What It Means to Love Again After Loss


Nobody said anything about having to learn to love again after loss.

And I mean really learn it again.

Attempting to love again the way we used to before loss will never work.

So, here is my attempt to articulate what it feels like to love again after you have been devastatingly heart broken.

As you know I very rarely talk about romantic love after loss. The work that I am here to do has to do with the journey back to the core self, not with finding someone new to love.

It has to do with learning to trust our own wisdom again. Only when we do that then love shows up, but not the way you think.

Here is my version of the truth about loving again after loss. And please bear in mind the wisdom I share with you here has been gathered throughout a decade.

For those who don’t know this about me I have been remarried and love in ways I never thought I could love and be loved. But before I got there I went through some tough phases.

 

Phase 1: The ‘I will never love again’ phase

Yep. I said those words many times. And since I am very animated as a person you can imagine I shook my head many times and moved my hands around a lot when I said these words. I meant it every single time. When someone we loved so deeply is no longer in our lives we can never imagine loving anyone else. It’s almost impossible to even comprehend the possibility of new love. You cannot possibly feel love in your heart after loss. Your whole existence is numb. You cannot imagine ever loving anyone. When you try to it feels more like anxiety than pleasure of any kind. You feel incapable of loving. And to be honest there is a part of this feeling that is permanent. Just a part though. Be ok with this phase, it has to take place. You have to acknowledge your feelings of ‘never again.’ It is part of the journey. Plus it is partially true. We will never love this way again. And that is more true than anything I know.

 

Phase 2: The fear phase

The first moment I felt a small glimmer of love for my now husband, I immediately felt so much fear that it felt like a panic attack. I never used to have panic attacks. I thought I was losing my mind. So in the beginning of the relationship I was more afraid than in love. And because of that I was not very nice to him at first. I was very difficult, to say the least, and not very loving. It took a year or two for the fear and anxiety to lessen. Yes, you heard me right years not months. When your heart has been through so much loss it doesn’t just go back to loving. It goes into a very different place. It goes to fear, anxiety and trauma. You are going to be cold. You are going to be difficult. You are not going to be easy to deal with. And that is ok. Please know you are not becoming an unkind person. You are just learning to love again and finding your new identity in the midst of it all.

Coming back to life is not a sprint but a marathon with an obstacle course or two. (Click to Tweet!)

Yes, you are afraid and because you are afraid you are going to act from that place. The person you are with will have to be ok with that and understand it.

Phase 3: Only angels allowed

I am going to sound a little authoritarian and as if I am your parent. I apologize in advance but this is how I sound when I care a lot. This phase here is so important and this is where we begin to get the controls back. So here it goes: I cannot allow you to date or become friends with people who are not the kindest people you have ever met. That’s right they have to be so kind that you wonder if they are angels.

If you have experienced a tragedy, a loss that has destroyed you, please never let someone in who does not make you feel like the most important person in the world.

This person must also be very understanding and grateful to have you in their life just the way you are. They will have to understand your trauma, your anxiety and the temporary experience of numbness. They have to be patient. They have to be the best people you have ever met. They are the only ones who get access to your heart. When we only allow people in our lives that love us more than anyone else has ever loved us, then it also means that our self worth is higher. Do you see the connection between the two? When we let these incredible people into our lives it means that we know our worth. Anyone else who does not fit the above profile should not be anywhere near you. If you cannot find these people it is better to be on your own than to be with people who cannot love you as you are today.

 

Phase 4: It will never be like it was

Even when you have angels around you to love, and be loved by them, it will never be like it was. This love will feel more independent. More mature. More like the self that was created after loss. This experience might take quite a few years to find. It took me at least 8. This is the part of this letter that I find really hard to articulate. You see ‘perfect’ does not exist in our world after loss. Love like we see in the movies does not exist in our world after loss.

Love after loss is more about connecting to ourselves, and being with people that get us, and love us with all of our wounds. Love after loss is about having the most healthy relationship we ever had.

Phase 5: Independence

The woman I am today would not know how to love her husband of 10 years ago. We would have to start from scratch as if we never met before. The woman I am today loves her new husband like I always wished I could love someone. Independent, with enough love, and enough detachment that allows for the most healthy relationship. I have never felt more loved, and more me, and more independent. Maybe too independent sometimes. But that comes with us after loss. Some distance and some alone time is necessary for our well being. We are no longer who we used to be. We no longer love the same. And that’s ok. As long as we find our way out of fear, and into loving the angels we brought into our lives after loss, then that’s more than enough.

With love

Christina

www.thelifestarters.com

Comments

  1. Thank you, I have recently noticed a man who’ve I’ve known for a while, and been so afraid as soon as I realized I cared for him. I thought it was an indication to stay far away that something was wrong but in spending time with him he is kind and brave and Godly. He also noticed when I was avoiding him and it didn’t matter to him, he wasn’t offended or anything. He just chuckled and hugged me anyway. I don’t know how to act or what to do, i’m just like a teenager not 40+!

  2. Thank you so much Christine. After losing my 40 year old husband 2 years ago and being on my own with 3 little girls, I assumed I would be alone forever. I decided to move back near my parents and sister, quit my good teaching job, and live in the country to heal. I happened to reconnect with my high school boyfriend and he has been a true angel. We just married and a lot of times I find myself pushing him away, I feel gripped with fear. It is so refreshing to read this passage because it makes me feel normal. I appreciate all that you do!

    • My dear Arlene know that your feelings are normal. Some people wrote to me that they shared the letter with their new husbands or boyfriends so they would understand this better. How you feel is absolutely understandable and this is why I had to write this letter today. Sending you my love.

      • I also married my high school sweetheart 5 years after I became a widow at 48. I have 3 sons. I also quit my teaching job where I lived, and got a job teaching at a smaller district when Gary, my high school boyfriend, and I got married. I experienced everything that Christinia experienced, even the panic attacks. I’m 60 this year, and I’m so glad that I married my earth angel. I even wrote a poem where I refer to him as an angel.

  3. I so see myself in this situation right now , everything you r saying is so true going through it all at this moment .Someday’s I think I’am losing my mind . The up and down, the grieving is so severe , the hole in my heart fells as it will never go away.I cry ,as I read this knowing, I’am not losing my mind, that it’s a normal process . My husband passed 2 years ago, someday’s it feels like yesterday . The harder I try to move forward the harder it hits me . My whole world is different, never to be the same , it makes me very sad . Thank you for sharing .

  4. It has taken me 10 years to even consider allowing love back into my world.
    I never expected a second first love and that was fine.
    Last June, a man I knew in grade school (45 years ago) contacted me.
    He had attended our 40 year high school reunion and said he was more curious about those who hadn’t shown up than those who had. He also he had wondered of my life many times in the 20 odd years since his wife died.
    GoodnessGracious. In grade school I had such a terrible crush on him, I learned to write Cyrillic so I could put I Love Burt on stuff and folks wouldn’t know what it said.
    Yeah, I am still that goofy.
    In the past 9 months, I have experienced all you said.
    There is not a word that doesn’t fit in my situation.
    This man is the angel person you wrote of. He ‘gets’ me. He loves the me who rose from the depths of grief to become independent and self-assured. He doesn’t expect perfect (tho he says I am).
    I love him.

  5. I will be the first to admit that I jumped straight way into an unhealthy relationship four years after loss. At the time I met the man, I was severely broken and lonely. I attracted the wrong kind of person. I stayed in the relationship for three years while enduring verbal abuse and neglect – it nearly took my life. A month ago, I saved myself and walked away. It’s only now that I realize the importance of self love and finding happiness on one’s own before searching for love elsewhere. We attract the kinds of people who mirror how we feel about ourselves. A lesson learned the hard way. Me, first.

    • Hi Christine,

      I commend you for leaving an abusive relationship! I left a comfortable life over 10 years ago to marry on old boyfriend (the one that got away…It thought). It was the biggest mistake I have ever made in my life, but leaving after four months was the best decision I have ever made! I was emotionally abused. I would have never dreamed that what I endured was only the beginning of a perfect storm of 10 years and enduring multiple losses. I commend you, Christine, for walking away! It has taken me ten years to realize that life can be beautiful again. Christina is so right on in saying that we should not accept or allow anyone in our heart that cannot understand us. We do need and deserve an “earth angel!” Again, Christina, I commend you for loving yourself and walking away from a relationship that was so painful. Life can and will be beautiful again if take the time to get to know our “new identity” after loss and what to learn what we really need, as we are different people after loss and deserve so much goodness! Much love to you, T~

  6. After reading your fantastic message i feEl conpelle to write my thoughts. I am between phases 1 & 2, nearly 3 years on from my loss however am beginning to realise that I don’t want to be on my own forever. Im stuggling to see how it will ever happen when i cannot stop comparing others to my first love. Thank you for giving me the confidence that I will get there eventually.

  7. I agree with your letter except for the part about it taking so long. Not all of us have to wait years and years. My angel is showing up VERY early. He is wonderful. My only struggle is the “is it too early?” question. I hate that everyone just says to “take it slow” when they find out. I feel like life is too short for slow. He doesn’t expect me to be over my grief, but help me through it. I have a chance to find happiness without the years and years of being alone. Should I question it or jump in feet first? This is such a weird place to be in.

    • Lyn,
      Everyone’s grief and healing journey is different. I met my very soon to be husband 3 months after his wife and high school sweetheart passed away from lung cancer. We started dating around 6 months. I told him I always expect him to love his late wife, and that has nothing to do with his ability to love me. It’s definitely been a challenging journey but we both knew it was right, and honestly believe she brought us together. Many people said to him and behind his back that they thought he was moving on too quickly. He will never”move on” but everyone at done punt needs to move forward. Don’t let people judge you. Or at least expect that some will but what they think doesn’t matter. You are the only one who knows the truth of your heart and if you have an angel willing to take this journey with you no one has the right to stop it.

  8. Thought I had found the right angel after losing my wife to cancer. All seemed well, for awhile. But then, I guess I got too honest and allowed my heart to get away and it all blew up. Made me realize that this: “If you have experienced a tragedy, a loss that has destroyed you, please never let someone in who does not make you feel like the most important person in the world.” is maybe the most important part of the message. Whether it happens 3 days, three months, or in my case three years or even more, if they can’t handle what you are now, and recoil from your clumsy attempts to move forward, then they are NOT worth it. Sad today, but will be happy and back on course tomorrow, I promise. No waiting rooms for me, any more. Thank you!!

    • Dear Bob, how are you today? The same thing is happening to me and it is very grievous!! I think we give too freely our love sometimes and the other person cannot receive it, not that it is our fault, but because of where they may be at on their life’s journey. Hurts, nevertheless. Sara

  9. “Double Angel”
    I lost my beautiful wife of 19 years to Breast Cancer nearly 5 years ago. We have 3 lovely kids GGB. I made myself a deal not to let anyone into my life that wasn’t going to be less than perfect for me. Although i dearly missed a hug from my wife i wasnt ready for another woman in my life until one day, like a light bulb moment i decided it was time to put myself out there.
    Nearly 2 years ago i went on my first date with the most beautiful caring perfect woman. My angel had appeared. Do you know what is mind boggling? My Angel is also a widow with 3 kids GGG. Neither of us knew when we met for our first date. How does this happen? What is amazing is that we both get it!!! We understand each others highs and lows. To love again after loss is like taking what you had and fine tuning it. You’ve got the chance to improve on all the mistakes you made first time like not talking enough or sharing my feelings. Its not like the first love which was at the time perfect, its different and beautiful because we both have a heightened awareness due to our loss. I do want to love my Angel for the rest of my life, im so lucky to meet her. My Angel lost her husband in the same year as i did. Although its been easy to love her, it had been difficult being accepted be her girls whom i have told i will never replace their dad. Mainly 16 and 13 yrs old. 9 is great. They are all still grieving. I pray they find peace soon so they can accept me and my 3 kids in their life (what ever that looks like).
    Christina i have been reading your posts ever since my Angel introduced them to me and they are great for support and guidance. Especially love this one. Thanks

  10. I follow your blog to help me to best understand my soon to be husband’s journey. He lost his first wife (and only real relationship ever) 3 years ago. There have definitely been challenges but it’s so important to understand that everyone must take their own journey. Thank you for always providing some insight into the other side of my life situation. I really feel it helps me to be a better partner.

  11. Spot on! I went through these phases post traumatic divorce, and I ended up with one of those incredible Angels – the kindest, most authentic man I’ve ever been with, who had also gone through his own loss. Our relationship, as you say, is organized differently emotionally with much more room for our individual selves and continued development. I feel so blessed and taken aback. It’s been one of the gifts of loss that took a long time to grow toward.

  12. it is very well describing what ive been going thru i have a partner that has been very understanding but he lost his wife and i lost my husband i want to be cuddled and thats thed problem i guess hes afraid to let go i was married 50yrs he wasnt married that long mine was very loving man and my friend is very cold

  13. This came at a great time for me and my girlfriend. She went through a loss about 10 years ago. Although I could never fully understand what she has gone through, I try to be supportive and understanding. I love her very much and our love together is growing on a base built on trust and honesty. I like to think I am her Angel. I only want the best for her and she is getting my best always! She will always always be my baby.
    MGH

Share your Thoughts

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

Christina Rasmussen

Welcome to the Message in a Bottle page, here you will find wisdom, truth and tools for you to start over. Make sure you sign up at the top to be sure to receive it in your inbox every Friday.