When a relationship ends, it’s much like a death; where you may not lose this person out of your life completely, it’s still the end of the person you knew as they were with you. There may even be the token “5 Stages of Grief” (Isolation/Denial….Anger…Bargaining…Depression….Acceptance), as again, these are all steps dealing with loss, and this is a loss, perhaps not physical, but all stages are applicable.
There will be a roller coaster of emotions; some days you will be fine and optimistic about moving on, while others you will feel life going forward is seemingly impossible. You will be reasonable and logical or an emotional mess. But know one thing, it’s all normal and we all handle a relationship ending in our own way.
When my marriage ended, at the time, I had wondered why I wasn’t very depressed for long? I had thought that this one person was the one I was going to spend the life with, and when we finally called it quits sure I was upset, but I wasn’t in the depressed stage for long and moved on to acceptance quite quickly. I thought this odd for someone I spent a good 4-5 years of life with (I married young), and even questioned my love for him due to this. But when I reflected on this (with also the assistance of a therapy session or two), I realized due to the intensity of issues in the marriage I started my grieving process before we officially admitted to eachother that we were not going to work. We loved eachother, I don’t doubt that now, but perhaps just not as a husband and wife should. But when we got to the last point of “let’s split”, I had already denied problems and that all would work out for our “happily ever after”, I had already got angry when we both couldn’t work together through the problems, I had already attempted bargaining and “putting the marriage on life support”, and I was sad that the marriage wasn’t working and that we weren’t happy… I put best effort into it, when it was done, I was accepting.
Mind you in my first serious relationship following my marriage, because I was blindsided and there was no indication to me of the relationship failing, I got to feel and remember these stages of grief more vividly and quite consciously remember them all; that and this sadly paralleled with losing my father to cancer quite closely. Being aware of the stages of grief and recognizing them definitely helped with processing them (and still does).
How do you get over it you ask? Well I don’t think we ever do, it just dulls a bit and we take/learn from it. Again, I cannot stress enough that this blog is not an advice column, I am by no means a professional (although with my relationship experiences, I’m thinking I could start my dissertation soon, hahaha), but just speaking to my own experiences, thoughts and opinions.
Here’s how I dealt…
1. I talked to someone. Talk to whomever you’re comfortable with: friend, family member, etc.. Now at the time when my marriage ended, I felt ashamed.. I was young and didn’t exactly realize right away that it takes two to tango and felt like a failure as a wife. So I wasn’t exactly great about opening up to friends and family right away. But I was referred to a therapist through work, and had a few sessions just to work through my divorce/separation; and it was one of the most positive experiences for my grieving because I looked at her one day and said, “how many of these sessions should we have?”.. To which she responded “you have a firm grasp of what’s going on and what happened here, and what you’re experiencing emotionally is normal. You are quite rational and aware.. If you feel you need to come back, please do, but I don’t feel I need to see you”. Ha! NORMAL! Someone called me normal! But it was a relief for what I was going through at the time that someone told me it was normal and allowed. I then opened up to friends and family about it….. NOW, being a seasoned griever, the trick is to get me to not talk to those close to me about my feelings, I’m quite expressive (lucky them).
2. Once I got the above approval that I was “normal”, I stopped trying to fit into a “box” or timeline of how long getting over my relationship should take. We all process things with our thoughts and emotions in our own time. Now there are articles out there written that it will take you X number of months of being single for every X number years that you were married/in a relationship to heal. But I think as humans we are all too unique to fit into such a formula. You will know when you start to feel better, and don’t compare to anyone else and their timeline for dealing.
3. I grieved; I dwelled, but didn’t stay there too long. It’s sad, talk, cry, look at the mementos, remember, and grieve. You are allowed to feel, you are allowed to be sad. But don’t stay there and live. Life goes on whether we want it to or not, and we can either go with it or fight it; funny enough fighting it takes way more energy than going with it. With the serious relationship after my marriage, because it was so close to losing my father, I think I dealt with both losses at the same time. I almost was in danger of staying there and dwelling. I was (am) fortunate enough to have a good support network around me that prompted me that I was dwelling and it wasn’t healthy to stay where I was. It took much more energy when I pitied and isolated myself, then it did when I moved forward and went on with life.
4. I put mementos in a safe place. At first they were a comfort, during the teary, dwelling portion of grieving…It’s funny when a relationship ends, but I seem to go through the self induced torture of reviewing all photos, notes, ticket stubs, cards, any memento (I’m sentimental and value silly things like corks from first bottle of wine shared, ticket stubs, etc.).. But once I have that heartbreaking, knock down-drag out tear fest, I then can move forward. I then threw out some things, because I don’t need to keep everything. But I put the photos and few mementos that I did keep away, they were memories and part of my life, but I don’t need them displayed as a constant reminder nor do I need those around me (or potential new mates)to see photos of an ex.
As much as I move forward and find my positives in life and am even open to the possibilities of a new relationship; to this day, I still at times grieve my marriage and grieve other important relationships that I no longer have. But I try to remember: they were a life experience, I’ve learned about myself each time and with each loss, and they have all made me who I am today..
I’ve also learned that resilience is my best quality! (haha, perhaps not to brag about?).