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This is a letter to the one who stumbled

This is a letter to the one who stumbled

Does it feel like you will never get up again? Please know that you will, even though it might not be today.

Dear stumbler,

Something happened in your life. It gave you the impression everything was falling down. Or perhaps, nothing bad actually happened, but suddenly you doubted everything. Perhaps you lost your job, your love left you, someone dear to you passed away, you lost your sense of meaning or old pain imposed itself on you, so much so that you couldn’t make it disappear anymore and it overwhelmed you. You stumbled, you’re lying on the ground. And it feels like you will never really get up again.

Cheerful advice

To many people, having someone around who’s in a crisis feels awkward, perhaps you’ve noticed already. They automatically turn their head away because they don’t want to be confronted with pain. Or they crudely try to pull you up again with cheerful advice, because they feel like it’s taken you long enough now. While all you would want them to do is just sit next to you, with you on the ground. To put an arm around you and then leave again.

Let yourself fall ill

When I was in a crisis (a year or two ago, because the father of my children left me), people praised me when I said hopeful things. That made me ‘a strong woman’. At the times when I felt no hope, they said ‘lighten up’ and ‘it’s time to move on.’ Funnily, I didn’t feel weaker during those days, it was more like I had found the strength to confront the worst pain. Allowing grief to be there is probably the most important way to be strong. ‘If you desire healing, let yourself fall ill, let yourself fall ill,’ the poet Rumi wrote.

This is what I really want to tell you: there’s nothing shameful, weak or pathetic about remaining on the ground for a while after falling. One day, you will get up again. Just not today.

No need to pretend

There’s no need to get up as quickly as possible and present your positive story, dear stumbler. You don’t have to pretend to be more powerful and optimistic than you feel. Doing so keeps you from truly processing it. You keep up the illusion of ‘hashtag happy’ and everyone keeps thinking they’re weaker than others.

Please know that whatever you are feeling now is temporary, just like everything is. Know that you’re not a victim of life, but a participant in life, because bitter is just as much a part of it as sweet. You’re not alone. There is nothing wrong with you. Don’t feel any shame, self-recrimination or hurry while you’re going through your process.


Don’t try to be any better, happier, more optimistic, more in control than you are. The relief it brings is huge. All the forcedness and fakeness towards yourself and others disappears. You lower your shoulders. You may feel like a mess, but you don’t judge yourself for it. And in the meantime, you keep walking, in your own pace, without regretting that you’re not completely there yet. Until one day, much to your own surprise, you are.

With love and respect for your process,


Text: Susan Smit

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