This column recently received an email from a first time visitor. A relationship had just ended, one she had thought to be promising. She had searched the internet for advice to the lovelorn, but didnít recognize herself there. Her confusion and sadness brought her to BellaOnline.com. Articles on the Bereavement page were speaking to her emotions. She realized she was experiencing the same sense of loss she had when her beloved Grandmother had died. Yet, no one had died this time. She had ďsimplyĒ broken up with someone. If her feelings were this strong, had she gone over the edge? She thinks them inappropriate.
Whether a) the relationship was long or short term, b) youíre the Dumper or the Dumpee, c) you were dating, partnered, engaged, married legally or by Common Law, d) you are young or old, e) new at this or experienced enough to know better, f) it was a healthy relationship or not, g) you had the support of family and friends or not, h) it was a slow painful ending or caught you completely off guard, there is NOTHING ďsimpleĒ about breaking up. It hurts. A lot.
There is something very, very important you have to realize in this: YOUR FEELINGS ARE VALID. They are real, appropriate, strong. And they need to be worked through. If you just ignore them, stuff them away, youíre not going to learn anything. Youíre not going to heal. You ARE going to keep repeating the pattern. Eeeuuww. That thought alone should prompt you to take this seriously!
And yes, you are grieving.
When her Gran died, she wasnít sad because there was a dead body. She was sad because a source of love and support was no longer available to her. Sad because so many memories existed, and no more would be forthcoming. Because a large part of her support system was gone. Because there would be life events that she would so much want Gran to attend, and will now miss her painfully. Sad because some days she canít remember Granís voice.
Had Gran known how much she was loved? How important she was to the readerís life? Had the reader said and done all she wanted to? All she could?
And why do good people have to get old and die, anyway? This part of Godís plan just sucks. Why canít things just stay the same? Why are there always so many changes? This is way too hard.
All of these feelings apply to the loss of a relationship. Indeed, any loss or change can prompt them. Think there has been no death? Letís look at that.
Hopes, dreams and happiness are not tangible. But they are oh, so real. When a relationship ends, these concepts, as they pertained to this particular subject, die. You canít fold them up and put them in a box in the back of a closet. You have to deal with them where they live Ė in your gut. Just like fear and guilt, they have to be faced head on and wrestled with. Sure, it would be a lot easier to have something to punch, repaint, reprogram. But thatís not how we humans are wired. Relax. When you get to the end of this article, youíll find a link to grief tasks that will help you get started.
When a person dies, your anger is confusing. When a relationship ends, the anger makes more sense. Anger is dangerous either way. You MUST think hard, and name the actual feelings wrapped up in that anger package. If you miss one, itíll come back to bite you later.
Case in point: the nurse whose Dad was a drunk. She had been to support groups and counseling, and had done a tremendous amount of work to become an emotionally healthy person. But the issue of shame had never been addressed. Dadís public drunkenness was personally abhorrent to her. He had privately and publicly criticized her. Every time an alcoholic patient came to her unit, she felt anger towards this total stranger. It affected her care of the patient, which got her noticed by a supervisor. That, in turn, got her mandated counseling, where the issue was finally addressed.
When a relationship dies, so does part of you. Your self esteem suffers as you question the reasons for the break up. You wonder how you let yourself get into such a situation. Again? Double ouch.
Change is difficult. You are saying goodbye to old ways, old habits, people, places. Adapting comes easier to some, but it is never painless. Your old life has died, and you will mourn it on some level. You can ignore it all you want, then break down in the unfamiliar grocery store because you canít find the applesauce. Your grief will make itself known. Acknowledge it, face it. As one woman put it, Name it, Claim it, Move on!
Guilt. Oy! Everybodyís favorite. It takes two to tango, as the saying goes. You wonít get past any of this until you take a hard, honest look at your part in the relationship. The good/bad news is that we have loving (?) family and friends who are more than willing to point out our shortcomings!
All the facets of grief come into play when a break up occurs, no matter what side of the Dear John/Jane letter youíre on.
Death Ė in its many, many forms Ė is part of life. It has a lot to do with your maturity. You can resign from adulthood online, as so many (this Editor included) have done. Alas, it doesnít work that way. Sigh. There is nothing left TO it but to DO it.
The great philosopher, Joan Baez, put it this way: You donít get to chose how youíre going to die, or when. You CAN decide how youíre going to live now.
Make the decision to survive, and all else will fall into place. Donít try to do it alone. God put other people on this earth for a reason. Reach out to some of them. And until you come out on the other side, we wish you