this initial stage you need to work on improving your self concept
and as you come closer to standing alone and realising how,
for a whole host of reasons, the very real fact that your relationship
has come to an end and you feel very real pain.
separation and as in the death of a partner are probably the
two most painful experiences you will feel in your life. We
need to use our pain, to flow with the pain rather than deny
it and to use it as motivation to grow and make fundamental
changes rather than stop this experience which will result in
our having wounds that may never heal. Some use the pain as
an excuse to remain bitter, angry, unhappy where others use
the pain to grow and expand at so many levels at this point
in their life. Which do you choose?
this stage the goal is to learn to be happy as a single person
before you look to becoming coupled again.
we shall be working with in our discussion sessions.
1. I am able to accept that my relationship is ending
or had ended.
2. I am comfortable telling my friends and family that
my relationship is ending or had ended.
3. I have begun to understand some of the reasons why
my relationship did not work out, and this has helped
me to overcome my feelings of denial.
4. I believe that even though relationship ending process
is painful it can be a positive and creative experience for
my future life.
5. I am ready to invest emotionally in my own personal
growth in order to become the person I would like to be.
6. I want to learn to become happy as a single person
before committing myself to another future relationship.
7. I will continue to invest in my own personal growth
even if my former partner and I plan to get back together with
STAGE - REBUILDING TWO
LONELINESS to ALONENESS
is natural to feel extreme loneliness when a relationship ends.
Healing can and will come from such pain if you listen and allow
this all important natural process to unfold so you can grow
through loneliness to the stage of aloneness where you are comfortable
being by yourself.
"Loneliness is a disease that grows slowly and undetected.
Its symptoms are terrifying.
Loneliness is a dark, unseeing well that covers you with sadness,
and a desperate race to conquer the complete spiritual and emotional
I am experiencing this disease, and wish I could find a cure
But even a ray of sunlight is a blessed thing.
For loneliness demands; it takes everything from you and in
return gives you nothing but solitude; as if you were the only
person in an unmerciful world." Elaine
working with people and listening to those going through this
process as I have done in my career I saw various kinds of loneliness.
There are the people who have withdrawn into their cave and
just peer out sullenly, looking very sad and dejected. Then
there are those who insist on being with someone else, so they
always are holding hands or following somebody around. Then
there are the busy people where they are always doing this and
that so they never have to face their loneliness.
Loneliness is pain but in such pain we are being shown something
that we have to learn. Loneliness can be like a vacuum where
the person deals with this by sucking everyone around them in
to fill their void.
It is not just for people at a time when they have ended a relationship
because for many it began in childhood and may be a stumbling
block for years to come in their life.
The loneliness that comes when a relationship ends is often
more intense than any emotion we have felt before. We have no
one with whom we share meals, our bed, and those special moments
and now when they are gone we know nothing but silence. There
is a strange emptiness and we can find no one in the whole world
to share our life and living it with. When friends try to reach
out they seem distant, even when we most need them to be close
and real. Within us we hear 'Withdraw, withdraw, and you won't
be hurt again!' and whilst this brings safe seclusion we at
the same time crave emotional warmth.
Whilst many people were lonely in the relationship they tell
me how they find themselves relieved to end the relationship
that encouraged loneliness. At this stage the rebuilding elements
in this module have a three stage pattern to them. For loneliness
the first stage is withdrawal. Some hide in empty homes and
brood so that no one will suspect their fear. Some may play
the 'poor little me' game, hoping that someone will come along
and feel sorry. Here the driving force is to keep others from
seeing how much we hurt, while at the same time letting the
former partner know what 'they' have done to us.
Withdrawal during this period may be appropriate because - let's
face it - we are not very good company. The need for emotional
warmth is insatiable. The need often stifles friends by engulfing
them and so denies them the space to be themselves, to be friends.
ways to escape this loneliness causes many people to enter a
second stage of becoming busyholics, with an activity for each
night of the week and two activities for each night of the weekend.
They work long hours at their jobs and find other excuses so
they don't have to go back to their empty lonely home. Interestingly
enough it is also possible to find many workaholics who are
still in a relationship - perhaps to keep them from coming home
to a lonely relationship.
Here we are running from ourselves as though a ghost of loneliness
hides inside. We never take time to stop and look at what we
are doing or where we are going because, yes you guessed it,
you are too busy running or going around in circles instead
of moving on to the next stage.
This busy loneliness varies in length and intensity from person
to person but eventually most people realise it must end and
they slow down into the aloneness stage. Someone once called
this aloneness stage the 'all-oneness' stage because you have
reached a point where you are now comfortable by yourself. You
have achieved this by accepting that loneliness is a natural
part of being human. It also has healing qualities allowing
introspection, reflection, growth and connection with part of
inner self which may have lay hidden until this point in our
life leading for a sense of fullness and strength.
following checklist is useful for us to work on in our next
session or sessions. If you can answer yes to most of the items
in this list you have a developed a healthy aloneness. If areas
need work then we will focus on these in our work together.
1. I am taking time for myself rather than keeping too
2. I am not working such long hours and I have no time
3. I am not hiding from loneliness by being with people
I don't enjoy being with.
4. I have begun to fill up my time with activities important
5 I have stopped hiding and withdrawing into my home.
6. I have stopped trying to find another relationship
just to avoid being lonely.
7. I am content doing things by myself.
8. I have stopped running from loneliness.
9. I am not letting the feelings of loneliness control
10. I am comfortable being alone and have aloneness time?
STAGE - REBUILDING THREE
is the scoreboard:
Dumpers end the relationship -
Dumpees have it ended for them.
Naturally the adjustment process differs since dumpers feel
more guilt and dumpees feel more rejection.
Dumpers start their adjustment process while still in the relationship
but dumpees start adjusting later after the ending of the relationship.
For the 'mutuals' (those who jointly
decide to end the relationship) the adjustment process is somewhat
At this point let me explain that I am going to present four
key concepts that are very closely intertwined but also I should
point out that it may get confusing at times. We are going to
be viewing the two main people in the end of a relationship
drama as the dumper or the dumpee and we will be exploring the
nature of two very strong feelings which accompany the trauma
of relationship endings -
GUILT and REJECTION
There are different groups of people at this
stage in the recovery process.
(1) Those who walk around in shock, lying on the ground
trying to get their emotional wind back
(2) or those walking around looking guilty and trying
not to look at those on the ground.
(3) Then there are the others who are walking around
holding hands with their former partner..
People in the first category (1)
On the ground is the dumpee who
was walking the pathway of life when their partner announced
they were leaving them and the relationship. OK sometimes the
dumpee had some warning and sometimes none at all but either
way they have a great deal of difficulty accepting the ending
of the relationship.
People in the second category
(2) Now those looking guilty and
often acting very guilty are the dumpers.
They had been thinking about leaving the relationship for some
time and were always busy trying to get their courage up to
do so but they knew it would hurt their partner. So naturally
they avoid looking at the dumpees lying on the ground because
that makes them feel more guilty. Often they have moved on further
along the process than the dumpee and don't have the same intensity
People in the third category (3)
Finally, the ones holding hands are the MUTUALS
having jointly decided to end the relationship. However in my
imaginary picture do you notice how few of them there are! OK
I hear your question 'why are they ending a relationship if
they are such good friends?' And the answer is that because
they are such good friends they think of each other and don't
wish to be unhappy together in the relationship they have and
they want the relationship to end to the benefit of both of
To summarise what we are going to be discussing
and exploring in this session:
Dumpers are the partners who leave the relationship, and they
often feel considerable guilt; dumpees are the partners who
want to hang on to the relationship, and they often experience
feelings of rejection. Of course it is not really as simple
as that but later we will explore in more detail and at this
stage I am giving you a map of what we are going to explore.
Nearly everyone has been a dumpee in some relationship and we
all know how no one enjoys rejection. I have found that I become
very introspective, continually examining myself to find what
fault within me causes people to reject me and such self-examination
helps me to see myself more clearly and perhaps, as a result,
I will change the way I relate to people. So in one sense feeling
rejected is helpful. Everyone brings much of their past into
a relationship, a past which often determines the course of
events in a relationship. Because the relationship has ended
it does not mean that I am inadequate or inferior or that there
is something wrong with me. Feeling good about yourself is a
difficult goal to meet and so don't feel discouraged if it takes
quite a period of time to admit that the responsibility is mutual
and not yours or your partners alone.
You are a worthwhile person capable of loving and being loved
and you have something special to offer and that is your own
unique individual self.
Now let us look at guilt. If you feel no guilt you are being
harmful to yourself and others because a sense of guilt is helpful
in making decisions about the way one chooses to live. Unfortunately,
many people experience so much guilt that they become inhibited
and controlled and so the happy balance is just enough guilt
to maintain a sense of direction without restricting future
The dumper feels powerful feelings of guilt in hurting someone
they love or used to love and so the best solution is to listen
to your head rather than your heart given that the end of the
relationship is, in reality, positive because the relationship
developed into being destructive for both people. Instead of
sitting around feeling guilty those involved need to be able
to say 'this is probably the best decision for both of us.'
One way to resolve guilt is to punish yourself to relieve the
guilt. If you see yourself as trying to punish yourself by setting
yourself up to experience pain in relationships, maybe you should
look at the feelings of guilt from your past which may be motivating
Guilt is usually a result of not living up to some standard
of behaviour. If the standard is one you have freely chosen
for yourself, and is it a possible one, it is probably healthy
to feel some guilt about falling short. But if the standard
is someone else's, or societies and not one you have adopted
for your own then your guilt feelings are not productive. So
time to give yourself a break as it is tough enough to live
up to your own standards and you can't please everyone.
'But,' you tell me, 'staying in loving relationships is one
of my standards. I feel guilty because I didn't make the relationship
work, so I failed to meet one of my own standards.' I realise
and understand the feeling.
What I hope for you is that you can come to accept your own
humanness. Nobody is perfect so maybe you should take a look
at that guilt and consider a more useful response to the situation.
Try this one for size:
'My partner and I aren't able to make our relationship meet
our needs and provide us happiness. It appears that, somehow
or another, we didn't learn enough about interacting with another
person in a committed loving relationship.'
One person in one of my seminar's responded at this point to
what I said and shared how they remembered whilst at school
taking a test that they hadn't fully prepared for. They did
badly on the test at the time but didn't fail the whole course.
As an adult we can feel guilty because a relationship didn't
work. Maybe we can learn from the experience so we can do better
next time. We may even help our ex-partner to learn something
positive about themselves for the future.
I want at this stage to compare appropriate guilt to the large
reservoir of guilt that seems to be free floating within our
feelings and personalities. Appropriate guilt is when we do
something wrong or do something to hurt somebody, and we feel
badly about it. When a relationship ends, it is very appropriate
for us to feel bad about hurting somebody or for that matter
hurting ourselves. So here appropriate guilt is a process we
However, many of us have long standing guilt, usually from childhood,
and there is a large reservoir of guilty feelings waiting to
be released. Some event will come along and tap into this reservoir
of guilt. Then we will suddenly feel so guilty that we feel
anxious, afraid and fearful. The guilt grows to become overwhelming
because it does not appear attached to or related to anything
around us. It just feels hugh in both our mind and our heart.
If we have this sort of free floating guilt within us we may
need help in counselling to cut down and remove the guilt so
we can get it under control or make sure that we do not project
such feelings again in our future life.
Acceptance is an important aspect of dealing with rejection
and guilt. In my seminars over the years the emotional atmosphere
is that of accepting one's own feelings and a feeling of emotional
support and so being with people going through similar processes
makes us feel accepted. So if you can find warm, supportive,
accepting friends you will be able to heal feelings of rejection.
Rejection and guilt are also closely tied to feelings of self-worth
and self-love which we will be discussing and exploring later
in our work together. Our aim is to improve your feelings of
self-worth and self-love so in the future you will be less devastated
At this stage you may not know if you are a dumper or a dumpee.
First of all it may be a concept that you might not have thought
about it. Second, the roles may switch back and forth. Well,
language is a clue to whether you are a dumper or dumpee for
when I am talking to a seminar group I can frequently identify
someone as a dumper or dumpee just by the questions she or he
How, well dumper vocabulary goes like this:
need some time and space to get my head straight. I need to
be out of this relationship in order to get that time and space.
I care for you, but don't love you enough to live with you..
I feel bad about hurting you, but there is nothing I can do
about that because staying with you would also hurt you. Can
we be friends?'
Dumpee vocabulary goes like this:
don't leave me! Why don't you love me? Tell me what is wrong
with me and I will change. There must be something wrong with
me, and I don't know what it is. Please tell me what I did wrong.
I thought we had a good relationship and I don't see why you
want to leave. Please give me some more time before you leave.
I know you want to be friends but I love you. Please don't leave
The dumper may reply:
have been trying for a long time to tell you that I was unhappy
in the relationship and that we needed to change. You just wouldn't
listen. I have tried everything. I don't have any more time.
You keep hanging onto me and I just want to be friends.'
Dumpees at this point are likely to be hurt and to cry. They
become introspective and try to understand what went wrong:
'Why am I unlovable?' and 'Why did our relationship have to
end?' Often there is denial of feelings while the dumpee gains
time to recover from the shock. The emotional pain is great
for the dumpee at this point.
The vocabulary seems universal; almost all dumpers and dumpees
use the same words. The problem of timing is evident. The dumper
claims to have been trying for 'months and years' to do something
about the problem and during much of that time was thinking
about leaving. The dumpee has not heard this dissatisfaction,
perhaps because he or she had started using denial long before
the dumper actually left. But when the dumper makes the announcement,
the dumpee really starts denying and refusing to believe there
is anything wrong, 'We had such a good relationship!'
Notice the difference in priorities. The dumper wants to work
on personal growth and the dumpee want to work on the relationship.
The dumpee is angry but the dumpee does not express these angry
emotions because the relationship ending is still in the early
During this period the dumper is feeling much guilt, acting
super nice, and wants to give the dumpee anything. The dumpee
is feeling rejected, willing to give the dumper anything. The
dumpee is feeling rejected, anxious for the dumper to come back,
and afraid to express anger for fear it will drive the dumper
even further away.
Eventually anger replaces the feeling of guilt in the dumper
and the feelings of rejection in the dumpee and at this stage
the relationship ending honeymoon period is over. This phase
often begins around three months after separation, but the timing
may vary. 'Good court settlements' are often negotiated because
dumpers feel so guilty they will give up everything, while dumpees
will settle for anything in the hope of getting the dumper back.
Within this basic structure there
are two other elements to consider.
The good dumper is a person who has tried to
work on the relationship in order to make it last. A good dumper
was willing to make changes, invest emotionally in trying to
change, and enter relationship counselling but has finally realised
that the relationship was destructive to both people, and that
it is better to end an unhealthy relationship than to continue
to destroy each other. This person has the courage and strength
to end the relationship, and it often takes a great deal of
courage and strength to do so.
Then there are Bad Dumpers who are similar to run away children.
They believe the grass is greener on the other side and all
that is needed for happiness is to get out of the relationship.
There is often another relationship waiting in the wings. The
bad dumper avoids dealing with feelings and avoids looking inside
at attitudes that might need to be changed. Bad dumpers often
leave quickly without even a goodbye conversation or explanation
of their intent to end the partnership.
Good dumpees are open, honest, willing to work on the relationship
and willing to go for counselling. They seldom have had an affair,
and have likely worked on communicating. However, there are
no innocent victims in the sense that they too have done things
to hurt the relationship. They are basically at the wrong time
and place when the internal explosion and the need to be out
of the relationship takes place in the dumper.
Bad dumpees are people who want out of the relationship but
do not have the courage and strength to be the dumper. They
make it miserable for the other person who is then is forced
into being the dumper.
There are few of us who fit perfectly into these four categories.
Most people are a combination of both good and bad dumpers or
Another important series of elements in the dumper / dumpee
relationship is the pain cycle. The dumper is not hurting as
much when the relationship ends, but the dumpee's pain is great
and motivates rapid growth and adjustment. When the dumpee is
reaching a good emotional adjustment, the dumper frequently
comes back and begins talking about reconciliation. This really
blows the dumpee away.
Gordon exclaimed, 'I devoted all of my emotional energy to learning
to accept the ending of the relationship and I'd given up completely
the hope that John would come back. And then he called me!'
There are many different ways to interpret this phenomenon:
Perhaps the dumper, in contrast to the sense of euphoria when
they first left, has found it so scary out there in the single
world and that the security of the old relationship now looks
Another interpretation is illustrated by dumpee anger, 'He made
me the dumpee. Now he wants to make me the dumper, to share
the guilt!' Perhaps the best explanation comes from observing
that the dumper comes back around the time the dumpee is 'making
it' successfully in terms of rebuilding their future life. So
maybe when John no longer felt the quilt and responsibility
of having Gordon cling with dependency to him he felt free to
come back into the more equal relationship.
The typical dumpee reaction is not to take the dumper back.
Dumpees find that they can make it on their own, that being
single has advantages, and that it feels good to experience
the personal growth that has been unfolding during this period
of separation for them. If you get a dumpee to talk long enough,
you will learn what was wrong with the relationship. It is only
during the first period of denial that the dumpee maintains
there was nothing wrong with the relationship. 'Now I can see
what was happening all of those years! Besides, I don't see
that much change and personal growth in John, so why should
I want him and the old relationship back?' At this point the
dumper usually gets dumped!
I hope that this discussion of dumpers and dumpees will enable
you to see that feelings of guilt and rejection are part of
the process. Intellectual understanding is often the first step
of awareness that leads to emotional understanding. Feelings
of guilt and rejection are normal and typical during the ending
of a relationship - in fact you may have been experiencing these
feelings before. But the ending of a relationship tends to magnify
and emphasize feelings so you can be more aware of them and
thereby learn to deal with the more effectively.
Take some time now to consider the different perspectives partners
get of what happened during the ending of the relationship.
Take a look at the checklist so we can
prepare for our discussion.
1. I am no longer
overwhelmed by feelings of guilt and/or rejection.
2. I can accept that I was either a dumper or a dumpee
or that we made a mutual decision to end the relationship.
3. I can now accept that being a dumper may not necessarily
mean I should now remain feeling guilty.
4. I can now accept that being a dumpee may not necessarily
mean I should feel rejected and unlovable.
5. I am aware of the difference in feelings and behaviour
between dumpers and dumpees.
6. I realise that both dumpers and dumpees feel emotional
pain even though it may differ in both timing and intensity.
7. I understand that in some areas I was a dumper and
in other areas I was a dumpee, since this is typical
of most relationships.
8. I understand the concept of dumper/dumpee is most
meaningful at the point of separation and as I grow and
move forwards it becomes less and less important to me in
9. I have looked at my life patterns to see if rejection
or guilt feelings have controlled much of my behaviour in the
10. I am working to overcome the influence of rejection
and guilt in my life ?
STAGE REBUILDING FOUR
: BOYS and GIRLS DO CRY
is a very important part of the process when a relationship
has ended and so you need to work through these emotions in
order to move on fully to the next stage. Here, initially, we
will intellectually explore the stages of grief so that you
become emotionally aware of grief process and thereby to enable
you to do the grieving that you have been afraid to embrace
and experience. We will then work through this challenging process
in our one to one sessions.
"Weekends are... all the lonely hours poured into remembering.
All the lonely thoughts poured into trying to forget.
The harder I try to forget, the easier it is to remember.
The past can't die and the future can't live......But the present
If silence is deafening, then what is quiet?
Quiet is weekends and weekends are hell.
Wake up and face the reality - why should I?
Weekends enforce reality, weekdays subdue it.
Saturday - it's a world of two plus two, where one has no meaning
and no value.
Sunday the body rests, but where is the 'off' button for the
is going to be quite a long section and so I have put in some
all-important breaks for you to take time out from reading and
create time for reflection. It will be good to have your journal
to hand and open in case you wish to write a few notes or draw
a few line images.
We are now working with one of the most difficult and emotionally
draining aspects of rebuilding. Whenever there is loss of something
important in our lives we suffer grief. For death there is a
set ritual with funeral, coffin and the acceptance that grieving
is important. In ending a relationship there are no prescribed
rituals other than a court hearing, the packing up of a home
and informing friends and family and so grief is often not acknowledged
or accepted and the death of a relationship is cause for us
Many forms of loss happen when a relationship ends which many
people grieve over. There is the loss of a future; the sharing
of a future as a couple, of love, of partner and lover and the
social status of being a couple and then there is the loss of
role both personally and within society and the status as a
couple and all that that communicates both to us and those around
us. So for many people the loss of the relationship is as important
as the loss of the partner.
Then there is the loss of the future and plans, goals, careers
and home together. It is very common when we end a relationship
to look at past pain. I have found that many people have not
grieved a loss in the past, such as the death of a loved one
connecting with another loss now in our life often powerfully
connects with re-experiencing past pain which intensifies the
current grieving process. Essentially for those who carried
such unresolved loss from the past their current grief is especially
painful and difficult.
But it is not just about past loss. If we have a history of
unfulfilled emotional needs such as one man who began working
the seminar on unhappiness he experienced during his lonely
childhood then here is the chance to break free. Many people
are forced to move away from the house they lived together with
their partner in and single parents have to grief the loss of
children when they are with the other parent. Naturally the
children must also grieve the loss of a house, parent and family.
for most people grief has a push-pull effect.
When you are hurt you have a massive empty feeling
and you expect friends to help you fill it. You talk to friends
and get close to them and yet you still have this empty feeling
like a big wound and therefore you feel so vulnerable to being
hurt again. As a result when people get too close you tend to
push them away in order to prevent further emotional pain. Naturally
this creates quiet a mixed message for your friends.
With grief we feel emotionally drained and sleep problems are
often common. Either falling asleep at night if we don't use
drugs or alcohol or waking up early in the morning and though
tired unable to go back to sleep. This is a major concern at
a time when we need to have rest both mentally as well as physically.
Also the content of our dreams or the fact that on waking we
return to the reality of loss makes grief hard work. It is quite
normal if challenging to feel continuously tired until we have
finished our process of grieving.
Eating is a problem during grief. It is common to feel a tightness
in the throat and find swallowing difficult. Sometimes the mouth
feels dry and you may not have much of an appetite resulting
in forcing yourself to eat.
Rapid mood changes are typical during grief given that in one
moment you feel forgetful or distracted and then suddenly emotions
rise only to find that almost a second later the pain is once
again with you. The whole sudden mood swing may have been triggered
by a conversation from a friend showing an act of kindness and
also your friends can feel confused and sad not knowing what
they have done to upset you.
There may period when you sense a loss of reality, of being
in a daze, in an unreal world. You observe the world as though
watching a film, remote and detached from the events happening
around you. You may also experience a period of lack of contact
in regard to your emotions and this is based on the fact that
you are afraid to trust your feelings because of your inability
to control them. The emotional pain is so great; you have to
protect yourself from feeling too much by effectively creating
times of deadening your emotions. At these times it is common
to have a sense of emotional 'numbness'.
Many people report to me how they experience a lot of fantasizing
during grief. Fantasizing about seeing your former partner,
or that you hear their voice. That part of your body is missing,
as though your heart were removed, which symbolizes the loss
of the other person. For many this part of the process may be
frightening if you do not recognise that it is a natural and
normal part of the grieving process.
Loneliness, lack of concentration, weakness and a feeling of
helplessness, depression or as I prefer to term it given grief
is a normal healthy reaction 'intense sadness'; guilt, lack
of sexual interest and perhaps the feeling of impotence or frigidity
may accompany the grieving process. Self-criticism in the sense
of a need to continually question your mistakes and how you
relieve the past unfold on a daily basis during this part of
Anger is a part of grief resulting from powerful feelings in
regard to the unfairness of both the recent loss as well as
life in general. Anger directed towards your former partner
may approach rage in its intensity but I will look in more detail
about this part of the process in our next online session.
Suicidal feelings are common with approximately three fourths
of people attending seminars reporting such thoughts and feelings.
Research indicates a much higher than normal rate of suicidal
thoughts and the associated feelings can appear overwhelming
at such a time. Such apparently uncontrollable mood swings,
loss of reality, fantasies, intense sadness, and suicidal feelings
often lead us to question 'Am I going crazy?' and for many this
is a difficult fear to discuss. As you can guess holding such
a fear simply makes it even more isolated and challenging but
rest assured that this is a natural normal feeling which everyone
experiences rather than a permanent psychological diagnosis.
You are experiencing normal grief reactions.
So these grief symptoms may be handled by acknowledging them,
accepting that they indicate grief work to be done and allowing,
with the right support, to feel the pain without the denial.
Crying, shouting, and writhing are non-destructive actions to
express your grief and so make a decision to manage the grief
by deciding on an appropriate time and place to do grief work.
When you are working this is naturally not the time so you must
contain and put the grief to one side which becomes easier one
you have consciously set aside times to allow your grieving
process to unfold. In doing so your emotions become easier to
control at other times.
Elsewhere you can read about my work in PNI (psycho-neuroimmunolgy)
and the common almost universal fact that if you do not travel
through your grief work then your body may express the repressed
feelings of grief in psychosomatic symptoms of illness. This
may be simple aliments such as headaches, or you may develop
ulcers, arthritis, and asthma as unresolved grief puts a great
deal of stress upon all parts of your body.
Naturally we try to protect ourselves during this time and many
people I work with say this part of the rebuilding process is
the hardest as they don't want to experience the pain and crying
of grief. Somewhere deep inside you will know when the grief
work is complete and you have worked through the process of
letting go it means that you cannot experience these feelings
TIME TO TAKE A BREAK
Let me take you through the major stages involved
in the grieving process or journey. I am greatly indebted to
my friend and colleague, Dr Elizabeth Kubler-Ross for her fine
work in helping clarify the stages of the grief process.
Stage 1. The
first reaction is DENIAL 'This isn't
happening to me. If I just wait a while, everything will be
okay and we will be back together again.' This is often
a state of emotional shock, numbness, and denial of feelings.
Naturally one may enter an almost robotic phase
during this time, acting as though nothing is happening, repressing
anger and a few other emotions as well and feeling down no matter
people say or what happens around you. There is the hope that
your partner will not leave and you will wake up and all will
have been a nasty dream. You don't want to talk to people be
they friends of neighbours about the ending of the relationship
indeed you don't really want to tell yourself as this would
make it real.
Stage 2. Is
the emergence of powerful feelings as one gradually begins to
accept the end of the relationship and such powerful feelings
of anger start to emerge and often at the most unexpected times.
ANGER that is turned inwards can
contribute to a form of reactive depression.
As we work on this stage expressing the anger
now feels easier but there is also concern that the partner
will not return to the relationship at any cost because of such
anger which can result in times of feeling both guilt and ambivalence.
Now the frustrations in the relationship which built up over
time may also surface in the form of intense feelings of anger.
Friends will have told you how they wondered how you tolerated
your former partner for so long. In turn it may be the case
that you go to great lengths to convince others how terrible
your former partner was which often results in the "Catch
22" situation where you lose both ways. If you talk about
how good that person is, how do you stay angry? But if you say
how terrible that person is, then the question becomes why did
you choose such a terrible person to love in the first place!
You have now started to work through the grief process when
you admit and express such anger.
You are beginning to face the fact that the relationship is
ending, yet for a whole host of reasons both emotional and practical
with reluctance, one may start BARGAINING:
"I'll do anything. Just take me back!"
This stage is dangerous for the ending process
because many people do get back together, but for all the wrong
reasons - to avoid loneliness and unhappiness in considering
life without their partner. They are not choosing to live successfully
with their former partner but instead choosing the 'lesser of
Stage 4. Stage
four of grief is LETTING GO of the relationship
and is essentially the darkness before the dawn.
Very intense sadness is typical of this stage
but differs in expression from the earlier stage of intense
sadness about the loss of the relationship and extends to your
live in general in the sense of 'Is this all there is to life?'
There is much internal dialogue about the meanings of life:
'Why am I here on earth? What is the purpose of my life?'
This is a stage of personal growth to build a stronger identity,
to find a deeper purpose for living and to make life more meaningful.
A number of people are left feeling like they can't go on living
during this stage with feelings such as 'I've tried so long
and worked so hard, and here I am again down in the pits and
I don't want to let go!' Because this stage sometimes comes
so long after the actual separation, people are naturally surprised
to feel so down and intensely sad again. It is discouraging
to have worked so hard and feel so little progress. However
I have found that once people are aware of this stage and that
it is a stage then they progress through it more easily. They
are essentially comforted to realise that this is a normal feeling
and they are not getting anything wrong at all. Be encouraged
to know that with the right support hat this stage will not
last for ever and that it is very different from the earlier
stage of grief.
This is the stage of ACCEPTANCE of the
loss of the relationship. You have
begun to feel free from the emotional pain of grief and to no
longer feel the need to invest emotionally in the past relationship.
Now one can begin to move along the journey with personal freedom
It is critically important to work through these five stages
of grief before entering another relationship. We will discuss
the reasons for this in our session.
Now you feel and understand the grieving process and have permission
to grieve as a healthy mental activity you may feel freer to
do some needed grieving which may even include some past loss
besides that of the loss of the relationship in your life. People
I work with often find writing a letter and certainly when my
partner died this is something that I didn't just find helpful
at the time but in the future for it was something that helped
me when I entered another transitionary phase in my life.
addition to our working together I encourage you to use your
close and insightful friends for support as you work through
your grief and do not talk to people who have never grieved
for they often have no understanding or respect for this powerful
and all important process. This is something that we will focus
on in our session so just make a mental note at this stage.
our checklist before our next session is:
1. I give myself permission to grieve if and when I need
2. I am not burying the grief and sadness anymore but
I am trying to express it.
3. I now have physical and emotional energy from morning
4. I have stopped feeling intense sadness most of the
5. I have no trouble concentrating.
6. I no longer feel like crying most of the time.
7. I have overcome the feeling that I am in a dazed state
all of the time.
8. My emotions and moods are back in my control.
9. I have no trouble going to sleep and sleeping all
10. I notice that my body weight has stabilized.
11. My appetite is good.
12. I no longer feel mechanical in my day to day living
13. I have outgrown the feeling that I am losing my mind.
14. I have stopped continually talking about my relationship
and life crisis.
15. I have no thoughts of ending my life.
16. I no longer have a lump in my throat.
17. My stomach feels relaxed.
18. I am beginning to be emotionally close to people
19. I understand the grief process.
20. I have identified which of the five stages of grief
that I am in.
21. I have identified what I need to grieve be this a
person, relationship, a future.
22. I am comfortable talking about my feelings of grief
with a close friend.
23. I have written a letter of good-bye to the loss I
am experiencing now?
STAGE REBUILDING FIVE
How Could You Do This To ME! ?
will feel powerful rage when your relationship ends. Feeling
anger is a natural, healthy part of being human. However,
anger is different from aggression which is a destructive
form of expressing anger.
It is not healthy to keep your anger locked up inside and
nor is it to expresses aggressively. You can learn to express
both your anger over the ending of your relationship along
with everyday anger constructively.
I don't know what came over me. I saw his car in the parking
bay and I knew he had met this girlfriend and left in her
car. I went over and let the air out of all four tyres. Then
I went behind a building and waited until they returned so
I could watch them find his car with the tyres flat.
I watched them trying to solve their problem and I felt so,
so good. I've never done anything like that before in my life.
Guess I didn't know how angry I could get. Jean.
We are approaching a point where we can become consumed with
anger and if we don't deal with it adequately, it can stop
us in our tracks instead of us progressing through the rebuilding
Relationship anger is extreme rage, vindictiveness, and bitterness
which at time seems overpowering. It is a special kind of
anger that we usually have not experienced before and many
of our friends who are still in relationships do not understand
it either unless they have gone through the breakdown and
end of a relationship.
You may try to keep this anger inside and not express it and
this can result in reactive depression because one cause of
such intense sadness is anger not being expressed. The dumper
does not express it because he/she feels guilty and the dumpee
fears the other person will not come back so both are 'nice'
for a while, except that they feel a lot of intensely sad
thoughts and feelings.
Anger is expressed in violent ways many times.. Many people,
given the opportunity while they are angriest, will commit
an act of violence. It is crucial at such times to be able
to restrain ourselves and find more suitable methods of expressing
these feelings of rage and vindictiveness. We can find more
constructive uses of anger than destroying ourselves with
depression and psychosomatic problems (headaches, body tension,
ulcers, and the like.) Also, since the fires of anger can
spread to other rebuilding stages, if we can work our way
through this block, we will have much less trouble handling
the other all important parts on our rebuilding journey.
This rebuilding block has three
One - learning to accept
that it is okay and part of being human to feel angry. There
are many myths in our society that say that to be angry is
to be weak, childish or destructive. In essence we are told
that it is not permissible to be angry. Now we have to relearn
that it is natural and whilst this might be easy to do intellectually
it is much more difficult to embrace emotionally. Remember
there is a difference between that feeling of anger and the
way we act to express it.
after we embrace that we are human and naturally feel anger
we now need to see positive ways of expression which are not
destructive to ourselves or those around us. We can do it
with humour and physical exercise.
One of the most destructive ways is where people use children
as a vehicle for expressing anger at their former partner.
Some make children into spies when they return from visits.
Some people restrict their former partner access.
Three - is the stage
of forgiveness and this is not just about forgiving the other
person but also learning to forgive yourself for we are also
angry with ourselves. You are responsible for this anger because
it is your feeling not someone else's and whilst projecting
blame for anger on to someone else may be a part of the process
- the part that allows us to get out the anger that has been
causing our depression - when you get further along the journey
you must learn to take responsibility for that anger yourself.
Essentially it is so much easier to blame someone else but
this stage of forgiveness is actually learning to forgive
ourselves for the choices we have made or the actions we have
taken and letting go of our anger.
At this point I would like to discuss positive ways to express
anger; ways that will not be harmful to you or to others.
Let me emphasize that important difference between the special
relationship ending anger you may feel and your anger in connection
to other life situations. First I will present some ways to
express your anger whenever it occurs in your relationships.
Relationship ending anger needs to be vented and released
in a non-destructive way. Anger in future relationships -
friends, family, partners, and children - needs to be expressed
directly, firmly, honestly but in a constructive way to encourage
communication and a deeper relationship.
Let's us focus for a short while on our temptation and desire
to take our anger out on the former spouses directly. We want
to call them up and hurt them, get back at them, be vindictive,
and express our anger directly to them. I do not believe that
this is helpful in most cases. When you throw a few logs on
the relationship ending - anger fire, your ex may throw a
few logs back in retaliation. Pretty soon the fire is consuming
both of you. I suggest that you express your anger in other
ways, such as those suggested here, rather than taking it
out on your former partner.
Humour is a very effective way of getting rid of anger. Harriet
was the comedian of one seminar group. She would come to the
group and say, 'I don't know what to tell people when they
ask me where my former partner is. I don't want to tell them
that he's off with another woman. So I finally decided that
next time a person asks me, I'll tell them that he croaked!'
she laughs and the whole class laughs and everyone has vented
angry feelings through laughter.
One of the most effective ways of expressing anger is to call
a friend and say, 'I need to talk about this anger that I
am feeling. I know I may not make sense sometimes, I know
that I may become very emotional. and I know that some of
the things that I say may not be what I'm really feeling all
of the time. But right now I'm feeling really angry, and I
need you to listen to me talk about my anger.'
Many people are able to use fantasies to help get rid of it.
Sandy was an expert on this. She would fantasize the following
would go to the garden store and buy a sack of hot lawn fertilizer.
Then in the middle of the night I would go over to my ex's
house and write obscene four letter words with the fertilizer
in front of his house. Then he would read them every time
he had to mow his front lawn all summer long!'
have to remember that these are fantasies and that we should
not act them out.
Physical exercise of any sort is usually helpful. Physical
games, jogging, house cleaning, beating a rug, or anything
like that is especially useful. Anger is a source of energy
and the energy has to be used up. Physical activity is a good
way of using up that energy.
Tears are another good way for some people to express anger
as crying is a positive, honest expression of feelings. Another
effective way of getting rid of anger is to write a letter
saying all of the things that you would like to say to that
former partner. Write it in really big letters; maybe use
a piece of crayon and write it with lots of anger. But after
you have written the letter, do not post it. Instead, take
the letter to the fireplace and burn it up. You have both
expressed and symbolically burned up your anger.
You can use the 'empty chair', an effective gestalt therapy
technique, which I use often with people I work with as well
as with myself. Imagine the person sitting in an 'empty' chair
is your former partner, and say everything that you would
like to say to that person. If you are good enough at imaging,
you can even switch chairs and say the things that person
would say back to you. Then go back to your chair and say
the things that you would like to say again.
Another simple and effective way of getting anger out is to
take an old garden hose and cut to a three foot length. Simply
use it to beat on something that will not be damaged.
Incidentally, some people will not will not be able to express
their anger because of a need to keep such anger close to
them like a companion. If they let go of that anger, they
will not have it as a toll for punishing the other person.
So they have some sort of payoff or reward for keeping the
Anger is one of the most important rebuilding blocks for if
the fires are burning out of control in you then you will
have trouble working up along the process of recovery. A great
sense of relief will result from working through your anger
until there is nothing but ashes left. It will free you to
have energy for other areas in your life. You can forgive
yourself and the other person. You have stopped blaming yourself,
you have stopped feeling like a failure; you have found the
internal peace that comes from letting go of everything that
was painful. You find that you can talk to the former partner
in a calm and rational manner without becoming emotionally
upset. Now you can deal with friends- either your partner's
or yours - without becoming irritated.
TIME TO TAKE A BREAK
Have you thought about how appropriate it is
to feel very angry when a relationship ends? "What"
you may ask "is appropriate anger?" Anger that is
related to the present situation.
So the healthy approach to
such anger and dealing with it is:
1. Recognise and
allow yourself to believe that anger is a natural, normal,
healthy, non-evil human feeling. Everyone
feels it; we just don't all express it. So basically you needn't
fear your anger.
2. Remember you are responsible for your own feelings.
You got angry at what happened; the other person didn't 'make'
3. Remember that anger and aggression are not the same
thing. Anger can be expressed assertively.
4. Get to know yourself, so that you recognise those
events and behaviours which trigger your anger. As some say
'find your buttons, so you'll know when they are pushed.'
5 .Learn to relax. If you have developed the skill
of relaxing yourself, learn to apply this response when your
anger is triggered.
6. Develop assertive methods for expressing your anger,
following principles such as being spontaneous and not
waiting to let anger build into resentment; stating it
directly; avoiding sarcasm and innuendo; using honest
and expressive language; avoiding name calling, put downs
and physical attacks.
7. Keep your life clear. Deal with issues when they
arise, when you feel the feelings - not after hours/days or
weeks of stewing about it.
Go ahead and start to get angry but develop positive, assertive
styles for expression. You and those around you WILL appreciate
Now before our session check these statements
and remember to be honest with yourself.