Portland Helmich

Geographical Healing

How do you heal from that kind of loss?  How do you lose your home, your foundation, your sense of family, and keep moving forward?  In a country where divorce is rampant, people do it every day, of course.  I guess everyone goes about it differently, but for many, a serious change of course is necessary in order to heal when they lose a love that anchored them to the earth.  I think I fall into this category.

For me, remaining in the town where my ex-husband and I shared a home together was antithetical to healing.  I couldn’t bear to drive by the restaurants we frequented or the places we used to walk hand in hand on sunny days.  I’d tear up shopping at our supermarket alone; it flattened me when I’d pass him on the road, waving sadly as he drove by, knowing that the one who was the center of my universe for most of my adult life lived 10 minutes away but would no longer be coming home to me.

I felt stuck, like I couldn’t move forward with my life unless I physically moved away from all the reminders of what I’d lost.  So I took a leap of faith, packed up my things, and headed west.  I was hoping that geography might help me break from the past.

During the two and a half years that I lived in Los Angeles, I still spoke to my ex-husband from time to time (we didn’t part angrily), and I still ruminated over what I lost.  Distance didn't magically heal the hole in my life, nor did I expect that it would.  But it forced me to get to know myself in a way that I wouldn't have if I’d stayed planted right where I was. 

There’s something to be said for a new climate with new sights, new smells, and new people.  There's something to be said for finding out that you can make it in a brand new place on your own even if you're lonely a lot of the time.  While in L.A., I still had to do the inner work of letting go and forgiving myself, but something as simple as geographical distance actually helped me to individuate and become more whole.  Interestingly, when I felt stronger, I moved back to the town where my ex-husband and I had lived.  He's still 10 minutes away from me, but now it no longer tears me up inside.  It's not just time that's healed the wound.  For me, I have geography to thank.

Portland is the creator, host, and executive producer of “What’s the Alternative?” on Veria Living TV.  She also writes for the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.