Johan, a 19-year-old man from Switzerland, contacted us because he was suffering from a breakup of his four-year relationship. This was the love of his life and he was convinced before they separated that they would be together forever.
“This was not a teenage love,” he told us, “this was really a deep love that we had and still have.”
“Also, he said, “she didn’t leave because she found someone else or didn’t love me anymore, she left because she felt she was too young to be so attached to one man and she said she needed to live and experience more before she was ready to settle down.”
He had a good attitude toward this experience. “I know it is all for the best and that this is for my growth. But at the same time, the feelings of loneliness and panic are very intense and I need some help to learn how to understand and deal with them.”
The end of a relationship or the loss of a loved one can be one of the most traumatic happenings in our life.
Think back for a moment to the last time that this happened to you.
Perhaps someone left you, perhaps someone close to you died, or perhaps you and another person slowly drifted apart until one day you realized that the love was gone.
At these times in life, it doesn’t work if we try to hide or run away from our pain with spiritual concepts. We have to go through a deep inner process.
When a relationship ends or when we lose someone, we are face to face with our abandonment wound. This wound is very old and deep. The breakup is only the tip of the iceberg of the emotions of anger, panic, hurt, betrayal, disappointment, shock, grief, guilt, and/or insecurity that come up.
It is helpful to have the knowledge and the understanding that our abandonment wound has opened and that the feelings that get provoked can be terrifying, disruptive, and confusing.
Many of us enter relationships, not just love relationships, with the fantasy that this person will somehow understand us, be present to us, and nourish us in a way that we have always longed for. We don’t see the other person as he or she is because we are in the consciousness of a wounded child who longs to be loved in a way that will take away our fears and loneliness.
When a relationship ends, and usually long before it ends, the other person’s behavior has shattered our fantasy. Or when a beloved parent dies, we are also faced with having to come out of a wonderland of living in the glow of this parent’s love or the hope of ever getting the love from the parent that we never received.
We may feel compelled to try to get the other person back (in the case of rejection) or ruminate about what we did wrong or could have done better. We may become depressed and lose any motivation in life.
We may lean on friends, complain, and try to get comfort any way we can.
We may even try to forget the pain with alcohol, marijuana, or prescription medicine.
Perhaps for the first time in our life, we realize how alone we are.
We realize how much shame and insecurity we hold inside because nothing brings up more shame that rejection and loss.
It may also be important to reach out for help from a professional who knows and understands about the abandonment wound and can guide us through the stages of recovering. This person can give us a framework to understand what and why this has happened to us and give us the tools to recover.
As we worked with Johan, we helped him to contain the panic inside by teaching him to gently meditate on the body experiences connected with his panic and restlessness. We helped him to bring more awareness to his wounded child that was carrying deep feelings of unworthiness and remorse that he might have done something different when they were together. We taught him to understand his feelings of panic and loneliness and to validate them.
In our experience, this journey of recovering from loss and abandonment requires a gentle balance of feeling and understanding. It is important to frame the experience so that we know what it is and why is happening to us. And it is also important to go inside and be with the feelings that are coming up.
This journey of recovering from abandonment is a vital part of the Learning Love Work because it helps us to become a mature person and to be able to create and sustain real intimacy in our life, with ourselves and with others
Until that time, our relationships are child’s play.
When we are faced with this kind of experience, we heal by:
Knowing that our abandonment from childhood has opened.
Learning how to breathe consciously into it and allow the fear and pain to be there.
Recognizing the voices of shame that torment us and knowing that it is the wound of shame that also opens when we have a loss or rejection.
Understanding that before facing this wound, we often create relationships to avoid our shame and aloneness.
Knowing that the pain and fear is giving us deep inner strength and space that will allow us to live our lives in a much healthier way.
Understanding that with time, the pain will diminish and deep insights will begin to come.
In the end, we can see that we have become a different and more mature person.
We can see that something much better is now possible.
But these insights are the prize for taking the journey of healing from loss and abandonment.
Now, they come not as an empty concept but as a deep inner realization.