Dear Ted: Grief from relationships takes time to heal

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The Taos News has implemented a weekly column to help educate the community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be answered privately and possibly for use in a future article. Please list a first name that grants permission for printing.

Dear Ted,

I see that Golden Willow and this article is “focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss.” The problem I have is not due to the death of a loved one but the “death” of a relationship in my past! I’m not in a relationship now and have a busy and fulfilling life on my own. Even though I feel life is good, I still have thoughts of two former long-term relationships. Even though they have moved on in their lives, I still wonder what was wrong with me and why it didn’t work. My friends tell me “let it go” but there are nights that sadness and other thoughts start popping up in my mind that lead to insomnia, loneliness and depression. I also wonder why so many people cannot be friends after a romantic relationship ends. This hurts as well. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Help!

Dear Help,

Thank you for finding a way to get your letter to me. You have many different topics in your note and I’ll do my best to touch base on as many of the important points you bring up around healing from broken relationships.

It sounds like you are allowing “life” to seep back into your days as shown by rebuilding a life that you feel is fulfilling. I give you great credit for that accomplishment. Although your life can be fulfilling again, it does not always mean our emotional bruises are completely healed as grief is a lifetime process. It is as if the unconscious (the psyche) does not have a timeline and does not know what is present, past or future. Often, as you heal and reestablish a life, the psyche realizes you are out of the shock, fear and emotional turmoil of a breakup and it finally starts to allow you to feel and work through pain at a deeper level.

During a breakup, the psyche is in a fight or flight mode. This is somewhat like triage or panic and its sole purpose is only to survive the moment. As time goes on and there starts to be a new normalization of your present-day life, unresolved historical wounds can pop into your consciousness. These thoughts often arise at night when you are tired and your survival tools of everyday life begin relaxing. This is a good time to find tools that help you put your day to rest. These tools may include gratitude journals, meditation, prayer or reading. Anything that helps you settle your mind and your thoughts may help. Lack of sleep causes the brain to become overcharged and can lead to unhealthy thinking and actions. It can cause thoughts to become pervasive and penetrating. Finding ways to get quality sleep leads to healing. It is also good to remember, too, that you do not need to do this work alone. It can be helpful to find support from professionals from the mental health, medical or spiritual worlds. This can help you sleep better as well as possibly support you while finding ways to heal internal wounds and allow them to become scars of your past instead of open cuts that continue causing pain.

You ask why people cannot be in a relationship after a break-up. It is common for people to not feel it is good to stay friends as it can cause re-wounding. Perhaps there are too many confusing emotions and a person does not feel the need to reopen that door. There are people that can be friends after a breakup and others who feel it is too emotionally dangerous in their present life. Just like grief, we experience relationships in a very individual and personal way. Each person may have a very different healing path.

It can be very painful if one person would like to keep some sort of relationship while the other chooses not to. There is no right or wrong way and neither person is right or wrong. Healing is difficult — and finding supports to share, grieve and be authentically present can allow for a new quality of life that serves you in your life. I wish you well. Until next week, take care.

Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct questions to Wiard, founder, at (575) 776-2024 or gwr@newmex.com.

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