Freedom, Spirituality, Thoughts

Grief: Finding gratitude in loss

I am reading this book titled Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends by Bruce Fisher, EDD, and Robert Alberti, Ph.D. as part of my divorce group therapy. The chapter we just finished was about grief. It talks about how when we lose someone we love via death, there is a ritual to help release the pain but with divorce, people have the expectation of you moving along and being minimally impacted, which is not always the case. Just like when someone dies, with divorce, you also have a plethora of reasons for grief. Whether you grieve because you miss the person and/or you grieve the future you were going to have, divorce and an end to a relationship deserve a ritual for processing those feelings.

There are five stages of grief. They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The stages of grief are not linear and there is no set duration for the time spent in each.

I have gone through the stages of grief at least twice I know for sure once during the marriage and once after the divorce. It was a time when I did a lot of ruminating and self-reflection to figure out how my marriage unfolded. This is just a portion of what I experienced from my truth.

I began with denial. I questioned my reality often and tried to see if I were overreacting or overly sensitive. My thoughts went like this: He said he won’t compliment me because it may swell my head. Am I vain? He said that he should be given credit for taking a picture that was used for an article about my volunteerism, then passed the comment off as a joke. Am I too sensitive? He made my mother’s death all about him and left me to grieve alone. I tried to be compassionate because I knew he was suffering too. Was a hug too much for me to ask in his time of sadness? He told me that I was inconsiderate when his father passed away. Was supposed to put my grief to the side for him? I made so many excuses for what I was experiencing because I could not believe that the person I loved would be, in my opinion, heartless. I tried so hard to justify my environment that when I finally began to see what was in front of me, I was pissed.

Enter, Anger. I began to stand up for myself and validate my own feelings. When I was asked, “Why can’t you just go along with things?” in response to him changing an agreed-upon plan without me, I answered with anger. I gave my all for this relationship and to hear him tell our marriage counselor that I was the reason he couldn’t save money after allowing him to live without helping with housing expenses for five years so that he could become debt free, I was pissed. There was a lot of anger. I allowed myself to love and to see beyond shortcomings because I believed in what we were building. When I saw that I was the only one holding the hammer, I tried to go and see if I could get him back.

When bargaining set in, I was doing everything I could to make the relationship work. But I had resentments and it was not easy to do because it felt like we were two ships passing in the night and I felt like I had already lost him. This was a time in our relationship when it felt like I no longer existed and being in any room that I was not in was better than being with me.

Depression was a quick and swift stage to enter. I felt ugly. I felt stupid. I felt like I was trapped. I was scared and alone. I had not properly grieved for my mother and I felt useless to do anything as a shell of my former self. I began to spiral. The yelling at me got worse and more often. The insults came harder and “jokes” became more hurtful. The confusion grew. I felt disliked by the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with and walked on eggshells just so that I didn’t make things worse.

I didn’t stay down for too long. I have always been resilient. I accepted the state of my relationship. I decided that if he didn’t want to spend time with me, I would spend time with the people who did: my children and myself. I was dragged back into a few of the previous phases when I thought he was coming back to me but in the end, he was really just trying to get my attention again. I was not the only one in this story with shadow work to do.

I say all of this not to be angry again about the past because I can now look back at all that occurred and see that it was all part of my growth. We did a meditation in group therapy and I learned something very valuable from my inner self. My loss is not to be mourned but to be seen as a gift to my soul.

When you lose someone, you mourn the future time you could have spent with them but you go back and remember all the things they taught you and miss their presence. You also gain strength in your ability to walk through life without the support and love of that person. You become a new version of yourself that faces new opportunities and challenges with new eyes based on experience. Loss should not be treated as something to avoid but something to appreciate.

I am grateful for my trauma. Not an easy thing to say but if not for it, I would not have a better understanding of myself and what I need to nourish my life. I learned a lot about what I don’t want, which led me to the things that I do want. I learned what marriage was through what it was not. I learned that through the loss of my relationship, I found my voice and gained my power back.

When someone dies in my culture, we don’t have a funeral, we have a celebration of life. So my message to you: Don’t mourn what should be celebrated. You are always a reason to celebrate.

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