“In the absence of love, there is nothing worth fighting for.” Elijah Wood
Valentine’s Day is a marketing dream come true…a time for lovers, friends and family members to exchange cards and gifts of value to show how much they care for one another. I know in my heart, that there are many, who do look forward to this day, to let their partner, their friend, their child know, how much they care for them, there is a bond of love.
A Definition of love by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary
- 1 a (1) : strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties <maternal love for a child> (2) : attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt by lovers (3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests <love for his old schoolmates> b : an assurance of affection <give her my love>
- 2 : warm , enthusiasm, or devotion <love of the sea>
- 3 a : the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration <baseball was his first love> b (1) : a beloved person : darling – often used as a term of endearment (2) British —used as an informal term of address
- 4 a : unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as (1) : the fatherly concern of God for humankind (2) : brotherly concern for others b : a person’s adoration of God
I know this to be true, there is love in the world. There are families, lovers and friends who can express deep affection for another human being.
But what about those who can’t? How does someone exchange or express devotion, affection, love to another person, if they have no concept of what it means?
How do we heal the loss of love, especially if you grew up, never really knowing what love is? If love was absent from the child’s home…how do we reach the adult who feels disconnected from others? The adult whose trust has been shattered one too many times, how can we connect and make them feel valued, cared for and loved?
I believe there is an understanding, that if you lose a lover, a child, a friend to disease, to war, accidents, nature, experience a divorce and the other mishaps of life, there is a time to mourn and perhaps you will get support for those times in your life when grieving takes place.
But what of those who grapple with trying to understand what the rest of the world is talking about when they speak of love? I suspect for these folks, it is a foreign language and no tour guide to help them navigate the intricacies of what love is and can be.
I see the aftermath of broken trust and lack of love in people’s lives all the time. The survivor community, of those who have been sexually assaulted as children, especially by their primary caretakers, is huge…but so is the amount of adults who grew up with a narcissistic parent or parents – that lack of love is devastating. Neglect, for what ever the reason, causes so many to feel disenfranchised and skeptical of those who profess to care for them and love them. They are empty words…falling upon deaf ears.
Personally, as a child, I was clueless as to what love meant when I would see a TV show or a commercial talking about love, or if I overheard someone say how they loved another person. What were they talking about? I had no gauge to help me comprehend this talk of love.
My world view was simplistic, I knew my parents hated me…they despised me. But why, I was only a child…why such harsh, cruel words, that I was stupid, worthless, no good and I ruined their lives.
The sexual abuse and the physical abuse had its own set of meaning for me as a child – the shame, the lack of self-worth, the blame, the feeling dirty inside, let me know, on many levels that I was different, separate from the world. I did not belong. But the blaming of me, for their lot in life, lack of money, causing too many medical bills due to my asthma, ruining my mother’s chances to go to New York City and pursue a singing and acting career, and how I wrecked my father’s life by coming into this world. Well, as little boy, that was my world view, I was no good…my parents hatred of me and doing whatever they could do, to dehumanize me, created a huge rupture in my soul. I always felt like a piece of my spirit was cut out…I have been trying my whole life to help heal that wound.
Who did not love my parents to cause such cruelty and lack of love? And what pain and suffering did they endure? I cannot go back and heal the wounds of their past, but we all have a part in healing the children and the adults of today who are missing love, affection and human connection.
I was fortunate to have some wonderful human connections with others as a young boy that helped to give me some sense of being. Mr. Lepre, my fourth grade teacher, confused the heck out of me, he was kind and caring…and he told me I was smart and a hard worker. My friend Jimmy’s parents, Mr & Mrs. Foster were kind to me, the simple act of inviting me to their home for dinner was huge and then to engage with me in conversation, wow! My friend Chris’s parents, the Schindler’s were also an enigma to me. They could never offer me enough coffee or “have something to eat.” My friend Bruce’s dad, played catch with him every night after supper. My simple observations of the interaction between my friends and their parents, let me know something special was going on here, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was. Love was still a foreign language.
I have had relationships with some wonderful women in my life, but it was the birth of my oldest daughter, that I finally understood what love is. I cared deeply for her mother, but now with the unconditional love of my daughter, I learned to love my wife.
Unconditional love, is it a rarity in people’s lives? Unfortunately, my world view has been corrupted again, in the meaning of love – what it is and what it is not.
I felt on top of the world being loved by my wife and our daughters, nothing could bring me down, or so I thought. The onslaught of depression and post traumatic stress let me know that love for me was conditional. I did not heal quick enough and I knew by their words and their actions, that my family no longer valued me as a husband, father and as a member of the family. I was divorced from my wife and from my children, and it was not my choice.
All of the hidden fears and feelings that I was dirty and worthless, once again, became my identity.
Many years of healing lets me know that I have value and I am a good human being, but what of those who are still mired in deep pain, shame and fear of human bonding. What more can we do to reach people?
It is easy to see the person who struggles with their mental health challenges and the trauma of their lives. They are in a ‘system of care‘ – but, is this a life of meaning? How can we reach them, in the despair of their brokenness? The lack of love in their lives, the fear of trying to love, there must be more we can do.
How do we reach the folks who look good on the outside, hold down a job, build a home, but go home to a life of self-imposed isolation and veg on constant TV, the internet and other distractions, anything that prevents them from feeling connected to another human being.
How do we heal those corrupted by greed and power who have no regard for those beneath them as human beings. What love and human connection, did they lack in their lives, to have such wanton disregard for others.
What more can we do in connecting with the walking wounded of the world who are unaware of how the trauma in their lives has caused major disruptions and how this prevents them from empathy and caring for self and for others?
I do not have the answers to all of these questions and thoughts. My hope and my prayers – get us engaged in thinking about and doing more on the lack of love and the loss of love in so many people’s lives. We deserve a better world to live in, a world of love for all….
Take care, Michael Skinner
The Power of Real Love in Healing – Real Love
Healing the Absent Father Wound – Good Men Project
Grieve Neglectful Mothering – Sundown Healing Arts
Love Is Not the Absence of Fear – Huffington Post
Trust After Trauma: A Guide to Relationships for Survivors and Those Who Love Them: Aphrodite T. Matsakis PhD – Book [I’ve read this several times to help me re-engage with others, MS]
Why Don’t We Give Love Its Due? – Single at Heart – Psych Central
“Love is the absence of judgment.” Dalai Lama
Your thoughts are welcome; contact me