As the third anniversary of the stupidest decision I’ve ever made is coming up, I’ve wondered if there are stages of working through the grief. And how do you know when you’re done with it? Every time I’ve gone through a rough patch, I’ve been able to trace defined steps of grief: shock, manic action, depression, acceptance, and realization. The one time I truly believed the world was falling down, I oddly didn’t have any of these normal steps. It was overwhelming shock, emotional and physical pain, and then nothingness. I shut down completely and went emotionally numb. I had no idea of what a normal way to cope was. Now a lot of people may be thinking, ‘Jeez, it’s been three years, get over it already.’ I’m over “it” and what happened, but not quite the trust that I have the ability to survive anything like that again or cope like a normal person. Sometimes I wonder, what’s going to put me back in that mental/emotional place I don’t ever want to go again? I found this article that sums it up, the healthy ways to cope. It’s specifically for breakups, but I think it could apply to other grieving times as well.
Mark Banschick, MD: Getting Over Him In Six Steps
By Mark Banschick, MD
Posted: Nov 8, 2012, 3:00:57 AM
You’ve been dumped. It feels like hell, and you don’t know what to do. What will it take to get over a nasty affair, or worse, an unexpected divorce? And will you or your kids make it?
The key is to your recovery is to take back control and own your life. Acceptance is mandatory. As hard as it sounds, there’s no moving forward as long as you’re mired in regret, anger or fear. This is not to say that you don’t have to protect yourself, and sometimes, your children. He may be manipulative. She may be dangerous. Acceptance does not mean passivity, it means living in the present, the future and not in the pain of the past.
Here are six steps to feeling yourself again:
Mourn: You sacrificed a lot for your marriage and it didn’t work out. Feeling hurt, anger, remorse, guilt, or shame is normal. You will have to go through the steps of grief one by one: denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance. Get a good therapist and grieve properly. You may still be angry with your narcissistic ex wife or your adulterous husband, and that is a part of the healing process. If, however, you get stuck in one of the phases of grief like anger or depression, make sure that you’re in good hands.
Admit: Admit that you cannot control everything. It is hardly productive to focus on the “what ifs” of the past. Admit that breaking up cost you something — be it emotionally, financially, or both. Bad things do happen to good people.
Trust: Have faith that you won’t feel like this forever. Healing is what your body and soul really wants. And healing is what your children want. Perhaps this is an opportunity for spirituality. Many people are comforted by the sense of being held by a God who cares. If you’re not inclined toward religion, perhaps get in touch with the grandness of the world. See your story as the part of a complete human experience. Meditate and observe. It can liberate.
Forgive: Forgive yourself, forgive the universe, and if possible, forgive your ex. Understand that everyone carries their own injuries, and that he or she may be fighting his or her own demons.
Make Centered Decisions: To forgive is not to forget. Become more aware so that you can move forward. If this means self-protection, then self-protect. If it means allowing your kids to see an ex you hate, but who is a loving parent, allow it to happen. Wounds of the past should not prevent you from making sound decisions. Plus, taking care of business properly feels good.
Accept: You are now in a place where you can understand what happened to you more clearly. Maybe your narcissistic husband or boyfriend did not truly love you. Acceptance is necessary, and at some point, you need not fight the past. It means seeing things clearly.
In the aftermath of a divorce, your emotions may seem overwhelming. I urge you to experience them all, from the outrage to the hurt to the self doubt and the fear of what comes next. Grief work is required, and it’s a necessary component of healing.
Grief is the spiritual equivalent to the body slowly healing a bad wound. It gets triggered time after time, overwhelming when least expected. But it gets worked through and the wound ultimately heals.
Life is not fair.
Loss hurts. If he left you, then you are holding a bag of resentment and hurt. If you left him, you’ve been grieving the loss of your marriage for some time. It’s a big loss. We all want to rage at the world, or crawl into a depressed spot when we feel the injustice and randomness of our pain.
Acceptance heals. Real acceptance is a gift — for you and for everyone else in the world. If you try and shortcut your healing, you will not get there. Losing a relationship is a loss and grieving is required. Just know that there is hope, a brighter tomorrow and that true acceptance can help you and your children get there.
Acceptance is an evolutionary good because acceptance doesn’t mean passivity. It means freedom.