The cycle of relational healing is very similar to the cycle of grieving when someone dies. Unfortunately, many people do not take the time to properly heal before getting into another relationship and then 2 or 3 relationships later, they can’t figure out what’s wrong. Too bad relationships aren’t like taking an exam for a license where you’re forced to wait at least 90-days before taking the test again.
Let’s take a look at the stages of grief as it relates to death (some sites will show you 4, 5, or 7 steps but it’s all basically the same):
1. SHOCK & DENIAL-
You will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.
2. PAIN & GUILT-
As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs.
You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn’t do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.
3. ANGER & BARGAINING-
Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the death on someone else. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion.
You may rail against fate, questioning “Why me?” You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair (“I will never drink again if you just bring him back”)
4. “DEPRESSION”, REFLECTION, LONELINESS-
Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be “talked out of it” by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.
During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.
5. THE UPWARD TURN-
As you start to adjust to life without your dear one, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your “depression” begins to lift slightly.
6. RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH-
As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your loved one. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life without him or her.
7. ACCEPTANCE & HOPE-
During this, the last of the seven stages in this grief model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before this tragedy. But you will find a way forward. You will start to look forward and actually plan things for the future. Eventually, you will be able to think about your lost loved one without pain; sadness, yes, but the wrenching pain will be gone. You will once again anticipate some good times to come, and yes, even find joy again in the experience of living.
You may think it’s crazy to compare it to death but think about it… the ending of a relationship, marriage, or family when love is involved it is a death. It’s a relational death. I know I am not the only person in this world who has experienced every single one of these things during the course of a divorce. When a relationship is breaking apart there are all of the surface parts in play and also the spiritual that many ignore. When you join yourself to another person (even if you only do it once) you become one flesh physically and in the spirit. When that bond is severed, there is unseen emotional and spiritual damage that has been done and needs time to heal. If you do not take time to complete this process? You are setting yourself up for failure and why set your self up if you want to have a relationship that is meaningful again? A lot of divorcees “jump the gun”. I have seen time and time again, folks not even divorced yet and they hop into another relationship because they’re so accustomed to being married that they immediately look for a routine or structure to put themselves back into. Nine times out of ten rebound relationships fail.
Being single is not a disease. We have got to take the time to love ourselves, especially those of us with children who are absorbing everything we do, and everything we don’t do. Don’t worry about what people think or appearances, those things don’t make or break you. God gave you a life that He wants you to live abundantly, especially in love.