My son is graduating from college this June. As well as being excited, I am also worried because all of my ex’s family will be there. My ex-mother-in-law disliked me from the beginning, so being around her is very uncomfortable. How can I navigate my ex’s family?
- Ex me away
Dear Ex me away,
I feel for you. Graduations are a wonderful marker and a celebration of great achievement for the graduate, but for the rest of the crew attending the event, they can trigger old wounds related to school and/or family.
Meeting up with a former family member when you don’t have a good relationship can be challenging. I always think of family as our greatest source of growth—not that you always want the issues that lead to growth, but in the long run, facing them can bring happiness and peace.
The first thing I would do is get out a piece of paper, set a timer for 10 minutes, and free flow write about how you feel about your ex, your former mother-in-law, any of your ex’s other family members that are a problem for you, and anything else you might be anxious about. Let it rip on the paper—vent like no one’s watching! If you need more than 10 minutes, take it, but don’t quit before the timer goes off. This process of writing without stopping will help you with two things: First, it will bring out conscious and unconscious feelings around the subjects, and secondly, it will help you express frustrations, sadness, anger, and any other feelings around the subject. The act of writing on paper is a process of witnessing our inner thoughts. If these thoughts stay in our heads, we are more likely to act out in stressful situations that only bring more pain to our lives. We all need to be witnessed and heard. It’s a very important part of a healing journey.
Your writing should help you uncover any deeper feelings that might be below the surface. If you didn’t tap into any, keep trying the process every day for five days. The more you do it, the more that will begin to open up. Whatever amount comes up is the right one for you.
After you’ve gotten everything out, take the hurts and write them on individual pieces of paper. Find a nice box, bag, or anything that feels special and put the pieces of paper inside. Make an intention that those deep parts of you be healed. Now the hard part: Leave your container alone and wait to see how the magic of the universe will start to bring healing to those areas. Maybe you will be brought to a friend who has been where you are, and they’ll share some wisdom about what helped them in their own experiences. Or perhaps you’ll have your own aha moment that will give you greater insight into how you can heal. Or who knows what else can happen—the possibilities are endless. Just try and be open.
Now that these sources of hurt inside you are being looked after, let's get to the graduation. The real focus of the graduation is your son. Keep reminding yourself he is most important and give all your energy to that. On the big day, make sure you start taking good care of yourself from the moment you wake up. Treat yourself to a great meal, talk to a good friend, meditate, or do anything else that makes you feel loved and seen. That way, you’ll be filled with self-love and nutrition, and you can be there for your son, who needs you. During the day, if you slip and find yourself thinking about the old hurts, don’t worry. Just gently bring yourself back to your love for your son. You also can gently remind yourself that this event is just for one day, not forever.
Of course, you may get the urge to tell your ex mother-in-law what’s on your mind, so as a last note, I want to share the three questions I always ask myself in stressful situations when I feel like letting loose:
Does it need to be said?
Does it need to be said by me?
Does it need to be said right now?
I wish you and your son a wonderful graduation event!