When we lose someone we love, we feel grief. Grief is a natural feeling in response to loss. However, grief from our ego wounded self is entirely different than grief from our authentic self. This is because what we feel we have lost is different in the different states.
Grief from the Wounded Self
When our wounded self has predominated in an important relationship, the sense of loss might be terrifying. If you handed a part of yourself over to the other person to love, define, take care of and validate, then you will feel deeply abandoned when that person ends the relationship or dies. It will feel as if a part of you has been torn away and the feeling of inner emptiness might be extreme. Fear, anger, despair and grief become intertwined.
The grief of the wounded self is primarily for what you are no longer getting. The wounded self might be saying to the departed person, “How could you leave me? How could you do this to me?” Even if the loved one died rather than left the relationship, the remaining person might be angry at being left.
If it is a parent who died, the remaining child might have secretly hoped to finally get the love he or she never got from the parent as a child. The person might feel furious at the parent for dying without finally coming through with the desired love. This often occurs when people have not been a loving adult and learned to give themselves the love that they always hoped someone else would give to them.
If your wounded self spent much time withholding love, you might feel deep regret when you no longer have the opportunity to love. Regret is a difficult feeling. What is done is done, and you cannot go back and fix it. Regret might lead to despair when you realize you have forever lost the opportunity to express your love.
When you haven’t done the inner work to develop your loving adult self, it is the resulting inner abandonment that creates the fear and anger that may accompany the grief. Your inner child is terrified at feeling so alone and is angry at the adult for not being there. You feel alone in the loneliness, which may lead to despair. While loneliness is a natural feeling to feel when we have lost someone we love, you will feel alone in the loneliness when you have no loving adult self to nurture you through the loneliness.
The fear, anger, despair and grief from the wounded self can be a bottomless pit. Because the inner abandonment is ongoing when there is no loving inner adult, the sense of loss is ongoing. To the wounded self, it feels as if you can never recover from this loss. Until you decide to learn to be a loving adult and learn to take care of yourself, the feeling of loss and emptiness may continue.
Grief from the Authentic Self
Grief from the authentic Self does not include anger and fear. It is a deep sadness about no longer being able to give love and share love with the departed loved one. You miss this person, not just because of what he or she gave to you, but because you can no longer share your love in person. While you can certainly continue to send love to the departed loved one, it is not the same as sharing love in person, and so there is deep sadness and heartbreak.
When you are showing up for yourself as a loving adult in the face of loss, you will not feel abandoned, and therefore you will not feel the fear and anger that comes from inner abandonment. Anger at the departed person is actually a projection of one’s own inner abandonment, and the fear is also a result of this inner abandonment. When you are taking care of yourself as a loving adult, there is no inner abandonment. When you operated in the relationship as a loving adult, openly sharing your love, you have no regrets and no despair that comes from not having loved.
While loss is always challenging, when your loving adult is in charge you will not feel alone in your loneliness. You will be there for your own feelings with kindness and compassion, allowing yourself to grieve when the grief comes up. While you may always feel sad when you think of your departed loved one, you will not feel empty, alone, angry or fearful when you are being a loving adult, compassionately embracing all of your feelings.
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This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn’t make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grievedifferently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let’s talk about living with loss. If you have a story you’d like to share, email us at strongertogether@