One must allow yourself the time and space to work through the grieving process and not try to deny or suppress it.
The end of a relationship has a huge impact
When a marriage or a serious intimate relationship comes to an end, there are so many aspects of one's life that are affected. Some people may experience a sense of relief, others feel as though their world is collapsing (and experience a sense of desolation - as if they have lost their sense of security), others experience a combination of experiences.
There are probably also adjustments that need to be made, e.g. change of place of residence, routine, handling of the children, financial arrangements to be made, etc. (See also Adjustments) This is usually accompanied by the experience of a number of other losses.
The obvious loss is certainly that of a partner or companion, the one who's always been there, maybe a best friend or girlfriend. This loss can leave a huge gap in one's life.
There are other losses involved, such as the loss of a lifestyle, certain friends / groups of friends, certain habits or routines. The processing process may benefit from making a list of the things you feel you have lost, almost as if you remind yourself that you may be sad and mourning over the losses.
Many women (and men) feel that they lose a part of their identity when a relationship ends, because much of how they defined themselves was intertwined with their relationship and their role within the relationship. Suddenly, there are so many uncertainties, of which doubts about "who" they are (as singles) can be a big part.
The process of getting to know yourself after the trauma is sometimes long and difficult. We also often hear people say that they want to find their "old self" again. There might be traits that were repressed in the relationship, or interests that could not be lived out. One must also take into account that there will be parts of yourself that have changed. Therefore, it may also be a process of discovery during which one must get to know and appreciate the new one. It is important to give yourself time to go through this process.
Depending on the course of the relationship and how it ended, traumatic experiences may also need to be processed. For example, where there has been abuse or infidelity, there is usually a lot of pain (and sometimes anger) that needs to be dealt with.
It is important to be honest with yourself about the effect the experiences have had on you. Denying the pain (the pain does not exist), minimizing it (the pain is not so bad) or suppressing it (what pain?) Usually leads to other problems in the long run. This can make you vulnerable to symptoms of anxiety, depression and even alcohol or substance abuse. That is why it is usually necessary to get professional help for this, so that one can process the trauma.
Dealing with the loss
- Acknowledge the loss
Whether the event was the end of a relationship (your choice or not), the loss of a dream, or a baby - there is always some "abandonment of something" involved. For some, the experience of the loss may be more intense than for others, but it is important to be honest with yourself about the extent of the emotion you are experiencing.
It is usually not just minor adjustments that need to be made and you are not over-sensitive when you experience grief as a result. Give yourself enough time to mourn your loss.
- Pay attention to your feelings
As mentioned below losses, one experiences different emotions at different times. Allow yourself to be angry, sad, disappointed, anxious, discouraged, etc. feeling and articulating it in a way that does not harm yourself, or anyone else, e.g. by crying or writing a letter (which you never send). Suppressing your emotions can be detrimental to your mental health in the long run. So it is important to talk about your feelings and what you are experiencing.
- Do not exclude other people
It is necessary to be alone sometimes, but there are usually people around you who would like to support you. They cannot take the loss away, but communicate your needs to them and allow them to support you appropriately. You can also expect other people to not always know what to say - and sometimes to say the wrong things. This is to be expected, since no one can really say anything that will take away the hurt.
- Take time
Your circumstances may not allow you to take a break to deal with your loss. Life goes on and one usually has many responsibilities to fulfill. However, it is important to remember that processing a loss is not a quick process. So you have to give yourself the grace to mourn and not try to move too fast or make big decisions.
- Be creative or creative
For some people it helps to do something creative or symbolic as part of their grieving process. There are examples of women who scrapbookingattend classes or groups, or take art classes (or do art therapy) during which they can portray something of their grieving process, which can help with the processing process.
- Support groups
Some people also find that support groups mean a lot to them. One can do online searches to find specific groups in your area. Keep an eye on the notice board in your local library, your church's newspaper or the local newspaper. There is usually more support available than one is aware of.
- Ask professional help
You can call for professional help at any stage of this process, as it often helps to talk to someone who is not emotionally involved in your situation. BUT, most people seek professional help when they feel they have reached a dead end and experience an already darkening mood. At this stage, the people around them often no longer know what to say. If you have reached this stage in your grieving process, it is very important to contact your GP or psychologist as soon as possible. You are not a weakling when you reach out to a professional for help.
- ask your GP or nearest hospital for a referral; or
- Visit one of the following websites for the details of a psychologist in your area:
- You can also call the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) 24-hour helpline on 0800 12 13 14.
Advice to the loved ones of a person who is experiencing a loss (someone outside the loss)
- What should I do?
First, it is the person's grieving process. It is no one else's responsibility to try to make it better. A loss is a loss and all you can do is go through the grieving process.
- Emotions are important, just listen
Allow him / her enough time to feel and express sadness, anger (or any other emotion). Don't try to say something that will "make it better". Be available, but also be honest about what you can offer.
- Arrange a "outing for the soul"
Sometimes the person may need someone to take him / her out of their situation for a moment to appreciate something more beautiful, e.g. to walk by the sea, or drink tea in a quiet garden or park.
- Offer a safe place
Sometimes someone just needs to know they are welcome somewhere. For example, the person may spend time with you / in your home, but they do not need to talk. They can only "be".
- Ask if you don't know
If you do not know how to provide support, ask the person what their need is and how you can help. Even if the person cannot answer the question, it means a lot that you are interested and want to help.
- Offer practical help
Loss-affected people do not have the energy to think about simple tasks, especially in the beginning, even if they have the time to do so. It can mean a lot if someone can look after a basic need. Again, one must always ask first and have respect for one's wishes. You can't just assume they want help.
So, for example, ask if you:
- can bring a meal;
- take the children (if any) to school;
- fetch the maid or take them to public transport;
- wash a few bundles of laundry;
- washing the dishes;
- can make a few calls to make arrangements;
- buy groceries or pick up something from the pharmacy; and / or
- if there are children, you may be welcome if you can pick them up for a play date.
Are you struggling to move on after your last love affair or divorce? Do you catch yourself watching the person's social media all the time, or are you trying to think of ways to touch the person?