When we end a long term relationship, whether a break up or a divorce, we grieve. The loss of that connection is a death, in a sense, and it pains us. It doesn’t matter if you or the other person did something fatally wrong, or if it was a slow death due to inattention to each other’s needs; the pain is just the same as a death process. Catching someone cheating, or finding out they are having a child with someone they cheated with is likely to cause the same pain as losing someone in a car accident; unexpected and jolting. The slow process of losing a connection due to inattention, or senseless bickering, or allowing some sort of stress to cause division, is similar to a death due to cancer, which is slow in progression.
When you think of how people react to each of these situations, you can kind of see how the process you have gone through during the loss of a relationship relates. It’s perhaps somewhat easier to understand the “grief” process that you have gone through, or perhaps that you are still going through.
psychcentral.com list the steps as follows: denial/isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Most professionals will tell you it is common to move through these steps a few times before finding a prolonged acceptance when it pertains to actual death of a spouse or significant other. When it comes to a relationship ending, it is possible that the same may occur. Also, each stage may be short or longer in duration. There is no set movement of this process.
DENIAL/ISOLATION – during the denial phase, you might find that you pretend that you are not upset. In fact you may put up a happy presentation as if you’re happy to be done with that relationship. For me, this phase also meant that when alone, I felt the pain I was really feeling, but I didn’t want to show it to anyone else.
ANGER – This phase we all can understand. It might be triggered by seeing something that reminds you of the pain, but suddenly you’re agitated and unable to be consoled. A song, a photo, a scent, or a location could remind you of that pain, and out of a desire to protect yourself, you react with anger, instead of allowing the sadness to come and move on.
BARGAINING – You might start replaying what could have made things go differently, or how you might have avoided suffering by only noticing the signs sooner. Sometimes the bargaining takes the part of going through options of how to get back together. For example, if you did something wrong, you might come to your ex and make an offer about what you’ll do to get it back right. If you were the one who was wounded, then you might make compromises and make an offer to take the ex back if only they do something you ask for . On the other hand, if this was the slow process, one or both of you will start discussing the potential for how to make it better.
SOME COUPLES do amazing during bargaining and actually get it right. While others, fall back into the anger phase because something triggers the fear. TIP: Ask your partner what they are worried or afraid of, and you tell them what you are worried or afraid of, and AGREE that you will be honest completely when you feel this way. AND AGREE that when the other one says they are worried or afraid, that both of you will take it serious, and do whatever is needed to relieve that emotion. OTHERWISE, you two may as well stay apart. BOTH of your fears are valid, and when two people can help each other past the fear, the love can get back to even better than it was before.
DEPRESSION – When bargaining doesn’t work, you might fall into the anger phase again, or you might move into depression. It all depends on how you react to the failure of bargaining. The depression phase can also be the HEALING phase for those who have no business being together anyway. This is when the tears flow, you lose interest in certain things, you fall deep into the full feeling of misery and loss.
On the other end of depression, could be any of the other 4 phases. Some people will go all the way back to “denial,” some to “anger”, and others back to “bargaining.” Meanwhile, some will find their way into the final phase: “acceptance.” When the acceptance is real, there will be no falling back, but when it’s not real, it’s actually denial in disguise. After “depression,” the phase you move to is based on the events in your life, and the approach you take to overcoming the sadness.
ACCEPTANCE – As I just mentioned, when acceptance is real it will maintain. So once you’ve had prolonged feelings of a calm reaction, you can rest assured that you have come to terms with the reality of it. Acceptance can occur in one of 2 situations: either you two are apart and satisfied, or you two are back together and have dealt with the past completely.
If you two are apart, then you understand that the former relationship is no longer part of your path, you feel that the relationship has served its purpose for both of you, and you don’t wish them any ill.
If you two are together, and have found acceptance, that is beautiful and you two are all the stronger for it as a couple. This is when there is no animosity, fear, or doubt. There is only love and understanding; the potential for a mutually symbiotic connection.
As you were reading, I’m sure you looked back over your exes and considered where you are in relation to that time in your life. If you feel that you are within the BARGAINING phase, I want you to be honest with yourself; do the 2 of you want greatness and success for each other? If yes, then be honest about what each of you fear, and be DAMN SURE to do whatever is needed to keep each other from getting afraid. Walk the path together, and see each other as the 1st priority. The fear is the disease you must overcome.
HOWEVER, if you can’t honestly say that you two want and are willing to strive to see each other achieve greatness and joy, then don’t try. Move on to acceptance when the time is right. Grieve and let what is dead be buried so that both of you can thrive.
THE POINT IS:
No matter whom you spend your life with, the ex or someone else, finding acceptance regarding the past pain, is necessary for a successful connection with another to be sustained.