Thank you for your message.
What we are feeling and experiencing right now is a very natural, normal process of grief and loss. As human being the more we loved a person the more we experience the pain when we lost them. Meanwhile, in time we learn to love again and form meaningful and uplifting relationships. We have experienced loss grief before and we will experience them again, meanwhile, we learn to continue to love ourselves and others. There are times like this in our lives where everything has fallen apart, yet we do learn to pick them back up and put them into rightful places in time.
Therefore this is not a time to fight, this is a time to float and make choices that are nourishing to ourselves. We become our best lover and we learn to create the place where we feel belonged. We can do this together.
Before we dive in deeper if you would allow me to briefly explain what this grieving process looks like so that we can have the full picture of what this journey like, not just focusing on the stage that we are in.
This process is called "SWIRL", it's a cheesy name for a process that so many of us experience whenever we grief over losses. SWIRL stands for "Shattering, Withdrawal, Internalizing, Rage, Lifting"
This brief overview of the SWIRL process is written from the perspective of someone surviving a loss of love, but it reflects the grief process of the many other types and degrees of loss mentioned above.
The painful tear in your attachment, stab wound to the heart. The sudden disconnection sends you into panic, devastation, shock, and bewilderment. This can occur even when the relationship had only been one date and he failed to return your text. You feel the disconnection as a painful jolt, instantly catapulting you out of the positive sense of future that that connection had given you, and sending you back to the beginning where you were abjectly alone. In a long-term relationship, you feel symbiotically attached to your lost love –as if you can’t survive without him or her – which throws you into an intense emotional crisis – a true trauma. You’ve been severed from your Siamese twin and you’re in the recovery room, alone, crying out in pain. Where is your other half? You try to keep remnants of your fractured self together, but your whole sense of reality feels destroyed. One minute you succumb to overwhelming despair, suicidal feelings, and sorrow. The next, you see glimmers of hope, only to be dashed again on the shores of despair.
Love-withdrawal is just like Heroin withdrawal – each involves intense yearning for the object of desire, and its craving is mediated by opiates (opioids) within your body. You feel aching, craving, longing, needing a love-fix that you can’t get. You’re strung out, incessantly waiting for your lost love to call or return. You’re plagued with separation anxiety – an expectant, urgent feeling of heightened vulnerability. Physical components of withdrawal from love are the same as they are for withdrawal from Heroin. You’re in withdrawal from your endogenous opiates with flu-like symptoms, as well as suffused with fight or flight stress hormones which give you butterflies and taut nerves. Your withdrawal symptoms may include intense anxiety and restlessness, sleeplessness, loss of appetite – sick to stomach, and jumpiness. Just surviving the day feels like a full-time job. Your day is all about pain management.
You begin to turn the anger you feel about being rejected toward yourself and beat yourself up, which creates the intense depression that accompanies abandonment. You idealize your lost love at your own expense, indicting yourself for “not being good enough”, for losing the most important person in your life. You internalize the rejection, interpreting the dismissal as evidence of your alleged personal unworthiness. Internalizing is the most critical stage when your wound becomes infected and can leave scarring on your self-image. You inculcate a narcissistic injury. You have grave doubts about your ‘attachment worthiness’ – that is, your ability to hold someone’s love. You blame yourself for the loss. Old feelings of insecurity merge into your new wound. Without recovery, this onslaught to your self-esteem can persist and interfere in future relationships in the form of intrusive insecurity, a symptom of abandonment’s post-traumatic stress.
You attempt to reverse the rejection, expressing rage over being left and over the situation you are in. You are restless to get your life back in order, riddled with low frustration tolerance, your anger spurting out of control. You resent being thrust into aloneness against your will. You regress into fantasies of revenge and retaliation. Your aggressive energy is like a pressure cooker. You boil over easily, sometimes spewing anger onto innocent bystanders (like your friends when they suggest simple things like, “You gotta move forward” or “Just let go.” You may have difficulty with assertiveness, tend to under-react – afraid to express your anger directly to your abandoner for fear of losing any more crumbs of his love and approval. So your rage can remain impotent and can get inverted into an agitated depression.
Life begins to distract you, lifting you back into itself. You experience intervals of peace and confidence. Abandonment’s lessons are learned and you get ready to love again. Without recovery, people can make the mistake of lifting above their feelings, losing touch with their emotional center, causing them to become more isolated than before, losing some of their capacity for love and connection. This causes many people to become attracted to the unavailable (“abandoholic”) because insecurity and rejection are the only feelings they are still able to “feel.”
We experience the stages not as discrete-time packets, but rather one continuous process, sometimes going back and forth between phases of experiencing two or more at once, and just as we think we=re through, something happens that thrusts us right back to the beginning.
We swirl through the phases within an hour, a day, a year, cycles in cycles, until we emerge out the end of its funnel-shaped cloud a changed person.
"SWIRL" is a universal process. We’ve all been through it at one time or another – swirling through the disconnections of everyday life. We swirled through the hurts and disappointments of childhood. Our own unique style of swirling is based on patterns we developed from having survived previous losses, heartbreaks, and losses, as well as our temperament and personality, and our susceptibility to feeling rejected.
For abandonment survivors, with our heightened vulnerability, almost anything can cause us to swirl. It can be very subtle. Feeling left out, ignored by a friend, or failing to get recognition at work can set swirls in motion. On a bad day, losing your car keys can send you swirling. Rather than fault ourselves for overreacting, we need to recognize that we are going through the universal process of SWIRL beneath our taut nerves and tender feelings.
You might go into a mild swirl if, for example, a member of your abandonment support group fails to show up one night. You and other group members feel the absence of that person as a nearly imperceptible letdown, a slight ‘disconnection’ (a mild form of Shattering). You feel slight anticipation in waiting, hoping for him to arrive (Withdrawal). You feel imperceptibly rejected, dismissed as if the group “wasn’t important enough to him” barely conscious of any self-depreciation setting in (Internalizing). Then you feel some imperceptible annoyance that he “didn’t bother to call” (Rage). And finally, even before these subliminal thoughts reach your awareness, your lift into the group discussion as it gets underway (Lifting). You went through swirl on such a subtle level you weren’t even conscious of it. But the vulnerability may have been there, tingeing the moment with subliminal self-doubt, disappointment, and slight agitation – even if you weren’t aware of it.
Meanwhile, as you know, this is a process that we go through and we don’t stay at a particular stage forever. We learn to lift eventually and form meaningful relationships again. That being said it is helpful to honesty acknowledge where we are and make choices that are nourishing and best meet our needs. It is absolutely natural to cry, to scream, to grief, to isolate, to feel hopeless.
We can do this together, know that you are never alone.
Looking forward to learning your thoughts,