Lost love and dangerous games

I was in a three-year relationship with my son’s father and broke up with him five years ago but I am still struggling to move on.

I am sad most of the time, I cry when alone, and worry that I could be going through depression. I so wish to have a boyfriend but I keep comparing them with my son’s father. I have also been without a job for four months and it is a decision which I regret as it makes me feel worse because my son’s father has to pay for everything where my son is concerned.

I do not feel like a mother because I do not have my son with me every day since the breakup. That is also getting me down as I feel I lost everything. I want to be happy around my son but I’m always feeling sad even when my son is around me. I feel embarrassed when I am around friends and family because I am always single and all my friends and siblings are married.

I try to keep my distance from them and do not stay away out of jealousy. And yes I do still love my ex a lot and wish my love for him can go away. I feel like a failure. I am 30 years old and feel I have achieved nothing and having nothing to talk about, no job, no love life.

A break up of a marriage or long-term relationship is very difficult to overcome, more so if you are the partner who did not want it to end. A mourning process after a significant loss such as the ending of a marriage usually takes about six to 12 months according to research.

However, mourning periods are different for different individuals, depending on various factors such as any previous losses and traumas including loss of attachment figures/parents in early childhood or previous adult relationships that ended suddenly or unexpectedly.

When people struggle to come to terms with a loss or death of a loved one over a significant period, it is referred to as complicated grief.

I list here the most significant symptoms that can indicate normal grief has shifted into complicated grief, more so if you are still experiencing them six months to a year after the death of your loved one:

Persistent and invasive thoughts of your loss that disrupt daily activities;

Avoiding or feeling consumed by reminders/ memories of your loved one;

Unable to accept the finality of the ending/ loss/;

Intense yearning for your lost loved one/;

Feeling excessively angry about the loss/ ending;

Feeling numb or confused and developing a loss of trust in others;

Isolating from others;

Suffering physical symptoms such as chronic pain, headaches and unexplainable illnesses; and

Feeling that life is meaningless and hopeless without your loved one.

I encourage you to find ways to receive grief therapy as you may have complicated grief.

You don’t have to continue living with the unrelenting pain you are experiencing. If there is not a therapist that provides complicated grief treatment in your area, I encourage you to talk to your doctor about complicated grief and ask him to refer you to a grief counsellor.

Do this urgently, as your son needs you to be emotionally available to him now during his growing years and especially because he has to deal with the loss of his nucleus family.

He needs you to be mentally healthy so you can be there for him and for yourself.

Working through your divorce and mourning will help you feel more alive again and open to meeting someone new whom you will experience love with again.

As you are learning to love again, someone out there will be preparing to meet and love someone like you.

I am concerned about our children who are online and playing dangerous games such as “Blue whale” which challenges the child to do all kinds of things and ends with a challenge to commit suicide. I think parents must monitor and keep track of their child’s gaming and online activities.

I am pleased that you are raising this issue. Online and gaming activities should be monitored and limited by caregivers and parents.

For various reasons excessive and unmonitored internet or gaming activity can be very harmful for children’s minds and bodies.

Experts argue that excessive gaming can give rise to anxiety, depression, inactivity, social isolation and create dependency on stimulating games that excite the young mind which is naturally interested in stimulating and learning activities.

If gaming is left unchecked and the child has full and unrestricted access, addiction becomes an inevitable outcome. There are also various other dangers including games that encourage anti-social, destructive and self-injuring behaviour.

We are all susceptible to the power of influence and this should never be underestimated. For children, this condition is even more heightened because of their innocence, naivety and burgeoning curiosity. The use of the internet can have many benefits for children but if not monitored by parents, it can result in adverse and detrimental consequences.

How long does it take for you to respond to messages because I think you could help so many people through instant messaging. Well done.

Thank you and I am really pleased that many people like you find the column so helpful. This was the main reason for us providing this space. However, I do not respond directly to WhatsApp messages as there are too many requests and messages for me to be able to respond to directly. I do try to provide a response to the most urgent or common requests for advice.

I also notice that many people forward various videos, quotes, poems, etc, which they want to share. While this is appreciated, it prevents a quick and speedy working through and response to those who desperately need help and advice. So I ask that readers refrain from sending messages unless it pertains to a request for advice or referral to a psychological resource.

However, I am sincerely grateful for your encouraging appreciation.

Carin-Lee Masters is a clinical psychologist. Write to her at helpmecarin@inl.co.za Send a WhatsApp message or SMS to 082 264 7774.