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.
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.