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Q: Kathryn, I lost three close family members in a car wreck last year, and compounded with my divorce three years ago, I just feel stuck. To be honest, I’m still traumatized and don’t feel like I have the heart for dating. I also have felt like hell physically in the past year or so, too

I feel stressed, depressed and can barely even get my job done

I’m a mess. And yet, I’m lonely

But anxiety always gets the best of me when I even think about starting to date. How can I ever hope to find love with all of this?

A: I’m so, so sorry you’ve been through so much in such a short time. It’s no wonder if you’ve been disheartened. Of course, you’ve been grieving! That is a lot for anyone

But chin up! You still have every hope for love. And that will help you immensely

I’ve worked with many who have faced trauma and anxiety – going back to when I directed crisis support for 6 years and served on the team for 10 years

We used a combo of our training and research to get people over horrific experiences

Let me give you a basic protocol for starting to change things, and then, I’ll tell you a story

1. Write down everything you’re grieving, all that haunts you and your deepest anxieties. This is an exercise I often give those I work with

Research shows that if you bottle up feelings, it will prolong grief and depression. Over 6 months of intense grieving is too much and means you’ve probably tamped down on some of what you’ve been going through

As you express what you’ve been feeling through writing, you will start feeling better

2. Follow that writing with adding some meaning to what you’ve been through. For example:

“My ex hubby really wasn’t right for me. Even though he left me, we already were having problems. It was the wrong fit.”

And (and I know this is a touchy one)

“At least mom, dad and my brother did not die alone. And it was a quick, painless death so they didn’t suffer.”

I realize that’s hard and yet, studies show that finding deeper meaning in a situation helps us to heal it

Any time you can find a better-feeling thought to explain something, it's helpful

3. Now, I want you to imagine what you want and what will help ease your loneliness

A soulmate who cannot get enough of you,
who holds you as you cry out your grief,
who gets you and with whom you build an amazing life together

As you do this, you’re focusing on your future – the only thing you can control – and pulling yourself toward it

There are more steps once you start feeling better (and you will!). But this can point you in the right direction

Now for that story I promised

I once worked with a survivor of the holocaust. It’s a case I talk about in my bestselling book

She had spent a lifetime grieving the family she lost in the most terrible way imaginable in a German extermination camp

And since that time, she had attracted a series of men who took advantage of her

She still carried a victim mentality and had never really recovered from her trauma

It is my belief that any wound can be healed, and we went about doing just that

I didn’t want her to spend the rest of her life – and she was no spring chicken – without love

And so, she did the three steps above plus some other actions I gave her as she healed

Before long, she met the love of her life, a man who would never hurt her

He showered her with gifts, took her on romantic trips, and she had to get used to being treated so well

They moved in together and to this day, are having a grand romance, now in their 80’s

If she could get past this, so can you

And the best medicine is to find love, to feel that closeness, and walk hand-in-hand through life with your soulmate

So I bless you for just that and am so glad you wrote me