If there is one thing that can keep a person from a happier future, it is the lingering hurt of a relationship that’s come to an end. I have been there, we all have been there at some point in our lives. Experiencing love that has somehow and someway gone bad hurts. The ending of something significant in a person’s life is painful, and that pain sends a person through the stages of grief whether they realize it or not. Until a person deals with such pain and grief, it is hard to move forward and get to a happier place in life.
Grief looks different for everyone, and grief does happen in response to the loss of a close relationship. The theory of the five stages of grief was first proposed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book. Those five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Though it’s important to note, some people may have their own unique stages of grief to add to their individual process. Furthermore, people who are experiencing grief do not necessarily go through the stages in any particular order. Individuals often move between stages, sometimes going back in forth between them, repeating a specific stage more than once, or not experiencing a stage at all for that matter. Reminders of that former relationship (like a song, or special date, or contact from the other individual) may trigger the return of that grief, making the process longer and/or more difficult to work through. The five stages are a guide to the process of grief; designed to help a person understand and put into context what they are experiencing and feeling. But, the actual process of a person’s grief looks a lot less like the neatly outlined five stages and a lot more like tidal waves of emotions. Each person will grieve in their own unique way. And, while time is the best healer, there are steps a person can take that will help speed up the grief process with the ending of a relationship. But first, let’s take a quick look at the stages of grief.
Five Stages of Grief:
- Denial: A person is often in a state of shock during this stage, what was once their ‘normal’ changed in the blink of an eye. Perhaps one was blindsided by the ending of their relationship, one might think things simply make no sense. During this stage a person isn’t in ‘reality,’ they are living in the ‘reality they prefer to be in’ and once this denial starts to fade they can begin the actual process of healing.
- Anger: Anger is what most commonly follows denial. Anger is often the longest stage of grief and perhaps the most difficult to move through. A person often directs their anger toward other people in their life. This stage is essential to moving forward. Anger will bind someone to the ‘actual reality’ they’re living in and help propel them forward. The more a person truly feels the anger they need to, the quicker they will move through this stage.
- Bargaining: This is the stage of false hope, guilt, and “what if” statements; where a person tries to negotiate with themselves, with god, and perhaps their former partner. It’s a natural response for a person to try and negotiate their way out their ‘actual reality’ (if they don’t like it) to avoid the pain and grief that comes with the loss of a relationship. In a desperate move to get one’s ‘normal’ life back, one is willing to make huge (often unhealthy and unrealistic) concessions to “make the relationship work.”
- Depression: This stage symbolizes the feelings of emptiness that come from knowing the relationship is over. It’s common for a person to feel numb, not want to get out of bed, not want to be around other people, not want to talk and be generally withdrawn from life during this stage.
- Acceptance: This is the stage where stabilization begins to happen; where a person comes back to reality and comes to terms the relationship is over. In this stage, a person realizes they will be okay and moves forward into their ‘new reality.’
So, what steps can a person take to speed up this grief process? Personally, there are five steps I have taken when a relationship ends to help me move forward. Ironically these steps correlate to different stages of grief.
Five Steps to help speed up the grief process:
Cut off Contact [beginning the grief process]: THIS IS A MUST. Many people hang on to the idea of ‘being friends’ with their former partner in order to keep the possibility of that relationship alive. People often do this because the idea of letting go seems too overwhelming. This idea is common in the denial stage. Now, I am a firm believer friendship with a former partner MAY be possible…..eventually, BUT NOT INITIALLY. Initially, emotions are high and clarity is something hard to find. A person needs to work through the pain associated with the end of a relationship first and that takes time. More often than not, a significant amount of time must pass before the idea of contact could even be considered healthy. To avoid ghosting the other person, it’s respectful to politely let your former partner know you need space and prefer not to be in contact with them. DO THIS ESPECIALLY IF YOUR EX CONTINUES TO CONTACT YOU because that person is only holding you back from moving forward with your life. CUTTING OFF CONTACT ALLOWS FOR CLARITY TO COME INTO THE PICTURE AND THE GRIEVING PROCESS TO BEGIN.
Take your blinders off [denial]: Relationships end of a reason, more often than not that relationship wasn’t good or healthy for quite a period of time leading up to the split. The reality is: MOST PEOPLE DO NOT ACTUALLY WANT THE RELATIONSHIP THEY HAD, THEY GRIEVE THE RELATIONSHIP THEY WISHED THEY HAD if things had been different. The harsh truth, the relationship they wished they had never actually existed. A person’s mind tries to heal by putting blinders on and pushing the realities of the person they were with to the back of their mind. So, it’s natural for one to remember the good memories as a way to cope. WE FORGET (OR CHOOSE NOT TO SEE) THE PERSON WE WERE WITH FOR WHO THEY ARE, BUT RATHER, IDEALIZE THEM FOR WHO WE WANTED THEM TO BE. It helps me to write all of the ‘real’ out on paper, all the bad and ugly, and remember the ‘actual reality’ for what it really was. TAKING YOUR BLINDERS OFF WILL HELP ONE MOVE OUT OF DENIAL.
Forgive yourself and let go [anger]: When someone hurts you, it’s natural to feel angry. Anger is healthy when grieving the loss of a relationship. Being angry helps a person see the ‘actual reality’ of their former relationship and partner; this helps promote and expedite separation from the unhealthy relationship and person. When a former partner betrays your trust, it’s painful. It’s agonizing when someone you loved and trusted does something to cause you to reassess and rethink who you believed them to be. But, letting what someone did keep you from moving forward with your life is letting them have control over your life. Forgiveness isn’t about your former partner, it is about letting go to move forward. FORGIVING YOURSELF AND LETTING GO WILL HELP A PERSON MOVE PAST ANGER.
Put yourself first [bargaining and depression]: Putting oneself first comes in two parts. First, one needs to believe they deserve to be with someone who shares their same values and treats them well; this requires one to see themselves in a positive light, which is the challenge. Many try and bargain with themselves, they feel they could’ve done things differently even when it’s impossible to know what the outcomes could’ve been if that had happened. People bargain with themselves and play the ‘what if’ game. But, rather than bargain, when one is able to acknowledge every relationship can give us and teach us something (even if that something is painful), one is able to move forward. Acknowledging and taking accountability for your shortcomings and hand in things is important. But blaming yourself entirely for the ending of a relationship and someone else’s actions is counterproductive. One can acknowledge how they contributed to the end of the relationship, learn from it, grow from it, and make the necessary changes to improve it in one’s life moving forward to their next relationship. KNOWING YOUR WORTH, ACKNOWLEDGING YOUR HAND, AND ENDING THE “WHAT IF” GAMES WILL HELP ONE MOVE ON FROM BARGAINING. Second, one needs to focus on themselves and their individual happiness. In short, DO SELF CARE. Take time to do the things you enjoy, spend time with friends and family, create a new adventure, take up a healthy exercise hobby, and live your life in a way that you genuinely enjoy. One must truly be happy as an individual before they can embrace and share in happiness with another person. FOCUSING ON YOUR OWN SELF CARE WILL HELP ONE MOVE ON FROM DEPRESSION.
Recognize your former partner was not right for you, but there is someone in the world who is right for you [acceptance]: It’d be hard for anyone to fully accept the ending of a relationship if they continue to fixate on their former partner being ‘the one.’ Those kinds of fixations turn into obsessions, and those obsessions haunt a person. Two people can love each other, they can share part of their lives with one another, but that does not mean they are right for one another. However, THERE IS SOMEONE OUT THERE FOR YOU SOMEWHERE. I truly believe everything happens for a reason. I believe God has a plan for us all and he will eventually lead us to the person we are meant to be with, even if HE detours us through some relationship construction zones meant to teach us something first. WHEN ONE IS ABLE TO RECOGNIZE THEIR FORMER PARTNER ISN’T THE RIGHT PERSON FOR THEM, BUT THERE IS SOMEONE IN THE WORLD WHO IS RIGHT FOR THEM, THEY WILL BE ABLE TO ACCEPTANCE THEIR RELATIONSHIP HAS COME TO AN END AND MOVE FORWARD WITH THEIR LIFE.
Heartbreak is a blessing from God. It’s simply HIS way of letting you know it’s time to be done detouring through the relationship construction zone he sent you through, you have learned the lessons you are meant to, and HE will now put you on the path toward finding the person you are meant to be with. If one is able to keep the faith, often times, the hardest experiences will lead to the best moments in life.