Grief is a universal experience. Every human goes through loss and change, in a plethora of great and small ways. These transitions and heartbreaks can build up if not dealt with. The buildup may be in the form of anxiety, reactivity, triggers, anger, tears, or depression, among other things. It can leak out daily, or in certain situations.
Understanding your grief will help you feel better and prevent this emotional leakage.
Grief From Loss of Friend or Relationship
One such loss that is common yet not spoken about as much is a friend breakup. Whether you initiated the ending of a friendship or the other person did, it hurts. Or you may have been ghosted – aka, ignored and ditched – which has a particular sting to it. Heaven forbid, you did the ghosting!
While there are of course many different scenarios, the experience of loss is similar for all breakups and relationship changes, whether friend, romance, family, work, etc. The person or dynamic may have been toxic for you, or it could have been wonderful, or a combination. The grief is there, regardless.
Keep reading to better understand your grief and what to do about it.
Understanding Your Grief
If you have lost a toxic friend or partner, your feelings are likely complicated. On one hand, you may feel relieved and like you have a new lease on life. You may feel your energy, joy, motivation, or freedom coming back. At the same time, you may feel a gaping hole in your heart or soul. Both are normal, and both are often present at the very same time. You may also feel a strong urge to track the person down if they left or hurt you.
It is usually best to stop pursuing the other person, especially if they have ghosted, blocked, or broken up with you. Tend to your own feelings first. You are in the midst of grief, and it may feel very intense. While you perceive that speaking to or being with your ex-friend or partner will help, what you really need is to focus on yourself (at least temporarily). Feeling grief doesn’t necessarily mean you should reconcile. It is simply what happens when relationships change or end.
Address your grief in the following 4 foundational ways.
1. Be aware of the grief stages
While our lives rarely match up with prescribed stages from a textbook, some frameworks are very powerful. Naming experiences or emotions can bring relief and normalize what you’re going through.
Here are the traditionally established 5 stages of grief:
Our emotions are certainly not linear, and we may cycle through all or some of these stages at different times and in a different order. Give yourself grace as you process your grief.
2. Release your feelings
Grief is highly emotional. Your emotions are asking to be felt and released. Feeling them is what allows them to eventually lighten up and fade away. It’s also what prevents overreactions, prolonged distress or stuck-ness, and taking them out on others.
It can be helpful to journal or exercise when feeling grief. Both of these activities will support the emotional flow and release of pent-up stress. Remember that grief can come out in a multitude of ways, including sadness, crying, anger, rage, anxiety, hopelessness, confusion, numbness, and paralysis.
Have compassion for yourself through all feelings. Emoting is part of being in a human body, and is always valid.
3. Separate from a toxic friend or partner
Another layer to friend and romantic breakups is the possibility that the person is toxic. If you are aware of this, you may be the one who ended or is contemplating ending the relationship. Maybe you have not yet done it due to fear of repercussions, either for you or the other person. Feelings of guilt are a warning light to remind you to honor yourself and set boundaries. The person may try to manipulate you into reconnecting or doing what they want.
One of the most common types of toxicity in this scenario is narcissism. It ranges from simple self-centeredness to the full-blown pathological condition, marked by a complete lack of empathy. Until you learn to set strong boundaries and protect your energy, you may be drawn to narcissists. High levels of kindness, compassion, or generosity make you more susceptible. Ending the relationship and going no contact are usually the best path. Your health, both physical and mental, depends on it. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need help extricating yourself.
4. Seek support
It’s understandable not to know where to start. There is no shame, and in fact great power, in asking for help. Sometimes we simply need an objective or knowledgeable person to support us through loss and challenges.
Grief is a unique niche of human experience, and my expertise. One of my four health-related certifications (along with my master’s degree) is specifically in grief recovery. What is special about the model I offer to groups and individuals is that it is evidence-based and has 7 delineated steps. I’ve gone through it myself, both the model as well as many losses, and this tool really does help. If you would like to learn more or sign up, please email me at email@example.com.
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