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  • Brittany Kleinschnitz

tragic loss & relational severance


Tragic loss has its own flavor of grief and a unique imprint on our healing. Something that gets overlooked in this kind of grief work is what we’re really protecting against feeling in relationship again: we are defending against the moment of initial drop. The explosion of confusion, pain, and the sensation of being jettisoned into disbelief, our minds dazed into an alternate reality from the one we’ve just known.

We might fall to our knees. We might feel as though our heart is going to escape from our chest or throat. We might say or do things with repetition, unable to leave the moment of the break. This is trauma.

As a protective mechanism, our bodies and minds steal our souls away and shield them from feeling the whole intensity of the pain. This is has a direct relationship to the experience of not feeling pain when a great physical wound happens, such as losing a limb. Your body will just not let you feel it.

And yet the pain is so overwhelmingly intense, even when we are protected. It becomes difficult to cultivate depth in relationship moving forward, for fear of another experience of annihilation. “I don’t want to get hurt again” does not cut it. We literally cannot create the feeling of safety in our bodies that reminds us there are experiences outside of the drop. The power of that moment makes it difficult to see how we did withstand the pain, and that we have not been obliterated by it.

“I don’t want to get hurt again” is the mind’s logical way of interpreting the body’s true fear: “I don’t want to feel as though I am going to die”.

The definition of tragic can describe the event, but it can also describe the quality of the relationship, losing beings we deeply love, have invested in, and are corded to through the invisible attachments of the heart.

Going forward, experiencing contact with this kind of vulnerability, care, and love becomes the trigger. Our bodies know the experience of opening our hearts, and associate it with the experience of severance. This is why it becomes so difficult to move back into the thing we as humans desire the most, that is, fearless love, comfort, and care from another.

One of the ways we can learn to re-pattern is by becoming consciously aware of this trend. When we feel connection, openness, and safety, and then experience fearful withdrawal, we can name it and take the risk of stepping back into connection despite the alarm bells. We can voice the experience to the people we’re connecting with and explore ways we can test out feeling safety with them. We can allow the disconnection, nurture ourselves and find the cord of connection with our own hearts, and return to others from a place of greater strength. We can let ourselves feel that pain of the drop creeping back in again, and ask those around us to move through the experience with us such that we begin to build new associations - laying a hand on our bodies, wrapping us up tightly, listening wholly with presence.

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