How to Survive
the Loss of a Love


  • If you find photographs and mementos helpful in the mourning process, use them.
  • If you find mementos bind you to a dead past, get rid of them--put them in the attic, sell them, give them away or throw them out.
  • Don't make any "thing" more important than your healing--or yourself.

    I ceremoniously disposed
    of all the objects
    connected with you
    I thought they were
    It did not help.
    I'm the one that's contaminated!

    Anticipate a Positive Outcome

  • Whatever you pay attention to--focus upon--becomes more powerful in your life.
  • Focus on a positive outcome. Expect it. Anticipate it. Plan on it.
  • It will come.
  • Be with the sadness, fear and pain when it comes, but don't dwell on it. Accept it, but don't invite it (except during your scheduled periods of mourning).
  • Pain is an acceptable guest, but it is not a welcome long-term visitor.

    How will it happen?
    How will it happen
    when I find some
    someone to spend
    a goodly portion
    of my life with?
    It must.
    I mean, I've been
    so long
    It will happen.
    I will not dwell on
    if, only
    how, when, where, whom.

    Expect to Feel Afraid

  • Fear is a natural result of loss, a part of the healing process.
  • There are so many things to fear when one suffers a loss:
  • Far from being the dark thing we are trained to treat fear as a child, fear is, in fact, extra energy to successfully meet the challenges of healing and growing ahead.
  • You will successfully meet the challenges.
  • Fear, when used as the energy it is, can help you meet those challenges.
  • Don't fight the fear--use it. Fear is a friend, not an enemy. (More on fear as a friend on page 184.)

    as the
    of your
    light fades
    my days grow dark.
    my nights are lit with
    electric bulbs. I cannot
    sleep. I am afraid of the
    dark. I am afraid that you
    will return and then fade
    again. I am afraid that you
    will never return. I am
    afraid that my next thought
    will be of you. I am afraid
    that I will run out of poems
    before I run out of pain.

    It's OK to Feel Depressed

  • Pretending to have more energy, enthusiasm or happiness than you actually have is not productive. Pretending expends energy that could better be used for healing.
  • It's OK to feel "low" for awhile.
  • Crying has its own specialness; a cleansing, purifying release.

    to those
    who ever
    me ill:
    this night
    your wish
    has been

    It's OK to Feel Anger

  • Everyone gets angry at the loss of love. Everyone.
  • It's OK to feel anger.
  • It's OK to feel anger toward
  • the person who left (even if he or she left you through death)
  • the person who took something or someone away
  • the social conventions or customs that contributed to the loss
  • the fates
  • It's not OK to
  • Let the anger out (safely, please!):
  • If the anger is channeled and dissipated in these harmless (indeed, helpful) ways, you'll avoid senseless arguments, accidents and illness.
  • Your anger will pass as your hurting heals.

    I'm past the point of going
    quietly insane.
    I'm getting quite
    noisy about it.
    The neighbors must think
    I'm mad.
    The neighbors,
    for once,
    think right.

    It's OK to Feel Guilty

  • When you feel guilty, you are feeling angry with yourself. You violated a belief you have about the way you "should" think, act or feel, and you are mad at yourself for doing so.
  • It's OK to feel guilt, but there are limits.
  • Just as it's OK to feel anger, but it's not OK to hurt someone physically, it's OK to feel angry with yourself, but not to the point of illness or incapacity.
  • Some regrets are natural, but excessive self-punishment can be harmful.
  • The antidote to guilt is forgiveness.
  • You may be treating yourself far worse than the loss ever did.
  • Don't do that.
  • Treat yourself with love, respect, kindness and forgiveness.

    How I
    love you and hate you.
    How bound I am to you.
    How bound I am to break my bondage.
    I want to be free!
    I want to be able to
    enjoy the day again,
    and give me back my nights.

    You May Want to Hire a Professional or Two

  • There are many people who, as a profession, help others heal and grow.
  • These include (listed here in alphabetical order so as not to slight anyone!)
  • If you feel drawn to one or more of these, give them a try. See what the results are. If not helpful, try someone else. If helpful, try him or her again.

    all I need is
    someone to
    talk to
    are the
    only person
    I can really
    talk to.

    When You Might Want Counseling or Therapy

  • Most loss, emotional crises or life difficulties do not require psychotherapy.
  • Nevertheless, professional assitance may be necessary or useful in the following instances:
  • Most people spend more time selecting a car than a therapist. As with any "important purchase," shop around.
  • Interview several therapists. Ask questions. What is their method of working with clients? What do they charge? What is their estimated length of treatment?
  • How you feel about the therapist is of primary importance. Do you feel comfortable telling her anything about your life? Do you like him? Do you trust her? Does he treat you as an equal? Would you choose this person for a friend?
  • With a good therapist, significant benefits can often come in just a few sessions.

    As soon as I
    became aware
    of my
    addictive personality,
    I gave up drugs
    (illegal ones),
    and I never started
    on the legal poisons
    like alcohol
    or tobacco
    or television.
    But, fool that I am,
    I forgot to give up
    the most addictive
    thing around--
    The Hard Stuff:
    And now it's too late.
    I'm hooked for life.
    An emotion-mainliner.
    A touch-junkie.
    A love addict.

    A Complete Medical Workup May Be in Order

  • You might want to get a complete medical workup (physical exam, blood tests, the works). It's probably long overdue, anyway.
  • There are some physical illnesses triggered by loss, and there are some physical illnesses that feel like loss, even though the cause is physical.
  • Now might be a good time to take a look at the functioning of your body.
  • Your health care provider can best advise you on the value of this suggestion, as well as the extent of the tests.
  • If there is anything you fear you might discover in these tests, remember that knowledge is better (and more powerful) than fear.


    Some Depressions May Require Medication

  • If your symptoms of depression (page 9) seem severe or continue longer than normal, an hour spent with a well-informed psychiatrist discussing your situation and evaluating your next course of action--including the option of medication--can be invaluable.

  • All too often, people suffering symptoms of severe depression fail to seek psychiatric treatment because they fear the stigma of "mental illness."

  • This is an unfortunate irony because severe, chronic depression is a prevalent and well-recognized medical disorder, one as treatable as diabetes or hypertension.

  • Severe biological depression results from a biochemical imbalance in the brain. Antidepressants, taken as prescribed by a psychiatrist, are non-addictive and effective.

  • If you wonder whether you need antidepressant medication, contact a competent psychiatrist for an evaluation.

  • Perhaps the best news in some time about the treatment of depression is that an inexpensive, relatively harmless herb can be as effective in treating mild to moderate depression as prescription antidepressants.

  • It's called St. John's wort. (The formal Latin name is Hypericum perforatum.)

  • St. John's wort is a natural herb that has been used to heal emotional wounds for thousands of years.

  • St. John's wort requires no prescription, is far less expensive than prescription antidepressants, and has far fewer side effects.

  • St. John's wort is so safe, in fact, that many people take it just to see if they feel better. Most do.

  • Dr. Bloomfield and Peter McWilliams have written a book, Hypericum (St. John's Wort) & Depression. The book is available online at

  • Peter McWilliams was so displeased with the lack of uniform quality and high cost of commercially available St. John's wort that he markets his own brand under the name Joy Pills. Please go to

    How many more times will
    tears be my only comfort?
    How many times will I see
    that the potential is dead,
    and that "our" love was
    really in my head?
    How many more times will
    I give up,
    and how many times will I
    want you so bad that nothing
    seems good?
    How many times with you?
    How many times
    with how many


  • Giving your body what it needs to function properly--and avoiding the things that interfere with its functioning--is important anytime, but particularly important following a loss.
  • Drink lots of water--eight to ten glasses per day.
  • Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Eat them raw, or lightly steamed.
  • Complex carbohydrates (whole grains, potatoes, pasta--yes, pasta!) are excellent sources of nutrition.
  • Reduce your intake of caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and cyclamates.
  • Beware of junk food attacks and sugar binges!
  • Take a good multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. Especially valuable during loss are vitamin C, the B vitamins, calcium and potassium.
  • Make all dietary changes gradually. Don't jump on a fad-diet bandwagon. Make a few changes, see how you feel, and make a few more.
  • Listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs.

    The garden loves the rain
    and, yes, this is love.
    But the love I want for you
    --the love I want to give you--
    is the love
    the rain
    the garden.
    Loving is giving freedom.

    Remember: You're Vulnerable

  • In these days of stress and recovery, remember that you're vulnerable.
  • Guard your physical health:
  • Guard your emotional and mental health:
  • Don't enter into situations in which you must be "convinced." Your sales resistance may be low. Keep that in mind.
  • Invite help from people who are trustworthy and able to do what you request of them.
  • There is no need to overprotect yourself. Just be aware that much of your energy is being used for healing and that the body's natural defense mechanisms may be weakened.

    Once upon a time,
    and a very long time
    ago it was, too,
    I was innocent.
    I did not know
    what love was.
    Pain was when you
    fell from a tree.

    Beware of the Rebound

  • Nature abhors a vacuum. You may find yourself rushing prematurely into romantic attachments in an attempt to fill that emptiness.
  • If your healing isn't complete, an initial rebound is likely to be followed by another loss, a second rebound, another loss, then another, until your emotional life is lived in the ricochet pattern of a handball court.
  • Falling "madly in love" soon after a traumatic breakup seems great at first: your wildest hopes and fantasies come true! But then the bottom falls out. You discover the new love is not that totally sensuous, intelligent, considerate, understanding, sophisticated god/goddess you initially perceived. Only a human, just like everyone else. Sigh.
  • If you want to fall in love with someone, how about trying yourself?

    It's always
    you & you & you
    but it's really
    I'll try again
    and gain again
    and die again
    and push on into the night.
    To be reborn by a
    look and a touch.
    And to hope again that
    this time it will last,
    and to know
    it will not be the last.

    Under-Indulge in Addictive Activities

  • Beware of anything you may be--or may become--addicted to. Under-indulgence in the escape mechanisms of society is in order. Be with the pain, don't run away from it.
  • Alcohol may numb the pain momentarily, but it is a depressant, and the eventual effect will be greater depression.
  • Drugs (marijuana, uppers, downers, all the recreational chemicals) interfere with the natural healing process and should be avoided. A series of momentary "highs" is a poor trade-off for a deepening depression.
  • Calorie junkies beware! You may tend to overeat during this time, allowing "unwanted inches" to creep onto your waistline, causing a lowered self-image, resulting in even more depression. Better visit a diet center or your physician instead.
  • Smoking more now but enjoying it less?
  • Two great books on overcoming the addiction of negative thinking (or any other addiction) are You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought and its companion workbook Focus on the Positive by and our own Peter McWilliams. You can find them at your local bookstore, or by calling 1-800-LIFE-101.

    I have done it to me again.
    No other being has the power
    to hurt me as deeply as I do.
    It is the "need"
    The "need" for love.
    I need love because I am not happy with I;
    me is not satisfied with me.
    In order to stop this hurting
    I must reach a point of
    contentment within myself.
    And that'll take
    some reaching.

    Pamper Yourself

  • If you have a broken leg and are hospitalized, friends bring you flowers, relatives send baskets of fruit, you lie in bed all day reading or watching TV, nurses give you back rubs, doctors poke, prod and nod encouragingly.
  • In short, you are pampered.
  • If you have a broken heart, friends expect you to be your cheerful old self, relatives expect you to fulfill all your family obligations and you are expected to show up for work as energetic and efficient as ever.
  • In short, you must deal with a world that does not accept the fact that emotional pain not only hurts, but that it can be debilitating.
  • The solution? Pamper yourself.
  • In addition to the suggestions on the following page, do for yourself whatever your parents did to comfort you as a child.
  • Suggestions for pampering yourself:

    Dreams Can Be Healing

  • Healing is a full-time process, 24-hours a day, even while you sleep. Some say especially while you sleep.
  • You may get messages, information, insights or lessons from your dreams. Be open to them. You may want to keep a notebook by your bed to write them down.
  • Nightmares can be the body's process of resolving issues too painful or disturbing to encounter consciously. Know that healing is taking place. Once you know the images in a nightmare cannot hurt you, you can watch them like a movie--a horror movie, perhaps, but a movie nonetheless.
  • Consciously surround yourself with Goodness and Light before going to sleep, knowing that only that which is for your highest good will take place--no matter what you dream.Forty-nine:

    clouds ingest the moon.
    raindrops die with a
    splat on concrete causeways
    the floodgates are about to burst
    a banshee howls
    over our love.

    Sleep Patterns May Change

  • Changes in sleep patterns--how long you sleep or when you sleep--are common while healing.
  • If you have trouble falling asleep, wake up repeatedly during the night or wake up too early, this is known as insomnia.
  • Above all, insomnia is nothing to worry about. In fact, worrying about not sleeping can cause one to lose sleep. We all don't "need" eight hours every night, so if you are sleeping less for a while, that's fine.
  • You might try a glass of warm, low-fat milk before going to bed. Listen to soothing music, or to a tape of an uplifting meditation or lecture. If you find yourself trying to go to sleep for more than an hour, get up and do something else for a while. This breaks the pattern of worrying about worrying about sleeping.
  • If you wake at night, read or listen to something comforting and inspiring. Or, you might try meditation, contemplation or prayer. Late at night, when everything is still, is a wonderful time for contacting the goodness within and around you.
  • Over-the-counter sleeping pills are not recommended.
  • If you fear your insomnia is severe, see your doctor.
  • On the other hand, you may find yourself sleeping "too much." There is no such thing as "too much" sleep after a loss. Sleep until you wake up. Nap when you want to. Consider it part of your overall healing.

    Someday I will
    circle of pain
    I put myself through
    every time I get
    hung up in someone.
    I'll have a lot of time
    to do it, too.
    The insomnia's beginning.

    Sexual Desire May Change

  • A decrease--or complete lack--of sexual desire is often experienced after a loss. It is nothing to worry about. The body needs its energy for healing, and it automatically channels all available energy to that purpose.
  • Also common after loss is difficulty--or inability--to perform sexually. While frustrating and sometimes embarrassing, this, too, is nothing to worry about. Now is not the time to put more pressure on yourself. It's OK to take a break from sex for a while.
  • Full sexual desire and functioning will naturally return when the body has had a chance to heal itself.

    who took the
    L out of

    Remaining Distraught Is No Proof of Love

  • Remaining distraught for a long period of time is not proof that you "really loved."
  • Of course you really loved. If you hadn't, you wouldn't have felt the loss in the first place.
  • The fact that you can heal rapidly is proof that you are focusing your energies on healing, not that you didn't love fully or completely.
  • You are not duty-bound to feel pain any longer than it's actually there.

    I am missing you
    far better than
    I ever loved you.

  • Purchase the book from Amazon

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    Copyright © 1967-1996
    Harold H. Bloomfield, M.D.
    & Peter McWilliams