Surviving Lost Love: “A Fig in Winter”



Sometimes we love what we cannot have. It’s as simple as that. And yet, the longing continues, causing our suffering.

Doesn’t matter if the loved one is unavailable, doesn’t love us, or has passed on. The wish to resurrect the relationship someway, somehow can be overwhelming.

Unrequited love hurts and haunts.

Hope lifts you for a while but can hinder healing.

If you’ve been through a painful breakup, you might remain bitter, forgetting all the good parts of the story that proceeded its sad ending.

Amnesia blinds a broken heart.

A broken heart focuses on the end of the love story, whether through physical parting or death.

We scrutinize the last days and hours. The pain our loved one endured. What we failed to do or say.  Our hurtful words. Missed chances. Regret looms.


This is a natural response to heartbreak, of course, maybe even necessary.

If we stay too long in those final days, we become blinded to what came before. Instead of reliving the moments of joy and connection, The End overpowers us.

In the face of loss, we remain broken if we do not open our hearts to new love experiences. This might mean dating again, forging new friendships, or finding a surrogate (not a replacement) for the lost love.

But how?

The key to moving on, we are told, is simple:



Acceptance that we cannot change others.

Acceptance that someone may not love us they way we love them.

Acceptance that we cannot write the script for the Universe.

Acceptance that some things will never be as we wish.

Acceptance that all relationships will eventually end.


Image by John Hain

The answer may be “simple”, but the journey is long and and bumpy. Maybe even a life’s work.

The poets and philosophers have pondered this arduous path for millennia. When my heart is aching for what I cannot have, I find solace in the writings of Greek stoic, Epictetus. (50-135 CE)

When you are delighted with anything, be delighted as with a thing which is not one of those which cannot be taken away, but as something of such a kind, as an earthen pot is, or a glass cup, that, when it has been broken, you may remember what it was and may not be troubledWhat you love is nothing of your own: it has been given to you for the present, not that it should not be taken from you, nor has it been given to you for all time, but as a fig is given to you or a bunch of grapes at the appointed season of the year. But if you wish for these things in winter, you are a fool. So if you wish for your son or friend when it is not allowed to you, you must know that you are wishing for a fig in winter


Image by Andrea Petra Puporka








6 responses

  1. Nicely written, though I believe more in the heart and soul of emotional expression than stoicism, a way to conform and sometimes subdue true emotions within. Minimizing or stuffing one’s own pain for the sake of moving on swiftly is not a good balance, either. A balance would be to feel what you truly feel, or be authentic and honest with yourself, and then to take as much time as necessary to heal, without self- or other-judgment. At some point, we can appreciate the lessons learned and the person before the change. But as they say in Buddhism, we are always changing, even in very subtle ways; therefore, who we were a second ago is not who we are now. What the relationship was a second ago is not the same now. There are truths to emotional pain, which is not all completely irrational. Emotions tell us what is important to us, and when something has changed. Loving and holding onto love that is no more is an important step in realizing what changed, what was important to us, what harms have been done to us (intentional or not), and who we are as human beings that were created with emotions. Hoping for something that is no longer there is existentially real to the grieving person, and that reality is true and rational at some level. In some cases, it is altruistic, and in others, possessive. To each his or her own, I suppose.


    • You raise interesting points, GB. I’m not big on stoicism, either, at least in the more modern definition. The ancient philosophers aimed, I believe, for a state of tranquility by shifting our thoughts and attitudes. For example, consider this: “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – Marcus Aurelius. Our desire for new things, for things we cannot have, is what makes us unhappy, the Stoics seem to be saying. One practice was to imagine the loss, one by one, of everything and everyone that is important to you–not something I practice, as my anxious brain does that for me and this only causes distress. Still, I can see the power behind the practice if you can work up to it. After any loss, you must feel the pain. It’s the longing for the loved one to return, change his/her mind, or to fix what cannot be fixed that holds us back.

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      • Thank you for explaining. It sounds like the stoics believe in desensitizing, which is a psychological remedy these days. It also sounds like the longing for something or someone that is no longer there is nearly tantamount to the bargaining phase of grief, which is not acceptance, but rather a path to delusions and cognitive distortions. In that sense, it is best to move forward through “genuine” acceptance, which only comes after desensitizing from the traumatic pain of loss (in my humble opinion). Without properly grieving the pain, resentment, anxiety, and fear settles in, no matter how hard we try to intellectualize and put up a front of strength and overcoming that which was never truly overcome. I imagine nearly all forms of trauma comprise some amount of loss, and it is the loss that leads to pathology, not the trauma itself. I have lived a life of traumatic loss, so I speak with bias. Nevertheless, your explanation helps. Thank you! PS: I have not yet read about stoicism. It sounds really interesting.


  2. Wow Evelyn! What a powerful post and I love the quote at the end…a fig in winter. I understand…I think processing the whole journey of love with anyone is to learn more about ourselves with different perspectives. And that’s what we’re here for – to enrich our understanding of ourselves and of those around us. Happy Galentine’s Day (belated)! ♥

    Liked by 1 person

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