There are stages of grief that must be experienced when a significant loss has been suffered in one's life. The standard accepted stages of grief are as follows:
We all go through these stages, each of us in our own way, when something emotionally damaging has occurred. Death is probably one of the most easily recognizable causes for grief.
When a loved one, especially a husband, wife, or life partner dies, family and friends usually surround the surviving family members with love, comfort, and understanding. Whether the partners have been together for a short time or many years, there is sympathy, and an almost universal understanding of the pain that the remaining partner experiences.
Death is never an easy event with which to contend, and while we do not always understand why a person may die, death is something that most people, when allowed to grieve properly, can eventually accept. The pain lessens over time, and eventually, life moves on and the remaining partner begins the healing process. During the mourning period, love and support are very important in helping one to learn to move past the pain.
Most people seem to understand this, and partners who mourn the death of their spouse often have friends and family who help them through this difficult process. But what about when a relationship or marriage ends, and one partner in the relationship was neither expecting nor desiring the relationship to end?
This is a difficult situation, and while no one wants to take away from the pain one who loses a loved one to death experiences, it is important for friends and family who support someone through a break up or divorce understand that losing a relationship, even though the partner who left did not die, is just as painful as if a death had occurred. It is still a loss, and that loss must be grieved and experienced for healing to occur.
Who among us hasn't heard the following at some point?
"He wasn't good enough for you anyway, good riddance!"
"You need to just get over it and move on!"
"Just forget about her, there are plenty of other women out there to date!"
It is probably safe to say that none of these statements would have ever been said to someone whose partner had died, so why do people feel that statements like this are beneficial to those who have lost a relationship? They aren't helpful, and in fact, can be emotionally damaging, no matter how well intentioned.
Whether a relationship ends in death or divorce doesn't change the fact that there will be a significant change and loss to the person who was not wanting the relationship to end. Friends and family, and even the jilted party, need to know that it is okay to give permission to hurt, to grieve, and to experience the pain of the loss.
Only when we allow ourselves to truly experience the pain of an emotional loss can we even begin to heal. This means that we must go through the grieving process and be fair to ourselves or those we support during this difficult time, by allowing enough time to properly heal without any expectations of how we should move forward with our lives.
Unlike death, the grieving process for a break up or divorce has an added complication. The other party is still alive, and in the process of the break up or divorce, the grieving party may still have to interact with that other person. This is difficult at best, because each new interaction with the other person often begins the grieving process over again, bringing up both the painful and pleasant memories of the past. At this point in the grieving processes, even the pleasant memories can be painful, when the realization that moments like this with their partner will never occur again.
It's easy to get stuck at one of the stages of the grieving process when we must still interact with the now 'EX' who was once so much a part of our lives. The important thing to remember is that getting stuck on one of the stages of grief is not unusual, and is indeed perfectly normal. At these moments, it's important to take a step back and work through the previous steps until we can finally come to that place of releasing, which will eventually lead to acceptance.
If you are a friend of someone who has recently experienced a loss through a break up or divorce, you obviously do not want your friend to get stuck, and you may truly mean well by urging your friend to move on with their lives. However, be sure to acknowledge your friend's right to experience the pain of the loss. While you may want your friend to move on with their life as soon as possible, it is important that, as long as your friend keeps moving forward, you merely support and encourage them along the way. Everyone moves on in their own time, and there is no exact 'right' time for a person to move forward.
The best thing you can do for your friend is to simply be thereâ€¦ listen when they need to talk, let them tell their story over and over again if they need to, and don't try to tell them how to fix things. Eventually, your friend will come out of the grief, and on the other side, they will appreciate and remember that you were the one who allowed them the time they needed to heal.
It's hard to support someone you care about when they are suffering a loss, of any kind, but understanding the need for your friend to experience the different stages of grief, and being there for them during this difficult time, will help strengthen your friendship. In the end, one day, you may need your friend to be there for you, and if you support them well now, they will be better able to support your needs when and if the time comes to do so.