Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – email@example.com
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Loss can come in different forms. Bereavement can be a huge loss, of course, but loss can also come in the form of the end of a relationship or an important friendship. The common thread here seems to be that something that is important to us internally, something that is part of us, has been taken away, not by choice but by force.
People talk about the hole that is left inside them when they suffer a loss, and it can feel as if something has been ripped out of you. What is that? What is it exactly that has been taken away from you?
I think what many of us do is to “internalise” important people in our lives – we carry little versions of them around inside us and they provide us with things which are important to us – comfort, security, excitement perhaps. We will get different things from different people, and the mix of what we need will be particular to us. For some people companionship might be the most important thing, for others a sense of adventure may be what they need.
So we carry internalised versions of people around with us to help us – and we do this with other things as well – pets, for example – but we also do this with ideas. It can be very important for some people to have plans, for example. Without a plan they feel lost, out of control. With a plan, they feel much more secure and confident. If you are someone who likes to plan ahead, or has a vision – a dream – then the realisation that the plans are unrealistic, that the dream cannot happen, can also be a great loss.
I worked with a client recently who lost a sort of dream. As a child, he had always looked up to an uncle; his father was not a strong role model but his uncle was, and my client’s vision of who he wanted to be was based very heavily on his uncle. So he carried with him the idea of how his uncle was, and how he wanted to be, and that gave him something that he was constantly taking out, looking at, and working towards.
However, as my client grew into adulthood he started to see his uncle’s flaws – and came to realise that his uncle was not at all the person he thought he was. Looking at him through adult eyes gave him a very different picture of his wonderful uncle. The loss of this childhood role model was a great blow – it seemed that his dream had been destroyed.
But although his uncle was not the person he thought he was, was not a good role model – that didn’t mean the model was wrong. The vision my client had, of how he wanted to be, was still a valid one. In counselling my client was able to disentangle the role model from the person, keeping what was still important to him, discarding what was not.
That, I think, is part of the process we go through in recovering from a big loss. It is about adjusting our internal model of the person, or the dream, or the idea. It’s not like a piece of machinery, where a broken part can be replaced with a new one. We can’t find a direct replacement for our loss (although people do try to, for instance with “rebound” relationships). Instead we need to reposition things, adjust them, retune them so that we are able to function in a similar (but different) way to how we were before the loss.