When you go through a divorce or the breakup of a long-term relationship, you can experience a whole range of complex emotions. It can be a roller-coaster of emotions. It’s important to say it’s completely normal. Divorce is the second most traumatic event you can experience in your life, second only to the loss of a loved one, so it’s no wonder it can knock us sideways.
Everyone experiences grief differently depending on their various circumstances. There is no right or wrong way to grieve and there’s no ‘normal’ or ‘accepted’ period of grieving.
There is a cycle of loss that was developed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969 that helps to explain the 5 stages of grief that are experienced when going through a breakup. It’s useful to know where you are in the cycle so that you can understand why you are experiencing the different emotions.
Denial – This is the first of the stages when we often go into shock and avoidance and we don’t want to talk about it. We can be confused if it’s suddenly sprung on us completely out of the blue. I know I was in this stage for a couple of months. I couldn’t believe that the life I thought I had no longer existed and had been ripped away from me.
We avoid talking about it as that would make it seem more real.
Friends or family might feel like you’re putting your head in the sand and not dealing with it, but it’s just too painful and this is our body’s way of protecting us.
Anger – This is the second stage where our mood and energy levels rise compared to the denial stage. We can experience frustration, irritation, anxiety and full on rage. We are far more likely to confront our partner in this stage.
The anger can be really paralysing and controlling and completely take over if it’s not dealt with and can lead to really destructive behaviour. When you hear about people cutting up their ex’s clothes – this is the stage they’re in.
Bargaining – Things have started to calm down a bit in this stage and the energy levels drop. This can be where someone might try and change themselves in the hope of attracting their partner back and retrieving their relationship eg going on a strict diet to lose weight.
You might be so scared of a future without your ex and the change that comes with it, that you do everything possible to hang on to them as that’s what you know.
Depression – This is where our mood and energy levels hit rock bottom. Our mood is really low and we’ve given up on trying to save the relationship. This is totally normal as we’re grieving the end of our relationship and we’re letting go. I was stuck in this stage for a long time. I had no energy and everything felt an effort – getting up, going to work, even seeing friends was hard work. I felt like I had nothing to offer.
Acceptance – This is where we finally accept that the relationship is really over and there’s no going back. We can still get stuck in this stage though and not knowing how we move on with our life. We can often lose our identity in our relationship and lose sight of what we really want. This is an opportunity to take time out and think about what you want for your future.
We don’t necessarily move through these stages one after another. We can jump from one stage to another and even jump back to a stage we’ve already been in. We can get stuck in a stage.
We can often feel like we’ve taken one step forward and two back. This is because our body only lets us deal with a certain amount of pain at a time based on what it thinks we can process. This means we can start feeling like we’re moving forward when it suddenly gives us something else to process and we feel like we’ve gone backwards. We are still moving forward though, we’re just processing more of the grief.
If you feel like you’re struggling to process the grief or stuck in one of the stages, then come and find me on Facebook or Instagram or head over to my website and get in touch to see how I can help.