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You cannot save the past version of yourself who was killed by trauma. Whether your trauma stemmed from an impossible situation, toxic or dangerous relationships, poverty, injury, the death of someone you loved, or a few bad decisionsthere is nothing you can do to go back and save that woman or little girl. She is gone forever, and nothing you do now can bring her back. 

When you say goodbye to different chapters of your life on your own accord, at your own pace, and because you felt it was time, it’s easier. But when you’re forced out of a stage you aren’t ready to let go of yet, it’s as if your best friend was ripped out of your arms. But you have to let go, or you’ll be stuck in this purgatory-like limbo of clinging to someone who isn’t there anymore. 

Please give yourself grace here because this part is tough. Don’t blame the old you, nor the version of you who did what she had to do to survive. You did what you had to do to make it out and protect yourself. If you could have done it differently, you would have done it differently. Read that again if you must. 

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The skills and knowledge you have now are the result of all you had to overcome. You did not have the skills or the know-how back then; if you could have done it differently, you would have. Hold grace for the past version of you who was doing her best. Whether she was 9 or 79, she did her best for the circumstances she found herself in. 

It’s okay to cry, yell, grieve, and mourn what could have been, who you could have been today if life hadn’t unfolded as it did. Fully immerse yourself into these feelings and give yourself space to acknowledge and feel these emotions in your body. Hold a funeral for her, even if it’s only you who attends. Then let go of the pain you’ve been holding onto for far too long. 

When it’s all over, thank her for getting you through one of the toughest times in your life. Forgive her for what you wish you had done differently. And please assure her that you will take care of yourself. 

What probably sparked, or at least flamed, these traumatic events was a lack of love, support, safety, patience, and protectioneither for yourself or from someone important to you. You did not deserve that treatment, and you should have an abundance of these humanities. Someone failed you, but you don’t have to keep failing yourself out of misery or guilt. 

RELATED: You Are Not the Struggles You Go Through

Give yourself the love, kindness, and patience that you deserve. Set boundaries to protect yourself from people who don’t treat you with respect or kindness. Find people you can love, support, and uplift who will happily do the same for you. Maybe you’ve never had that before or don’t even know what it’s like to have a community like that, but it’s never too late to develop one. 

But for now, you have to let go of that version of yourself. She is gone, and no amount of longing, self-sabotage, guilt-tripping, or “I should have . . .” can bring her back. Radically practice compassion and empathy for yourself. 

And when you’re ready, let go, look at who you are now, and think about your future self. The best version of yourself is out there, just waiting for you to create her.

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Sarah Hamelman

Sarah lives 4,200 feet up on a mountain in northwestern Montana where she homesteads, raises her two toddlers, and writes professional SEO content. She enjoys reading, hiking, kayaking, fishing, trail riding, and exploring the Kootenai National Forest that surrounds her cabin.

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