Holistic Divorce Counseling

Holistic Divorce Counseling Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM, LMHC. Free support, resources, and comfort for all life's issues and transitions.

Missing what you don’t really want August 11, 2016



How is it possible to miss something you no longer wanted?

Nyozi Adiche “Americanah”


We are hungry for what we have grown out of.

Mirabai Starr “Caravan of No Despair”



It seems so counter-intuitive to miss something you no longer want, yet it makes perfect sense once you consider the complicated nature of relationships and desires. Since no relationship is ever 100% good or bad, there can be a part of you that wants all the good things back. A part that misses the connection, history, habit, or feels lonely and grief stricken. In addition, that inner balance, between attraction and aversion, shifts in a nanosecond depending on your mood, hormones, blood sugar levels, and state of mind.


It is almost impossible to truly want or shun something 100%. Understanding there is, at least, a smidgeon of ambivalence in every preference makes the notion of missing something you mostly don’t want far easier to comprehend.


When a relationship ends you mourn for all your dashed hopes, the many fantasies you constructed about your future, and the loss of a constant companion. You don’t necessarily miss the person, in toto, though you will probably miss aspects of them.


Mirabai Starr says it well when she says you are hungry for what you have grown out of, as it implies you may not consciously realize you have grown out of it. Yet, the unconscious mind knows and shows you in dreams, not-so-secret longings, physical symptoms, and words that seem to tumble out of your mouth unbidden.


The same concept applies when you notice how your habitual ways of perceiving life, surroundings, friends, family, work, etc. get in the way of your deeper joy in the bounty of the moment, of thinking whatever you have is enough. What American hasn’t fed at the trough of longing? Advertising inundates you with desire for desire’s sake, so how could you possibly not crave things you don’t really miss or even truly want? Society trained you to constantly yearn for things and feel dissatisfied with whatever you have or experience in any given moment. This vague longing can easily infiltrate your life and lead to feeling depressed, anxious, worthless, and angry. It’s an easy step to believing the return of your absent partner will fill the void, heal you, and make you whole again.


Yes, something is missing. You have experienced a huge loss. Society led you to think you can fill the void with acquisitions and accomplishments. While those feel good in the moment, their joys often fade. Wanting what you have, being grateful for everything, even the sorrows that bring you to your knees, is a more reliable path to inner peace, self-acceptance, and embracing life on life’s terms. It’s the rare person for whom those are achieved and sustained with a new car, new spouse, or new job. Feeling your grief, even your longing, fully is the answer, even though it can seem excruciating in the moment.


It’s also easy to conflate missing a specific person who is no longer in your life with missing a fantasy you may have been nursing for years. Those fantasies are fed by the media and the unhelpful tendency humans have to compare their insides with other people’s outsides, which can lead to feeling bereft, inferior, or inadequate. How much grief comes from just thinking your life doesn’t measure up to someone else’s, even if you really don’t want what they have? (See Compare To Despair on this site.)


To make things even more complicated, you may not miss the person you divorced or broke up with but miss having a mate, or the companionship. Sometimes, especially when you are triggered and feel grief-stricken, your emotional brain can hijack your pre-frontal cortex where all the higher level thinking happens. This makes it all too easy to confuse a general longing for something indescribable with a specific longing for someone or something, both of which you may not actually want should they suddenly appear.


Addiction plays a role in this pattern of desiring, too, as a brain accustomed to craving can sometimes substitute something else to quiet the inner cacophony. How often have you wanted deep connection with another person but chose eating, TV, porn, shopping, drinking, drugs, gambling, etc., instead? You probably didn’t really want those things; yet, if you limit them or remove them from your repertoire you may miss their short-term alleviation of deeper desires for connection, calm, or meaning.


Cravings seem to demand satiation. Yet, taking the time to sit with them in non-judging awareness, feeling all their physical sensations, lets them subside. One way to see this in action is to get a piece of paper, pen, and a timer. Number the page from 1-15. On a scale of 1-10, where one is the least and 10 the most, rate your level of craving every minute for the next 15 minutes. You will probably notice slight shifts in their intensity. This proves how you can manage what you don’t like without giving in to your desire du jour, and shows you that your craving was not 100% intense 100% of the time. All things wax and wane, including desires.


Like cravings, habits (including being habituated to a relationship) can form quickly.  It takes a certain amount of unhappiness with them to motivate change, and an awareness that part of the recovery process, if you let the habit or person go, is the feeling of missing what you no longer want. Give yourself time. Be patient as you become aware of space in your life where that person or addiction used to be. You can still be hungry for your original longing to connect deeply with another, to feel more alive and whole, or for relief from inner demons. The difference is now you realize there are better ways to accomplish those goals.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Grief: Going From Pain To Peace November 16, 2009

Filed under: Grief: From Pain To Peace — chocophile @ 1:47 pm


You have neat, tight expectations of what life ought to give you, but you won’t get it. This isn’t what life does. Life does not accommodate you, it shatters you. It is meant to, and it couldn’t do it better. Every seed destroys its container or else there would be no fruition.”

Flora Scott-Maxwell


Grief might be its own cure.

David Whyte from poem Glentrasne

Your suffering is your benefit.
The Buddha

All loss engenders pain. Whether it is from death, divorce, an empty nest, estrangement, or other life shattering event. Even less obvious losses, like the loss of autonomy after marriage, the loss of familiar co-workers when taking a new job, the loss of physical comfort when giving birth, or the loss of youth as you age result in psychic pain. Loss is an integral part of life. You can’t avoid it. Luckily, there are many ways to handle its fallout. (See Losing Friends, Loss & Liberation, and Phantom Marriage Syndrome.)

As always, the first thing is to feel your feelings. Even if every cell in your body seems as if it’s about to explode, allow yourself to experience it all. Breathe into it. Give yourself the opportunity to open to awareness. By trying to stem the emotional tide you will only increase your pain and exhaust yourself in the process. Remember, grief masquerades as sadness, anger, depression, guilt, anxiety, numbness, shock, worthlessness, etc. So, please refrain from pathologizing your feelings into an illness. You are not sick, you are grief-stricken. It’s a normal part of life that no one escapes. Your emotions will wax and wane. Just when you think the pain is gone for good it will grab you and rapaciously take another bite.  Don’t despair. You are healing even in the midst of misery.

Allowing your feelings naturally morphs into accepting them, though this is also a roller coaster ride. One minute you think you have accepted what life has given you, and the next you’re back to ranting and railing against it. It’s all OK. You probably won’t like what you’re feeling, but you can make it safe by consciously choosing to view it as a natural part of life. In time, you will adjust to your new state. It may be as a single person, an empty-nester, a parentless adult, or someone with a disability. Whatever the situation, you will eventually find ways to embrace and enjoy it.

We all evolve. It’s our biological destiny. If you choose to see grief as an avenue to personal growth, you can catalyze your pain into compassion for everyone. The Dalai Lama once said: “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others.” But first, you need to attend to yourself. You will know when your reserves are built up enough to give again.

In the meantime, practice loving kindness meditation.

Sit comfortably, or lie down.

Say the following to yourself:

May I be peaceful, may I be happy, may I be free from suffering.

Next, think of the people you love and wish them peace, happiness, and freedom from suffering.

Now, choose someone with whom you have difficulty and wish them peace, happiness, and freedom from suffering.

Think of a stranger you saw on the street, or in the market, and wish them peace, happiness, and freedom from suffering.

Lastly, wish all creatures peace, happiness and freedom from suffering.

This practice can be relatively short, or you can linger on each word and let it sink in. Either way, it reminds you to put your own well-being first and to wish everyone goodness, even those with whom you have difficulty.

In time, your compassion for yourself and others will grow.  You will relate to people differently, whether it’s the clerk at the market or your best friend, because your grief has sensitized you, and opened your heart to everyone’s suffering.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


%d bloggers like this: