Losing anyone you love is difficult. But losing an affair partner is difficult and complicated. This is because you may be excluded from normal mourning activities and rituals, and may not be able to reach out to friends or loved ones for support. You may not feel comfortable attending the funeral and being around your affair partner’s spouse and family. The affair may have been a secret you kept even from your closest friends, leaving you unable to lean on them now. Social support and shared rituals are important parts of mourning practices - so what do you do without them when you’re grieving the death of your affair partner?
Mourning Your Affair Partner Step 1: Identify your feelings
The first thing you’ll want to do is check in with yourself and try to identify how you’re feeling. Try to get more specific than “sad” or “confused.” Journaling or talking out loud (to a trusted friend, to a therapy support group, or even to yourself!) can help clarify all of the emotions that may be whirling around inside of you. Be honest with yourself. Some of the feelings or thoughts you identify may feel “wrong.” That’s okay. Try to observe them without judgment. For example, you may not feel much at all. You may feel numb, or like you are in a dream. You may feel overwhelmed or disorganized, unable to focus. Perhaps you feel anxiety or panic. These feelings are especially common when that person was relied on for certain things, like financial security, cooking, or simply comforting and reassuring you when you felt bad. You may feel a great deal of anger at the deceased person for leaving you without saying goodbye, or for ruining the possibility of a future together. You may feel jealous of the person’s spouse or family for being able to mourn openly and for getting the support you want. You may feel shame or guilt over something you said or didn’t say, or over the affair itself. Again, these feelings can sometimes feel “wrong,” but try to simply observe them and accept them as they are. All of these thoughts and feelings are completely normal after the loss of an affair partner.
Mourning Your Affair Partner Step 2: Draw on your cultural or religious background
It can be helpful to think about what your mourning process would look like under normal circumstances. What would you want to be doing if you could be public about your grief? Think back to when you lost a family member, relative, friend, or even a beloved pet. What did you do? You may have attended a funeral, created a memento of the loved one such as a framed photo or dried flowers from the funeral, and talked about your memories of the person with family or friends. Was your mourning practice rooted in your cultural or religious background? If so, what were the shared rituals within your home, mosque, synagogue, church, or meeting space? Which aspects of those cultural or religious practices bring you comfort and peace? These are the things you may want to adapt and incorporate into your own grief process. For example, if wearing black is an important aspect of your cultural mourning process, how can you incorporate black into your wardrobe in honor of the loss of your affair partner? Funerals may be a central aspect of mourning. Many funeral homes can arrange discreet, private services for affair partners, estranged family members, or others who may be excluded from the public service.
One way to approach deciding what you want to incorporate into the mourning of your affair partner is to create a table listing all the traditions important to you and brainstorm possible modifications. To create this table, across the top, use the heading “Tradition” in one column, and “Modification” in the next. In the first column labeled “Tradition,” make a list of the traditions that come from your religion or culture that typically bring peace in times of mourning. In the next column labeled “Modification,” write one or two ideas of how you might be able to adapt the tradition to this new circumstance. For example, if “fasting” is a tradition in your religious or cultural background, a modified fast such as cutting out a specific food or a specific meal during the day. This modification may allow you to honor your traditional mourning practices, while also protecting your privacy and allowing you to be discrete if that is a concern for you.
Mourning Your Affair Partner Step 3: Create your own rituals and practices
If you do not have a reference point for past mourning practices, that’s okay. This is a personal process and you are allowed to create your own rituals and practices for grieving the death of your affair partner. The most important part of your mourning process is your own peace. So that leaves you free to do whatever it is that brings you the most peace, within your comfort zone. Think back on the things you and your affair partner enjoyed doing together. What routines did you have? Did they have a favorite food? Was there a place that you both loved to go together? What inside jokes did you share? Once you have a few ideas in mind, think of ways to honor those memories. These can be as discreet as needed. For example, can you leave a flower outside their favorite restaurant? Cook their favorite meal while listening to that band they loved? Perhaps you always talked on the phone during your commute. If it brings you peace, talk to that person during the drive. Hold the phone up to your ear and tell them that you miss them, or that you’re angry they’re gone.
You can consider using the same table activity from the step above to brainstorm ways to ritualize your special memories of your affair partner. For this step, make two columns labeled “Memories” and “Ways to Ritualize.” Under “Memories,” list important memories you have of time that you and your partner spent together, places you went, things that you both enjoyed. Under “Ways to Ritualize,” write down one or two ideas for how you might turn that memory into ritual that allows you to honor it regularly. When you have some ideas on your list, pick a few that are most meaningful to you and find time to incorporate them into your schedule. You may start by doing this daily or weekly, but may naturally use rituals less and less as you begin to heal from the loss of your affair partner. However, you can feel free to draw on them again on significant dates such as their birthday, the anniversary of their death, or the anniversary of the day you met. These are tools for your own healing. Use them as you wish.
Mourning Your Affair Partner Step 4: Find support where you can
Perhaps what you miss most about your affair partner is simply the companionship. It’s okay to feel lonely. You’ve lost someone important to you and things have changed as a result. You may have gotten into a routine with your partner, and now have to adjust to a new routine. You may have invested a great deal of time into this person and now you find yourself with free time that you’re not sure what to do with. You may have even neglected other relationships in your life, and now find yourself wanting to rekindle those relationships. It will take time to adapt to these changes and to figure out what your new life might look like without your affair partner. This is not about replacing that person, but about meeting your needs for companionship, support and caring relationships. However, try not to rush your grieving process. Your feelings are a sign of your affair partner’s importance in your life and the impact their loss has had on you. Sit with them for a while and let yourself feel them. When you’re ready, try to identify a friend or family member you can trust to listen compassionately and nonjudgmentally. Talking about the relationship, sharing your favorite memories or most difficult memories, and expressing your feelings of grief can help you feel less alone. Seeking out a grief group or individual therapy can also provide an important outlet and guidance for navigating the emotional journey of grieving the loss of your affair partner.
The tips above can help in recognizing, validating, expressing, and honoring your own experience. You’ve lost someone important, and it is natural to feel a mix of strong emotions. Losing an affair partner can be an alienating experience so it’s important to show yourself compassion by giving yourself permission to mourn. If you find yourself struggling to identify ways to mourn your affair partner or if you’d like someone to talk to about adjusting to a new life without your affair partner, feel free to call us at 215-922-5683 or click here to schedule an appointment with our grief specialists or click here to learn more about our grief therapy group.