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Part II: What You Need to Know About Grief > Attachment Bonding And Loss

Chapter 5. Attachment Bonding And Loss

I struggled against the ocean current, which was pulling me into the jutting rocks of the breaker. I worked hard to resist the urge to just give in and not try anymore. My son tried a rescue from a rubber raft, but I waved him away— fearing he would be crushed against the rocks. My heart was pounding! I felt utterly exhausted and my resolve to survive was fading. I heard myself saying, “Is this it? The end?” Somehow I managed to grasp the edge of a rock and held on for dear life—long enough to gain the strength to pull myself up onto the top of the breaker ledge and to safety.

The instinct for survival, to hang on for dear life, is a basic human drive. Animals babies literally cling to the fur of the mother, and people hang on to their self-image, to each other, to routines, dreams and favorite things and titles, for dear life. These are examples of the attachment theory developed by Dr. John Bowlby, who studied the way babies and small children acted when they were separated from their mothers (Bowlby, 1980). We attach early to a mother or mother substitute in order to survive, and the attachment behaviors—staying close, hanging on, reaching for the person or other object of attachment—continues throughout life. Attachment behavior leads to the creation of bonds. The way we make and break bonds in the early part of our lives determines how we will deal with connecting and letting go in later life.


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