ERP 135: How To Handle Grief a Loss In Relationship
Grief is a universal emotion, and loss is an experience we can all relate to…whether we have been faced with a tragedy beyond our control, like a natural disaster, or whether we are contemplating a relationship separation or divorce. Even the act of addressing long-standing issues in relationship, can bring up feelings of anticipatory grief. This is especially true when confronting significant issues or issues that haven’t been dealt with for a long while. Once we are questioning the relationship, we are contemplating the possible loss. Grief is a natural response to loss and can evoke intense emotional pain. (Please listen to the podcast episode or read the transcript to hear explanations, stories and examples.) EMOTIONAL LITERACY a GRIEF Processing grief is a difficult task in and of itself and is made even more difficult when we have little experience paying attention to our emotional world. When we are not accustomed to meeting our feelings, we do not have emotional literacy. Emotional literacy refers to the ability to understand, express, and manage our feelings. In Dr. Jennifer Ballarini’s post, “The Police Officer’s Paradox,” she quotes Lt. Al Benner with the San Francisco Police. “To function effectively in our job, you must annihilate, smother, and suppress normal emotions like fear, anger, revulsion, and even compassion. To do so otherwise is to invite overwhelming doubt or hesitancy when decisive action is required. The penalty for your achieved competence is a mindset that might as well be a foreign language to your social contemporaries. We are…victims of our own success. When these same normal and appropriate emotions…surface in personal relationships, we automatically shut down and wonder why, over time, that the people we care about the most complain that we are aloof, cold, and uncommunicative.” — Lt. Al Benner, San Francisco Police People in other professions like surgeons, doctors, nurses, first responders, firefighters, etc. are also required to set aside their emotions, so that they can focus on their job to protect, save, and heal. Our upbringings can also influence our emotional literacy. If we grew up in an environment that did not welcome, allow, or value emotions, then we are likely to have negative beliefs about emotions. For example, emotions are: irrational purposeless valueless not to be trusted dangerous unsafe unknown mysterious. When we do not have experience giving our emotions value, we tend to feel overwhelmed when confronted with intense emotional pain. We have a hard time being with present with our feelings. We don’t know what to do. WHAT GRIEF FEELS LIKE: Grief will look different for each person. There is no right way to grieve and there is no exact time frame for the process. The feelings of grief often come in waves. You may feel fine one moment and then the next moment, you may feel unbearable pain. Your body is working overtime to recover and heal. You will likely undergo an emotional, physical, psychological response to the loss. You may experience a range of feelings: Shock Numbness Sadness Guilt Anger Fear Irritability You may experience physical symptoms such as: No appetite or nausea Sleep disturbances Difficulty thinking or making decisions Fatigue Anxiety Stressed Mental focus and memory difficulties. You may be struggling with questions like: Who am I now? What is really important now? You may feel a sense of shattering of your: Identity Goals Dreams Desires Expectations. WHAT TO BE AWARE OF WITH GRIEF: Grief will trigger feelings of previous loss grief and loss. Pay special attention to when you are activated (or triggered) and what feelings are coming up for you, especially if you have experienced trauma in the past. I highly encourage seeking additional support in this event. Grief is different than depression. If you notice that you are having negative thoughts or negative behaviors towards yourself, please consider getting support and guidance to handle your loss. A depressive state can greatly complicate the grieving and healing process. FIVE STAGES OF GRIEF 1. Shock or Denial. “This can’t be happening. I don’t know how to process this. This is too much to deal with. I can’t do this right now.”2. Anger. “This is messed up. I am so mad at you. Why did you do this to me? You ruined my life. I wasted so much time with you.”3. Bargaining. “What if we tried this or tried that? What if I was different in this way? What if I did this for you?”4. Acceptance. “She is leaving me. I don’t want to be in relationship anymore. I am sad, but it is what it is.”5. Moving on. “I am going to focus on improving myself. I am going to make a list of all the things I want to do. I want to meet new people.” Be patient with your grieving process. Stay tuned for part two for tips in how to deal and cope with grief and loss. To take your relationship development to the next level, check out the Connected Couple program. MENTIONED: ERP 112: What Makes Being Vulnerable So Hard? (podcast) ERP 080: Finding Family: Part Two (podcast) The Police Officer’s Paradox, by Dr. Jennifer Ballarini (article) Coping With Grief a Loss, by HelpGuide.org (article) Empowered Relationship FB Page Photo by Ben White on Unsplash TRANSCRIPT: Click on this link to access the transcript for this episode: If you have a topic you would like me to discuss, please reach out to me. Here is my contact information. I would really appreciate your honest rating and review. Please leave a review by clicking here. Thank you! If you are interested in developing new skills to overcome relationship challenges, please consider taking the Empowered Relationship Course or doing relationship coaching work with me.