NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Mourning Your Future Dreams in Your Former Relationship

Mourning the future might seem like an odd concept at first.  But, as I'll discuss, mourning often involves not only mourning for the past and present, but also mourning for what will never happen in the future.

Mourning Your Future Dreams From Your Former Relationship

Mourning the Death of a Loved One
We usually associate mourning with the death of a loved one.

If the relationship with the loved one was good, we mourn the loss of the loved one as well as the loss of what we don't have now as well as what we won't have in the future.

If the relationship wasn't as good as we would have liked it, in addition to mourning the loss of the loved one, we mourn what we didn't have in that relationship that we would have liked to have had in the past and the present.  We also mourn what can never be in the future.

The Breakup of a Relationship
The breakup and loss of a romantic relationship can feel like a death even when there's no physical death involved.  It's the end (or death) of the relationship.

If the romantic relationship was good in the past, we might reminisce about the days when it was what we both wanted, but we can no longer have in the present or the future.

All the future plans we had with this person, who we thought we would be as individuals as well as to each other--all of this is part of the mourning process.

Here's an example, which is a composite of many different cases with all identifying information changed:

Alice and Bob, who were in their late 20s, were engaged to be married.  They had been together for three years and, for most of that time, they were happy together.

But then, four months prior to their wedding, Bob told Alice that he wasn't ready to get married--even though all their plans were in motion, they had talked about how they wanted to start a family, where they wanted to live, and how their lives would be in the future.

Bob told Alice that she was his first serious girlfriend and he realized that he wasn't ready to make that kind of commitment.  He thought he should go out with other women to make sure that he wasn't jumping into a marriage with Alice too quickly.

Alice was completely shocked.  Bob had never mentioned this to her before.  She had no idea he felt this way.

Even though Alice realized that Bob was emotionally torn up about his decision, Alice felt overwhelmed by a combination of shock, disbelief, anger and sadness.

A few months after the breakup and the cancellation of their wedding plans, Alice came to therapy to sort out her feelings.

By now, she realized, in hindsight, that there were telltale signs that Bob wasn't ready to get married, but she ignored these warning signs.

Even though she was angry with Bob, she still very much loved him and missed him in her current life and missed the relationship that they had in the past.

As we continued to work together, Alice realized on a deeper emotional level that the future she thought she would have with Bob--all the things she wanted in her life with him--weren't going to be possible now.  And she wasn't going to be who she thought she'd be--at least not in the context of a life with Bob.

So, she mourned for the past, the present as well as the future of her dreams with Bob.

Mourning Before "Moving On"
Our culture places a high value on "moving on" from loss as opposed to giving ourselves the time we need to mourn our losses on multiple levels, including past, present and future.

But if we force ourselves to push our feelings down without working them through, we risk having an even more protracted form of grief that could manifest itself in other ways, including depression as well as physical illness.

Mourning is a Personal Process
Mourning is different for everyone.  No one can tell you what the mourning process should be for you.  It's best not to rush the process or to try to conform to other people's ideas of the mourning process.

There can be many ups and downs with mourning--whether it's mourning the death of a loved one or mourning the loss of a relationship.

Sadness often comes in waves.  How and when the waves occur is often unknown until they occur.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you're dealing with a loss and you feel alone, misunderstood by others or you feel confused by the profusion of feelings you're experiencing, you could benefit from working with a licensed psychotherapist who has experience helping psychotherapy clients to work through the mourning process.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many people to work through the mourning process so that, in time, when it was right for them, they did eventually move on in a meaningful way.

To find out more about me, visit my web site:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.