We all know that it is in one’s highest good to grieve loss of a relationship. Healthy grief releases feelings rather than allowing them to get stuck in body. Healthy grief allows griever to heal loss and move on with life.
Yet grief is not always healing. Many of us have known people who were stuck in their grief, seemingly locked into past and unable to move forward in their lives.
What is difference between those who feel their grief and move on and those who get stuck in it? The difference lies in what they believe they have lost. When people believe they have lost their source of love, their grief will feel unending.
Gary had been in a three-year relationship with Samantha when Samantha decided to end relationship. Gary was devastated. In this relationship, like in his past relationships, Gary was a taker – always trying to get love but unable to give love or share love. Samantha gave him a lot of love, but she often felt very lonely with him. Gary was devastated when she left because his source of love was gone. He was not grieving loss of Samantha as a person he loved. He was grieving loss of her love for him. He was grieving as a lost wounded child rather than as a loving adult.
As a result, Gary became stuck in his grief. He was stuck in feeling like a victim – stuck in “poor me.” Gary had never done inner work to develop an adult part of himself that could bring love to himself and share it with others. He felt lost, abandoned, and hurt. No matter how much he cried, no healing occurred. Because he was abandoning himself, he just continued to feel alone and despairing. Sometimes he was angry at Samantha for abandoning him and other times he was angry at himself for not being a better partner. He had many regrets that plagued him, and a constant inner refrain was, “If only I had……” “If only I had listened to her more, maybe she wouldn’t have left.” If only I had told her how beautiful she is, maybe she wouldn’t have left.”
Frank, on other hand, was in deep grief over death of his beloved wife, Beth. He had loved Beth with his whole heart and he missed her terribly. Yet Frank’s grief was totally different than Gary’s grief. Frank missed Beth’s laugh. He missed her joy, her caring for people, her sense of wonder. He missed her as a person, and he missed being able to share his love with her. Frank had no regrets because he had not been a taker. He had loved Beth totally and was deeply grateful for time he had with her. But Frank was actually fine. His grief came in waves, and he cried when it came. Then it washed through and he was fine again.