Grief and Loss of Relationship in Marriage Counseling: Tips to Work Through the Five Stages in the Relationship Breakup.

Haven’t we all felt the pit in our stomach, the disbelief it’s happening, feeling pissed off, calling up to get back together, and the sadness, when we go through the loss of a romantic relationship that we cared a lot about? Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote originally about these stages in terms of death, though they apply to intimate relationships as well. I’ll be adding information from my own reading and counseling experience in helping individuals through the process of relationship breakup. Learn from these stages so that you can process the loss, and grow from the experience, even though it hurts. In this way you’ll be more ready for a future relationship because you didn’t cut corners when intimacy changed.

1. Denial. Others have said that often the first stage of grief is denial. We move back and forth between stages, and this one feels like not being able to admit to your self what’s happening. So hard to believe that a relationship is ending, especially when you don’t want it to stop. So we act like we really would rather not know right now, and we think about the happy times.
All this occurs for many reasons. On occasion, time is what’s needed for intimate relationships to heal. In other instances, it’s hard to admit things really do need to change. It’s common to ignore problems and hope that it’s just a difficult period. Many people have childhood experiences of emotional abandonment that make people feel like clinging on. Grief counseling can help you move through this stage.

2 Anger. Anger is a stage that’s important to go through when a relationship is lost, though many people are really scared of anger (from others and their own), so people don’t want to deal with this part of the process. I can assist you with a safe place to feel your anger, and how to handle others‘, so you learn how to do this on your own, which helps you move on with your life.

Anger can take many forms – at the other, at one self, and at God. Feeling it can be frightful for a moment, yet it’s a real part of the grief process, and the fright can change to positive energy. I’ll help you acknowledge it and deal with with it in safe ways. The basic rule is don’t hurt yourself or others. Why not try journaling, and writing letters that never get sent? Twist the anger in to a towel! Work with a counselor so the anger gets released and not repressed, so that it doesn’t keep doing a slow burn inside.

3. Bargaining. This is the third stage commonly written about, though at times it happens before anger, when people try to work things out. We try to bargain with our selves and bargain with our partner. “If you’d only do this, then I could do that and everything would be fine again”. It’s when a partner will try to be a better person so the other will not leave. This is not to say that talking about constructive ways to work things out don’t happen, because many times adults do talk about how things are going in their relationship. It’s important to not grasp, over reach, or grovel too much if the facts of the relationship coming to an end are happening over and over. To not over reach or to recognize healthy boundaries, I can work with you on uncovering and developing your positive sense of self.

4. Depression. If your relationship continues to break up, and you’ve felt the denial, the anger, and the bargaining have all happened, sometimes we feel depressed. These are natural feelings of helplessness, overwhelm, sadness, and grief about the loss that is happening. Feels like it would be impossible to meet someone who made us feel as good as our partner once did.
Now is the time to practice natural anti-depressant skills such as healthy nutrition, thirty minutes of exercise a day, and thirty minutes of sunlight a day. Do something for the fun of it, even if it’s free. Also put your self around people who appreciate who you are even if the relationship is different. At an optimal time, admit to your emotions, and let your self cry, and move through the waves of sadness. Over time, the emotions of depression will lift and pass, if you don’t ignore this stage.

5. Acceptance. Towards the end of all these stages, you will come upon the days where you feel more acceptance of the situation. You may pass back and forth between the stages above, and by sticking with it, you’ll find your self beyond blaming or fixing. Feelings of anger and sadness will be diminished when you run in to him or her. You may find your self saying “It was what it was.” Then you may notice that you’ve grown as an adult, and things aren’t as bad as they once seemed. Doesn’t feel possible when all the trauma of the breakup is happening, though if you spend time authentically in each stage as they come up, you really can get to acceptance! Don’t give up on your self!

 

Jim Bowen MA LPC has been assisting individuals and couples since 1992, with offices in Boulder and Denver. Contact Jim with email or call him at 303-534-8717. Why not call for a free consultation?