Finding Love After Loss

Loss and significant change can have a big effect on your life, particularly when it involves significant bonds such as a partner, parent, child, sibling, even a close friend. It is important to address our human need for intimacy and connection that is triggered by loss. Otherwise, you can get you stuck.

Stuck is when you can’t move forward:
  • when the grief has gone on way longer than you ever expected
  • when you are tired of waking up in the morning unable to get out of bed
  • when you hate coming home to an empty house
  • you dread weekends because there’s nothing to distract you from the big hole in your life, yet you don’t go out because you just don’t have the energy to pretend you are ok
  • when people ask you if you’re better now and you want to shout at them, “NO!, I’m not better, you idiot!” but you don’t because you don’t want to lose any more friends
  • when you friends and family no longer want to hear about your loss and start telling you it is time to move on. And you put on a smile even though you hurt inside.

Are you stuck?

Spiritual Bypass

Back in 1984, when my husband left me for another woman after 15 years of marriage, I was in shock. It was a replay of the abandonment I had experienced as a small child when my father was re-stationed to Japan. I did not want to go back to those feelings — unwanted, unimportant and unloved. Instead, I joined a spiritual community where intimate relationships didn’t matter, only spirit mattered. It was a effective strategy for emotional avoidance. I felt creative, uplifted, even superior . . . until I came back to earth and the everyday world — to  the feelings of lonely and unlovable. To further escape my feelings, I did more and more spiritual work. Every summer I went to Sufi camp. I often stayed late into the fall. I lived in an altered state and dismissed anything that suggested attachment to the earthly plane. When I returned to my life to earn a living, I felt like Rip Van Winkle. My life seemed to be passing me by. 

When you avoid feelings through spiritual by-pass, which is what I was doing, you don’t heal the emotional wounds underneath. Your feelings just go underground while you hang out in the ether. That, I eventually realized, is not what we are here for.

It was 13 years before I attempted another serious relationship. I soon discovered there is no way around emotions. I had to do the inner healing, which I did. 

Soon after, I lost both my parents, 6 months apart. Because of the emotional work I had just completed, I was able to feel again. The floodgates opened and I was swept away.

My biggest ah hah was the realization that I had been wasting my life. I had been a people-pleaser, manipulating for love and hiding who I was. And because I started this pattern when I was very young, I had no idea who I was or what I wanted. I had to start from scratch. Fortunately, it was not too late to change.

Death woke me up. It reminded me that life is impermanent. I decided to make a documentary film on death to share this discovery and wake others up. I joined hospice, led partner loss support groups and produced a 3-part film series, Secrets of Life and Death.

I discovered 2 essential keys to navigating change and loss.

The Body

Grief is biological. It’s a physiological response to significant loss. It’s not optional, it’s not a matter of will power. Your body actually sends out chemicals very similar to a response to a physical threat. That’s because significant loss is a threat. We are social beings literally wired to bond. 

When you lose a significant bond:

  • Your mental circuitry has to adapt to the change, i.e. the neural networks in your brain literally have to be rewired. This explains some of the brain fog in the first months after loss. 
  • Your body wants you to re-bond, because human survival is dependent on social connections.
  • Some may re-bond too soon and delay healing. 
  • Some may isolate which can also delay healing.

Most of what we are taught about handling grief is wrong, i.e. tamping down your feelings or joining a group and talking it out.

Tamping down emotions means not being able to feel anything, especially joy and pleasure. Also, when feelings are not released or completed, they don’t go away. The feelings get stuck in the cells, affecting posture, health, resilience and capacity for joy.

Talking it out, however, may also prolong grief. 

The Brain

The other component is the brain. The brain and body are partners in the process of grief. You feel bad and your mind often responds with catastrophic thoughts, e.g. I’m never going to feel happy again, I’m never going to love again, life is going to be miserable like this until I die. I’m too old, there’s no hope. Of course this kind of thinking only trigger more grief. You get caught in a loop of feeling bad, thinking bad, feeling bad and over and over.

Some people in this situation become identified with their loss, e.g. the grieving widow.

When I first started leading a partner loss support group in hospice, many of the women in the group had been there for over 2 years. They had became identified with their widowhood. They were stuck in the past because it allowed them to keep their deceased loved ones alive in their minds. It also allowed them to stay in the grief group — a place of community and safety. It became their life. This form of grief adaption is called “enshrinement.” The loss becomes your life, who you are. It has its perks — a way to elicit sympathy and accommodation, and an excuse for avoiding the hard work of creating a new life.

I offered them an opportunity to change, to create a new life. Some were unwilling to go back into their grief in order to heal. They were content in their widowhood.

Those interested in getting back into life, learned how to release the loss and change the stories that were keeping them stuck.

Grief as Gateway

Rabbits enter tunnel of love

Often our current loss brings up earlier losses — underlying emotional wounds that need to be addressed. A significant loss provides the opportunity to clear up earlier losses, because all the losses are connected. 

When you heal the underlying losses you not only release a huge amount of stuck energy, you also discover a lot about who you are. Your life, your challenges, your personal journey craft your character and endow you with your unique talents.

My coaching doesn’t end with easing your grief. That’s just the beginning. Grief is the journey to who you are and why you are here. By breaking through the old patterns that keep you stuck, you release your true authentic power and gifts. That’s when you find true love, for yourself and others.

If you are ready to get unstuck, if you have an important mission or talent waiting to be released, let’s have a talk. Schedule a 15-20 minute call with me and discover how we might work together.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Dr. Michelle Peticolas is a national speaker and expert on the topics of loss, emotional wounding and unresolved grief. She has a Ph.D. in Sociology and over 18 years experience coaching people through major life challenges.  If you’re ready to release old wounds and trapped emotions that may be holding you back and step into a life really worth living, get Michelle’s complimentary  illustrated guide, Essentials for Grieving Well at

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