Dear Ted: Last year my partner died, and I found myself in a level of emotional anguish that I never knew existed. Even over time the pain continued, and I found myself yearning for my partner, seeing him in crowds or in passing cars. These moments seemed to bring back the pain so deeply, but it seemed my soul continued to search for any possible connection only to bring me back to his death and the pain once again. As I have continued to go through my grief process and reach out for support while I walk with loneliness, I have started to notice that I can start to be aware of present issues and experiences rather than only the yearning of the past. Is that normal? Am I being dishonorable for starting to live again? Please print this as I don't believe I am the only one feeling this way. Thanks. Becky
Dear Becky: You are correct that many people feel similar feelings after the loss of a loved one and move through similar phases like those you are experiencing.
When you have a loss, your unconscious yearns for connection with the person who has died. Similar to a face-recognition program, you seek and yearn for connection and as this starts to fade, your unconscious (and conscious) searches for connections, signs, memories, coincidences, songs, clouds and any other way to connect to your loved one. These experiences can help ease the pain as well as exasperate the anguish as it does not bring your loved one back in the physical form.
After a loss, there is a time during which, when you think of your loved one, it takes you immediately to the death. After a time, memories start to return, and your history with the person is reignited, and this helps you start to expand out of the moment of death. As you continue to consciously grieve and recognize your feelings, you start to become aware of the present moment: a bird in the tree, the sunset, a giggly moment, or something that lets you know that life is seeping back in and that present experiences accompany your past moments. As time goes on, you focus more and more on present experiences. This is a good thing and healthy.
Even though you may have enormous sadness from your loss, you can honor that loss by choosing to live presently and allow your grief to bridge the past and the present. As life starts to seep back in, you can have more moments of joy. You find ways to walk with sorrow and joy at the same time. This balance allows a new way of being that is honorable and wise. Allowing life to seep back in can give you new meaning in your present life while you honor your history. Thank you for the question. I wish you well. Until next week, take care.
Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Ted Wiard, LPCC, CGC, Founder of Golden Willow Retreat at (575) 776-2024 or GWR@newmex.com.
This column seeks to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a future article for others. Please list a first name that grants permission for printing.