Letting Go of the Dream: Grieving the Loss of a Love
The end of a marriage or a significant relationship is a huge loss. When it is sudden it can be especially devastating. One of the elements that make a loss of a significant relationship so difficult, especially when it is unexpected, is the overwhelming amount of little losses that happen with the end of a relationship. Understanding all of the losses that are involved can begin to help you understand your reaction to the absence of your partner and in some ways can also give you some direction on moving forward. It is important to understand that making a list of your losses and clarifying them will not magically make you feel better. It is a step in the process of understanding and accepting this loss. In addition, it may also give some little tasks to work on that will help give you some respite from your grief as you move through it. This is not the exercise to do when you are still dealing with the shock of it all. This exercise developed in my work doing Grief Therapy in Philadelphia is most appropriate when you are able to acknowledge that your relationship or marriage is indeed over. Get a piece of paper and a pen consider the following questions:
What role did this person have in my life? For example, best friend, lover, buffer with my family, leader, major emotional and /or financial support etc.
What role did this person have in the marriage/relationship? For example, he or she managed the money, did the cleaning, took care of the car, helped me to stay motivated, took charge of our social life, etc.
What expectations or dreams did this relationship symbolize? For example, I thought marriage was forever, I thought he/she was my soul mate, I thought he/she would be the father/mother of my children, he/she matched my ideal mate, he/she was my first love, I can only feel secure in a relationship, etc.
What tangible items did I lose that were meaningful? For example, my dream house, frequent contact with my children, my free time, my life as a stay-at-home mother, good friends of my spouse etc.
What intangible items did I lose that were meaningful? For example, status, community, self-esteem, confidence, belonging to someone, etc.
Be as thorough as you can with listing these things. Whatever is on your list is valid. If you feel it, it is real. Don’t think that you shouldn’t feel that way or that it doesn’t make sense for that to be a loss. This is not the time to explain things away, but to discover what the emotions of your grief are all about. All of these losses are contributing to your emotions and all of them need to be grieved. This list may seem overwhelming but keep in mind that you will need be grieving each loss individually but will grieve them collectively. Being able to acknowledge your losses allows for a much better understanding of your loss and its meaning.
If this assignment is too difficult, consider moving on, or contacting a grief therapist.
The next thing to do is to make a list of what you do have that are important to you and what you contribute to your life. For example, your list may have family, friends, my job, my faith etc. Try to list as many things as possible. Then, make a list of things that you contribute to your life. For example, I make a good living, I can manage money, I am determined, I am social and like people, etc. Sometimes our losses can feel so overwhelming that we forget the things that we do have that are positive and it is important to try and keep that in mind.
To schedule an appointment with a grief therapist in Philadelphia, call 267 324 9564