How to Survive
the Loss of a Love

It's OK to Go through the Motions in Slow Motion

  • You may go through your activities as though you were surrounded by warm Jello.
  • Your arms and legs may feel heavy. You may lean on things to support the weight of your body. It may even be difficult to hold up your head.
  • Your speech may be slurred or slowed.
  • You may feel as though you're in a trance.
  • All of this can be frightening. Know, however, that all this is part of the process of healing. The body slows its outer motions to provide the energy necessary for inner healing.
  • Don't push yourself. Relax. For a while, go slow.

    I remember thinking once
    that it would be good
    if you left because
    then I could get some
    Important Things
    Since you've left I've done
    nothing. Nothing
    is as important
    as you.

    It's OK to Need Comforting

  • It's OK to be taken care of for awhile.
  • Accept understanding and support from
    • friends
    • family
    • co-workers
  • An emotional wound is real, debilitating and painful. It's OK to need comfort.
  • Some people are so good at comforting that they do it professionally. Feel free to seek the help of a health care professional with whom you feel comfortable.
  • Be brave enough to accept the help of others.

    My friends are still here:
    while I gave all my
    precious moments to
    They're still here!
    God bless them.

    Seek the Support of Others

  • Although you may be afraid to do so, ask others for help. It's a human (and courageous) thing to do.
  • Gather your friends, family and co-workers into a support system. You need to know that others care, and, if you tell them your pain, they will help.
  • The telephone is a marvelous tool for support. Use it. Call friends, family, help lines.
  • Invite a friend to stay overnight.
  • Visit a relative (preferably at dinnertime).
  • Neighbors can be wonderful.
  • Strangers are merely friends you haven't yet met.

    help me up
    my friend.
    dust me off.
    feed me warmth.
    you are comfort.
    let me lean on you
    until I can stand
    I will stand a little taller,
    and you will be
    to have a friend
    such as me.

    Touching and Hugging

  • The healing power of touch cannot be over- estimated.
  • If someone asks, "What can I do?" perhaps all you need to say is, "Hold my hand" or "Give me a hug."
  • Get three hugs a day for survival, five for maintenance and eight (or more!) for growth.
  • When others are not available to hug you--hug yourself. Go ahead. It feels good.
  • Now's a great time for a nurturing massage.
  • The most healing touch may be gently caressing yourself. If a part of you hurts, touch it and tell it, "I am here for you. I love you."

    is worth
    ten thousand

    Find Others Who Have Survived a Similar Loss

  • The support of others who know what you're going through can be invaluable.
  • Your friends may know someone who has survived a similar loss.
  • There are many organizations dedicated to serving those with specific losses. Look in your local Yellow Pages under "Social Service Organizations" or "Human Service Organizations."
  • People who have survived similar losses can provide support, guidance--and are proof that you too will survive.

    All the goodness
    of my life is
    First you,
    and with you
    Even creativity,
    which is always
    the last to go,
    is only making
    a token appearance.

    Seek Wise Guidance

  • Wisdom has three components: love, firmness and knowledge. Look for these traits in those from whom you seek and accept guidance.
  • Wise people can help you in fulfilling your schedule of tasks. You may need someone to "walk you through" your day.
  • You can often find such people in your church, office, family, 12-step or other self-help groups.
  • Beware, however, of anyone's well-meaning advice containing
    • should
    • you better
    • it's time you
    • I think you should
  • Such approaches, far from being supportive, only foster guilt and a sense of inadequacy.

    Excuse me.
    I am currently
    afflicted with the world's
    number one crippler:
    infatuation fixation paralysis,
    commonly referred to as
    Any spare comfort
    you have to give
    would be most appreciated,
    although my ability to receive
    may be temporarily impaired.
    Thank you.

    Surround Yourself with Things That Are Alive

  • Don't isolate yourself from life.
  • In addition to family and friends, invite other living things into your life:
  • a new plant
  • a stray kitten
  • the puppy you've always wanted
  • a bowl of goldfish
  • even a bowl of fresh fruit has its own joy and consolation to offer. (And then you can eat it.)

    I'd have a nervous breakdown,
    I've been through
    this too many
    times to be

    Reaffirm Your Beliefs

  • Reaffirm any beliefs in which you have faith or have found useful in the past.
  • These may include religious, spiritual, psychological or philosophical beliefs you find appealing and valuable.
  • Use any body of knowledge you find comforting, inspiring or uplifting.
  • Reexplore it, lean on it, grow from it, enjoy it.

    Missing your love
    with God's so
    close at hand.
    It seems somehow
    a sacrilege
    but I think
    God understands.

    Sundays Are the Worst

  • No doubt about it.
  • Holidays are the second-worst.
  • Saturday nights aren't much fun, either.
  • The feelings of separation may feel greater than usual three days, three weeks, three months, six months and a year after the loss.
  • Schedule particularly comforting activities into these periods of time.

    Yesterday was Sunday.
    Sundays are always bad.
    ("Bloody," as they have been aptly described.)
    The full moon is Wednesday.
    Full moons are always bad.
    (Ask Lon Chaney.)
    Friday is Good Friday
    and, 30 miles from Rome,
    the vibrations of all those mourning
    worshippers will make it bad.
    Sunday is Easter--but it's also
    and Sundays are always bad.

    The Question of Suicide

  • You may be having suicidal thoughts. They may or may not be as eloquent as "to be or not to be," but they may arise.
  • Know they are a natural symptom of the pain, and that there is no need to act on them.
  • If you fear these impulses are getting out of hand, seek professional help at once. Call directory assistance and ask for the number of your local Suicide Prevention Hotline. Then call it. The people (almost entirely volunteers) are there to help. They want to help. Give them the gift of allowing them to do so.
  • Don't turn the rage you feel against yourself. (Although feeling rage is perfectly all right--after all, an utterly outrageous thing has happened to you.) Find a safe way to release it. Beat a pillow, cry, scream, stomp up and down, yell.
  • Above all, suicide is silly. It's leaving the World Series ten minutes into the first inning just because your favorite hitter struck out. It's walking out of the opera during the overture just because the conductor dropped his baton. It'swell, you get the picture. In this play called life, aren't you even a little curious about what might happen next?
  • The feeling will pass. You can count on that. You will get better. Much better.
  • We do promise you a rose garden. We just can't promise you it will be totally without thorns.


    Keep it a question.
    It's not really an answer.



    one thing I forgot:
    after the
    pain of parting
    comes the
    happiness of healing;

    Do Your Mourning Now

  • Don't postpone, deny, cover or run from your pain. Be with it. Now.
  • Everything else can wait. An emotional wound requires the same priority treatment as a physical wound. Set time aside to mourn.
  • The sooner you allow yourself to be with your pain, the sooner it will pass. The only way out is through.
  • When you resist mourning, you interfere with the body's natural stages of recovery.
  • If you postpone the healing process, grief can return months--even years--later to haunt you.
  • Feel the fear, pain, desolation, anger. It's essential to the healing process.
  • You are alive. You will survive.

    Grief is a quiet thing.
    Deadly in repose.
    A raging horror, a thunder of abuse.
    Tearing all that one has ever loved.
    Fear-ridden and misunderstood;
    Ceasing a moment, and through the years
    Returning to. . .destroy.
    To rage,
    To curse all that is happy--
    or contented,
    or trusting.
    To threaten every beauty that is true.
    It's a quiet thing

    --Melbe Colgrove

    Earlier Losses May Surface

  • You may have unresolved losses from the past: previous relationships, rejections, disappointments, hurts--and that wellspring of loss: childhood.
  • A contemporary loss can reactivate a prior, unhealed loss.
  • You may feel that you're responding "unreasonably" to a loss. In fact, you may be healing past losses, too.
  • Give yourself permission to mend it all.
  • Let it heal.
  • A great book for Making Peace with Your Parents is by Harold H. Bloomfield, M.D. with Leonard Felder, Ph.D. Available at your local bookstore.

    I sat evaluating
    I decided
    to lie down.

    Be Gentle with Yourself

  • Be very gentle with yourself--kind, forgiving, tender.
  • Accept that you have an emotional wound, that it is debilitating, and that it will take awhile before you are completely well.
  • Treat yourself with the same care and affection you would a good friend in a similar situation.
  • Don't take on new responsibilities. If appropriate, let your coworkers and employer know you've suffered a loss and are healing.
  • Avoid situations in which you may be stressed, challenged or upset.
  • Accept assistance and support when offered, but remember that care and compassion begin at home--from yourself to yourself.
  • And, for heaven sakes (and your own), don't blame yourself for any "mistakes" (either real or imagined) you think you may have made that brought you to this loss.
  • You're great!

    To lose you as a
    was painful
    To lose you as a
    is equally painful.
    But lost you are.
    The walls are sooo high,
    and that finely honed saber
    I had when I began storming
    your citadel isn't even
    sharp enough to
    slash my wrists.
    It's not that I don't care.
    It's just that I can't
    let myself
    care any more.

    Heal at Your Own Pace

  • Although others may demand it, don't feel the need to immediately "understand" why the loss happened, or instantly "accept" the loss gracefully.
  • They'll tell you to "shrug it off," "roll with the punches" and "snap out of it."
  • If you succumb to such pressure and superficially dismiss your loss with such popular phrases as
    • "That's life"
    • "Oh, well"
    • "It doesn't matter"
    • "Who cares?"
  • your artificial "acceptance" may interfere with healing.
  • Healing is a process. You have the full right to experience the process in your own way, to gain your understandings and realizations in your own time.
  • To demanding friends, you can quote the proverb: "Be patient. God (or nature) hasn't finished healing me yet."
  • Be patient with impatient friends.

    This season is called
    because everything
    nature builds
    all summer long
    Like our love.

    Don't Try to Rekindle the Old Relationship

  • Futile attempts at reconciliation are
    • painful
    • anti-healing
    • anti-growth
    • a waste of valuable energy
    • stupid
    • irresistible
  • Resist. To give up this final hope may be the most difficult challenge of all.
  • Invest your energies in healing and growing, in yourself, in new relationships and in life.
  • Learning to let go can be one of life's greatest lessons.

    The layers I have put
    around the pain of
    your going are thin.
    I walk softly through
    life, adding thickness
    each day.
    A thought or a feeling
    of you cracks the surface.
    A call to you
    shatters it all
    And I spend that night in death,
    spinning the first
    layer of life
    with the sunrise.

    Make a Pact with a Friend

  • If the urge to contact the "long lost love" is strong, make a pact--a contract--with a friend.
  • Don't make the pact unreasonable. An example of an unreasonable pact might be, "I will never see him/her as long as I live!"
  • A more reasonable pact is, "Before I contact him/her, I will contact you first and talk about it."
  • Sometimes the support of another can get you through those "irresistible periods," and keep you from doing something you know you'll probably regret later.

    She asked me if seeing
    you was a drain.
    Seeing you is not a drain.
    It's a sewer.

  • Purchase the book from Amazon

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    Copyright 1967-1996
    Melba Colgrove, Ph.D.,
    Harold H. Bloomfield, M.D.
    & Peter McWilliams