Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Five Stages of Grief

People keep saying to me that I'm going through the stages of grief. After all, I am grieving the break-up of a nine year relationship. So I thought about that and I looked it up.

The K├╝bler-Ross Grief Cycle:
1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

When I read this, I felt like those five stages looked very familiar to me. They looked familiar because I went through all five before we even broke up. That in itself is a pretty interesting thought. But it wasn’t until I really examined each stage that I began to realize where in the cycle I am now (6 weeks after the break-up), Anger. And surprisingly, anger feels pretty good.

When I reflect on the time before the break-up, I realize that I went through each stage while I was in the process of accepting that we had to break-up. It went like this:

  1. Denial -- We wouldn't break up. All the things that I was so unhappy about weren't that bad. We would be fine eventually. It can be ignored.
  2. Anger -- Anger at him for not reacting to us falling apart, that he wouldn't give me what I needed. But that anger was passive aggressive, withdrawn, and distanced. I lived with it for a long time and didn't express it.
  3. Bargaining -- If I just give more of myself and ask for less, it'll work out.
  4. Depression -- I lost interest in myself and my own happiness. I felt lost, alone and distraught.
  5. Acceptance -- One day I burst into tears, unprovoked, and let it all out. I knew we were over and voiced it.

It took another 6 weeks before I was finally ready to let go. During those 6 weeks I again cycled through the stages.

  1. Denial --It's really not that bad. After all, we love each other. We cant possibly be apart.
  2. Anger -- Hating him for all this pain, but again I was passive.
  3. Bargaining -- Trying to find ways to live with what he could give.
  4. Depression, and then finally...
  5. Acceptance -- Setting the date for moving out.

So now where am I? Time and distance has offered me a lot of perspective. I can tell that I am back at #2, Anger.

It's weird, I didn't even know I was that angry until very recently. I go through my days with a pretty level head. Then one day I thought about why I kept waking up in the middle of the night in distress. It's my dreams. All the anger I bottled up and didn't express was inside of me and in my dreams I am hitting him, yelling at him, throwing vases at this head. I'm showing him all the anger I never let myself fully feel or express. Once I realized how angry I was, I started sleeping better.

I have a lot of anger towards him and it feels kind of great to allow myself to feel it. For so long, I didnt let myself feel how angry and sad I was. I just lived with it and pushed it down. To allow myself the freedom to feel angry feels wonderful and supportive and better yet, healthy. This anger is helping me see all the negative aspects of the relationship that I just pushed aside for so long so I wouldnt make things worse. I think now I feel comfortable being mad, realize its a part of the process, and will let it take its course.

But what about #3, Bargaining? What am I going to bargain for? What am I going to negotiate? I wonder if this is what I'll tell myself:

ME
OK, Self. What if you give up your dreams for a better life? Give up getting the kind of respect, love and attention that you deserve. Give up on the partnership you want.

SELF
Sure! We really don't need any of that stuff.

Well...maybe not. I've changed, in just these 6 weeks, I am different. I deserve so much more and I can't imagine giving up what I want now. Anger has helped me see that.

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