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  • Writer's pictureFiona Grignard

How to say I love you to the ones you care about when you're not used to

I lost my Dad unexpectedly while I was spending some time in San Diego about 10 months ago.

The weekend before, I had listened to a podcast and they talked about "One more day" and all the things you'd do if you only had one more day with the people you love the most.

It hit me to my core.

I called my Mum right away. We talked for a little while.

I smiled at her nonsensical way of telling stories and thought to myself how I would miss them if she was gone.

But I had to go grocery shopping so I decided not to talk to my Dad that day but that I would call him a few days later and do the same.

I never got to.

4 days later, I received a call from my Mum telling me my dad had passed unexpectedly that morning. I still remember the feeling.

Of course, I wish I could have talked to him one more time.

But fortunately, we had taken the habit to write to each other every day for about a month. I had challenged him to take walks every day to take care of his health, and he was sending me a report of his walks including how long he had walked, whether he had gone alone, and the weather of that day! 😆

In those brief daily moments, we also often exchanged little love notes and heart emojis. So I'm at peace.

I shared this story on Instagram the other day and a few people wrote back to me saying how hard it was for them to say I love you to their family.

And believe me, I feel that!

I come from a prudish family where love was shown through actions but never expressed through words or affectionate gestures.

But my Dad had a heart attack 20 years ago and I became very aware that life is finite at the age of 16.

And somehow, I became obsessed with the idea that

The weight of never having dared to say "I love you" to my family would be much heavier than the discomfort of breaking the family pattern, getting out of my comfort zone and learning to say it.

So a few years ago, I summoned up the courage to start doing it.

I was shy at first. It felt unnatural.

I think I started by saying "love you" on the family whatsapp group before taking off for a long trip.

That's what felt easiest to me.

And gradually, I dared being more expressive.

It's still uncomfortable sometimes, but I always feel so proud, joyful and peaceful after I do.

So if you would like to learn to express your feelings and say I love you to the people you care about, here are a few tips / ideas :

▶︎ First of all, you don't HAVE TO do it. This only works if you want to say it and if you really feel it. If you have a hard time saying I love you but you don't want to, that's ok. If you would want to be able to but you feel you're really not ready, that's ok too.

Ask yourself the following question :

▶︎ Would you rather dip your toes in the water first or jump right in the middle of the pool?

There's no right or wrong answer. But one will feel better for you at the moment.

I typically advise my clients and friends to take the action that feels like a 6-7/10 of discomfort.

No need to put your nervous system in distress. If the experience is overwhelming, you'll end up regretting and never trying again.

Go slow if it feels better.

If you want the full-scare experience, go ahead and just say it in the middle of a family dinner !

(even I am still uncomfortable at this idea!)

▶︎ Otherwise, you could send a text like this :

" I know we don't usually say this and it might be uncomfortable, but I just wanted to say I love you very much and I appreciate all the things you've done for me. Have a great day."

Notes :

▶︎ It's ok to acknowledge the discomfort. It actually helps decrease the tension. (This is also valid for public speaking BTW)

▶︎ The "I love you" is in the middle of the message. It is said, but it is somehow a little softened by the rest of the message.

▶︎ A longer message also gives the space to the receiver. Remember that if it's uncomfortable for you, it probably will be for them too! So this gives them the opportunity to reply something that is not too uncomfortable for them.

And if a direct text message feels too much :

▶︎ Try sending a little ❤️ emoji - alone or at the end of the last message of your conversation.

▶︎ Forward a meme, a text, a poem, an image that conveys the same message without you having to personally write it.

For a while, my Dad and I used to send each other Bitmojis like these:

Whatever works for you is good.

▶︎ Also : you don't have to start with the hardest person. Start with someone you feel most comfortable with or a little closer to and work your way up gradually.

▶︎ Oh and one last thing.

Be aware that you might not get the answer you're hoping for.

In fact, I would personally advise you against it if your main objective is to get an I love you back.

This is your process. Do it because you want to better express your feelings.

And of course, it would be great if it creates an immediate change and everyone is happy and grateful that you took the first step.

But the other person might not be ready for that. In fact, they didn't ask you anything!

And that's ok too. It is their process and they are allowed to go at their own pace.

It doesn't mean they don't love you.

Maybe it will come after a few times. Maybe it never will.

But at least you're becoming the person you want to be.

And that's all that matters.



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