The upside and downside of loss
When is the last time you experienced loss? Was it a relationship? I know over the decades I felt several times the grief from a relationship ending. It is tough. You feel like you will never be better.
You might not be sure you want to be better. In fact, feeling the pain of the loss has some hidden pleasure to it. You remember the good times of the relationship. Also, you are feeling. After maybe years of not feeling, there is something good about feeling pain. It may be like the soldier who wakes up in the hospital elated he has pain in his legs. The pain tells him he has legs.
With relationships you analyze what went wrong. You might blame the other or you might admit that you had a part in it when you stopped speaking your feelings. You need to disassemble the past to learn from it. You could learn that not investing time in a relationship will eventually show itself as a problem.
Be wary of too much analyst, particularly us men when we become a reductionist around our failures. It is as if you could take the relationship completely apart you would understand it so you could put it back together fixed, or at least apply the knowledge to the next one. Your mind becomes the escape from feeling your grief.
Often as a kid our only companion was our mind. It was the only one we had to talk to, the only one who understood. Now as an adult we often continue to rely on our minds as our sole ally. Is your mind where you go to be consoled? The question is, do you stay there? If self-talk and self-analysis keeps you from feeling the grief, your behavior has gone from being a coping mechanism to being a distraction from your emotions.
Grief as a healer
When you step out of your head to enter into your grief you surrender yourself to the power of healing through your current pain. What makes a loss so intense is not always your current loss. It is all the other losses you never fully experienced. To the extent you don’t allow the grief to run through you so it can be released, it is deposited in you. The old unfelt pain is waiting for the next loss, hoping it will get set free.
What frequently occurs is, over the years, a little loss here and a little more there starts to accumulate into a significant debt of unfelt emotions. Then your new loss is overwhelming. It feels as if your current relationship loss was the worst yet. Subjectively it is because all of the old unexpressed pain is jumping up and down saying, “Release me!”
Yes, releasing it will be intense. You might feel like you will die. It is scary. No one else goes into the pain. Everyone is telling you to go the other way. They are scared by your pain… that is another post.
There is a post in Huffingtonpost by Douglas LaBier, Ph.D. a business psychologist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist where he writes, “learning from the residue of the loss and using that awareness in your future relationships” has a huge benefit. He is right on. Your analyses will only serve you so much. Releasing the old pain will have you more present for the next relationship. You will be more whole. Those parts that weren’t felt in the past will be present to be engaged.
If you want to be proactive and not wait for a loss to catalyze the release of the old unfelt pain you can use LaBier’s Relationship Inventory that he describes in his post. Of course good therapy or coaching can help draw out the festering grief. An under-used and sometimes quicker way to remove the old pain, so it doesn’t bite you in your ass, is to do good therapeutic bodywork. I am not talking your average massage, which I love. I am speaking of things like Rolfing (full disclosure – I am a Rolfer) or Feldenkrais work.
A man often join one of our men’s groups because he is in crisis with the pending loss of a relationship. We more than support the man through his turmoil; we use that crisis to assist him in his healing. Some men just want to survive. Others want to evolve. Those who want to leverage their current crisis to be their healer allow themselves to feel not only the current pain, but their old pain as well.
There is something sacred about being in a circle of men when one man sinks into his abyss. The courage that man brings up to surrender to his deep pain resonates immediately through the group. We feel a little of our old pain lift off. We honor and thank the man for his gift. We all feel the power loss has to heal.
For more on loss and grief see other posts at Whole Revolution.