Sunday, May 23, 2010

Can We Please Be Real!

I am coming to more realizations about love and grief. Yesterday, I read one of my daily newsletters from "" This question was posed to the resident life coach on 5/18: "My husband left me. It's so hard and I'm in so much pain. Can you please tell me how to get over a broken heart?"

This question struck me in a number of ways. First of all, having lost two husbands, one to death and the second to divorce, I could really sense and feel this woman's pain. Of course she is really hurting. All of us grieving our losses are. You can't get around that awful, gut-wrenching pain. It comes with the territory when we suffer the loss of a relationship whether from death or divorce.

What concerns me most is this woman's apparent need to stop feeling her pain and to quickly move on. I want to tell her that it has been two years since my divorce was initiated and I still feel the pain. Less intensely for sure, but it's still with me. And I'm not even sure that I want it to be gone.

Our grief symbolizes the deep extent of our feelings for our loved ones. Why would I want those to disappear? Yes, they are painful and hurt a whole lot, but I'd rather have them than not, if you know what I mean. To displace them so quickly would somehow be dishonoring the real and true love I had and felt for both my husbands. It was genuine and there is honor in that. My relationships with my husbands may be over but I believe the love I had for both can continue to exist and even still remain a powerful force in the world. Sometimes I send my love out to my second husband and hope that it somehow touches him along with others along the way.

We live in this rather unrealistic society that believes people can and should dismiss their feelings and get on with things. But love can't be replaced. I fell in love with Sam during my divorce and it didn't magically negate the love I still felt for either of my husbands, nor did it take away the pain of my grief.

Our society needs to own up to the painful feelings and embrace them rather than focus on how to hide and run from them. I want to tell this woman that there is no quick and easy cure that she is searching for that will take away her pain. The key is that we all eventually learn how to manage our pain and keep on living. And as we go on, we learn how to add more joy into our lives and even more love. Different love - but love. And love really is what it's all about.

Here is the answer offered by Dr. John H. Shlare: "The more you focus on what you've lost and what you DON'T have, the longer it will take you to recover. In general, getting over any kind of loss is best accomplished by focusing on what you DO have, making positive plans for the future and keeping yourself busy. Don't let the overwhelming emotions of the moment blind you from your greatest advantage: opportunity. Taking positive action now toward a better future is the way out of this heartache. ...the end of one thing is ALWAYS the beginning of something else."

If only it were all so simple and a three plan solution is what it would take. In the six and a half years I've been battling grief I've embraced positive plans for the future (getting remarried, going to school, entering into a new relationship). I've done my best to focus on what I have vs. what I've been lacking. And as an only parent I can attest to the fact that my life is crazy busy. But guess what? The grief remained. And I suspect it still will for this woman grieving the end of her marriage. The solutions presented here are ways to help us keep on with the process of living but they are not ways to "Get over" a loss.

Can our society stop with the "Get over it" attitude? I have resigned myself to the fact that I won't ever get over either my husband's death or my divorce. The grief surrounding those events will continue to live within me until I die. The funny thing is, that once I accepted this and stopped fighting my need to 'get over it," the claws of grief lessened a bit and the pain subsided - or I should say became easier to accept and live with.

And that is the advice I would offer this woman. Embrace your grief. Accept it for what it is. Know that its intensity will stick around for a while. Try to focus more on the love and all the good stuff you experienced vs. negative and vengeful thoughts, although those will come and keep you company on some days. Send the power of your love into the Universe and be proud of the fact that you loved your husband so deeply. The hurt signifies that depth. Be active and strong not as a way to get over your love, but as a way to continue focusing on the here and now as no one grants us a pass to tune out out of life for even a few weeks. We're stuck having to continue with the daily grind of living. Recognize that it is okay to grieve and feel the pain of your loss for the time it takes. I'm not ashamed that I still struggle with the grief of my divorce two years out. Be as gentle and as kind to yourself as possible because you'll be challenged from all fronts to "move on and get over it" as soon as possible. Don't pretend you're strong and over it just to placate others. Recognize that you're in for a battle because what people don't want to tell you is that the pain can feel like it will almost kill you. It will get that bad. It will hurt that much.

That is what I resent about the answer of this life coach. He doesn't tell it like it honestly is. His answer is that glossy belief that we all somehow have the power to quickly and easily move on. "Here are the three steps and if you follow them it'll be all better and you won't feel anymore pain." An illusion to match the totally misguided belief we have in our society that if we just take a pill, everything will be better. Well, all of us out here in the blogosphere of grief and loss know what's really what. And I do believe that we all would be in better shape (emotionally at least) if our society had prepared us how to face our grief and losses instead of offering us empty promises that we'll be cured by following these three easy steps. Lets not pretend anymore. Lets tell it like it is. "It's going to hurt like hell but it's okay to feel and even embrace that pain!" As Dan from "Dan, in Real Time" once astutely observed, it is okay to walk beside the grief instead of running in front of it or behind it because it is going to be around for awhile and you might as well make friends with it and even share a joke or two!


  1. It amazes me when people are so quick to say, "Just get on with it!" Three months after Don died, while I was in the southwest for the winter, a friend of a friend came to visit for what was supposed to be a few days of couchsurfing. Not only did he overstay his welcome, but he kept nagging at me to "get out and get on with your life!" He got angry at me for not going out to celebrate new year's at an event in the town where I stay and told me I was "bringing him down with my bummer attitude." He compared losing my husband to his losing his 90 year old father to Alzheimers a couple of years before. It was all so bizarre, but actually not all that far from the opinion that a lot of people have about how we should race at break-neck speed to get over our losses. I barely know what to say to these people anymore. Mostly, I just ignore them. A friend of mine who was a high school guidance counselor for many years used to say "look where it's coming from" when someone said something insulting or hurtful. How true. When someone has not endured a loss similar to mine, they speak with zero authority on how I should carry on alone.

  2. Bev - What an utterly bizarre guy and situation that you describe! Especially, his comments that you were bringing him down & his comparison to his 90-year-old father. Clueless and selfish besides. You'd think he'd have made an effort to try and attend to you, your emotions/needs instead of his own!

  3. Well, he was a pretty offbeat person. A 60-something new-agey type of guy who believed that just acting happy would make everything go well in your life. Yeah. Right. :-)
    Actually, he was basically an okay guy, but just not very realistic and quite self-centered even though he would never see that in himself.