Rarely does anyone consider the need to grieve the loss of a love relationship. Society tells us we are "supposed" to get over the person in a relatively short period of time, six months or maybe a year? If the person was a cheater or an abuser we are supposed to get over that relationship even quicker. The advice we receive comes from well meaning friends or family members, however, it is usually not helpful to the person experiencing the loss.
I call it a loss because that is what we are talking about. The Loss of a love relationship. It is very similar to death, sometimes even more difficult than the death of a loved one. I have even heard these words more than once from divorced clients, "it would have been easier if he/she would have died."
Cold? Yes, it sounds cold. However, for the person trapped in a long-term, abusive, controlling and emotionally empty relationship they just want the person to go away and never come back. There is very little closure because in many divorced relationships the two will be connected for life especially when children are involved.
For those who have experienced the death of a loved one, parent, sibling, spouse etc. you know the deep heart ache that comes from not being able to see, touch or be with that person ever again. We never fully recover. We are "in" recovery but will never get over that person. We learn to adapt to the loss and make adjustments to the way we live, and survive without that person physically present in our lives any longer. There is no complete closure, we are not meant to get over the person who died. We do our best to find our new normal in life. And so it goes with the loss of a love relationship. We are finding a new normal.
Death vs. Divorce
When someone dies the person or persons grieving the loss are consoled by many. They receive cards with money in them. They receive food from caring family and friends and in many cases condolences from people whom they may not have seen for many years. If the grieving person belongs to a faith community, that community surrounds them with love, compassion and possibly a grief support group. The grieving may receive several home visits by a pastor and will most likely receive many plants and flowers at the wake and funeral. Not so with a divorce or loss of a long term partner or other love relationship.
Those who grieve from the loss of a marriage or long term partner or other love relationship may receive support from one or two friends or family members, however, in many cases there is no support. Why is this? I believe that most people do not know how to be present to someone who is experiencing the end of a love relationship. We don't like to see someone we care for in pain so we try to fix the person or situation becoming an armchair counselor causing more damage than good.
Grief is a feeling, mourning (a loss) is what we do with the feelings surrounding the grief. Grief is not to be "fixed". Although, many feel the need to fix a grieving person. After all how long can someone stay sad? There is a scene in the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun, where the main character, Francis, who has just experienced a shocking and very emotional divorce due to her husbands infidelity with a younger woman, moves into a short-term apartment complex. The creepy landlord says, "you getting a divorce? Most residents here are getting a divorce." He goes on to name the residents in other apartments and their expertise that may help Francis. There is a man in the neighboring apartment sobbing loud enough for Francis and the landlord to hear him through the apartment wall. The landlord states, "if the crying bothers you just pound on the wall, (the landlord pounds three times) and he'll stop." Francis looks at the landlord with the longest weariest face I've ever seen. He hands her the keys and exits the apartment. Francis looks around, says the word "home" and falls to the floor in a fetal position.
Unfortunately, grief gone unhealed can look like the neighbor guy who has been sobbing for years. Or like Francis, falling on the floor in the fetal position.
We will not be able to move on if we do not heal our pain, the past, and all that comes with it. Healing has much to do with looking closely at the inner-self. Sound hokey? Maybe, but it's true. First we need to become familiar with who we are. In many relationships a person can loose a sense of who they are. I speak from experience here. I was raised in a home that served the man. That is all I knew, all I saw, and what I learned. My needs came last. I took this teaching into my adult life and it nearly killed me. It certainly destroyed my spirit for a while. Until, that is, I reached a place where I was not going to live a life for someone else. Once I was conscience of this, each day I became stronger and healing the past was doable.
So, how can you begin to heal? Seek out a professional in the grief field. If you need therapy, seek out a good therapist for a while. In therapy, there is a beginning, middle and end. You will have a goal to reach with your therapist. Reaching for an emotional wellness goal feels wonderful! It's much like learning anything new. First, there is fear of the unknown, then trust is built up. Next, a relationship begins to develop and we talk beyond the headlines of our lives. Once you develop a trusting, open relationship with your therapist the healing begins.
How do you know if you need therapy? Your pain does not subside and it is affecting your everyday life, your family, your work and your other relationships. Maybe you can't sleep at night, you can't think clearly or make simple decisions. That may mean it's time to seek professional help. There is no shame in seeking help!
Seek out ongoing support. In AA recovery is a life-long process. Recovery is looked at one-day-at-a-time. So it goes with healing a love loss. Take it one-day-at-a-time, with patience, and with self love. A support group is a great way to bond with those who are experiencing the same things you are. In support groups we find people who speak the same language. It eases the pain and allows us to listen to someone else. We learn to empathize with the other. By expressing our painful emotions out loud, or telling our story, the pain begins to diminish over time. Life feels renewed. Life has a purpose again. Then you will be ready to live your gifts.
Tanya is a wife, mother and grandmother. She spends all her free time with her family. Tanya's passion is to guide others to a place of peace through spiritual direction. She leads divorce recovery and support groups as well as grief support groups in her area. Tanya also facilitates directed retreats for those in need of healing from divorce. As an experienced trainer Tanya also provides train the trainer services for adult groups in hopes that others will also develop support groups in their communities.