So, your friend has asked you to help her reclaim something… That’s awesome! But what the heck does that mean? This blog will help to explain to you how to prepare to be a “Reclaiming Buddy,” and how to actually support your friend during a reclaiming event.
First, what is Reclaiming?
The Hope Reclaimed definition of Reclaiming is “Identifying a fearful, painful internal reaction to a place or thing that holds a memory, choosing to face it head-on and create a new, positive association.” Read more about Reclaiming here! Listen to my Reclaiming 101 Podcast!
It could be that your friend is going through a breakup or a divorce. While someone is going through these experiences, there are often many physical “triggers” that come along in their path. These “triggers” can be places and things that remind your friend of her lost relationship such as restaurants, churches, parks and other places that she went to with her ex. Reclaiming is all about facing these triggers by physically going back to them. When she reclaims this place, she will go back there with intention to make a new memory, and she wants to do it with you.
Here are a few things you can do to prepare for this exciting event and what you can expect while you are physically there with her.
What you should know beforehand:
Understand the why
You may think that she’s crazy to face this “trigger.” Why on earth would she want to go back to this place? It’s not like she has to! The place that your friend once loved has memories of love and devotion with her ex. Now, all those memories are tainted with betrayal, loss and heartache. The point of reclaiming is to take the place back for yourself, not for the ex, or for anyone else. She is choosing to go back to this place to take a big step towards her life without her ex while still honoring the love that was ultimately shared with him. Your friend is taking a step towards true healing and forgiveness. That’s why she’s Reclaiming.
Reclaiming is hard
Stepping back into a place that holds these kinds of memories can be extremely challenging. Be prepared that going back to this place may cause your friend to feel scared, nervous and excited – Sometimes all at the same time! Try to be understanding. Communicate to your friend that you’re with her however she’s feeling about the reclaiming event. Because your friend going through a hard time, she may not be able to accurately communicate all of her feelings to you. But, be patient with her, validate that she is making a courageous move to step into freedom after her breakup or divorce.
Sorry, but it’s not about you
Understand that going to this location isn’t about you. It’s about your friend. Plan on going to this event to be a support to your friend, not to make it about yourself. Encourage your friend to lead the event. This means that you should set your own anger aside – at least a little bit.
Leave your anger at home
Your friend may feel extremely angry at her ex. You may be angry at him as well (and rightfully so). But, leading with your anger on the reclaiming event is not going to actually help your friend. I want to encourage you to go into this event resolute to remain supportive and up lifting. You can talk about the ex, absolutely! But feeding her anger (and yours) by calling him names, bashing him, and telling her that she’s better off without him is actually making the reclaiming more about him than about her. As her friend, just stay supportive. (Now let me clarify, I’m not suggesting ignoring your friend’s emotions. Just don’t make the anger any worse than it already is. Got it? Good!)
Help to plan (if necessary)
Your friend could be feeling really overwhelmed with planning this reclaiming event. Sure, it may simply be going back to a restaurant for a dinner or drinks, but because it holds so many memories for her, it could be really challenging to put together all the pieces. Asking her if you can help make reservations, drive with her to the location, or simply helping her pick the date and time may make a world of difference.
Help to make it extra special
Consider bringing her flowers or a card to help the event feel extra special. If money allows, you could make a plan to pay for her meal or a dessert for her. These gestures will show her that you are supportive, and it will help to make the event more meaningful and memorable.
Okay, you’ve made it to the location. Now what?
Listen first, then respond
Allow your friend to take control of the reclaiming event by sharing memories and the emotions that are coming up for her. Reclaiming needs to be unique for the person but you are an important part of this process. Being a sounding board for her feelings and all the memories is a powerful part of her reclaiming process.
Once you allow your friend to take the first step of sharing how she’s doing, then you can begin to chime in with questions. Open ended questions can help your friend to recall the memories and identify her emotions. A few examples of good questions to ask your friend while she’s reclaiming a location:
- “Can you share more about why this place was significant to you and your ex?”
- “How did you feel when you were here with him before the breakup/divorce?”
- “How did you feel when you were preparing to come here today?”
- “What are you feeling right now?”
- “…Do you know why you are feeling that way?”
Your turn to share
Once you’ve made the event about your friend and given her space to share how she’s doing, there may be time for you to share how you are doing as well. Remember that this event is for your friend, but she brought you here because she cares about you! Sharing with her how you’re doing is an important aspect of friendship as well. If there seems to be an opening in the conversation, share with her how you’re doing. Perhaps you can share any hard thing you’re going through as well. Deciding to be vulnerable as well can help to deepen your friendship and the overall experience. That being said, remember that you are ultimately there to support her in this reclaiming event. If you can think of something that you need to reclaim, ask her to be your Reclaiming Buddy and make a plan to reclaim it together another time.
Make a memory
Simply being in the location is a powerful memory that you can both look back on. Facing fears is always memorable! But maybe you can go over and above to make it a really special time for her. Here are a few ideas:
- Talk in an accent the whole time.
- Invite your friend to share what she’s doing with the server.
- Take a series of goofy photos
- Get the fanciest dessert on the menu and sing happy birthday to her.
Welcome tears. Welcome laughter
It’s okay to cry. But it’s also okay (and strongly encouraged) to laugh! A reclaiming event does not have to be completely sad and depressing. It can feel empowering and uplifting for you and your friend who is doing the reclaiming.
Trust the process
Help encourage your friend by reminding her repeatedly that she is reclaiming. Be affirming of her emotions – no matter what they are – and remind her that despite her feelings, she’s moving forward. Your friend may feel confused and frustrated but remind her that you’re there to be her support. She’s facing a fear and stepping into a painful memory. That’s freakishly amazing! Encourage her in that.
Reclaiming can be a powerful experience for anyone to step into healing and restoration after a divorce or a breakup. Walking alongside a friend who is reclaiming is a huge honor. Congratulations!