How Unresolved Grief affects your Marriage
I sometimes get really upset or anxious about something I can’t pinpoint. It’s like out of nowhere a blue fug envelopes me in nameless, faceless despair. I turn to my partner and momentarily think it’s about his kitchen trash habits (think overstuffed, smelling of garlic and rotten fruit, overflowing with coffee grounds). But as I lecture Joe on the virtues of composting, I realize in a small corner of myself that it’s a front for something much older and more confusing.
I’m not really that perturbed he doesn’t share my passion for recycling. I seem to have recruited my husband into an invisible drama, as a surrogate for someone or something else I lost… decades ago.
My true feelings hide like a lost soccer ball beneath layers of decaying leaves. If I fling myself into the pile of yard waste that’s accumulated over the lost ball, I perceive it – but I have no idea what it is.
I lost my father when I was three. No, he didn’t die or leave. But at three, I understood him to be an unstable figure – one I’d have to keep at arm’s length if I was to survive till eighteen in a house with him. So the disenfranchised mourning began.
Right away, I set about finding replacements for my dad. An older cousin, a boyfriend, a few teachers along the way. But Joe won the prize. He became my adult attachment figure, and to Joe I transferred all my unmet childhood longings, which might sound like this…
- Please show yourself to be a stable adult.
- Please don’t let me down.
- Please try harder to prove you’re a good person.
- Please show me I’m worth it.
These remnants get mixed into every difficult conversation we have. Losing my dad as a preschooler continues to be a deep well of sadness for me. Sadness that’s triggered when I perceive my partner doesn’t care. Sadness that can’t be cried about directly. Like the drunk guy who searches for his lost car keys under the street lamp – because that’s where the light is. I keep searching in Joe for the things I lost…because he’s here, now.
So, I wonder if any of this is familiar to you? Like getting offended by your partner brings a whole huge energy that seems to belong elsewhere? Or maybe you have never been able to fully trust him/her? Maybe you always expect to lose your partner – like you lost a parent so long ago.
What’s the biggest loss you’ve ever experienced? The death of a high school sweetheart? Your parents’ divorce? A sibling who died? A parent who moved across the country?
Trauma therapy addresses this old loss – and comforts the child part of yourself that still needs something. The combination of Marriage therapy and Trauma therapy works in your current relationship too. We follow the breadcrumbs back in time – from your unresolved conflicts in the here and now, to your unresolved losses from long ago. EMDR therapy (eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing) facilitates this process and allows you to link together each piece of the chain, moving backwards or forwards to integrate old and new information. It calms the nervous system and helps you get past stuck places. It allows your mind/body to metabolize old loss. It triggers new creativity and solutions. It helps you feel closer to loved ones in the present.
For more information on this topic, check out these posts:
Sometimes, it helps to talk to someone in a safe, secure environment where you can understand your past, your present and your relationships. Call me at 417-886-8262 or click below.