Last year I worked with a young man who just ended a three-year relationship. I watched as he went through the process of desperately holding on, blaming himself, and feeling completely shattered and rejected. As a therapist I am able to stay detached from the suffering and let compassion lead the way, but If you are close to a young adult, maybe your own child, you know there is nothing more painful to watch.
I remembered the feeling of losing a love – you may too – going from being joined at the hip to feeling like you have just lost a limb. As an older adult helping a younger adults through this process you may rationally know it can be a good learning experience but it can be very frightening to watch. I remember my feelings of helplessness as my own daughter mourned the loss of her beloved a few years ago. In a bit of a panic, I did a good job of dreaming up worse-case scenarios – perhap this very normal right of passage might make her do something impulsive and dangerous, or worse, turn into a full-blown depression.
Then I remembered the importance of just being present. I took a few deep breaths as I rubbed her back, remembering that all I needed to do was be a witness, just like I am with the young adults in my therapy practice, and honor her emotions. I did not need to come up with some clever solution, distract her with gifts, or spurt out tired but true wisdom like “time heals.” As I let go of trying to fix, and let myself simply be a witness to her pain, something shifted. I could feel us both relax a little.
Take a look at our free worksheet – minding a broken heart
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