Twelve years ago when at age 52 my father passed away from cancer my psychotherapist lent me a book called Life after Loss by Vamik D. Volkan. This book helped me to understand and to process my grief. My therapist gave me more than one book on grief and mourning, but this book stood out the most.
Later when my friends or clients experienced losses I always recommended this book.
What stood out for me back then was the differentiation of complicated vs. uncomplicated mourning. And that if there is unfinished business, a relationship is complicated and unsorted, the grieving process can take a long time and can lead to a prolonged depression. On the other hand, when a relationship is relatively healthy and there is no unfinished business, the mourning process is easier to live through and it brings growth.
Another thing that stood out was that losses can be not only about loss of a loved one, but also about losing a job, a house, a project, health, part of the body or an organ, love, country, family, marriage, dignity, respect, friendship, etc. All those losses if unresolved and unprocessed constructively can lead to depression and anxiety.
All the losses of recent years reminded me about this book and I decided to reread it. Here are the first two paragraphs of the introduction:
“A colleague of mine, John Buckman, tells a story of a London man of modest means who was hospitalized for depression after winning the Irish sweepstakes. This fellow was found to be suffering from complicated grief: Sudden wealth meant the loss of his former life. Despite the incentive of his new riches, he could not let it go.
I use this story because it illustrates one of the great truths about our lives: Human beings do not give up things easily. Even when it means trading a hardscrabble life for one of luxury, we mourn what is left behind.”
It is crucial to work through all kinds of losses in order to resolve complications so that we can be present and live our life fully.
Research shows that when people are dying they don’t think about their careers or financial achievements, they regret about the relationships that were not fixed.
Accepting the loss, finishing unfinished business and expressing and living through all the emotions regarding the loss (be it anger, sadness, guilt, regret, frustration, disappointment, shame, emotional dependency) are crucial in order to be fully present in your life, in your relationships now. Returning the emotional investments you did to your previous life, all your expectations or your fantasies will lead to a closure, to your ability to let go and to stop the emotional dependency to your past. All this is necessary for the trapped vital energy that is wasted on suppressing your emotions or on ruminating about your regrets to be freed. Released energy will be directed towards new experiences in life, not towards the losses (past life style, status, divorce, marriage, bankruptcy, rise in profits/salary, miscarriage, birth of kids, death of loved ones, etc.). It will be used to start a new healthy life, a life where you are fully present.
In December I have two more spots available for sessions. If you have unresolved and complicated relationships dm me.