“Of all the factors that foreshorten our lives and erode its quality, emotional stress increasingly emerges as the biggest culprit. Mary Hayes Grieco’s book offers us engaging, story-driven science and a straightforward approach to relieving emotional pain—something from which we all suffer from time to time. It’s a must-have manual for anyone interested in living a longer, better life.”

—Dan Buettner, author of New York Times bestseller The Blue Zones

This quote about the health impacts of emotional stress from fellow Minnesotan, Dan Buettner really hits home as I think about family caregivers of those with eating disorders. I’ve witnessed the devastating physical and emotional impact of emotional stress on parents and other family members of those with eating disorders who put their own needs last, often for years. 

Last week I’d planned to write about self-forgiveness for family caregivers of those with eating disorders. After giving the challenge to families to practice their own self-forgiveness a couple of weeks ago I found I couldn’t even write this piece about self-forgiveness. That was eye opening. We must all do our own work and big surprise…self-forgiveness isn’t a one and done deal. LOL 

So, yeah, that’s why you didn’t get a newsletter in your inbox last week or see one on my blog. Yep. I was stuck. So after some serious; self-coaching, procrastinating and bootstrap pulling up, I pushed myself to get Mary Hayes Greico’s website pulled up and did the self forgiveness work. On myself. Phew! 

Just so parents know that I get how darn hard it is to get oneself to buckle down and do this scary self-forgiveness stuff…I’m sharing this process I had to go through. And for those professionals reading, yes I walk the talk and do the work and as you know, it’s really a big leap of courage and faith to allow ourselves to do what Mary suggests, “Allow your full misery to surface and express it with trust and vulnerability, feeling and releasing your emotions about it.”

Most of us would rather go rake up a yard full of leaves than allow our misery to surface and be felt.  

The thing is, if we keep avoiding it…we end up carrying the weight of it around like so many bags of leaves. And, as Dan Buettner discovered, our quality of life will be severely impacted. 

In over 16 years of talking with family caregivers of those with eating disorders I’ve not yet met one who hasn’t said or done something they regret. Being a caregiver to a family member with an eating disorder is often the hardest thing we’ve been tasked with in our lives. And most of us have had zero training or preparation for the role. So we make mistakes. Lots of them. We say and do things we regret and that aren’t helpful to our loved one. 

And then we beat ourselves up. Over and over. For a while it serves us to kick ourselves. And then it doesn’t. 

As Kitty Westin shared when I wrote her story in “Just Tell Her To Stop: Family Stories of Eating Disorders” about her daughter Anna Westin’s life cut short by eating disorders; “There is a sort of “magical thinking” part of the grief process. Taking time to accept the reality lets you strategize and ruminate. But thinking, “What if I could find that right moment and change the outcome?” keeps you stuck.

I had to get through the judging and guilt about past mistakes. I needed to beat myself up. I needed to experience the pain. I beat myself up for a comment I made when Anna was five years old. This did not move me forward; it didn’t do any good—and it didn’t keep her alive. Though it is very, very challenging to stop doing that, we must.

I don’t know how I realized one day that this is really not helpful, but somehow I was able to see that in order to survive, I must really let go and leave the past behind. I cannot change the past.”

We cannot change the past. And, when we can do the scary, daunting, courageous work of facing that misery and regret and releasing ourselves from their hold on us, we can feel peace and freedom from suffering. 

You can see Mary Hayes Grieco’s Resources below:

8 Steps to Forgiveness here. https://maryhayesgrieco.com/product/unconditional-forgiveness/

Self- Forgiveness https://www.forgivenesstraining.com/forgiveness/articles/forgive-yourself/

Events, books & other products here: https://maryhayesgrieco.com/store/