Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Ending of Relationships - Grief

What happens when a relationship ends badly? How do we survive the relentless emotional ups and downs, the pain, the overwhelming feelings? What do we do to take care of ourselves during this time of crisis?

One of the most difficult times in any life involves the ending of a relationship. Whether it is voluntary or not, the pain and emotional turmoil that follows can be life wrenching. At times we may feel that we are being buried under a mountain of feelings that we cannot process. We have many bad days and few, if any, good days.

The grief process is a difficult one, but a necessary step in healing our wounds. We may begin the first leg in our journey without even realizing it. We are told by our partner that they are leaving the relationship. We may feel shock, disbelief, anger, shame, sadness and pain all at the same time. This emotional overload cues our defense mechanisms to help us survive the trauma. We cut ourselves off from experiencing the enormity of our problem with denial. We may see what is happening, but we fail to grasp the complexity of our emotional response. We may initially feel nothing at all. We may be numb.

In the early part of the process we may feel okay with the changes that are occurring in our lives. We have not actually allowed the full impact of our situation into our conscious minds. Over time, as our new life unfolds before us we begin to realize all that has changed. We may begin to feel angry at the losses we are experiencing. The life we had led with our partner is no longer our reality and we are beginning to feel pain. We respond by protecting ourselves. We may allocate blame along with associated anger, resentment, rage and bitterness toward our former partner, and even toward our higher power. We may react with hostility whenever interactions occur. Our world has changed, and we are unhappy with the pain and anguish which are being forced upon us.

After we have displayed much anger and hostility, we may feel that a bargain is possible. Although we are unaware of it, our efforts are unlikely to bear fruit. Try as we may, the situation remains. We have attempted every conceivable tack in order to change the course of events and have been unable to do so.

We now feel the full brunt of our pain. It is overwhelmingly sad and we may be unable to do anything about it. This is the time when we may feel depressed. Our past life is over and we are powerless to change it. Our self esteem may be crushed. Our inner self has been rejected. The combined pain of loss and rejection is overwhelming.

As traumatic and frightening as this place may be, we are actually at the beginning of our recovery. We have begun the process of integrating what has happened into our conscious minds. We have started to accept that we cannot change what has passed. We are on the bumpy road of acceptance. The place of peace. Once we have processed all the pain, loss, shame and rejection and incorporated it into our being as an accepted part of who we now are, we can move on to a place of peace in our lives. This is not an easy task.

This may not be a one way journey. We can move back and forth between denial, anger, bargaining and depression until we finally reach a place of acceptance. We can help ourselves by using our tools. Reaching out for support, whether professional or otherwise, is imperative for self care. If we have others who rely on us in their daily lives, we have an obligation to them to care for ourselves in this time of crisis. Journaling provides an excellent outlet during times of extreme stress. We have the ability to vent in a safe environment. We can also look back over our past journal entries as time proceeds and view our progress. This is of great importance so that we can be aware of how far we have come on our recovery journey. Something that may elude us without written evidence. Activity will benefit us as well. The neurotransmitters that our brain needs to feel happiness are produced in much greater quantities when we work up a sweat. Finding and maintaining hobbies that we enjoy is another tool that we can access. The joy we feel in accomplishing a task which gives us pleasure is a great asset. Spending time with members of our family of origin, if possible, may also be a place of acceptance and support. One of our most important tools is meditation and/or prayer. We can reach out to our higher power for support and guidance. We are on a path that has been chosen for us.

We have many tools at our disposal for self care. Each time we make the effort to use our tools we increase our self esteem. As we raise our self esteem we find it easier to use our tools. Although we may find the first few steps in this process daunting, if we make the effort we will reap the reward. We must try to have faith that we are exactly where our higher power wants us, although we cannot yet see why. Our path is like a painting. We cannot see the whole picture until we step back and view it from a distance. We are learning the lessons we need to better our lives. Through this process of self care we give ourselves the gift of hope.

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