The post-separation emotional rollercoaster can be quite distressing - especially for the partner who didn't choose to end the relationship. After chatting to someone who had just recently separated, I could tell they were raw. (This is the term used by divorcees to reference another person's post-separation status – really raw to a little bit raw and everything in between.)
Barbara and Charles Asher who wrote Finishing the Grieving: a Key to Life After Divorce, described the emotions post separation as similar to those faced after the death of someone close. They write, 'Divorce represents the death of a marriage and all the hopes and dreams that went into it. And the death of a marriage, like any death, requires a grieving process for healing'. So what are the official stages of grieving (or, as we like to term, states of 'raw')?
David Kessler and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, experts in grief, describe the five stages of grieving:
Denial helps us to survive the loss. In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming. Life makes no sense. We are in a state of shock and denial. We go numb.
Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process. Be willing to feel your anger, even though it may seem endless. The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal.
Bargaining seems like you will do anything to get back what you are losing. We become lost in a maze of “If only…” or “What if…” statements. We want life returned to what is was. Guilt is often bargaining’s companion. The “if onlys” cause us to find fault in ourselves and what we think we could have done differently.
After bargaining, our attention moves squarely into the present. Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined. This depressive stage feels as though it will last forever. It’s important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness. It is the appropriate response to a great loss.
Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being “all right” or “OK” with what has happened. This is not the case. We will never like this reality or make it ok, but eventually we accept it. We learn to live with it. It is the new norm with which we must learn to live.
So if you're still in the grieving process, it's ok if you're not coping well. If you don't have a strong support network, ensure you reach out and seek professional guidance, as talking to someone who understands makes a world of difference. Your family doctor can point you in the right direction. Slowly, you will begin to feel stronger and more in control of your future, and you never know what new-found adventure is around the corner.