Thursday, July 16, 2009

The thing about loss...

Dear Brooke,

I recently broke up with my boyfriend and although I initiated it, I've been pretty sad ever since. It's funny, I actually thought I would be able to bypass all that yucky breakup stuff because it wasn't dramatic, nobody was angry, and I genuinely thought it was a good idea. The actual event was fine, heartbreaking, but it went smoothly. I still do think I did the right thing although breaking up with anyone regardless of the person, scenario, or relationship an utterly gut-wrenching experience.

Anyway, I've been going through various waves of emotion the past few weeks and basically just trying to get my bearings and breathe and move on. Since the moment I cut this person loose, this person that I care about, my entire attitude flipped around. Before, I felt stuck, like I couldn't accomplish anything. There was this person that was holding me back from life and causing me to feel very stagnant and old. And then after "fixing" my situation, ie, breaking up with him, suddenly I was racked with all of this fear and the qualities in him I was condemning seemed so trivial!

I would think "So what if he's got his quirks and he can't dance and doesn't make me laugh? He genuinely cares about my successes and failures and listens to me when I need to vent, and does nice things for me, and is a grown up, and etc, etc” And I suddenly started to say to myself, "You idiot, now you've gone and done it. Good luck ever finding that again, plus all the other things that you want."

I keep going on and on back and forth in my head, till I can’t tell what's real and what's not, what I truly feel and what's just fear. There's all this residue, it feels, of past trauma bubbling to the surface pointing me in different directions and spinning out of control (I lost my mom and broke up with my last boyfriend around the same time).

I can't help but wonder, is this what happens to people? Slowly but surely, as we go from relationship to relationship and endure pain and heartache and the intense experience of falling in love and losing people we bond with, are we cutting off from our abilities to actually be in a functional relationship? Or is it all ingrained in us from childhood, and our parents, etc? I'm so freaking confused with love that I just don't want to be a part of it. But I know I don't want to be alone, so here I am...totally terrified of both being in a relationship (committing to someone, sleeping in the same bed, sharing my time) and not being in a relationship (bitterness, chocolate, movies, and loads of loneliness)

What the hell is up with this awful dilemma?


Utterly Confused.

My Darling Confused,

What are we really talking about here? Loss. OK, get some tissue because the loss of your mom has a lot to do with all of this. Here we go.

You are looking for a partner, not a mother. A good mother (using your quote about your ex) “genuinely cares about your successes and failures and listens to you when you need to vent, and does nice things for you, and is a grown up, etc. etc…” a good partner is and does those things too, but is also someone you can have fun with, laugh with, and grow with...oh, and hopefully you want to have sex with too, but you knew that. It seems like this guy was a great parental figure for you (you even said he made you feel old!), and filled a much needed space for you at the time. He’s not a bad person…he’s just not your person.

This sadness and confusion you feel is so right on, so appropriate, so perfect. Let me explain…Every time you have a loss, a little piece of the emotion you felt when you lost your mother will come to surface. For you, loss=losing mom. So, losing a boyfriend= a little bit of losing mom. It’s just the way we work…and it sucks sometimes, but it’s actually pretty amazing how our inner worlds function. Our emotions take every opportunity they can to release what our brains and hearts have been holding onto. This is nothing short of an amazing opportunity for you. So it’s time, you beautiful woman, to do some work on your relationship.... with loss.

The thing about loss is that so many people who lose a loved one look everywhere to try and replace that person in some way, usually without even knowing that they’re doing it, and they end up with someone who’s not everything they want or need.

It seems you are smart enough to know that although you have not fully (no such thing really) moved through the loss of your mother, you are still not looking to replace her. You get it. If you didn’t get it, you would still be dating that nice guy who happens to make you feel old and stagnant and isn’t everything you are looking for. You would have settled to be with someone who gave you some mom-taking-care-of-you energy and filled the empty space. But, you broke it off… so you get it. Congratulations, you are an emotionally developed star.

And by the way…Of course you are confused between being committed and being single. It's natural to want a relationship, you’re human. But you went through such a profound loss that it's no wonder you don't ever really want to fall into attachment, for fear of losing again. Utterly confused…ya, makes perfect sense.

Loss is not fun. Neither is settling for someone not right for you for all the wrong reasons. My advice: Go through the loss. Feel it. Think about your mom. Grieve. Respect the challenge. Be sad. Be sad. And then be sad a little more. Oh, and then be sad more. And cry a lot. Like, a ton. Realize that you have a relationship with loss that is unique to you and you get to take as long as you want to work on it. And when you’re ready, begin your healthy relationship with loss.

Emerge into the world one layer stronger, with more tools in your life-box. And then embrace the loving space in your heart that belongs to your mom and honor her by not trying to replace her. One day, you will find the person that you love and loves you back, and you’ll be with them through and through, with a little less fear that you will lose them, and a little more comfort in the possibility that you might.

With Love,



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