Stages of Grief are listed as having five stages, sometimes seven. I’ll list them as seven for the sake of this article and the corresponding video, which can be found here.
The Stages don’t follow any particular order and relate to any type of loss in your life i.e. death, spatial displacement, friendships or relationships ending, loss of employment, loss of good health of yourself or a loved one, and the list goes on. How the stages are experienced depends on how your mind processes what’s happened, how you readily accept the situation, your willingness to learn more about yourself and others, and a desire to let go of hurt feelings and move forward in your personal growth and life. This article will focus on the stages, as they relate to relationship breakups, and how I moved through them.
Shock and Denial: It can mean you’re in shock of the situation in general or you may flat out deny the reality of what’s happening or has happened. In the case of a recent breakup, I was shocked to hear he no longer had a commitment to our relationship, especially after stating he knows when we discuss our issues our relationship grows stronger. It didn’t make sense to me for someone to not want things to be better unless they feel ill-equipped to put forth the actual effort.
Pain and Guilt: You may feel pain at the other person saying they no longer want to be with you. You may feel guilty after thinking about how you could have treated the person better or simply done things differently which may (or may not) have affected the outcome. I didn’t feel pain, however, I felt offended. He correlated me with his childhood trauma stemming from his father being triggered. I know how he feels about his dad, so to put me in the same sentence was evidence of how strongly he felt about us breaking up.
A few days later, I did feel a tinge of guilt. I did a video and also posted an article here on this site, which is linked above, explaining how I was a hypocrite for wanting him to be transparent with me, while I was not doing the same. The tinge of guilt I felt was of realizing I was a hypocrite, followed by thoughts of had I expressed myself more openly maybe we would have ended our relationship as much as a year earlier. The moment passed quickly as I remembered there were times that I voiced my feelings and they were overshadowed by his feelings or other things going in his life, as well as my downplaying my feelings so as not to cause him any additional emotional stress.
Depression and Loneliness: You may feel like things won’t improve. You may feel isolated, alone, uncared for, like no one’s around to show you genuine care and concern. You may feel unworthy of love and further shut yourself off from others to avoid being hurt again. Loneliness may, or may not, accompany the isolating factors of depression. You may feel physically alone and desire to be around others even though you also fear rejection and keep to yourself. Depression and loneliness play horrible games in your mind and can turn into a self-destructive cycle and self-fulfilling prophecy of aloneness. Remind yourself that there are people in your life who love you. Reach out to members of your support system, be honest with your feelings, and allow yourself to receive the care and encouragement they offer you.
Don’t feel ashamed about your feelings. Let the thoughts come, journal them if it helps, and definitely talk to someone you trust. There’s always the option of calling an emergency hotline number or finding a therapist to speak with. You don’t have to endure these feelings alone. I didn’t physically feel depressed, although I realized I was sleeping more than usual. Once I got out of bed, my day was somewhat productive and I stuck to my walking schedule and processing my feelings with a trusted friend. I also journaled more to empty my mind of thoughts that wanted to keep me awake during my sleeping hours. I told my walking buddy that I was going to miss her when she went out-of-town.
I told her how walking helps my body, getting fresh air and Vitamin D from the sun is a great thing, but that I’d also miss our face-to-face discussions. Aside from her and our walks, I’ve been physically alone. I didn’t realize until the next day that I was actually anticipating feeling lonely. It’s not something I feel often so it was foreign to me and I attribute it to the recent breakup because I was supposed to go visit him again and that’s no longer an option. Thankfully, my walking buddy has been calling me daily to check on me. I also have others in my support network that I know are available to me, as I am with them.
The Upward Turn (becoming more relaxed as the negative feelings subside): This is when you begin to feel more like yourself again. You don’t feel as down. You can think of the discussion with your now ex-partner and not feel any of the above stages coursing through your mind and body. You can help foster this stage by engaging in self-care as well as staying in touch with your support system. Do things that you enjoy, take time for yourself. It’s okay right now to be selfish with your time. This is the beginning of your healing stage.
Reconstruction and Work-Through, what I call Personal Growth: You begin to think objectively about the breakup, what was said to you, you start processing and analyzing your past attitudes and behaviors and acknowledge what you need to work on to become a better person. This stage is very challenging because we want to think we’re perfect, though we’re quick to say we’re not.
It’s hard to look objectively at ourselves and accept we have flaws, cognitive distortions, and personality defects. Once we recognize those things the hard work begins, if we’re brave enough to confront it and work on resolving our issues and improving our thought processes and perspectives, which in turn changes behaviors. For me, this meant acknowledging I was a hypocrite for not being transparent even though at the time I thought it was best for his well-being. That’s a cognitive distortion because not being transparent in a relationship will eventually deteriorate the bond as it erodes trust, and may lead to self-resentment, and having desires left unmet because they were unspoken.
Acceptance and Hope: This means acceptance of the situation and hope for a better future, in general. It can also mean feeling hopeful because of what you’ve learned about yourself and how to more effectively manage current and future friendships and relationships.
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Comments are always welcome. I look forward to reading about things you’ve learned about yourself from current or past situations.