Dear Dr. Norquist:
My boyfriend and I split up about six months ago. It was a mutual decision. We just didn’t want the same things in life. Still, I can’t help feeling sad about it. He was my best friend and a good person. I know I need to move on, but I can’t seem to get beyond this sadness. I’m busy at work but after work I’m home and missing him. He moved back to his hometown after we broke up, so I don’t worry about running into him. How can I let go and move on. I feel stuck.
Dr. Norquist responds:
Grieving is a process, and it sounds like yours is frozen or at least stagnant. If this was a meaningful, long-term relationship, then six months is not a long time to be grieving this loss.
There are many factors that can influence the process of grieving. Prior significant losses (especially early ones) complicate and often stagnate this process. Losses come in many forms other than the loss of a person or a relationship. Other types of losses include: loss of place or home, losses brought on by a sudden crisis or trauma, and early loss of childhood (that innocent, carefree, safe time in life). These unresolved earlier losses can contribute to feeling overwhelmed when new losses emerge. When we feel overwhelmed it is very difficult to move through the normal process of grieving. Perhaps this is contributing to your “stuck”-ness.
Healing requires movement from the stuck place. You can encourage movement through your willingness to be with your sadness. By this I mean acknowledging it; being with it, rather than “in” it. Is it OK to just keep your sadness company? By “keeping it company” I mean sensing where in your body you are holding on to these feelings, then non-judgmentally being with these bodily-felt sadness sensations. The willingness to be with your sadness in this way will likely encourage movement out of the stuck place, thus enabling the innate, intrinsic healing process of grieving to emerge.
Please write again if you try this process and additional questions emerge. Thank you for reaching out to help yourself.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2013 Chaitanya Counseling Services