We recognise grief as the inevitable pain of loss. The loss of a loved one, a relationship, a job, good health. Life as we know it, is over. This we realise, is the price that comes with love. Something real and tangible has gone and by grieving, we heal.
What happens though, when our loss is less tangible, like a dream, a wish or an ambition that never materialised?
The much-acclaimed writer and holocaust survivor Edith Eger, author of The Choice: Embrace the Possible, talks to Oprah of the pain of losing her childhood dream to become a dancer. Oprah weeps when she sees real maternal love; her tears are for the mother love she never had.
[ Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fauouBeIdGM ]
Losing what could have been
Someone else told me how sad he felt about the end of an unhealthy relationship. He was puzzled.
Why wasn’t he just plain relieved?
He underestimated the huge and generous investment he had made, how much he had given but, as importantly, he needed to accept his pain over the loss of what could have been. He had invested into a future that could never be, with that particular woman. She was not able to give what he had assumed and hoped for.
We know that grieving the loss of what was, eventually heals us. We are less familiar with the necessity of mourning what could have been. The pain of our unfulfilled dreams and disappointments can run very deeply. Our emotional investment in what we hope for, is often enormous. Losing the possibility of those things turning out the way we anticipated, is devastating.
Acknowledge, Accept and Heal
Unacknowledged sadness festers. This is what we call denial. Instead of diminishing pain, it imprisons us or, moves and sometimes shape-shifts. We might be destined to keep reliving it. Alternatively, it might take on another appearance like anger or anxiety. Anxiety at work for example, can come from not accepting a disappointment at home or that the career path one is on, was not the one you went to university for.
The gift of freedom only comes when we acknowledge our quashed emotional investments; really feeling the physical sting that lingers on when we bring our dashed hopes to mind.
By bring that pain to the light and allowing it space we offer ourselves the opportunity of true acceptance. By doing so, we heal.
Renée van der Vloodt ( M.A. , FHGI ) is a psychotherapist and coach – and has had a private practice for over 20 years, which is now based in Woodchurch (near Ashford), Kent. She also works with people around the world via online sessions.
Renée works with children and adults as a coach and therapist to help them overcome life's challenges and emotional difficulties including stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anger or addictive behaviour.
Renée is a regular contributor to Breathe Magazine and the author of the CD Calm the Chaos of the Creative Mind.