So often those of us from relational trauma backgrounds have no parent or grandparent to turn to for advice, comfort, reassurance, and support when life gets really hard.
And yet, because life is life, it will be hard.
And the absence of this kind of support in those times can feel so lonely and like another layer of pain on top of the hard.
These essays are for you to bookmark on your hardest days.
Imagine a loving, loyal, kind parental or grandparent figure saying these words to you.
Read the words again and again until you internalize them and can say them to yourself reflexively and automatically.
Internalize these (good enough) parental words as part of your relational trauma recovery journey and let these words steady and support you when you feel like you just want to give up.
I hope these words can bring you even a little bit of comfort, no matter what is going on in your world right now.
When you’re going through hell, keep going.
Oh, honey, life feels awful right now, doesn’t it?
Does it feel like you keep waking up from sound sleep to a nightmare?
I remember times like those.
Times when all I wanted in the world was to lose myself in sleep and I would get a few precious hours before my mind would wake up a little bit, remember reality, and then jolt me awake.
And it was always 2am.
I never could get back to sleep once I remembered…
Is that happening to you now, too?
Life has shifted from hard to impossible right now, hasn’t it?
I get it, honey.
I can remember times in my own life when it felt like I was just surviving from 6am until 7pm when I could take something to help me sleep and then pass out.
I remember times when every email refresh felt like a digital bomb waiting to explode my world, bringing news I didn’t want to hear.
The news I dreaded.
I remember times in my own life when just going about my day my body would flood with the searing hot heat of anxiety and my mind would spiral into worst case, catastrophic scenarios no matter how much I tried to talk myself out of it.
Those times in life were hellish.
But I got through them.
And you will, too.
There’s an old Winston Churchill quote that goes something like, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
I would try and remember this when I felt like I couldn’t do adult life anymore.
I would try and remember this quote when all I wanted in the world was to run away and escape to some tiny home on a plot of land in a state where no one knew me, where I could live on very little money, have no contact with other people, and hide out and recover.
I would remember these words while I was waiting in the doctor’s office.
When I was refreshing the email.
When I was waiting for the phone call.
I know a little about what you’re going through, honey, and it’s truly awful.
I won’t sugar coat it and I won’t diminish your experience by trying to find a silver lining or a reframe.
Right now you feel awful and you probably feel like the world is ending.
Or maybe you even want it to.
Maybe you’re wondering how you’re going to get through this unscathed.
Wondering how life could possibly be okay after this.
It may be impossible to imagine into that reality right now because you’re in the thick of it.
You’re in the hell, so to speak.
Your only job right now is to keep getting up day after day, doing your best at your basic responsibilities.
Feed yourself, drink water, do the bare minimum to keep yourself functional in the midst of this hell.
And keep doing this day after day until things shift.
I don’t know when things will shift, honey.
I don’t have a crystal ball or guarantees of outcomes.
I don’t know what the biopsy will reveal.
I don’t know what the email will say and what the consequences will be.
I don’t know when they’ll call.
And I know it’s awful not to know.
If I could guarantee that all will be okay, I would.
But because I don’t know and I can’t do that, I’ll tell you this: I’ll be right there through it all with you.
WE will get through it.
I said we because you’re not alone in this.
I’ll be with you through it all.
I’ll be there to text you back when you’re spiraling.
I’ll pick up the phone when you call in crisis.
I’ll help you think through how to deal with whatever you find out.
I know what it is to be in the middle of hell, honey, and right now you’re there without a doubt.
But you’re not alone.
I’m right there with you in it.
Honey, can you remember those other times in your life when you felt like your world was ending and you had no idea how you would go on?
I remember at least one other time when I saw you in this place.
And do you remember that you did get through that time?
Do you remember that you did exactly what you need to do now?
You got up, despite the fact that you wanted to not wake up.
You went to work despite the fact that you were completely preoccupied by your anxiety and depression and fear.
You navigated the responsibilities of your life.
You took care of your child even though it felt like your life was ending.
You walked your dog even though you didn’t want to leave your house.
You somehow did your job.
You kept yourself alive and functional.
You read the email.
You took the phone call.
You accepted the reality of the biopsy results and booked the next appointment and followed the doctor’s instructions.
And the hell passed in time.
Not because of any magic wand.
But because you dealt with the reality by taking one step after another.
Because the hot heat of anxiety and the deadening weight of depression normalized a little in time.
I remember honey.
I remember seeing you go through other times like this and getting through them.
That’s why I have faith you can get through this even though you don’t know what the outcome will be.
I know you know how to survive.
You’re a survivor.
And I know, I know you’re tired of surviving and you want things to be easier.
Believe me, I want things to be easier for you, too.
And maybe they will be. In time.
But they’re not right now.
Right now it feels like a living nightmare and I am so, so sorry you’re having to go through this.
I wish I could take this away from you and make the pain my own.
I would do that for you, you know that, right?
But since I can’t do that, honey, I can be with you in it.
Reminding you of reality when you start to spiral.
Helping you calm down your panic when it flares up.
Helping you notice when your depressive feelings might need professional help because they’re getting too big, too pervasive.
I can be with you in it, honey.
I can walk with you through this hell and I’ll love you through every single step of it.
I’m so, so sorry you’re going through such an awful time.
But you’re not alone.
I’m right here in it with you and I’m not going anywhere.
I love you and we’ll get you through this.
I know it doesn’t seem possible to you right now.
I know it doesn’t seem possible that you will get through this.
And that’s okay if you can’t see the pathway out or believe you can survive this.
It’s okay if you can’t imagine any “ever after.”
It’s totally fine if you can barely see beyond the next hour.
Let me hold that hope for you, honey.
Let me believe for both of us that we will get you through this.
That this will be a distant memory someday.
Let me have the faith for both of us that this isn’t the end of the road, but just a bump in it.
I’ll walk alongside you in these hard times, reminding you of this as often as you need until you can start to feel more hopeful yourself.
Until the hell starts to ease up and the days become easier again.
I’ll be there with you through it all, supporting you however I can, loving you, believing in you, helping you in any way I can.
I love you so much, honey.
We will get through this together.
I know for many of us, reading words like these can feel like a fantasy – do people actually have parents who talk to them that way?!
Yes, some do.
But for those of us who don’t, we can still find support in other kinds of relationships.
Maybe a partner.
Maybe a friend.
And certainly in the form of a devoted, dedicated therapist who cares deeply about you.
If you don’t have a therapist who can be with you through your own hellish times and if you live in California, me and my team of relational trauma therapists at Evergreen Counseling – the boutique, trauma-informed therapy center I founded in Berkeley, California – would be honored to support you.
Hellish times in life may be unavoidable.
But even though we come from relational trauma backgrounds and lack the parental support we’d ideally like, support still is possible from other relationships.
Please consider gifting yourself the experience of true support.
You’re so worth it.
PS: Did this post today resonate with you? Do you find these pep talks valuable when you’re going through hard times? Please leave a message in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you and know if these essays feel even a little bit helpful to you.