Beyond the Pain of Loss
“Give sorrow words: The grief that does not speak whispers the oe’r fraught heart, and bids it break.” (Shakespeare, The Tragedie of Macbeth, 1892)
Divorce is a major loss that does not get fully respected in our society. Some people find it harder to resolve divorce than death. With death one is left without a choice; however in divorce there may be a choice, as usually one is betrayed or chooses to leave. Some people have a terrible time carrying on in a single status, letting go of the role of being part of a couple.. Often with loss of spouse in this manner, as in death, one loses a multi-leveled relationship, and neither spouse is fully aware of how many roles each have played. The loss of a spouse sends us reeling on many levels of loss, depending on the state of the relationship. The loss of lover, friend, provider, confidant, and nurturer are only a few of those roles as well as loss of sense of identity of being as part of a pair. The losses have to be grieved, if one is going to free up from the past even when the relationship was troubled for some time and divorce being the healthier solution.
Unresolved grief has to be respected, understood, and honored. We dread facing it fully. However, if we do not, we carry with us a dark cloud of unfinished business. We may be in denial of the importance of how it has affected us. Clients have said to me, “I am really taking it very well.” Sometimes that is not the case at all. They just cannot bear the pain of the hole in their heart. They may be able to exist without resolution, but the heaviness of the grief keeps them from having a full and passionate life. We cannot pick and choose the feelings we push down so when we suppress unbearably sad feelings; we also deprive ourselves of joy, fulfillment and creativity. Taking the edge off of the sad emotions takes the edge off all emotions. We may numb the sorrow, but we also numb the joy.
Often clients consciously and unconsciously fear that if they ever started to face their losses they would lose control totally, or something terrible might happen.. Note that I said “losses,” because when a serious loss reverberates in our lives, it creates loss on many levels. “If I ever started crying,” a woman told me, “I may never stop, and then I’d really go mad.” So she goes through life in a chronic state of sadness.
Failure to grieve may cause long term physical and/or mental health problems. Over time unresolved grief can lead to complications such as depression, anxiety as well as a loss of joy in life. To avoid the pain of loss, some people overindulge in many self-medicating behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, drugging, or sexing. A person with a history of accidents is often burying an unbearable sadness as well as being a suicide risk
Sitting with a client who says to me, “I just want it to be over, I want it to go back to the way it was,” I nod, understanding how much every fiber of her being wants her old self and the old times back. Then I break the news, “You will never be the same. You will be stronger as the result of this time of loss and suffering, but you will not be the same. Hopefully your life will not go back to business as usual; it can be so much more. If you grow from these intense experiences, you will be more courageous going forward, more compassionate towards fellow human beings, and more resilient when you are up against change; but, you will never be the same.”
Most often when we think of loss, we think of the death of our loved ones. Having experienced the loss of my parents as a child and later the loss of three siblings who had untimely deaths, as well as a divorce, I know the laser sharp, surfing pain of grief. The depth of grief that comes with such losses turns our lives as we know it and as we imagined it, upside down. When you are going through this intense level of sadness, you may feel that things will never feel right again. However, I know from personal and professional experience that you can get to the other side of grief. I was well into adulthood before the heaviness of my grief was resolved. Time in and of itself does not lift the sorrow.
A thirteenth century mystic spoke about two wines of life: the white wine of joy and the red wine of suffering. “Until we have drunk deeply of both, we have not lived fully.” (Magdeburg, 1998)
An image of the white wine of joy comes to me very easily. It happened at the birth of my grandson, William. When his mother passed William to me, I thought my heart would burst with love, wonder and joy at the miracle of him. It was of another realm and of such intensity and ecstasy that I fully understood why we cannot stay there, if we are to live in this world.
Neither do we need to stay in the depths of our sorrows and despair. That is not us either. We have to find the courage to face them, respect them, and do what we need to do to heal our broken hearts. I remember the “howling hurts” of the red wine and the overwhelming power of the pain that almost took my breath away. Passivity does not help, denial does not heal. It takes putting courage to a sticking place so we can move ourselves step by excruciating step out of our broken places.
(An excerpt from Journey into a Passionate Life a Transformational System, whereby Laura gives you tools, strategies and exercises,to resolve your grief,as well as steps to begin anew..