Operating with a Broken Heart...
How long does the intense longing and sadness last? As long as you are able to experience your loved one in their absence. For some the light does indeed diminish over time, but it never disappears altogether. For many of us, the connection to our loved one is more precious than our next breath and we keep it close forever.
This is the purpose of your grief, to maintain the connection to your loved one.
Grief will respect no timeline. It almost always lasts longer than what other people think it should. These are people who don’t understand, who, in fact, don’t have a clue. Any certitude about grief’s timeline is like trying to contain sunlight—impossible and foolish both.
While your grief begins to weave its purpose into the fabric of your being, your sorrow continues to act as a great weight. Some people mistake this for depression, as it still feels as if you are moving through water and the simplest tasks continue to require Herculean effort. Grief, however, is not depression; it is the embodiment, heart, mind and soul of mourning the loss of your love.
Broken hearts have never won marathons.
Other emotions are amplified during this period as well, including a feeling of separation. You feel isolated and alone in your grief. Again, nothing in life is as personal as losing your loved one. Sometimes, to even speak of it feels like a violation. Your grief cannot fit in words. You do not try.
It is common to attempt to mitigate grief with too much alcohol, drugs, or overeating, but these only serve to separate you from your grief and the intensity of your feelings. Anything that deadens or numbs your response to grief works against you. These things act as fuel to the negative, enlarging it, changing it, and adding unwelcome additions to your grief: bitterness, anger, hopelessness and despair.
Similarly, TV first appears as a balm to your strained senses. You can forget your missing loved one, your changed world and your altered circumstances for long interludes of time. You become lost in the endless stream of imaginary worlds. Sometimes we need this respite, but too much TV has a pernicious effect. It steals your heightened sensitivity and begins to separate you from the poignancy of your loss.
Your grief, you will learn, is the velvet bridge to your loved one.
Here is a picture of your future grief, years or even decades from now: There will be times, often unexpected and seemingly random, where your loved one appears so vividly in your mind as to be present. It will fill you with the same powerful longing and desire you feel now, only later you experience this as their love washing over you in a previously unknown poignancy and beauty. Your grief is building this connection now.
The one activity that helps (everything) the most during this time is walking. Step outside. Aim for the nearest park. Breathe deeply as you walk. Move slowly. Instead of thinking, try looking for the simple beauty in nature that surrounds you: clouds decorating the bowl of sky; the green reach of mature trees; the noisy finches who live there; a neighbor’s rain-washed garden. If troubled thoughts emerge, return to the simple offerings of nature. Walking is always a healing exercise.
Then rest. Sleep. Dream of your loved one. As much as you can and as long you need too. Without waking awareness, things are happening during rest and sleep. Your consciousness is adjusting to the new world.
It is finding the best way for you to move forward.