Overcoming the Pain of Disconnection
How can we cope with a devastating loss of connection?
Posted Sep 04, 2018
Two weeks ago my best friend of 17 years permanently removed me and over 70 other people from their life. There was no warning. There were neither signs nor conflicts leading up to this. There wasn’t an opportunity for a discussion, an agreement, or closure.
Sometimes loss has no rational explanation. Sometimes an end of a friendship, relationship, job or career, can feel like a part of us died. Jim Butcher, the author of the best-selling Dresden Files, describes a scenario in which his main protagonist, Harry Dresden, a wizard/private investigator discusses heartbreak as if someone’s soul is being ripped apart with a barbed wire on the inside.
This pain, the pain of disconnection, of losing someone or something which had been a part of our existence, may feel as if a part us has died. In fact, losing someone close to us, either to death or disconnection, can potentially lead to broken heart syndrome (with symptoms including chest pains, shortness of breath, muscle pain and fatigue) and/or atrial fibrillation (irregular, fast heartbeat). This means that physical symptoms may co-occur with emotional pain.
Emotional pain can sometimes feel both excruciating and painless at the same time. Some people might undergo the full cycle of grief, cycling between stages such as anger, depression, and acceptance. Some moments might feel empty. On some days it may be difficult to get out of bed or be motivated to do anything.
What ultimately makes it worse is when well-intending family and friends tell you to “just get over it” and that this was “their loss.” I’ve found that some experiences are hard for some people to understand. Some people have not experienced the exact same things as we did.
Past history of loss, rejection, abandonment, or abuse can make it more painful to experience any of these again. In addition, everyone processes emotions differently. Some people dive into work, others avoid dealing with pain by engaging in substances or pushing it away. The most therapeutic way of coping of emotional pain is through processing it. Sometimes that entails reviewing our story, talking it out with people, writing it down, and allowing ourselves to “sit with” and feel whichever emotions show up–sadness, anger, or grief, without judging these emotions.
By experiencing these emotions, we can allow our bodies and our hearts to heal. As we allow ourselves to grieve, we can find strength, courage, and resilience behind this pain. At the time that we might feel weak, lost, and broken, that is when we have access to our greatest strength.
"This pain is part of being human…the fact that you can feel pain like this is your greatest strength."
–Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)
Pain creates wisdom. It can teach us how much we can endure and how to heal and recover in those situations. Pain can serve as a mentor, a teacher, for us to learn how to heal not only our own wounds but also the wounds of others. Pain can open the passage to compassion, allowing us to better understand those whose pain journey is just beginning. It can allow us the strength to then serve as a mentor to others.
If like me, you find yourself hurting today, know that you are not alone. Know that it is okay for you to feel this pain and that it gives you access to your inner superpowers. This pain, this is your origin story. Your heroic journey awaits you. My heart is with you. And even if we are far away, we can go on this journey together.