If burning bridges had a reward system in place, I’d have a lot of points to collect. I’m not bragging, but I’ve burned a lot of bridges over the last few years. If you’re not familiar with the term “burning bridges”, it’s when you end a relationship or connection with someone permanently. You cut all contact and move on. When you burn a bridge, there’s no going back. It wasn’t always easy for me, in fact just a few years ago, my circle of friends and family consisted of dozens of toxic relationships and connections. There was always an argument or battle of some sort happening. There was always a problem. There were a lot of unhealthy things happening: gossiping, jealousy, fighting, and lying. But I held on. Until things blew up in my face.
To make a long story short, I realized that I was always complaining about the people around me. I was always complaining about drama. And, the day came where I had to face the truth: I was a part of that drama.
I invited it into my life, I was often entertained by it, I sometimes caused it and I definitely didn’t do much to stop it. Once I came to that realization, relationships starting ending rapidly. I stopped pouring into people and starting pouring into myself. Letting go and moving on became addictive. It wasn’t easy, but once I had let go, I got an adrenaline rush. I really don’t know how to explain it, but I felt powerful.
Maybe because for the first time in my life, I was choosing who was in my life instead of leaving it to circumstance.
Years passed by, and that whole “out of sight out of mind” saying turned out to be true. I threw away gifts, removed pictures, and anything else that reminded me of the people I needed to forget. I thought it was the perfect formula and that it was smooth sailing from here on out. But what no one ever mentions is, just because something is out of sight and out of mind, doesn’t mean you’ve healed. It also doesn’t mean it’s out of your heart.
Mourning people isn’t just about those who have passed. You can mourn someone who is still alive and well. And recently one of my “burned bridges” taught me that a part of letting go is healing, not just avoidance. Someone I haven’t spoken to in years resurfaced and we collided. I thought I would be fine until I found myself crying in the middle of a workout. I may have burned a bridge, but now the flames were at my heals and I wanted to make a run for it.
I ended this relationship because it was bad for me. Although, I in no way hated this person, I needed to get away. Even more complicated, I didn’t like this person, but I found that I really still cared about them, maybe even still loved them. I couldn’t wrap my head around all of these emotions because I never faced them. That’s the thing about burning bridges, the fire catches so fast you don’t have time to think or react.
So how do you mourn the living? It’s a complicated process. This loss isn’t final. They can pop up on your screen or right in front of you when you least expect it. They may get ill or sick. You may hear news about them. Unlike with the dead, you can play around with idea of rekindling your relationship, giving it another chance. You can also doubt your decision and worry if you should forgive and forget. It’s like you’re in limbo. Have they changed? Have you made a mistake?
And I found myself mourning someone who was “dead to me” but very much alive in reality.
Can you relate? Whenever a relationship ends, and I mean really ends, there’s a period of mourning. Whether it’s a romantic relationship, friendship, or family member, burning a bridge involves mourning. And it’s something I never thought of or allowed myself to do.
Now, to be clear, I know there’s a HUGE difference between mourning someone who has passed away and someone who you have ended a relationship with. There are last words that may have gone unsaid when someone passes away, especially if it was abrupt. And it’s not a choice. Usually when ending a relationship, there’s a process. Things can be said. You can call, text, email, or somehow contact this person. Those who have lost family members often mention how they wish they had a second chance. And here I was, presented with one. But the process of letting go and mourning the living is still a complicated one.
What I have learned is that letting people go was necessary but I forgot that healing was still a process that I had to go through. I cut off contact, threw away pictures, and kept my distance, but I still had to unpack a lot. As for the person who *popped back up*, they are in a bad spot at the moment. But I have chosen to love them from afar because although I still care about them and wish them the best, the brief moments we had when they reached out, I saw a glimpse of my past that I didn’t want to return to.
My advice? Let go of anything or anyone that isn’t good for you, but remember that letting go is just one of the steps in the process. Don’t cut corners. Mourning the living is weird because the *dead* can still resurface. And you have to be prepared for those ghosts that may come knocking at your front door.