This is What is Embedded Inside Fear and Regret

by | Jan 12, 2020 | HSP, Transitions - General | 97 comments

This is a story about what happens when we forget to make room for grief around transitions. It’s a story that illuminates the heart of a highly sensitive person, and how easy it is to overlook and minimize the tenderness of our hearts. It’s a story of remembering my own medicine, and how easy it is to forget.

We bought a new car a few weeks ago. After spending weeks researching and discussing, I decided on a car and felt excited about my choice. On the way to the dealer, our family packed into the car that I had driven for thirteen years, I said to them, “Remember: I always hate new things. It seems to be how I’m wired. So if I hate this new car, which I probably will, remind me that I’m saying this.”

We went through the paperwork, became oriented with the new car and pulled past our old car, which was now sitting in the corner of the lot waiting to be auctioned (we had traded it in). My husband drove home, and I was pleased with the car for the most part. I even had a fleeting moment of excitement when I noticed all of the snazzy features. I’m doing pretty well, I thought, as I drove into our neighborhood.

Within moments of pulling into our driveway, however, fear hit me full force. I suddenly noticed that the rear window was smaller than I had realized, and I felt tightness grip my stomach. Rear visibility has always been a top priority for me in cars. I orient myself through a wide rear window (the metaphor is not lost on me now ;)) and I feel boxed in and unsafe when I don’t have full visibility (again, the metaphor). How in the world could have I have purchased a brand-new car that had compromised rear visibility? What had I done? Fear tumbled into panic then anger at myself for not being thorough enough about such a large and long-term purchase. I lashed out at my husband, then retreated to my bedroom.

After a few minutes, my older son came in to check on me. With such graciousness and wisdom he said, “Just give it time, mom. You knew you were going to hate it. I think with time you’ll love it and you’ll feel safe. It’s a new car and it has different features, which will take getting used to, but I think it’s going to be great.”

“But I don’t feel safe,” I responded. “How can I love something that I don’t feel safe in? I bought this car for the safety features and now I don’t feel safe.”

On some level, I knew that my son was probably right, but fear can undo any logic. It’s like my clients who attach onto the one feature of their partner that they’re convinced is non-negotiable as a way to protect against the vulnerability of loving.

So what was I protecting against?

My husband came in a few minutes later and sat down gingerly beside me (after all, I had just snapped at him in the kitchen). He looked at me with love and also tried to reassure me. I looked back at him, and before I knew what I was saying, blurted out, “I miss our old car. It looked so sad sitting there at the car dealer. I want it back. It was such a good car. It carried our boys all these years. It kept us all safe. Everest learned to drive in that car. And we just left it sitting there all alone.”

I started crying. Hard. Big tears rolling down my face. My husband, in his infinite wisdom said, “It’s hard to let go.”

This is how highly sensitive people are wired and this is the nature of projection: If we bypass grief, it morphs into fear, panic, and even hatred. This pattern carries the key to emotional freedom, for when we reverse engineer the projection we arrive at what’s needed, which is to grieve. In other words, if we believe the fear, we stay stuck there and before long we’ve climbed onto the hamster wheel of an intrusive thought.

As I sobbed to my husband and son, who looked on with such sweet concern, I knew what I needed to do: I needed to write a letter to my old car. It was a Toyota Highlander Hybrid and we would call it “Hybrid” when referring to it. (I’ve always been one to name inanimate objects.) The depth of my attachment and grief took me by surprise, but when I framed it in the awareness that highly sensitive people attach deeply to all things, including inanimate objects, which also carry memory, it made sense. This is why moving is one of the most traumatic transitions we endure: our homes carry memories, and if we don’t grieve those memories they morph into anxiety and depression.

And so it is with cars: they carry a piece of us. In dreams, the car appears as a representation of Self and a metaphor of agency. That first night, with our shiny new car in the garage and the old battered one at the lot miles away, I longed for what was familiar and for the pieces of me that were held in the car. I wished I had taken more time to say goodbye. I wished I had done a ritual and honored what the car had meant for us. But like I always tell my clients who feel regret about not grieving a transition on the front end – whether getting married or becoming a parent or moving – it’s never too late to process a transition; if you don’t process during the engagement or pregnancy or in the old house, you can process on the other side.

Change is hard for the highly sensitives. Actually, “hard” is an understatement; we cling to what’s familiar and vehemently resist the new and unknown as if our lives depend on it. Maybe in some other era our lives did depend on it. I think about how my boys used to cry and rage when we would rearrange the furniture in our house. It’s how I feel when I think about the new car in our garage. For me, our old car was familiar and the new car was the new, not only in terms of what I’ve known for the past thirteen years but also in terms of the technology. There is a very big part of me that wants to remain in the 20th century and resists technological progress with every fiber of my being. And there is another part that loves technology and recognizes the ways in which it can be used for creativity, innovation, service, and safety. On that first night, I wanted to go back to the old car and the old ways, at least in the last century. I wanted to remain in what I’ve always known.

But we can’t stop time. It marches forward inexorably and the best we can do is recognize our response to this forward motion and drop our defenses so that we can soften into grief. Letter writing is a tool I always recommend for processing difficult emotions, particularly around grieving and letting go. Whether letting go of an ex, a difficult relationship with a family member, or aspects of yourself, letter writing brings us into direct contact with these characters or experiences, which then allows us to move the feelings attached to them through us.

Here is the letter I wrote that night to my dear, old car. I share it here not only for any benefit it might offer you in terms of seeing an example of letter writing, but also for me, for it’s when we share our experiences and ritualize them that they can move along the pathways of life more fluidly. Thank you for reading.

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Dear Hybrid,

Thank you for being such a great car. Thank you for keeping us safe all these years. Thank you for holding my babies in your backseat. When I think of you now I see our memories, all of the times I would look back and see my boys’ sweet faces staring out the window or looking back at me. Thank you for holding them with me all these years. You’re the only car Asher has ever known, and now he’s almost eleven.

I weep as I write this, and I know it’s not so much about you but what you’ve held, the memories you carry. Daev says that we take our memories with us. I trust that that’s true. But right now I only feel heartbreak for the passage of time, for my boys no longer being babies, for their sweet little faces that used to look back at me. Oh, I remember the hard times, too: how they would fight like dogs back there and I would lose my patience and yell at them. How horribly guilty and awful I would feel. You watched all that, too.

I know you’re “just” a car, but I also know that we gloss over the spirit of inanimate object in this culture. When I think of you sitting in the car lot as we drove away, I feel heartbroken. I’m sorry we left you there with so little honoring, so little goodbye. I wish we had done a ritual. I wish I had taken more time with letting you go. I wish I could go back and be with you longer.

And, of course, I know it’s not just about you, but about the me that is carried in you, the part of me that has been left and abandoned and felt unbearably lonely, the part of me that has needed ritual in order to pass through change. I’m sorry we left you sitting there alone. I’m sorry, young self, for the times that you were left sitting there alone. I’m sorry for the first day of kindergarten when you were left sobbing at the door. I’m sorry for the day you were born and were taken away from your mother to be placed in a nursery with other newborn babies, none of whom were kin. I’m sorry for the existential loneliness of being human. 

As I grieve for you and I want you back, I think about how difficult change has always been for my two boys. I think about how hard it’s been for them to let go of anything, even a broken toy that hasn’t been played with for years and lives at the bottom of their closet. I think about how the culture minimizes these attachments, and how there’s a voice in my head even now that says, “Are you serious, Sheryl? You’re crying over a car? You know there are much worse problems in the world.” Yes, I am crying over a car. I am letting myself weep through the pain of the passage of time, to let the memories that are embedded in the car filter up to consciousness so that I can cry them through. It’s the car and it’s not the car. Maybe mostly not… but still it hurts. It hurts to say goodbye. 

You were a great car, Hybrid. Thank you, I’m sorry, I love you, Please forgive me. The Ho’po’o’pono prayer rises up now. The prayer that sees me through so many vulnerable moments. Thank you for holding us and keeping us safe. May you find your way to a family who loves and appreciates you, and may you keep them safe for many years. Thank you and goodbye. 

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97 Comments

  1. I’m really floored by this post, Sheryl; thank you so much for sharing it. When you look up to someone, as I do to you, it’s strange but so comforting to witness their vulnerability. I think your letter is beautiful and I’m wondering how many times I’ve likely stuffed away my grief over inanimate objects. Thank you. X

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    • I couldn’t have said it better myself!

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  2. Thank you, sweet one. I’m so glad that the post is both comforting and illuminating. xo

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  3. I would have had the same reaction. The window and then the grief due to the memories. The flip side of attachment to objects is how too much objects (a car in this case not pertinent but..) can also provoke intense overwhelm in highly sensitive people….

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    • Too many objects not too much (too much stuff!) fine line between many and much 🙂

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    • Yes, yes. Beautifully shared. Thank you.

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  4. Ohmygosh did this hit me in the heart. I smiled and cried right along with you. What a beautiful relatable story. Thank you for sharing this journey. It demonstrates your healing work so well, and makes all of us feel human. What a gift.

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  5. I’m so glad you wrote this article because I get attached to cars and even a trailer that took all our belongings miles to our new home. And I feel a great gratitude for them and the memories they hold. It’s soo nice to hear that I am not the only one especially when people make fun of you for being this way. Thank you for sharing.

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    • I’m so glad the post made you feel less alone and validated. And reading your response makes me feel the same way ;).

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  6. I don’t feel as bad for how hard it’s been for me to let go of my relationship after reading this. So much love to you, Sheryl. And the men in your life are really special.

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    • So much love to you, Kim. And yes, the men in my life are true gems. Thank you for that reflection.

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  7. Oh Sheryl, I seriously adore this post! It made me tear up and laugh out loud because I resonate with your sensitive process so deeply. The other day, my dad emailed my sister and I to tell us that he and my mom were disconnecting the second phone line in their house that they had installed when we were kids so our calls with friends didn’t interfere with them receiving their adult calls (this was before call-waiting). I felt so silly when my internal response to the news was to feel a tremendous sadness well up inside of me, especially because I haven’t lived at my parent’s house for over 20 years and I have a child of my own now! But, because of your work, I was able to quickly recognize this as a transition and grieve the passage of time and the fact that we can never go back to the carefree days of gabbing with girlfriends in middle school and high school. There are so many opportunities for us HSPs to grieve! I love your letter to Hybrid. Thank you for sharing it. Also, thank you for revealing that you lashed out at your husband during this whole process. I do the same thing with my husband when I’m overwhelmed with feelings and I feel so terrible about it!

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    • Such a lovely, relatable comment! Thank you for sharing you experience as well to this example. You are so brave!

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    • Thank you for sharing this beautiful story, Cindy. It brought tears to my eyes as it’s completely relatable. And of course I LOVE that you were able to name and validate your response so that it could move through you. We’re all on this ride together, aren’t we :).

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  8. This is absolutely beautiful, Sheryl. As a highly sensitive, I recognize so much in your vulnerability. Growing up, I could never be honest about my attachments, and therefore so much grief has gone unprocessed. The goodbye letter is perfect. Thank you for sharing it. A question for you (as I work through transitions here): What specific ritual do you wish you had done?

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    • I wonder about this too. I think maybe it would be wise for me to do rituals in similar situations, but I have never done rituals, and wonder how.

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  9. Dear Sheryl,
    I wept alongside you, reading this post. I am going through a very difficult time of change and grief, and there’s just no fighting how broken-hearted I feel. Thank you for lighting the way for me.
    Love, Liddy

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    • I’m glad the post brought tears, Liddy. It’s where our healing lives. Sending so much love.

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  10. Dear Sheryl,
    Thank you for posting this. It allowed me to see my fear about the birth of our third child I am now experiencing is actually a grieving of the infant and toddler stage of our second born as our relationship is changing.

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    • Oh, yes, K. So much grief around the first that is unleashed on the precipice of the second.

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  11. This post was incredibly helpful (as usual), specifically because of the full arch of experience that you shared. I was wondering if I wouldn’t understand how you truly moved through the grief, then I read the letter! This was a clear picture of how I can support myself in similar moments. Thank you!

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    • I’m so glad it was helpful, Cassandra! x

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  12. You and your words are such a deep comfort to me, and are helping me process feelings that I have never validated because they are not often acknowledged. Thank you for sharing your struggles and guiding us through ours. Reminds me to go easier on myself but also keep doing the self-work.

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    • Beautiful, Jesse: feeling validated and reminded to bring self-compassion are key to healing.

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  13. Sheryl, this post was so beautiful. It made me realize how Life is constantly offering us tender moments to grieve – not for the sake of sadness, but for the great good of growing into our healing and joy. It really is the wisdom of anxiety 🙂
    Thank you for pulling back the curtain to give us this glimpse into your life. It’s terrifically relatable, and I know I find validation and hope in your experience. And a big, loving thanks to your men for their inadvertent part in our healing journey. Blessings on you all. xo

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    • This brought tears, as your comments so often do. Thank you for seeing and reflecting, and especially the reflection about the beautiful men in my life. They are true gifts.

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  14. I remember my parents selling our first car when I was a child. I sat in it and cried and patted the dashboard apologising to it for their abandonment. I think I was about 6. It was a red Holden Cameira and apparently quite a lemon, but I thought it was family. This post was a sad and lovely reminder. Change is hard. Thank you.

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    • My heart is touched reading your comment. I can see little 6-year old you sitting in the car, patting the dashboard. This is the highly sensitive in action. Yes, change is hard, and it’s made a bit easier knowing that we’re all in it together.

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  15. Thanks for this, Sheryl. Today, with Willow, I cut up my favorite pair of pants to turn them into shorts. They had ripped behind repair and could no longer be worn. But the knees.. the knees had holes that I earned crawling around on the floor with her. The holes carry my pride in choosing to get down with her, the memories of play we’ve had together. They carry the baby years. Over time I watched the holes rip more and more, my love growing with them. Today, on one level, I feel like I murdered my pants. On another I’m so happy they’ll live on as shorts. We also took our Christmas tree down today and, while I was stepping stripping it off its lights, I felt sad.

    So, thank you again. For normalizing and for reminding me to make space for the sadness that’s so deeply connected to love and joy.

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    • Oh, yes, Sarah: the holes, the tree, the sadness bound up in love. Thank you for sharing so beautifully. I have chills as I read your words.

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  16. Hi Sheryl,
    This was really spot on for me and my situation. Been seeing a new man since a year back now but I’m struggling to feel love for him. I’m missing my ex too much. We had to end our relationship due to difficult circumstances and I just can’t stop crying. That was two years ago. I kind of forced myself into a new relationship as a way to force myself to move on. Now I’m about to give up. This new relationship can’t be right. I’m still so filled up by grief over loosing my ex. The grief never ends. I cry rivers when I’m alone. It doesn’t seem to help? I just wish I could get back with my ex.

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    • Sometimes tears that never end are needing a different kind of attention. From what I know of your story, the invitation may be to turn the focus to face yourself and your own inner child instead of focusing on the ex. And when the rivers of grief don’t stop, that’s the time to seek additional support through therapy. Sending love.

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      • I have kept doing a lot of inner work. I keep learning about my feelings and thought process but it takes time. It seems as if I have extremely difficult to let go of things (at least my two life dreams) Walking around with a constant feeling of loss and grief. I’ve lost my dreams and have difficulties finding new ones. I might try therapy again as it was two years ago now. Thank you x

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  17. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Sheryl for being vulnerable enough to share your car experience with us. As an hsp and an empath, I have have felt a grieving towards old refrigerators, bikes, Christmas trees, stuffed animals, and other assorted items:) I always ” talk” to the items before I let them go and thank them for their use in my life.
    I felt weird, different, silly and alone with my feelings and actions all this time. Your letter has let me see it is okay to be me just as I am. ???

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    • Your comment, and several others, reminds me of Marie Kondo’s work and how important it is to thank our objects before saying goodbye. She has struck a global chord I think precisely because of her acknowledgment of the role ritual needs to play when letting go.

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  18. Sheryl, I love when you share glimpses into your own inner world. You aren’t afraid to show that you experience the same things we do even with your expertise and history of inner work. Your authenticity is such a gift! This was a good reminder to allow myself to grieve the things I’ve been telling myself shouldn’t matter because they are “no big deal.” I have spent much of my adolescence and young adulthood cut off from things that I was afraid to feel too deeply, and now I feel inspired to write some grief letters. Thank you!

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    • I’m so glad my post and sharing of my life has inspired you to engage in ritual grief work. It’s so important!

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  19. Thanks for your note Sheryl. I deeply appreciate your teachings. I turned 50 last year and lost my dad, stepdad, and my girlfriend’s mom–a hard year. I was born into a broken home with a very abusive, violent father. Although my mom got my two brothers and me out of that situation (I’m the sensitive middle kid) by divorcing him when I was four, she sent her sons to be with my dad every year, who continued to abuse us, especially me (the sensitive one with the same name as him). There also were many other situations where I suffered different kinds of abuse between the age 4-15.

    Despite decades of therapy and medications, and being functional on the outside, its still very hard for me to feel safe in the world and be fully present. Its also hard for me to let go of the sense of isolation I felt growing up.

    I think that sense of somehow being different and defective in some way is probably the most difficult legacy from my childhood. I have committed to taking my pain and turning it (as I have done all my life) into love and kindness and deeper connections. However, it has been such a hard journey on the inside–beneath my smile.

    Anyway, I thank you for your teachings, promise to hang in there, and look forward to meet you someday and taking your classes. All the best.

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    • Dear Don: Thank you for sharing your painful story as well as your deep commitment to healing. Yes, when there is a strong trauma history, it can be difficult to find safety inside ourselves and with others, but I do believe that with continued commitment to your inner work as well as exploring new trauma modalities that are continually evolving and emerging, you will grow more and more inner safety. A spiritual practice is also key. Sending love.

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      • Thanks Sheryl! With trauma, depression, and OCD, I often find myself feeling “back there” in old emotional spots that are ruled by fear and self-limiting beliefs that were transferred onto me by others. I am grateful that your teachings open doors to life’s possibilities. Please accept my gratitude. I hope you’ll write a book someday on your experience and teachings. Much love, Don

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        • Don: My book is called The Wisdom of Anxiety. I think you’ll find a lot of comfort and guidance from it.

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  20. I’ve always become so very attached (to my mind, unreasonably so) to some of the inanimate objects in my life…cars, certain items of clothing, homes, blankets. Whenever I find myself sobbing over letting them go, as I did yesterday when putting away the Christmas tree ornaments for another year, I can feel waves of self judgement wash over me in concert with the grief. “How cushy is my life that I am THIS HEARTBROKEN over saying goodbye to a ____ that I am CHOOSING to give up in favor of a better one? How shallow must I be to be grieving this when there are so many *real* problems in the world? What is wrong with me for being so weak when there are so many other, more important things to cry over?”
    I’ve recently made the connection between my high sensitivity and the poignant attachments I form with animals and places, but I’ve never considered that it’s that same sensitivity that informs my attachments to inanimate objects…until now. Thank you for giving language to something with which I have lifelong experience and, obviously, lifelong shame. And thank you for so generously sharing how you honor your attachments move through your grief. What a gift! xx

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    • Beautiful reply with which I fully resonate. My deep respect and highest soul love to you on this shared exploration, learning and playful journey called life on earth!! X

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    • Arbre: Thank you so much for sharing this, and I’m SO glad my post helped to ease some of the lifelong shame around attaching to and grieving the loss inanimate objects. We sensitives feel everything, including the spirit of objects and the memories embedded there. It’s so important to honor the grief. In fact, I would say it’s essential on a level that we can’t see or fully understand. xo

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  21. I love this post, Sheryl!

    I feel so validated. I cried when we got rid of our last car. It was nothing special, in fact it was old and had many problems. Like you say, it’s not just the car but it’s all the memories carried with it, the fact that my late Dad came with me to buy it, the trusty service it gave us, the memories of driving home in third gear because the gearbox gave out on us! I can laugh now 🙂

    I have been troubled by my deep attachment to things and people, but you have reassured me that it’s part of my wiring and it’s to be honoured.

    I found it incredibly difficult to move house many years ago, in fact that’s when I began to really struggle with life. Again, you have validated me.. and after moving house a cool 15 times in my 31 years you’d think I’d be used to it by now… I think I’ll write a letter to my old house(s)!

    Much love Sheryl, to you and your lovely family.

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    • Oh dearest sweet soul, I love you and your earthly human reply. I honour your sharing, as I do Sheryl’s and my own. We are all so wonderful. Choosing to be, honouring, exploring and enjoying our sensitivities, we are graciously loving, compassionate, curious, thoughtful and kind, peaceful and resilient, responsive and responsible, honest, truthful, knowing and wise. We are One and we heal, in so many ways.

      I honour me and you and all fully; we are one energy, no matter how we present, we are all living, nothing is inanimate, unworthy or without God’s holy love, light, energy and spirit, and I so love knowing and being this. I thank you for being you, I thank all. Namaste, much love, and I too now understand why I previously have chosen to hold onto the physical manifestations that have allowed such joy, and I also feel I’m choosing to enter and be in a time and space, a reality and shared dimension of such abundance of spirit that I also choose to fully share the living energy in everything, so I feel I am choosing to pass on much that I have received so much love and value from.

      I have been described as a ‘hoarder’, of having ‘too much “stuff”, of being ‘too talkative’, ‘too quick’, of ‘jumping in’ and I know I always serve me perfectly, the true inner holy magical important worthy me, and no-one else’s judgement nor any I may sometimes offer, is necessary or true, ‘it’s simply an expression of observed and witnessed opinion, not fact. We are all mirrors, all dancing glitter balls with so many facets, and I choose to spin, glide, jump, whirl, twirl, be fully free and happy.

      I can describe me as zany and humorous, as funny and joyous, as blissful and wild, as natural and whole.

      I curbed an old pattern to be self-critical in a harsh way in that last paragraph, and I honour, celebrate and am proud to be aware of my growth – I am so proud to say I love me, I love who and how I choose to be, I am worthy, and therein, I know all and everyone and nothing is also. So happy to be free, to be part of the Almighty Oneness of love, of life, of bliss, of excitement, of contentment, of shining, and I thank Sheryl for sharing, for connecting, for owning her vulnerability which is simply a strength in revealing her inner beauty. God blesses and celebrates, worships and helps, heals and teaches, guides and enjoys with and us all. We are so lucky. I am so lucky and fortunate and I love that technology lets me share. I love Em for enabling this in my home, the home I offered him to share, and which has given us both a great platform upon and within which to grow.

      As we now go our separate ways, I bless everyday we are also enjoying each other, with true commitment and genuine love, honest communication and respect. We have come a long way and I thank and honour and am proud that Sheryl’s ‘Trust Yourself’ course and follow up helped me so much. I now know that allowing myself to be open allows me to grow. I love learning and experiencing so much of what loving life is offering, and I am humble in my humility and gracious in my gratitude for all God continually blesses me with. Namaste, love to all xx happy new decade of decadence, abundance, freedom and all you desire and dream, intend and manifest. For me, life is absolutely perfect. I’ve got out of my way and into my sway! Yay!!! Xx oh happy day ❤️

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    • Oh, Rosie! I teared up when you described letting go of your old car and the memories it carried, especially around your dad. Yes yes yes to writing letters to the houses. They’re living inside of you and they need your attention. Sending love. x

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  22. Oh my goodness, this post was balm to me tonight! Thank you for articulating all this. “I always hate new things”. YES. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been terrible with change. There are stories from my childhood: me crying on New Years Eve at 4 years old because I didn’t want to say goodbye to the old year, me crying on the eve of my 8th birthday because I didn’t want to let 7 go, me feeling “meh” about both my high school and college graduation days because I had to keep all the emotion at an arm’s length. It is DEEPLY wired into me. I had a difficult time transitioning to engagement and an even harder time transitioning to marriage, much to my surprise. I found myself confused so much of the time by my experience, and filled with shame and fear, as these were long-expected things (not sudden), and dearly wished for. (The Conscious Bride was a very helpful companion in those seasons!). I experienced a (separate) broken engagement at 25 as well as my parents’ divorce when I was 30, and I think those things reinforced fear and distrust around change – but even so, I’ve just always been change-averse.

    I cried reading your post tonight because it was so resonant. In general and because we are on the cusp of adopting a puppy next week and moving into our first house next month – big changes ahead! I’ve found myself carrying a mix of excitement and fear about both things. Your rear window view reminded me of the way I’ve begun to analyze and fixate on particulars about the house that are different from our apartment – did we make the right choice? What if we don’t love it the way we love our apartment (our first home together)? What if we regret it? Then what? My brain knows the house is wonderful in dozens of ways, but is wondering about “what I might have missed”. I could talk about The Thoroughness for hours! I know this is primarily an issue of self-trust *and* a need to make space to grieve and not apologize for it. To not feel like celebrating and moving forward are the only options – it’s okay to be sad too. Both/And.

    Anyway – THANK YOU. I read your posts almost every week, but this one takes the cake and makes me feel seen and known, right at the time I need it. I’m grateful for you and your work,

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    • Yes to every word, Kate. Thank you for sharing your process. This part is KEY:

      “I could talk about The Thoroughness for hours! I know this is primarily an issue of self-trust *and* a need to make space to grieve and not apologize for it. To not feel like celebrating and moving forward are the only options – it’s okay to be sad too. Both/And.”

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  23. Thank you for sharing your story. It helps me remember & honor my sensitive nature and open up to the grief I’m carrying. It hurts when I resist & block my sensitivity out of fear of or shame about or anger toward it, but I always return to it as my path to healing. Hearing from you & others reminds me to do it and that I’m not alone. ?

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    • I’m so glad the post reminded you to move toward your grief with love and compassion as it really is KEY to healing. And as you can see from the comments, you are far from alone ;). x

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  24. Thank you so much for sharing this story, Sheryl! I can relate so much. A few weeks ago when I was about to get out of the train after a 2-day trip, I realized that my headband was missing. It had a beautiful colour and very nice woolen texture and I whole-heartedly loved it and felt warmed and protected. I couldn’t understand where I might have lost it since getting on the train and even considered the option that someone might have stolen it while I had been taking a nap..
    I went home and filled in the lost&found formular of the train company. I was utterly sad. It was just a headband, oh dear, something material, you shouldn’t be attached so much to clothes, said another voice. But I couldn’t help but really grieve it and I still miss it, it felt like a part of me was gone.
    So I am glad that you shed some light on this topic of loss and grief and how we project it onto beloved things. It makes me feel less alone. I still sometimes cannot believe how much feeling and sensitivity one little moment can bring up for me, and it takes time to lovingly meet the voices inside that have learned that this makes me a princess on a pea and I shouldn’t be so fussy that I learned during childhood… Thank you as always!

    Reply
    • Yes, Anja, you’re not alone with this at all: ” I still sometimes cannot believe how much feeling and sensitivity one little moment can bring up for me.” It’s what I see in my kids several times a day, and I always think, “These are the moments that are steamrolled by well-meaning parents who don’t know how to meet emotions.” The re-wiring and re-parenting is painstaking but so very important. Sending love.

      Reply
  25. I have such a hard time knowing when it is time to move on. Having recently broken up with my loving, supportive boyfriend because of stress about intellectual connection, now I look back and see all the ways that anxiety was poisoning the well of my love for him. I’m having a hard time being here, with the grief of having let go, without also considering the future decisions I’ll have to make — whether to get over him or go back to him and fight for the love we have for each other. I feel so stuck and sad, and not sure how to grieve if I’m also hoping for a reconciliation. Any advice from those who’ve been there is much appreciated.

    Reply
    • As I’ve shared on your other comments, the Break Free From Relationship Anxiety course would be very beneficial for you.

      Reply
      • Thank you 🙂

        Reply
  26. Oh, Sheryl, you did it again! 🙂 I would just like to say that I laughed, cried and resonated with this post so much. I laughed when I read your comment about hearing the voice that said “Are you seriously crying over a car, Sheryl?” because I feel that way often whenever I’m journaling about something. I cried reading how much it meant to you and your family and resonating with deeply attachments because I know how that feels, too. You shine a light on sensitive people in such a beautiful way and I appreciate you so much for that. Because if it weren’t for you and my therapist you recommended me, I don’t think I’d be able to find that voice/inner parent to love and tend to all the grief that I’ve stored. Thank you, Sheryl!

    Reply
    • Oh, you’re so welcome, Jessica! I’m so happy to hear that your healing work is moving along and you’re finding that voice of self-compassion to tend to your grief. Sending love.

      Reply
  27. Sheryl, Thank you for this. As a man, i sometimes feel like i don’t belong in your circle here but so much of what you write resonates with me. I feel that i am highly sensitive as well and recently lost a long time friend to cancer and have been avoiding the feelings of grief? loss?, I am confused. Your post helped me to understand a little bit more about myself.
    Thanks again for continuing to include me, I am grateful.
    P.S, I have lived in Hawaii for most of my life, so the reference to Ho’oponopono is well received.

    Reply
    • Men are so deeply welcome here, and there are more of you than you might think. Thank you for sharing your reflections, and I’m so sorry for your loss. Moving toward the grief and loss are so very important.

      Reply
    • Sensitivity knows no gender. I am so sorry you’ve had to say goodbye to a friend, what a true loss. Sending you love and courage on your grief journey. xx

      Reply
  28. When my husband and I bought our first house, we were so excited to start fresh. We couldn’t wait to be rid of the teeny tiny duplex with roaches and a landlord who didn’t want to fix anything. On our last night there we laid in bed together and started to reminisce on all the memories we had made in our first place together. Our quiet tears turned into full on weeping. We held each other for a few minutes until the tears gave way to laughter. I will never forget that. 🙂

    Lately I have felt very unsettled as I am on the brink of so many new changes in my life. I thought of you and then thought, “Maybe it would help if I wrote a letter to the older version of myself and grieved a little bit.” I sat down with my journal, and it made all the difference.

    It was so nice to then open my emails for the day and see this. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful story and the lessons you’ve learned–It has been felt deeply by this HSP 🙂 <3

    Reply
    • I’m so glad that you remembered to journal and write a letter to your old self. That’s the healing work, and it does work wonders. Sending love!

      Reply
  29. This post is one of my favorites you’ve every written, Sheryl. I don’t have words to say how much this resonated. This has been my life—I can’t even count how many times I melted down as a child and young adult second-guessing decisions, hating a new object because I was afraid of the change, needing time to settle in. Then there’s another part of me that loves the new and craves adventure, and so I’ve been working on balancing them together as strengths toward honoring the old and loving the new. I feel so seen and heard as you recount your experience. So few people talk about it and yet, what you wrote is exactly where I have been. Thank you for sharing so personally, these are the stories that go deep. 🙂

    Reply
    • I’m so glad it resonated deeply, berrylotus, and it’s always so good to hear from you. This is clearly an under-talked about area, especially for children (but for adults as well). Sending much love.

      Reply
  30. Thank you Sheryl for this! I can relate so much to this. Growing up, I was the “sentimental” sibling, and I didn’t know how to express feelings of loss or grief. When I lost a small purse with all my saved coins I cried for hours. As I grew up, I made sure to cry when I was alone, for fear of being the odd one. I cried while in the shower, or when everyone was asleep. I’ve always been one to remember experiences with such detail: what people were wearing, what was said, where I sat… I’m often bombarded with memories at the sight of an old home I lived in, or a park I used to visit. It makes negative memories that much more painful. I am eager to write letters for transitions, and losses as you mentioned. Does this work for things that happened many years ago?

    Reply
    • Yes, Bella, you can write letters retroactively, and I highly recommend it. Keep in mind that the “memory-bearer” in a family was historically the keeper and teller of family stories. It’s such an important role, and I encourage you to find a way to honor it, which means telling your stories! Remembering details is a great gift when it’s channeled in the direction of creativity.

      Reply
  31. This brought tears to my eyes and I’m in tears writing this.
    I work with the grandfather of the young boy who saved and saved ($600) to buy my car. The weeks leading up to the sale I gave my car it’s last waxing and detail and the night before I took it to the car wash. Everyone thought I was crazy and wasting my time, but I had to do it (for me). I sat in the car for over an hour that evening in tears, ate lunch in my car the next day and then stood in the parking lot and waved goodbye as he drove off with my car. It was a long goodbye and I was heartbroken ?. That young man kept and cared for “my” car for 10 years until it finally grave out! Thirty years old is not bad for a car!!
    Thank you so, so much for sharing your story! I really appreciated reading this today!!?

    Reply
    • I’m amazed that you were in touch with yourself so deeply that you knew that you needed to ritualize your goodbye with your car. It’s what I wish I had done before we unceremoniously left it in the parking lot! Brava to you, Holly, for this immense gift of self-awareness.

      Reply
  32. Thank you, Sheryl. I have never posted on the site before but read your posts religiously. I had to post this time as this helped me so much. ,I too, bought a new car two weeks ago after driving a 1990s-era car for 14 years. Although my husband and I wanted more safety features than the old car afforded, I had a panic attack at the car dealership when signing the papers as it felt a little rushed, despite the months of research I had put in. I’m having a hard time letting go of my old car, which we are giving to a family member. In part, it has to do with my dog who died a few months ago and who spent her whole life in the backseat of that car. I loved to look back to see her there. Writing a letter to the old car is such a good idea. And thank you for giving me permission to express this as I, too, felt kind of silly at first with my attachment to the old car.

    Reply
    • I’m completely with you, CF. I, too, almost had a panic attack at the car dealers. Reading your comment and writing this now, I have to wonder how many highly sensitive people have this experience! I imagine quite a lot… Yes, write the letter. It will help you move the grief through and come to acceptance and even celebration of the new car. I’m starting to love mine just a tiny bit ;).

      Reply
  33. Thank you for sharing your story, Sheryl and reminding us it’s ok to be human and process our grief the best way we know how. I also see how the Universe aligned this message at the most perfect time. You see, 2 days ago I had a dream of a dark SUV that was pulled to the side of the road. From this message, I knew to stay aware in the upcoming days. Yesterday, as I was riding my bike, I came across a dark SUV parked on the street, and the license plate had 5 out of 7 letters and numbers that were the same as my car. I looked at the model of the car and it was a beautiful Mercedes truck. I instantly thought, upgrade! I’ve been experience tremendous shifts in my life the past few years that have been happening very quickly, and this was a wonderful reminder to allow myself time to slow down, reflect and accept all of the changes along the way. Thank you again for sharing and holding space for this great topic, and a big congrats on your new ride!

    Reply
    • Beautiful comment, Robyn! What a powerful experience, and thank you for sharing.

      Reply
  34. Reading about your experience was extremely validate, I am a HSP as well and I can see why I had kept things from a decade ago, i also name my cars, people always looked at me puzzle when I refer to Spencer my honda fit as it was a person.
    What a beautiful and painful way to be alive huh? we do really feel everything around us. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us, I love your book is been so overwhelming helpful to understand my anxiety and who I am as a person.
    Hugs

    Reply
    • A beautiful and painful way to be alive, indeed ;). Oh, and our new car’s name is Kitt ;).Sending love.

      Reply
  35. Oh Sheryl! I cannot begin to tell you how timely this is!
    Thank you for normalising and helping me to make sense of my immense feelings around our decision to “retire” our old tiny beautiful home in order to build a new one with more space on the same land.
    I refuse to say demolish, I prefer retire. She deserves that respect. People couldn’t understand why I was not excited, I couldn’t understand my feelings. It was a decision based on a need for our growing family. I didn’t care for the new. I liked the old. She was just fine, only as my boys got much bigger she began to get smaller.
    We had to postpone the build through mid last year due to health reasons so we got to keep her for awhile longer. It truly was a blessing in disguise. I had more time to process the very deep feelings! Just to add to the trauma of it all, this was the home my husband was born in. Once I started working through it and finally realising I was truly grieving my husband developed anxiety and mild depression around it too. We spoke about it, there were many tears but we can only heal ourselves. We did it at different times. We sold lots of parts of her. This made us so happy knowing the little kitchen my boys played in around my feet with pots and pans is still being used. The laundry I washed their nappies in is being of use elsewhere. The floorboards that they rolled their trains and cars on, the ground that held us up will be put in another’s home. This truly helped. When we all moved out we all wrote little love notes on her walls that kept us safe. I told the boys about how grateful I was for her. I shared the memories with them and they shared theirs with me. We have kept parts of her to lay under the new home when the slab will be put down. It has been a huge amount of feeling through it. Gut wrenching pain, sleepless nights, tears and so much fear.
    Your blog post helped me make sense of all the actions I’ve taken. I thought I was crazy for planning to go their before she is retired, to sit quietly and perform a final separation ritual. Sheryl, thank you. Thank you for sharing your story which has immensely normalised my feelings and helping me to understand anxiety.
    Thank you for writing your book too. I recently purchased it (:

    Reply
    • Oh, Desie: This brought me to tears. You’ve done so much beautiful ritual already to honor your beloved little home, and she’s very lucky. Please do go there before she’s retired and perform a final separation. It will help you traverse the transition with more tears, which means more grace, and you will all benefit. Sending love.

      Reply
  36. Sheryl, your reaction, “I always hate new things” actually reminds me of the most helpful piece of insight I’ve ever gotten from you: I had a new baby, and had NOT done the work I needed to do while pregnant despite having followed you for years. I finally began to work through your new mother course after the fact. The most helpful piece hands-down was to think about how how we typically react to new people. I realized in that moment that I NEVER feel compelled to let new people in – and in that moment transformed from nearly panicking that I didn’t feel connected enough to my baby, to taking it in stride that this is just the way I am, and remembering that I do eventually let a few special people sneak in! Thank you for reminding me, then, now, and always, to be self-aware.

    Reply
    • I’m so glad that piece was helpful, Heather. Self-awareness is key, and so often we need others to help turn the wheels of self-awareness.

      Reply
  37. Dear Sheryl, this resonates so strongly with me. By sharing your grief about inanimate objects and the memories they hold, you have reminded me of mine too; the grief I felt for our family car when we purchased a new one and the need I had to secretly say goodbye to it, the grief I experienced when I transitioned from a bunk bed to a single bed and then fretted for nights thinking of the bunk bed alone in its new home, the special coin I was keeping that accidentally got spent and my Mum has to retrieve from the ice cream shop. I can now see more clearly why some of these transitions were so hard for me and that the objects were so much more than objects. Thank you for your wisdom as always.

    Reply
    • These are beautiful and touching examples of the ways highly sensitive children attach to objects. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  38. Oh my gosh Sheryl, I absolutely cried through this whole letter. Please know how many of us are holding space for you as you go through this transition. I also want to tell you how much closer to you I feel after reading this post. Sometimes it is easy to slip into thinking that mentors such as yourself have a very tight grip on everything in their life and that they rarely find themselves snapping at anyone or needing guidance…when you opened up in writing this letter, I felt so connected to you. Not only are you one of the wisest guides I have ever encountered, but you live and breathe the work that you teach in your own life, day in and day out. You let us see your human and vulnerable side, which is perhaps, in my opinion, the most valuable and validating aspect of your teachings. I was also so touched by the part in which you summarized your older son’s interactions with you; what an emotionally intelligent and emotionally literate person you have raised, not to mention loving, supporting, and nurturing! I absolutely love that, as your son gets older, he also takes the lead for you when the circumstance calls for it. Thank you, thank you, for letting us into your life. Words truly cannot express the depth of my gratitude and appreciation for you.

    Reply
    • This brought tears to my eyes, dear beautiful Jeana! Thank you for sharing your reflections and offering your love. Yes, my son blew me away, and I, too, am grateful that he can take the lead sometimes when appropriate. Sending you so much love, as always.

      Reply
  39. Our youngest children (triplets) went off to college last fall and we decided to sell our much loved van. But instead of being able to sell it, someone who came to look at it stole it. I think the stress of that situation short circuited my normal process, and I’m going to write a little to our van now! ♥️

    Reply
    • Oh goodness that’s really awful. I’m so sorry. Yes do write that letter. It will help.

      Reply
  40. This resonated with me so much! When I was small I grieved my parents getting a new bed because I had memories of sitting on their bed early on Christmas morning with my brothers and opening our presents. I knew those particular childhood moments would never exist again. When we sold our old car and got a new one I also cried. I thought I was abnormally sentimental. I still get terribly sad around changes (big and small) and try to resist them, even when a big part of me is on board for the change. The letter writing idea looks like a good one! Thank you for sharing and normalizing this aspect of sensitivity ❤️

    Reply
  41. Sheryl thank you for sharing this & I can so relate to this post. This time last year I was in a dreadful state but am now seeing a wonderful counsellor. In 2018 I had to scrap my mums car which I’d had for 11 years since she died. Losing that car felt like losing the last part of my mum & added to all my other unresolved feelings. Over the last year I’ve shed so many tears as one by one I’ve properly grieved the loss of my much loved parents, the loss of my beloved cat who was like a surrogate child to me & all the transitions I’ve been forced to go through despite struggling with change. Your blogs have been a god send to me in my darkest hours. Thank you for your wonderful work.

    Reply
    • Lynn: It’s good to hear from you and I’m so glad my blog has been a support during this challenging time, and that you’re seeing a wonderful counselor.

      Reply
  42. This post hit home for me as I’ve always treated inanimate objects as if they had feelings. My husband thinks it’s silly but humors me anyway. Now I understand why I’m like this. The memories attached to those objects and my feelings and experiences with those objects have a much stronger hold on me than I realized. I’ve never been good at taking the time to allow myself to grieve properly in any big change in my life. This was a great post. I can really relate.

    Reply
    • I’m so glad it spoke to you, Chelsea.

      Reply
  43. I’ve always been very attached to inanimate objects but only recently have I realised the value of ritual in helping me through the grief. I used to think I was overly sentimental (and so the world still tells me, but now I know better!) I also cried leaving my old car. I sobbed when closing my locker for the last time at school. I struggle to throw out old running shoes that are beyond the pale. My husband says this is hoarding (it’s not, they do get thrown out!) But it sure makes hoarding relatable. My parents sold our family home 4 years ago. By then I knew so much more about myself and what I would need. I spent some of the last day taking a lot of pictures of the empty house, of angles and features that held a lot of meaning to me. I cried for a lot of the day, it was a very hard goodbye. I now have a series of black and white photos of that home, plus a piece I wrote about the house – it’s sounds, smells, memories. I love having those things to look back on occasionally but mostly the ritual itself freed allowed that grief to be expressed. My parents still think I’m their odd child! They don’t really understand my sensitivity. So glad I found your blog! I rejoice in my sensitivity now ?

    Reply
    • I’m so glad you found the blog, too, and hopefully you know that you’re not odd at all, just highly sensitive which is a GIFT!

      Reply
  44. I love this Sheryl. Coming to it late but it provides so much healing to see you validate the need for sensitive people to say goodbye to all attachments no matter how “small” they seem. I too remember crying for like a week after moving houses as an adult! Crying at the entrance to my childcare on my first day. Being slow to accept new items or methods and mourning the old. It’s lovely to see you give validation to this through ritual and nice to know we are not alone.

    Reply
    • Yes, every loss no matter the size – as if we can measure loss! – deserves and needs our attention. x

      Reply
  45. Thank you sharing this. It resonates so much with leaving my rented home which I lived in alone to moving in with my partner. While packing in my old home I had a grip on my stomach and nausea, I absolutely didn’t want to leave. Then, I have started looking for flaw in new house (not light enough, the neighborhood not enough, not in the city center enough) and I do not feel safe and feel “MY home” the new one. I think I have to process this transition from “alone life” to “couple life”, even if “it does not seem this the truth” for my obsessive mind. Thank you

    Reply

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