What to do when your heart is breaking into a million pieces because once again you are leaving your country of origin and you don’t know when you will be coming back.
During my last trip to Poland I had a chance to experience this familiar heartbreak once again, but this time I put my coaching tools to good use. In this episode I teach you how to rise above that difficult feeling, analyze it and manage it with the higher part of your brain. So instead of suppressing the unexplained moments of sudden sadness, tears, tight throat and/ or anxiety etc, you recognize it and redirect your brain towards gratitude.
Hi friends. This is Ewelina, life coach for immigrants and today we are going to talk about an issue many of us immigrants face.
I am talking about that awful feeling you feel when you are saying goodbye to your parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, and other people you love. You know that you will not see them for a very long time and deep inside you fear that it could be that this is the last time you see them at all. This is the last time you are in their presence because life is so unpredictable and what if one of them dies? I remember when I was leaving Poland 5 years ago or so and I saw my maternal grandmother for the very last time. We both knew that we would not be seeing each other again. We just knew it.
I have done the hard goodbyes with my grandma many times before, so we had a lot of practice and we came up with a simple way to make it a little bit easier. Instead of dwelling on how awful it is that we are not gonna see each other for a long time, we would just say: See you later. And even the last time, though deep inside I felt I will not see her again ever, ( not in this reality anyway) saying: “See you later” made it somehow bearable. But my heart was so heavy. I got in the car. I started driving away, and after 30 seconds or so I had to stop on the side of the road, because I was crying so hard I could not see where I was going. Just thinking about it now brings that pain back. It was one of the hardest goodbyes I’ve ever gone through. And even now, years later, just thinking about it, my throat closes up and I have tears in my eyes… So there was that experience, which obviously just made the whole process of leaving that much harder… but even when I wasn’t saying goodbye to a grandma which I knew I will not be seeing again ever… that feeling of heartbreak and deep sadness was very familiar to me. I’ve visited my family in Poland… hmm probably at least 14 times, maybe even more. The last time I was there, I realized I actually had a pattern. That everytime long before I leave I start feeling this deep sadness, this deep heartbreak. Which kind of reminds me a little bit of grieving.
The last time I was there I took a closer look at it and that’s why we are talking about it today.
So in November I had a longer visit with my parents, I was there for 5 weeks. I actually went there in October and stayed through November. I was still working from there but when I had time I was enjoying just being in Poland, spending time with my parents and the rest of the family there, eating Polish food… but two weeks before I left there was a situation that stimulated this deep sense of sadness. I was standing in the kitchen with my mom, and she just looked at a calendar on a wall and realized that I am leaving in exactly 2 weeks. It was like within a second all positive energy has escaped her body. Whatever positivity and happiness she had within it just escaped her body. The pain of this realization was so obvious to me. She wasn’t aware that I’ve noticed it. She wasn’t even aware that I was watching her body language, but oh my goodness, that made me feel so sad.
It reminded me that I am leaving and I am not the only one experiencing heartbreak, that my wonderful mom is carrying the burden of this life arrangement as well. And so is my dad. And from that moment on I started to get occasional moments of sadness. It felt like it would just kind of creep up on me from around the corner. One moment I am all good, the next moment I am thinking about how incredibly hard it is gonna be to say goodbye to my parents, how I will not be in their home with them, having meals, talking, sleeping in my bed… you know… all the things.. And I would tear up, my throat would close up, and my heart would get very, very heavy. And automatically as I have done in the past I would be trying to pretend that this is not happening. That I am fine. But thanks God, because I am a life coach now, and I have done deeper work on myself, and I help my clients with emotional work, now I know better how to explore these difficult emotions deeper. So I chose to take a closer look at that sadness.
And first of all one of the thoughts I was having at the moment when I was looking at my mom and when I was later thinking about it was: She is sad that I am leaving.
And thinking that thought made me feel really sad. And when I was feeling this deep sadness I would instantly be thinking about the moments when we say goodbye, and about the night before when I leave, and when I cry myself to sleep. When thinking of this my mind would connect to the past experiences I’ve already had. And deep overflowing emotion would just come over me, the tears would come up and I’d start crying… and it felt like it was out of nowhere but I know it was because of the heavy emotional imprint the past goodbyes have left within me. So then I would be avoiding it, pretending that everything is fine but the tears would just come into my eyes automatically, on their own. I felt like I didn’t have any control over this.
The result of these heavy moments was that even though I was still there, still with my parents, still in Poland I wasn’t enjoying my time. My brain was already going into the most painful part of the trip. It was definitely the lower brain area running its self protection program, which is so completely normal and expected.
But imagine having two more weeks with your loved ones and feeling this sadness a lot of the time, because eventually there will come a time when you will have to say goodbye… I’ve done that in the past, where I would be kind of happy but there was this long period of heartbreak that would just make everything very, very bitter sweet. Today looking back at it I wish I had a better understanding of how to better handle this emotion. Because you know, two weeks of time is a lot of time and if that feeling keeps on creeping up and showing up in the moments when could be enjoying myself and having fun and really appreciating and loving on my parents and just enjoying being there, if that sadness just comes up all of the sudden, yes it’s normal but in the same time I knew that inviting it or allowing for it to just kind of show up on its own and have a life of its own wasn’t something that was the only option. I knew that if I take a closer look at it I might gain some agency over it because I didn’t wanted for it to be like just poof and there I am, all of the sudden sad, hiding tears from my parents, and I am pretending that everything is fine but I am not because deep inside I am thinking about everything I am leaving behind. I knew that there is a better way because of the training I have gotten from The LCS, and that’s why I’ve decided to look deeper into it. So first of all thoughts create feelings. I’ve told you this many times before. And the reason why we feel that sadness and heartbreak is because of what we make it all mean… and of course there is a very valid reason to feel sad, and allow that sadness to be there but if I go there to enjoy my time with them, to have fun and connect, and this sadness was preventing me from doing so how can we lessen the pain? What can I do to shorten the time that I dwell in it, that was the question.
First of all please understand I am not advocating here for you to avoid your emotions. It’s the opposite. I want to invite you to allow the emotion to exist within you. To experience it with awareness, because I believe that when we do that we transmute the emotion and it allows us to release it. Of course it hurts to leave your loved ones, to leave your country of origin I say let’s experience the sadness with awareness and let’s move beyond it. Let’s take charge of the brain and direct it through this experience so that it does not feel like it’s this thing that is happening to us and we have zero control over it
So here is what I came up with. First of all, if you know exactly what I am talking about because you have your own version of this and you’ve gone through… we need to accept that this experience is gonna be there and we can be expecting it. To me it’s like I am grieving. Like I am grieving ahead of time. It’s that heavy. So one of the ways to deal with this feeling, this heaviness is to simply allow it to be there. Not pretending that you are not feeling very sad at moments. , That the tears are not coming up to your eyes, right? They are there for a reason. But to get a deeper understanding of why this is happening, why exactly the tears are coming, why the sadness is clenching your throat, we’ve got to look at what are you thinking about leaving.
So I’d suggest that you take some time for yourself. You take time away from everyone one and explore this experience in private. And remember to bring tissues along cause you most likely will be crying by the way, right? That’s to be expected. Take your journal or if you don’t have one just take a clean piece of paper and write down: What are you thinking about leaving? So for me this time it was pretty simple. This is what I was thinking: ”I am leaving them again, it’s gonna be really hard. Who knows when we will see each other again.”
If you have a deep knowing that someone you are seeing will die when you are gone, you might be thinking to yourself like I was thinking about my grandma: “I won’t see her again. This is so hard. I can’t stand it.”
So no matter what these thoughts are you just wanna see them and to see them you’ve gotta write them down. We have on average 60K thoughts per day. Unless we write it down, and direct our brain by giving it a specific question it’s gonna be hard to get a grasp on it. So that’s why writing it down is so important.
And as you write these thoughts down, except for that feeling, that heavy feeling to be stimulated within you because like I told you: Thoughts create feelings. So you are gonna be thinking these heartbreak triggering thoughts and feeling the heartbreak. This is totally normal. Expect it. It is not gonna feel good in your body, it will be uncomfortable but nothing has gone wrong.
Now that the thoughts are stimulating the feeling we can take a closer look at the feeling itself.
So how do we do this? We get curious. We close our eyes, and ask questions, we analyze: Where exactly is this feeling in my body? What is the color of this feeling? Is it light or is it dark? Is it moving or is it steady? If it’s moving, is it fast or slow? How am I feeling towards this feeling? Am I allowing it or am I suppressing it?
For me it was a dark mass sitting on my chest, it felt like a rock in the heart area, but there was also this profound feeling of my heart breaking. If someone was to take my heart out they would see that there is like a rupture going from top, to the bottom.
That feeling was not really moving anywhere it was just sitting there and at the moment when I was analyzing it I was allowing it but before that I was suppressing it, right?
Listen I am not gonna lie, this is not a pleasant experience. This is why our brain wants to avoid it, distract us from it. But as you go within, and experience it, start analyzing it, you will notice that there is a sense of relief. This is happening because when you are analyzing yourself, you are using the higher part of your brain. Your thoughts about leaving were most likely coming from the lower part of the brain which was actually trying to protect you, warn you… but as it was warning you it was also stimulating the dark, heavy sadness. So this is why we want to engage the higher brain by asking these analytical questions.
So this is the first part where we actually allow and analyze the experience but the second part is stepping out of it by focusing on gratitude. So I’ve noticed that even after I’ve done this work of analyzing that emotion I felt like I gained more control over it because I understood it better but the lower brain was still doing it’s job as it should. It would still be warning me that this was coming and these thoughts would be still coming back into my mind. And as the thoughts were coming I would be still feeling this darkness and this heaviness, right? So it’s not that you do analyzing and then it’s poof you don’t ever experience it again, no you are gonna experience it, but you are at least gonna know what it is and it will feel more at peace. Like you will not be so quick to suppress it. You will be more kind of like: Oh there it is again, that’s okay.
Now when this was happening it was kind of like a warning to me. I’ve decided to use it as a warning so when that sadness and heaviness would be coming, I already knew that I have specific thoughts coming in my mind that are creating this feeling, right? And that’s normal that they will be there, but then I also understood: This is coming from my lower brain, but I also have a higher brain that can take charge here and direct the situation. So the lower brain would be giving me sad thoughts and the higher brain would be like: Okay, I hear ya. I know that you are there, now let’s see what we can do with this. And I’ve chosen to start using my higher brain to redirect my lower brain to gratitude.
So thinking about what I am grateful for at the moment? What am I grateful for today? What am I grateful for during this whole trip? What can I be grateful for in my relationship with my mom, with my dad?
Sometimes I would be writing the answers down, like in the morning to stimulate that feeling for the rest of the day or sometimes I would just consciously ask myself that in my mind. And I would be doing this when that sadness was starting to creep in again.
I have to tell you, this made a huge difference for me. It made me feel like I was again in charge of my emotions and I was actually able to express it to my parents. The morning before my trip back, when we were having breakfast together, my mom asked me how I was doing. I don’t think she was expecting this answer but I told her, my heart is breaking and it wants to be very sad but I am refocusing it on gratitude. She was surprised by this answer… and frankly so was I, that this is how I answered. But it is because we have never really spoken about it, and it actually felt really good to do it. I was also glad to know that I explained it really simply to her, because it meant to me that I actually really own it. That I own the experience of it.
So, what would be the benefits of doing this work, of feeling your emotions consciously and then redirecting your brain? Well, first of all you are gonna understand yourself better and have more agency over your reactions. So that the pain you feel has its place, but it does not heavily bleed over the possibility of happy moments. If you do the exercise I told you about where you write down your thoughts and you analyze the sensations that are happening within you, the feelings, no matter how heavy it is you will prove to your lower brain that you have the strength within you to experience that emotion consciously, that you are not gonna die by facing it. The lower brain is very intense and it thinks that anytime there is negative emotion coming up that you might literally die, this is why it’s so intense, and this is why the thoughts will be coming back, again and again and again, it’s not like, I told you… it’s not like you just face it once. They will be coming back but it is okay right? Allowing them to be there and not making it mean anything bad about you as a human. Not making it mean that you are weak or that you are too emotional or that there is something wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with you. Nothing at all. I mean you are leaving your country, it’s like leaving a little universe where you grew up, where you had your first safety connections… Of course when you are leaving it feels hard and awful and heartbreaking, it’s so normal, but again, when we prove to our lower brain that we have the strength within to experience that emotion consciously, that we are not gonna die by facing it… Listen this is absolutely priceless, because it’s gonna give you this deep sense of inner control because in that moment, when that emotion is there you are not running away from yourself, you are holding space for that dark emotion within. And as a human being you are going to be experiencing these difficult heavy emotions, that is just part of being a human. When we give ourselves the opportunity to meet that emotion within then, the self-compassion has a place to be. Then the deeper understanding, then we start developing this different relationship with ourselves that is way more rich in this sense of openness and allowing. And the more you give yourself that space to transmute the emotion, the more self confident you will feel on a daily basis. That is another beautiful thing about owning that emotional space, even those areas that are very heavy.
Alright my dear friends, this is it for today. If this resonates with you, leave me a comment, or a review. I would love to hear back from you and just tell me, have you experienced this, and how was it for you? Have you maybe had a different experience of it? How have you been handling it? Maybe you have a different method? Let’s share some ideas, this is what I came up with but there are probably some other ways of dealing with it too. I would love to know. And remember that I help my clients develop a sense of self belonging so no matter where they live they feel at home. Now, if you are an immigrant from Europe, living in the US who feels like a weirdo, and no matter what you do, you have a really hard time building connections, making friends with people around you. You feel like there is something wrong with you. Please contact me. Schedule a complimentary consultation. I can help you get out of that spot. You can find me at lifecoachforimmigrants.com. This is where you can find me and where you can schedule that complimentary consultation with me and where I will have an opportunity to help you. So have a wonderful day and I will talk to you next time.