Monday, August 15, 2022

Coping with Longing in Grief

[Reviewed and updated May 27, 2024]

To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.  ~ Thomas Campbell

A reader writes: At the age of 47, I have suddenly lost the most significant person in my whole life. He was my first and only true love. I just cannot go on. I will not harm myself but I know my heart needs to find his. I am empty -- lifeless without him -- I sometimes lay my head down at night and want him to come to me and take me with him. I have not felt his presence and crave it every single second of every single day. I have lost many people close to me including my dad but this pain is unbearable. I don't believe I have ever loved this deeply in my life and I have many loved ones around me. The only comfort I crave is to be in his arms again -- so I ache for something that I will never have.
I pray and talk to him but I don't feel anything. I don't want to live. My comfort would be to lay down and pass over only if I knew that he would be there waiting. I have children and grandchildren but he's what I need. I don't know if Ii can get through this. I've been to a pastor and a psychologist with no comfort. I need help so badly. I ache so hard I can barely breathe. Please help me. Please tell me he waits for me. I only had 4 years with this man and I want more. Is he watching me? I don't feel him yet I've felt others after death somehow bringing me comfort. I am so confused -- no spiritual comfort with the love of my life -- why? The pain is too unbearable -- my heart literally shattered. What now? How do I get through something this grand? When can I go to him? When will he come to me?

My response: I'm so very sorry for your loss, and I can only imagine the depth of your pain. The life you once knew has ended, and now it feels as if you're being forced to live an entirely different one, one you never would have chosen for yourself. What you describe are the very raw and powerful feelings of loss. Grief is like that ~ it can knock you flat and leave you feeling crazy, isolated, and filled with hopelessness and despair as you look to the future without the physical presence of your loved one in it. Grief is extremely powerful. It can catch you totally unprepared, knock you off balance and shake you to the core. It can be painful beyond words ~ physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually ~ and it can change your life completely. It can make your present life seem meaningless, and take away your hope for the future. But understanding the process and knowing what to expect can help, my dear. The more you learn about grief, the better you can cope with it. When you understand what is happening to you and have some idea of what is normal and what you can expect, you will feel more in control of your grief and will be in a better position to take care of yourself, to find your own way through this loss and to begin rebuilding your life.

Grieving is an active process, not a passive one, and recovery is a choice. You can learn how to use this grieving time to help you heal yourself. Since you have access to the Internet, please know that there are lots of websites out there offering information, comfort and support to those in mourning. If you click on the tabs at the top of this page labeled Marty's Articles and Grief Bibliography, you will find all sorts of information, comfort, and support, including a number of articles and books that have been written on this important subject. Such writings will give you an idea of what normal grief looks like (so you'll know what to expect in the weeks and months ahead, and will feel less crazy and alone) and they will give you hope that although others have suffered the most devastating losses, they've all found different ways to make it through ~ and you will find your own way, too. 

You say you've "been to a pastor and a psychologist with no comfort," but you don't say whether these individuals are experts in helping with grief, loss and bereavement. I don't know what, if any, support you have from family, friends and neighbors, but the sad fact is that oftentimes others are done listening to us long before we are finished with our need to talk about our losses. So I also suggest that you consider becoming a member of the on-line support you'll find through our Grief Healing Discussion Groups. There you will find the ease of being able to communicate with others on your own computer, in the privacy and comfort of your own home, at times that are convenient for you ~ as well as the safety and security that a user name and password of your own choosing will afford you. All of this is at no cost to you.

I understand that you haven’t yet felt your husband’s presence and you're wanting to know whether he is waiting for you, which reminds me of this encouraging piece from Louis LaGrand’s informative book, Love Lives On: Learning from the Extraordinary Encounters of the Bereaved. On pages 119-121 he writes:

Seeking an Extraordinary Encounter

I tell every client who comes to me that there is nothing wrong with asking or praying for a sign that your loved one is okay. You will receive a sign when you need it most. Be patient. Persist. Be specific. Keep petitioning. Stay alert and increase your awareness of the coincidences, feelings, unusual happenings, intuitions, and good things that occur during your day. Give thanks when what you have prayed for arrives. Persistent prayer cannot be denied. In particular, ask your Higher Power to allow you to have a visitation dream. Many spiritual counselors believe that dreams are the easiest way for spirits to communicate with survivors.

You might also combine your prayers with meditation. If prayer is talking to the Intelligence, meditation is listening to that Intelligence. Meditation – opening your mind and heart to the messages of the universe around you – will put you in an ideal state of consciousness to receive an Extraordinary Encounter . . . if something happens to you during your prayer or meditation session, and you are not sure how to assess it, ask yourself four questions: 

• Is this the kind of thing my loved one would do?

• What is my intuitive feeling about the event? (Notice what comes into your awareness – what thoughts, physical feelings, emotions.

• Has this event brought the feelings that love has been given and received?

• Most important of all, did the experience bring peace?

If the answer to the last question is yes, you should feel confident that you’re being led by a power greater than yourself, regardless of what name you attach to it. I firmly believe that peace and a sense of belonging or connectedness go hand-in-hand, and that the road to true healing lies in following that peace.

Grieving is hard work, but I want you to know that you do not have to bear this burden all by yourself. You've already reached out by writing to me, and I hope you will continue to reach out to others. No one can take your pain away at this sad and difficult time, but we certainly can be here for you and offer you our support as you move along on your own grief journey. You are not alone and you are not lost. You are responding in a normal way to the death of the person you loved most in this world. You are experiencing sheer, raw grief. This is what it feels like. Grief is hard ~ it is the hardest work you will ever do. Please don't try to do it all by yourself.

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below.If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing NewsletterSign up here.


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