Ending A Relationship
Dealing With Grief From Loss
By Jon Terrell, MA

This article is not about how to end a relationship. For advice on that go to Ending A Relationship Etiquette Tips.

This article is about dealing with the emotions you feel at the ending of a relationship.

When a relationship ends, we can experience a flood of often conflicting feelings. We feel confused, sad, angry, bitter, helpless, anxious, depressed, amongst other feelings.

My focus here is to clarify what may be going on for you, and talk about ways of getting through this difficult time.

Pain is always involved. It doesn’t matter whether you were the one who initiated the breakup, or the other person, or the relationship ended for other reasons, such as in a death. Emotional pain is always there.
We may try to deny it or hide from it or cover it up, but it is there.

And many of us haven’t fully dealt with past endings, past emotional pain. It just sits there, below our surface, often in the background.

My work is about helping people heal emotional pain.

Ending a relationship is especially difficult when there is the death of a loved one, it can take you some time. Even if there is not a death relationship endings can feel that way. Of all the feelings, grief is the slowest one to work through.

Grief has its own time schedule, and it does take time. But sometimes we get stuck in grief, and compound it with our thoughts, and this is where deep emotional healing work can be helpful.

Most people try to avoid grief. Our society doesn’t know how to deal with it, and that is why we deny it, suppress it, try to deflect it or escape it in some way.

But these short term fixes don’t really work. Grief needs to be felt and digested, so we can move on.

Otherwise, we can grow numb, not just to our grief but to all aspects of our life. As with other feelings, if we suppress and deny grief, we end up less aware and more caught up in our heads.

If grief is not suppressed too deeply, we will just get teary in a sad movie or story, feeling the grief portrayed, and feeling old grief memories coming up too. But if it is more deeply suppressed we just become numb and lifeless.

All feelings want to, and need to, come up into the air of the present moment and be felt… so they can be let go. Otherwise they just stay in us, stuck. We hold past grief in our bodies…around our hearts and in our bellies and it weighs us down.

One reason present grief is so painful is because of past losses, past grieving that we have not done.

Some people may try to drink their way out of it, or eat their way out or use some other addictive way to avoid and escape. These are addictive substances or activities exactly because they are really a substitute for the real work of feeling. Instead of the gold, they are fool’s gold.

The sooner you can feel your feelings, the more quickly you can get through them to the other side.

And there is another side. And that is the place of healing and deep understanding. Where we grow.

Each of the emotions...grief, anger, fear, etc., takes you part way through a journey. At first you it feels like you are just dumped there, unable to do anything but feel the pain. But gradually, as you experience your feelings, they change, they evolve, they transform. Each feeling offers a gift, but many people don't get far enough to experience the gift, they stop part way.

Each raw emotion moves towards its destiny, which is Love.

While that may sound abstract and hard for you to believe, I know it to be true. I see it over and over again, at our retreats. Hurt, anger, grief, confused feelings, when given space and met with loving awareness, transform into Love.

Ending a relationship brings grief, anger, fear, worry and other emotions. As we digest our stuck feelings they evolve. What slows this process down is our thought processes that block our really feeling each of these feelings. Below our thoughts are feelings, and it’s working through feelings that the real work of growth takes place.

Ending relationships is hard. We can get caught up in a web of thoughts that go around and around. It may be thoughts about yourself and your self worth. Ending relationships often bring up our old story about ourselves. We may have thoughts like these:

  • I’m no good
  • I always screw it up
  • It’s always my fault
  • I’m a failure
  • I’m never going to do it right
  • I’m never going to be happy
  • I’m too _______
  • How will I survive?

Low self esteem thoughts like these are on the surface of our awareness, our conscious awareness. Underlying old feelings (grief, anger and fear, etc.) are often semi-conscious, just below our conscious awareness. These old feelings of being unloved and unappreciated often have their origin in our childhoods.

We replay these feelings in situations like break ups as an opportunity to work through them. That's why it may seem like we replay certain hard situations like breakups. As we learn we can go through the feelings and let them evolve towards love.

While we can deal with those uncomfortable thoughts…”I’m no good” etc., it’s much more effective to work directly with the underlying feelings of grief, fear, frustration, anger, etc.

At our
Grief and Loss Retreat, this is just what we do. Participants work through the underlying feelings which allows deep change to take place.

The feelings are the foundation of a building of thoughts, and the old thought patterns no longer have a base to land on when we feel our feelings fully!

This is also true about old beliefs about the world in general. One favorite belief that traps people is:
It’s not fair

Another trap that keeps us from working through relationship endings are beliefs about others, such as:
  • It’s his/her fault
  • Why didn’t he/she____?
I’ve written a lot on this site about how to free yourself from the tyranny of old thoughts through emotional work. Here is one very brief exercise to start:

Sit quietly and focus your attention on your breath.

Take a few deep breaths, letting your awareness just focus on your breathing.

Breath slowly and fully, letting yourself inhale fully and exhale fully.

Pause a moment or two when each out breath is completed before you inhale.

After a minute or two gradually let your attention focus back into your life

Learn More About Anger here
Go from Ending Relationship to
Grief Retreats
Read my interview on
Emotional Wellness

Send me a message
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