by Kim Childs, CPPC
At some point in the process of recovering from my divorce, I realized that I was having trouble dreaming new dreams. While I’d done a lot to heal the emotional pain of my failed marriage, this was something different…and deeper.
“I feel as if I need to hold a funeral for my marriage,” I told a dear friend. “It was one of my biggest dreams, and it died.”
“What you really need to grieve are the expectations you had for your marriage,” she replied. “Your dreams are still there.”
I’d heard this kind of message before from Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, who’s helped millions recover their dreams and creative desires from the ashes of failure, shame, disappointment and discouragement.
“It’s important to give yourself the dignity of grieving your wounds, creative and otherwise,” Cameron writes in her new book, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again. “Many times people will acknowledge their wounds but feel they should somehow be beyond them.”
In other words, we cannot heal what we don’t allow ourselves to feel.
By grieving and honoring unrealized dreams with self-compassion, we can “metabolize” the pain and prevent emotional and psychic “scar tissue” from building up and blocking us, says Cameron. Otherwise, these unhealed wounds may cause us to lose faith in ourselves and hesitate to pursue, or even name, new dreams.
Margaret Lynch, an author and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) expert, has a term for these often unrecognized losses: goal traumas. They occur when cherished dreams fall apart despite earnest efforts, hard work and sacrifice. Lynch says that goal traumas may leave us feeling less trusting of ourselves, other people, and whatever higher power we believe is in charge. We might then resist getting our hopes up and setting big goals, letting “Why bother?” and “What’s the use?” replace “Wouldn’t it be great if…?”
Goal traumas need to be healed, and the first step is to grieve what didn’t happen, and admit that it mattered.
“If those tears have never been cried for you, you need to cry them for yourself,” Lynch writes in her book, Tapping Into Wealth. “Until you honor the grief, loss and pain, it stays stuck.”
Heeding all of this wisdom, I gathered some friends and held a “Funeral for a Dream” ritual. We each brought a failed dream to honor, mourn, and transform. They included aspirations that centered on love, family, creativity and career.
Here is the process we used:
Part 1 – Write your honest answers to these questions, allowing any emotions to flow in the process:
–What was I hoping for when I pursued this dream?
–What actually happened?
–How did/do I feel about that?
Sitting in a circle by my friend’s fireplace, we took turns reading our answers aloud and receiving the gift of compassionate witnessing. After I named the dreams I’d had for my marriage and wept over how they’d gone so wrong, my friends looked into my eyes and said the profoundly healing words that no one had said about my divorce, including me:
“I’m so sorry for your loss.”
One by one, we named, witnessed, and honored our pain. We then gave it over to the fire of transformation, burning the papers on which we’d each told our tales of heartbreak. Afterwards, we cleared our energy with simple shamanic practices and prepared to rise from the ashes.
Part 2 – Assess the failed dream and ask:
–How did I/others learn, grow, benefit or strengthen from what happened?
–What is my new dream?
My friends and I again read our answers aloud and acknowledged our growth, gifts, and resilience. We then named some new dreams for our lives and offered cheers and words of affirmation to support each others’ forward movement.
By the time we ended our ritual, we each felt lighter, brighter, more energized, and loved for the whole of who we are – failures, painful stories and all.
If you feel you have a goal trauma or failed dream that’s “stuck” somewhere in you and keeping you from going for new dreams, I invite you to try a process like this. Enlist the support of friends or helping professionals if you sense you will need that. Be gentle with yourself before, during and after, and drink lots of water afterward to flush your system.
As you endeavor to heal the pain of dreams that didn’t (yet) come true, take heart, and dare to dream again. As the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
Slowly, I identified and began to pursue new dreams (one of which you can help to support here, if you are so inspired!). Interestingly enough, some of these new dreams came straight from the ashes of my failures.
In fact, I believe they could not have been born without them.
Kim Childs is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity and soulful living. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or Skype.