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The Five Stages of Grieving a Separation


While relationship breakdown affects everyone differently, there is absolutely no doubt that it is an incredibly difficult time.

In fact, it is often said that the end of a relationship can be similar to the feeling experienced after the death of a loved one.

You may feel as if your world is falling apart or that you are completely out of control, and it is okay to feel that way, you are grieving the loss of a relationship that once was very dear to you. There may be stages where you feel like you may have it together for a couple of hours and then the next moment you collapse into unexpected sadness triggered by a memory or object that reminds you of your ex-partner.

At times like this it is important to take stock of how you are feeling and to understand that there are strong emotions involved in a separation and that it is perfectly okay to grieve that relationship.

The five stages of grief are often referred to and they do not differ between grieving the loss of a relationship, a death or the family dog that ran away.

Recognising and understanding these stages can go a long way to determining how you deal with them, or how you help a friend or family member going through a relationship breakdown to deal with them.

  1. Denial

Refusing to believe what has happened due to shock. This may be that you are having trouble accepting that your relationship is at an end. This feeling may be heightened when one partner moves on quicker than the other.

  1. Anger

 Such anger is often directed at your ex-partner, God (or your equivalent) or the universe. It could extend to anyone and feel never-ending at times. You may be angry because you feel like you’ve wasted time investing in a relationship that is now over. However, it is important to release this anger in a healthy way and realise that the time you spent with your ex-partner has helped to shape you into the person you are today. Take the opportunity to learn from that experience.

  1. Bargaining

It is human to want things as they were before. These ‘if only’ or ‘what if’ or ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’’ thoughts can lead us to find fault in ourselves. Hindsight is a beautiful thing and 20/20, but you can’t change it, that’s why it’s called hindsight. It’s vital to not get caught up in this endless cycle of thoughts.

  1. Depression

Feelings of listlessness, tiredness and withdrawal can all be symptoms of depression. If you’re experiencing any of these it’s a good idea to talk to your family and friends about how you are feeling and to remember that you’re not alone. It may also be wise to seek professional help in the form of a counsellor or psychologist, often recommended by your doctor or other professionals such as your family lawyer.

On the flip side, if you see someone else showing symptoms of depression, a simple check in and “how are you, are you doing okay?”couldgo a long way.

  1. Acceptance

Life goes on. The time taken to reach this stage will depend on the person, but when you get to this stage it will be an uplifting feeling, one of new beginnings because that is what your future holds.

Grieving a relationship, especially a long-term relationship, in which you shared so much of yourself is perfectly normal and healthy. It is a process though and if you don’t find yourself at the other end or progressing it may be a good idea to seek some assistance to work through how you’re feeling. Remember, the wellbeing of yourself and your children is paramount.

While recognising the five stages of grieving is one thing in a more general sense it is important to take stock at these times. Make sure you take time to understand that these emotions are normal in times like this; ask for help; get suitable professional assistance; and most importantly, take care of number one – you!