A friend is grieving the loss of a relationship, the ending of which was not her choice. Every time she finds a bit of peace and thinks she’s moved beyond her grief, she ends up right back where she started, feeling bereft, lost, disconnected, and angry. Even worse, she still feels connected to her lover even though there is no chance of their ever getting back together.
I explained the spiral nature of grief, that we do not necessarily go through steps but instead keep revisiting the same states over and over again, so she shouldn’t be surprised that her grief doesn’t stay gone. I also mentioned the tasks of grief, such as making an accommodation with the loss, finding a place in our minds for the inconceivable, coming to a realization that, no matter how deeply two people were connected and how much they shared, they are separate persons with separate lives.
She listened, then asked, “How do I disconnect?”
Good question. To a certain extent, time disconnects us from our past relationships — the longer we are separated, unless we cling hold on to the past, the weaker the connection. Simply living helps us disconnect — the more we live, the more new, unshared memories we make, the more the connection recedes. Going back to where we were before we made the original connection also helps. In my case, since I can’t physically go back to where I was, I have tried to go there mentally, to remember who I was before I met my now deceased life mate/soul mate, to pick up the pieces of me when I was alone.
While looking back is not always a good thing, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to see where we were, how far we’ve come, and where we are now. The truth is, relationships change us, and the longer the relationship, the more it changes us, sometimes without our even knowing. Good relationships help us grow, to become better than we are. And each growth spurt takes us further away from our pre-relationship selves. This isn’t a bad thing, of course, but it’s one of the reasons for the loss of identity so many of us feel when we lose our long time mates. We no longer know who are without that relationship.
I gained a lot from my shared life, but I also lost. Too many years of having to live according to the constraints of his uncertain health stole my spontaneity. Too many years of always having a companion to do things with or to talk things over with, as wonderful as that was, made me uncertain and even fearful of living alone. Remembering what I can about who I was before him has helped tremendously in moving past him. I had a life before our shared life, and I have one afterward — it’s just a matter of connecting those two lives with the best of both.
In my friend’s case, she’s actually going to go back to the town she was before she fell in love, and see if she can pick up the pieces of who she was.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.