by Stuart A. Kaplowitz, MFT

In suffering any type of physical injury, there is a certain amount of pain that will be endured as the body attempts to heal itself. Stubbing a toe might lead to a few minutes of pain, while breaking an ankle might take the body many weeks or even months to recover. The word pain is typically used in association with a physical injury. But what about the pain we experience in losing someone close to us — emotional pain??

When we lose someone or something (a relationship, item, etc.) from our lives, our bodies attempt to deal with the loss in much the same way as when dealing with physical pan. Unfortunately, many of us choose not to deal with the loss, which means that the emotional pain we experience may never go away. Because loss can be so difficult for us to face, each of us experience it in different ways. Yes, there is a pattern of common phases we go through.

In describing the process of grieving, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross observed how dealing with loss involves denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. We may experience any or all of these phases, and not necessarily in this order.

The Wrath of Pain

In my work with clients who have experienced various types of pain, I have noted how much we tend to stuff. Unfortunately, the internal damage and destruction we cause ourselves is overwhelming. The number-one killer in the world today is neither cancer nor heart disease; the repression of psychological pain into the unconscious is the real danger (A. Janov, The New Primal Scream, 1991). If we do not give painful feelings an outlet, they destroy us.

So how can we deal with hurt? The most important and perhaps difficult factor is to acknowledge that it exists. Take some alone time and just sit and experience the feelings that come up. Sadness is appropriate. So many of us associate crying with negativity. We believe that showing our hurt means that we are somehow weak, and we wonder and fear what others will think of us if we share this hurt. We may even feel we are burdening those who love us by bringing up our pain.

Attempting to Move On

Whether we “lose” a precious item or precious person, through death or even through the ending of a relationship, there is bound to be some hurt. Something is now missing. While grieving involves acknowledging that we are suffering, it can have a quality of profound healing because we are forced to a depth of feeling below conscious thinking. Essentially, we are digging in the dirt of our experiences and, in the process, we may come to understand just how we hurt and we may even learn new, healthy ways to cope.

There is no set time frame for grieving, and it can be looked at as more of a process than a destination. Just as physical injuries heal in different ways and time periods, so do emotional injuries. We must give ourselves time; we cannot rush the process. When we are ready to move on, our mind and body will let us know.

While many of us would like to barrel through grieving the loss of someone, perhaps an equal number become extremely resistant to risk entering new relationships. It is alright to be hesitant. Risk is a scary thing because we are taking a chance of being hurt again and having to deal with more pain and loss. We need to move at a pace with which we are comfortable.

Trust is the key and it will take some time before we are ready to fully trust enough to invest ourselves in another relationship. You have the control to decide when that time has come.

Stuart A. Kaplowitz, MFT
Stuart A. Kaplowitz, is a Marriage and Family Therapist offering counseling to individuals, couples, families and children. Stuart has managed and directed programs over the years and now works primarily out of his own offices as well as supervising clinicians.
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