|image from: imgs.xkcd.com/comics/valentines_day.jpg|
I remember years ago reading about the stages of grief experienced when a person loses a loved one to death. The stages were described as being consistent, although not necessarily in a predictable order, or universally applicable. It seems to me that the 5 stages can also be applied to a situation where a relationship is lost, not necessarily to literal death but to a dramatic change in circumstances. There are definite overlaps between the two frameworks, and I'm only describing my own experience, so far, but I know that I'm not the only person in the universe coping with relationship challenges and thought perhaps that fumbling forward might be easier with the knowledge that there are others sympathetic to the struggles of romantic love.
1. Denial. This stage may vary in length, but, rest assured, even if your personal denial stage is brief (like the amount of time it takes to hang up the phone after you've been told your honey is stepping out til you walk into the next room and confront them) it will revisit you. Maybe even with a frequency that causes you to question every single thing you and your partner have shared. Ever.
2. Empathy. What person in a long term relationship hasn't thought of or imagined an affair? Perhaps you never acted on your longing for someone new and exciting, maybe it was lack of opportunity, or nerve, or ability that prevented your own infidelity from taking place, but, if you're honest with yourself, I imagine you'll recognize the similarity of desire that moved your partner to seek something beyond the borders of your union. Honestly.
3. Sadness. It hurts. You hurt. Waves of loss will mingle with your tears, trust me. And, you can trust me, although the sadness you're feeling will probably displace any trust you may have once held for the person who hurt you. Maybe for a long, long time. Maybe forever.
4. Rage. This is the scariest emotion for me, personally. I'm not prone to anger, but boy did I want to smash some things/people. I still don't know how I will respond to any unplanned encounters with those involved, but I'd like to think that I will move past this stage because it has the potential to harm me far more than any ass whooping I could inflict. Not that I wouldn't want to confirm this with some physical evidence...
5. Numbness. For me, this followed pretty closely behind my anger phase. Perhaps it was a response to the hyper-emotions I experienced when I was raging? It was a fairly short lived period for me, but it lead very directly to my next phase...
6. Manic activity. If you're my FB friend you may have recently observed a level of activity that was disturbing. Comings and goings at a frequency that positively boggled those who witnessed it. How do I know this? Because they communicated their concern to me via messages or phone calls. The bottom line on this is, for me, I prefer to be busy, even if it is the oldest avoidance trick in the book.
7. Depression. This isn't a place where I let myself linger. Fortunately, I have an ability to always remain aware that many people know far more difficult challenges than I do. I am sympathetic to people who may not have the capacity to see beyond their personal dark clouds and know that medication can be helpful, as can exercise and travel. For more information about the latter two, revisit #6 above.
8. Acceptance. This phase has been quite a trial for me. While I appreciate the reminder from the universe that life is a series of events conducted by imperfect beings, accepting events that have literally torn lives apart ain't easy. As a person who can be quite persuasive when necessary, accepting the situation and moving beyond the circumstances has been a remarkable challenge. Which leads to the next step...
9. Negotiation. Obviously, something was missing to cause the initial rift. Needs were not being met and this is the second best time for honest discussions to be held. Relationships and the expectations of individuals require frank conversation for resolution - this is the time.
10. Remembrance. Memories will be both painful and comforting, but life will continue and you will move beyond your loss, I promise. Remember to take care of yourself, remember to surround yourself with friends and family from whom you receive comfort and remember that this too will pass. And, don't forget to get yourself something chocolate. I heartily recommend the chocolate-chipotle cheesecake from Cheesecake Machismo - unforgettably delicious.