“I Shall Stop Loving You Little by Little,” is a line in a poem by Chilean poet-politician, Pablo Neruda. It beautifully tells the story of the loss of a love he cherished. His woman didn’t love him anymore, and he had to figure out how to cope and move on.
Valentine’s Day is not a favorite holiday for many of my clients. They talk of love never experienced, or love that ended even though it seemed perfect.
One of my friends was in a committed, loving relationship for five years, she thought he was her soulmate, the love of her life. There were photos of them together throughout her home. She began commuting back and forth to a different state for her work. His contact with her diminished over time, phone calls and texts were not returned. Then contact stopped totally and he moved to a different state. He promised to explain, but didn’t, just disappeared from her life. What happened? We will never know.
Why do relationships end suddenly, without explanation? How do you move on when you still love the person who is gone? One of the most difficult tasks in life is to grieve the loss of someone you loved who is still alive, but no longer in your life. The first step is to acknowledge, at an intellectual and especially an emotional level, that you may never fully understand why the relationship ended. You may never get an answer. My friend assumed I could help her figure it out because I’m a therapist, but my thoughts would only be speculation. I didn’t know either.
As unhelpful and simplistic as it may sound, people end relationships just because. It could be one reason or many. Maybe they no longer want to invest the time and energy, the passion dwindles, or someone else might be more appealing. One thing I know for certain, don’t spend time trying to figure it out.
What I see more often than not, is the fantasy that if you could only figure out why he left, then the relationship can be fixed. Rarely does that happen. You cannot bring back someone who has left. It may come to pass that he returns, but that is out of your control. His leaving may have had nothing to do with you. Don’t take the loss personally and feel diminished, you are still the same person.
Moving forward with an open heart is then the challenge. How is that done? We hold ourselves responsible for unknown mistakes. Instead, appreciate the wonderful times and forgive yourself first, then the beloved. Stay connected with friends, but don’t incessantly talk with them about your loss. Allow yourself to grieve, but not too long. Fill the emptiness with new activities and places.
There is an ebb and flow to love and loss that is universal. We all love and we all lose love. As time passes, the real estate in your head will be filled with thoughts other than that of the person who is gone. You will be okay.
“If you think it long and mad the wind of banners that passes through my life, And you decide to leave me at the shore of the heart where I have roots, Remember, That on that day, at that hour, I shall lift my arms, And my roots will set off to seek another land.” Pablo Neruda