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Jon Westenberg

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When people tell you to “get over it”

Have you ever been told to “just get over it”? I know I have.

It’s something people say, when they can’t think of anything else. It’s something they say when your life isn’t going well, or when you’re facing a difficult road. In break ups, in tragedy, in anything.

People tell us to “get over it” for so many reasons. Their hearts could be in the right place — they could honestly wish us happiness, and perhaps the only way they can see us reaching it, is by letting go of our experiences.

But when you’re struggling and drowning and you think you’ll never stop feeling things that you don’t want to feel ever again, being told to “get over it” is heartbreaking.

It’s as though you’re being told that it’s your fault you’re still feeling things. It’s your fault you’re still in pain. And in some ways, you can feel like people are saying that your hurt isn’t valid, because you can let go of it.

Or they’re saying your hurt should be forgotten, when you know that it’s become such an indelible part of you that to ignore it is to deny who you are.

But maybe we never really get over everything that happens to us. All the experiences we have just become a part of us, and it could be a part that causes us to wake up sweating in the night, or it could wind up being an essential cog in our system. But it’s always there.

I think people tell us to “get over it” because it’s a neat and tidy response. And they imagine that if we really could just follow their advice, we’d be able to pack away the hurt and the despair and be ourselves again.

I’ve got my own hurts and bad memories, and personal conflicts. Stuff so close to the bone, I can’t quite drag it out of myself to put it in neat words on a screen. They’ve been playing on my mind, the past few days.

And when I’m told to “get over” them, by the few people I’ve let in, I don’t always know how to respond.


Here’s what I do know. Having scars, having things that we remember that hurt us, that doesn’t make us broken. Not being able to forgive doesn’t make us evil. Not being able to forget doesn’t make us helpless.

You don’t have to “get over it”. If someone tells you to, you’re not obliged to listen. Going through something and dropping it on the road behind us and looking forward without ever glancing back — that’s not healthy. And it’s not real.

And telling yourself that there’s something wrong with you, because you can’t do that, is never going to lead to any happiness.

But there’s some hope here. There’s hope because the things we can’t get over don’t lessen who we are.

They don’t define us, or lay out the boundaries of our lives. They don’t mean we’re tied to a permanent list of what we can and can’t do. Pressuring ourselves to “get over” our worst moments won’t make them easier to accept.

Maybe we never get over things, but that doesn’t mean we always live under them. It means we assimilate, over time, and we start to live and breathe again, and although it’s never quite in the same way, the difference doesn’t mean our lives are worth any less.

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