Severed Belonging and Grief

I have been thinking a lot lately of two things: grief and severed belonging. These two things are inter-twined. Often, we experience grief when our place of belonging has been severed in some way. Our experience of grief is the vehicle through which we begin to heal the severed belonging.

The Desire for Belonging

All humans desire a place of belonging in which we feel “at home”. A place where we are free to be loved as our authentic selves, and free to love others from our true self and deepest authenticity.

When we create a place of belonging with another or others, we create something sacred.

The Sacredness of True Belonging

A sacred space of true belonging allows us to thrive. We feel seen, understood, and valued. We are free, safe, and held in love. In this place of true belonging, we have some protection from the darkness found in our world.

We feel deep grief when this sacred place of true belonging is severed.


“Severed Belonging” is a term used by the meditation teacher, Tara Brach. It describes the deep hurt, abandonment, or pain resulting from an attachment wound.

When a key attachment (intimate partner, parent, child, sibling, close friend) is severed or wounded, humans feel deep loss.

My guide-book, Grieving the Losses, describes the experience of grief in intimate relationships and how we can work through the grief and obtain new awareness, growth and strength.

My guide talks about how betrayal or abandonment by others, can lead to the abandonment of ourselves, which is the ultimate abandonment.

Along with this guide, I also offer a practice that you can use to help you heal from loss and grief; whether it is loss from losing others or loss from abandoning yourself.

How Do Others Abandon Us?

When we are abandoned by others, sometimes it means we are literally “left”. Someone we trust and count on to be present, supportive and loving, walks out of our life. Or, the deepest grief results when we experience the death of someone vital to our well-being. Death leaves us feeling utterly abandoned and lost.

It can also mean that the person with whom we have been the most vulnerable, criticizes us or puts us down over and over again and is not there for us emotionally; or that the one in whom we have put our trust and opened our heart is deceptive or disloyal.

How Do We Abandon Ourselves?

When we abandon ourselves, we cut ourselves off from the infinite source of love that resides within all of us. We do this by critical self talk, harsh judgment, and not listening to our body’s cues for self care and nourishment.

We do this by ignoring/denying/minimizing our emotions. We do this by consistently giving to others in ways that compromise our deepest values and our true self. All of these activities are acts of betrayal toward ourself, which lead us to disconnecting from ourselves and from love.

I write this on a crisp-end-of-summer morning. I am sitting at my desk and outside my window I see the woods that surround my house. Not quite yet, but soon, the trees will lose their leaves and a gentle quiet will bathe our days and nights as fall descends and the light softens.

Nature does not resist the losses that come with summer transitioning to fall. Rather, nature allows the losses to be, just as they are, knowing that they are an essential aspect of life. The things in nature that are lost freely return to the earth and, in doing so, new growth is nourished.

Taking a Lesson from Nature

We can take a lesson from the natural rhythm of loss and growth. If we allow ourselves to be quiet and present to our loss and grief, we allow for our own transformation. With this transformation, a new-found strength will emerge in our lives.

If we are awake and conscious on the cusp of fall, we can be inspired by nature and the rhythm of the season to tap into an awareness of our own experiences of loss and grief.

Acknowledging Sadness and Grief

Currently, if you feel inspired by nature and awake to the change of season, you may realize that you have a new loss you are processing. Or perhaps you will realize that old wounds are surfacing.

Can you quiet yourself now and be curious about your own experience? Can you embrace what surfaces with kindness and compassion?

I encourage you to honor and acknowledge your sadness and losses. If we do not honor them, we set ourselves up for the experiences of depression, anxiety, guilt, shame, and isolation.

Grief as a Pathway to Healing What Was Severed

If this writing resonates with you, do not let fear keep you from feeling your grief. Emotions require acknowledgement and acceptance in order to flow freely, peak, and then recede.

The 8 C’s of Self-Leadership

Richard Schwartz, creator of the Internal Family Systems model of therapy,  talks about the 8 C’s of self-leadership. They are calmness, clarity, curiosity, confidence, courage, compassion, creativity and connection. All of these allow for us to be present to difficult life experiences and emotions from a place of integration, health, and authenticity.

According to Schwartz, the self-led person is able to allow for their emotions to flow, and not be overwhelmed by them. And when we allow our emotions to flow, peak, and then recede, without being overwhelmed or going into defensiveness, we are able to access a place of open-heartedness.

The 8 C’s As a Healing Energy

Here is how the 8 C’s work:

As we breathe fully into our emotions with courage and curiosity, the feelings begin to subside and are replaced by a new calmness. A new clarity. A new compassion. A new confidence. All of this allows us to approach things with a new creativity. Now, our brain is functioning optimally and our heart is fully open.

As we allow our sadness, grief, and loss their natural rhythm, we then are able to cultivate a new connection. A connection to others that is more authentic and fulfilling. And a connection to ourselves that honors our true nature and fiercely protects us from ever abandoning ourselves again.

Love is Always Loving Us

When we are deeply connected to others and to ourselves in this open-hearted way, we discover that the place of true belonging has never been fully severed.

Rather, it was only patiently waiting for us to allow our grief to work its magic by healing our wound and restoring the connection to the “love that is always loving us”.

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Jane Ryan

Jane Ryan, M.A., LMFT, is a Licensed Couples and Family Therapist with twenty years of clinical experience. She specializes in intimate relationships, sexual challenges, sacred sexuality, and helping clients embrace their true erotic nature. She supports women in discovering their most radiant, vibrant and powerful feminine essence.