, parent, spouse, or friend. This can be paralyzing and keep you trapped in the past. Telling your story and getting it out in the open can help you forgive yourself and move forward.

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