Grief - Or Relief?

There is no shame in grieving, and there shouldn't be any shame or guilt in admitting that you're not! Not all losses are a cause for sadness – it all depends upon how 'attached' you were to whatever, or whoever, is no longer in your life.

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The more you cared, the greater the sense of loss and more intense the painful feelings of grief.

We can form deep emotional attachments - to pets as well as people - and losing those strong bonds creates an emotional agony, and even ill-health.

Many a widow or widower has soon died of a 'broken heart' - to become re-united with the love of their life.

Attachment theory has been around for decades and focuses upon the emotional attachment created between a parent - or other care-giver - and a child.

This relationship sets up the template for the child's future. It literally wires their brain and determines their expectations of how others will treat them, and the quality of the relationships they will form, and how they will experience losses in their life.

We can leave childhood feeling secure or insecure – the latter including a tendency to be anxious and needy, or to actively avoid close relationships.

For those of us who had a troubled and unhappy childhood contaminated by difficult or even toxic parents, their departure or death can feel like a huge relief, like a heavy weight lifted from our chest. 

We still might grieve for the happy childhood we missed out on, but not for the person or people who made our lives so painful and difficult to endure.

An early loss of something that is harmful to us is really a blessing and a relief.

To get a visual image of the strength of the emotional attachments in your life, draw a spider's web around an image or picture of yourself.

Then plot the people in your life on this web – family members, friends, work colleagues, neighbours etc. - placing them closer to you if you feel a closer connection and attachment to them, and further away if that bond is weak, forced, or disliked but tolerated.

Those furthest ones away from you would be relatively easy to live without. Perhaps you'll choose to discard these from your web now rather than later, and to replace them with new and closer connections.

You might also choose to work at bringing in closer some of those valued attachments that have grown weaker or more distant through time or misunderstandings - and consider how you could reach out to them again and renew your emotional bonds.

Having fewer but stronger bonds is worth much more than having many weak or unwanted ones.

Cherish and enjoy those quality connections with people who give back to you with their time, attention and care.

The downside of having these loving attachments is of course the pain and grief of losing them.

That emotional pain won't be as bad as not ever having experienced the enjoyment of their company, and of having great memories with them to recall - which can re-energise and amuse us for years to come.

Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR - Where you'll find a page of FREE RESOURCES to help and guide you to overcome a troubled childhood and difficult or toxic parents... please see

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Maxine Harley

MIND HEALER & MENTOR - Psychotherapist (MSc), Author, Columnist & Blogger. Please see and, S.E.L.E.C.T. Your Life Company Ltd.

I help women to FEEL better - so they can BE, DO and HAVE better! As a MIND HEALER I specialise in helping women to recover from a troubled childhood and toxic parents, to heal and transcend their emotional wounds, re-parent their inner child, and make peace with their past. This enables and empowers them to become better parents, partners, professionals - and all round happier calmer people :-) As a MENTOR I offer different levels of therapeutic self development - including MINDING YOUR BUSINESS, MINDING THE GAP, and MIND MASTERY...please discover more at


Go to the profile of Diane Priestley
almost 4 years ago

This is another important and insightful article from Maxine, which hits on the truth that grief is determined by how deeply attached we were to that person. 

I remember suffering excruciating grief when my dad died and a friend telling me that the pain is the cost of loving him so strongly. 

And yet when another person in my life died, I didn't grieve because that person did not share their inner self with me and the relationship was superficial so there was very little intimacy and heart to heart connection. 

Trying to leave a marriage after many years of attachment is also very painful, requiring a systematic process of "detachment". 

Thanks Maxine, I really appreciate and value your wisdom and your incisive writing.   

Go to the profile of Maxine Harley
almost 4 years ago

Diane, I really value and appreciate your comment and your own insightful examples of loss, and gradual chosen detachment. 

Sometimes we choose to break off our attachments, and other times we become the one being removed from someone's web of attachment.

There are always new potential attachments ahead of us, and with our maturity comes discernment ;-)