Grief,  Mental Health,  Relationships

Lessons From Fantasies and How to Grieve Them

Written By: Anonymous

When I was a little girl, I spent a lot of time in my head. I was a master at creating elaborate fantasies, especially for my Barbie doll. I had a very vivid imagination. It’s easy to blame Disney or Hollywood, but what it came down to is I was looking for an escape from my current reality. I was a scared little girl. I grew up in a home where no one really knew how to communicate with one another, effectively, healthily, or appropriately. We knew how to yell. We knew how to criticize. We knew how to bend the truth (aka lie). We practiced for many years.

When I was a teenager, my fantasies took on a life of their own. No longer was I holding a Barbie doll in my left hand and a Ken doll in my right. No longer was I sitting on my front lawn pretending that magical fairies were hiding in the wildflowers while I enjoyed a picnic with my family of stuffed animals. It now included every boy that popped up on my radar. Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Devon Sawa, and Johnny Depp were my celebrity crushes. And then there was Rusty Thompson, my first real crush. My fantasy world had grown so big that it now engulfed me. I was in love with fantasizing about these guys pulling up to my childhood home in some long sexy limo, knocking on my door, and whisking me away into another world of love, joy and passion.

I shouldn’t be surprised by my pull towards romance. I learned early on that my Mom actually got my name from a romance novel. It’s like it was part of my destiny.

Slowly but surely, I had projected my unhealed wounds onto every other human being there was in the world, at least, in the part of the world that surrounded me. Boys got the blunt of it because I had major ‘daddy issues’. I wanted these guys to step in and rescue me, just as I saw the cartoon Princes do on TV. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know all of that. I just knew I was madly and deeply in love with every single guy my heart fluttered for. And I was sure I was going to marry one of them.

And those boys, some of them really did try to rescue me. Boy, did they try.

But here’s the thing with fantasies: They aren’t real. And nothing can compare to this elaborate world I created in my mind. Nothing measured up. And they would always fail at rescuing me from my world. Because what I really needed rescuing from was myself.

No one stood a chance.

It didn’t take long before it became clear to me that this guy (insert name here) didn’t line up with what I wanted, and so I’d find a reason to leave. Or I’d wait around long enough for the next Prince to show up so I always had someone to catch me.

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It wasn’t until several years ago when I really started exploring myself that I saw my fantasies for what they were. I really started to evaluate my fantasies, just as much as I re-evaluated my relationships.

I distanced myself from many people, as well as behaviors, in order to see what was operating within me. I acknowledged my compulsions, my unhealthy attachments, my validation seeking, and my ‘needs’ that weren’t really needs at all.

And most importantly, I began facing the reality I had denied for so long. I learned how to change my behavioral patterns that kept me in a cycle of misery. I learned how to tell the truth. I learned how to share my feelings without holding someone hostage. I learned how to communicate appropriately. I learned how to keep my mouth shut sometimes. I learned how to feel my feelings without picking up sharp objects or the nearest bottle of pills.

I started gaining my power back; power that I had given away to so many different things, memories, people, and things. I started to see myself as a beloved child of my Creator and I started to feel peace where there was none. I started to forgive myself and others, and I started to learn how to receive forgiveness through humility. I started to have faith in people again.

One of the hardest fantasies I had to let die was the one concerning my ex-fiancé.

I was engaged to be married in 2005. I was living in Florida at the time with him and my son (who was 2 ½ at the time). We had planned on having a beach wedding… barefoot and all. I had a giant diamond ring. I had a dress, fitted and everything. One of my dear friends was hand designing tan bridesmaid dresses. We had handmade wedding invitations. We came to Texas for our wedding shower. We celebrated with family. We loaded up our rental car with all of our gifts. We reserved a section on the beach for the day of. We rented out the pavilion for our reception following. We picked out our flowers. We ordered chairs. We contacted the band we wanted to play at our wedding. We reserved them. We even offered for them to stay at our place. We had everything picked out for our wedding on June 25, 2005.

But then I left.

25 days before the wedding.

I rode a greyhound from Sarasota to Houston. At one pit stop, in Tallahassee, I came out of the restroom to find him kneeling against the wall, waiting for me. He had tracked my bus down, trying to persuade me to stay, to give him another chance. He had written a lengthy letter (between 7-9 pages) to give to me. He had wasted an hour following the wrong bus. When he realized it, he turned in the opposite direction to try to find me before I left the state. He found me 9 hours later.

We talked outside, both of us crying. I couldn’t stay any longer. I was serious this time. I had to go. It was time I went back to Texas.

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He told me he understood and he was so very sorry. He handed me a CD player for my journey home. Then my bus started to load. We waved goodbye through the window.

I pulled out my journal, one of the two I brought with me, out of one of the two bags I packed. I could only pack so much in such a hurry.

And in the middle of this journal, there was one CD: Coldplay. I listened to the CD over and over again, across all those state lines. I felt despair. I felt angry. I loved this guy with my whole heart, yet we were so crazy together. I shut down emotionally and he lashed out in every which way he could. It took a long time for me to fully let go of him. And it wasn’t until after we had stopped contact for quite some time that I was able to forgive both him and myself for our relationship.

It took even longer for me grieve the fantasy of our relationship because although those two things overlapped, they were separate things.

I spent a lot of time feeding the fantasy (and it showed in how much energy I focused on planning our would-have-been wedding) and as a result, I was disconnected from the severity of the reality. I was in an abusive relationship. And I had been since the first couple months we were together. I just couldn’t see it. In fact, I couldn’t really see the whole picture until I was far enough away from it.

Since then, I have sat with a lot of women who have shared very similar stories in that they enter relationships based on fantasies and they stay long after the relationship should have expired because they can’t imagine their lives without it. Or they are still so deeply convinced that this fantasy might ‘one day’ come to fruition.

I have sat before my fireplace with these women. I have listened as they have read handwritten letters aloud. I have held them as they cried. And I have watched these letters go up in flames, as these women release themselves from the strings they have tied their hearts to. I myself have done this with my own chosen women.

Letting that fantasy die, the one specifically around that relationship, set me free in so many ways, but most importantly, it was necessary for me to be fully present and fully available in my marriage now.

And I learned from that experience so much so that my now husband and I were planning out our marriage before our wedding, and our wedding ended up being more beautiful and authentic than I could have ever hoped for because it wasn’t a false representation covering up a broken relationship like it would have been with my ex. It was an extension of our deeply committed, healing and powerful bond we had worked on in the light of many others. It was a celebration of what was already there.

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So with all that being said, I just want to wrap this up by saying I have learned a few things from my fantasies.

  1. Fantasies helped me to cope with my reality when my reality was so painful that I needed to escape from it to survive.
  2. I no longer ‘needed’ my fantasies when my I started to actually enjoy my reality, because there no longer was a need to escape from it.
  3. My imagination is very vivid and powerful, and I can harness that same energy into expanding my reality, rather than avoiding it.
  4. Once the fantasies died, I ended up releasing others (and myself) to live as we really are and as a result, felt a wave of peace from entering into acceptance, and I am much happier.

And who would’ve thought, after all this time, that my knight in shining armor (as well as all of the dragons I slayed) were really me all along. Turns out, the only person who could have really saved me was myself.

If you too are struggling with grieving a fantasy, here are just a couple brief tips to help you move forward in your healing.

  • Write out what your fantasy is (it always helps me to see it in writing and get it out on paper)
  • Share with a trusted friend/ mentor/ or counselor (remember, you’re not alone, ever)
  • Set a timer (I literally will set a timer and communicate with my emotions. Sometimes I give myself 10 minutes to full on wail if I need to. You’d be surprised by how quickly emotions pass once you’re fully present for them. If after the timer buzzes, and you still feel you need more time, communicate with your emotion and commit to doing the very same thing the following day. And keep your word)
  • Have yourself a little farewell ceremony (burn memorabilia, write a eulogy, go to a beach, write and burn a letter- outside if you can, I find that it feels more powerful and complete if I’m outside)
  • Be gracious towards yourself as you would a dear friend (grief is real and has a life of its own)
  • Mark your calendar (it always helps me to look back at certain markers in my life to track my progress on my healing journey)
  • Keep on keeping on (life goes on and its okay for you to move forward. Count your successes and see yourself as curious to your new life/reality. Keep a gratitude journal to focus on the glass-half-full kind of things)

There’s going to be a day when you wake up and the world feels like a great place to be again and it’s going to feel so magical just being alive. Just wait and see.


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