Grief: Subtle and Unexpected

Man On A Snow Covered BackroadMost of us tend to associate grief with the death of someone we love. Experiencing grief when someone dies is normal and expected. But death is not the only event that may spur grief. Life is really an ongoing series of grief and loss events. Grief can be more subtle and show up in the form of missed opportunities or things unrealized. Weddings and graduations missed, places never visited, grandchildren that may not be in the cards, holidays and get-togethers that won’t look like what we had in mind. The loss of health, a changing body, the inevitable side effects of aging. An unraveling of expectations.

What makes grief and loss feel so uncomfortable? Emotive Portrait Of Young Woman Beside A Pool

Maybe what makes it difficult is the letting go of those very expectations we’ve created.

Most people create expectations about how life should look long before these events ever take place in real life. Imagine a young woman in her early twenties planning her wedding before she’s engaged. The children she will have, what they will look like and what they’ll be when they grow up. But life happens. Divorce. Changed minds. Chances not taken. Unexpected game changers. Those life circumstances that are out of our control cut a hole in our storybook.

We’re often left with a gap between the expectations we had and the new reality. This is grief…that trough that lies between how we always thought it would be and how it is now.

The grieving process may be the time our minds need to climb out of the trough to the other side….to the new reality…to acceptance. It’s not usually something that happens overnight. Not after years of planning on our lives looking a certain way.

How has grief or loss showed up subtly in your life?

Snowstorm In The Woods

Focused Energy & Affairs

Purple flower growing on crack street, soft focus, blank textIt’s tough being an adult. We all spend our lifetimes trying to become one, no matter what age. In couples’ therapy, people show up for a variety of reasons. In the early stages of therapy, couples tend to focus their energy on the other person’s faults. One or both people have to be woken from this dream of, “If only my spouse would__________, then we wouldn’t be here.”

Criticism, resentment and victim stories ruin relationships. The more energy one focuses on someone else’s faults, the more distance gets created, resulting in more criticism, resentment…and more unwanted distance.

Whatever we put our time and attention into will flourish. Whatever we neglect, avoid, ignore or criticize, will, at best, remain the same, but most often, withers and dies. Most couples in therapy for affair recovery discover that when they focus their attention and energy on their spouse, their relationship not only turns around, but often, flourishes. Two relationships cannot be maintained if one of those relationships is meant to be a committed one. Splitting energy between a triangle of three people leaves everyone hurting and deprived.

All of us have to tackle tough issues if we want to experience mature, deeply satisfying relationships. Focusing energy, whether consciously or not, among superficial habits won’t get you there. Having guts will. It takes guts to face problems. Sure, anyone can numb out or have an affair, avoid, and pretend; but it takes guts to face a situation that isn’t working and have a mature conversation about it.

Couples who can’t find the courage to resolve their issues, (which began long before they even met), may decide to divorce and remarry, while continuing to feel like they were victimized in the previous marriage. The sad reality is that most find themselves in a very similar situation only with a new partner. (An exception here is if one person has been working hard in therapy but has an unworkable partner).

Some important questions to ask yourself:

What would you like to experience in your relationship?

What have you been doing to create those experiences?

Where do you focus most of your energy?