"Where There are Friends, There is Wealth"
- Plautas (3rd century)
This is a post for those going through the tough ending of a significant relationship. I feel compassion for you because I have been there. I know what that road looks and feels like and I want to offer some truth and tools for the journey as well as some words of hope and encouragement. I promise the next post will be uplifting for the masses, rather than this heavy hearted material for a few of you. But for those going through the rough stuff, I want to share some heart felt advice:
First of all let me remind you that you are loved. You don’t feel like it right now because you are in the pain of being left, which feels like a truck load of rejection. But you need to hear that you are loved by your friends and family that are all around you. [For our purposes here, it doesn’t matter whether you were the one left or the one who had to make the decision to leave].
You also need to know that there is absolutely hope for healing and happiness again after you get through the tough stuff. There is not only a light at the end of the tunnel, but a whole new world of good things to look forward to. The thing is, you must not just survive the tough times (I know some days, that’s all you can do), but dig in and do some active work toward a better life.
You see, there are different ways you can go through tough times, which says a lot about the kind of person you are. Imagine that life has just exploded a volcano of nasty stuff, and not only did it create a mess, but there is a river of nasty junk right in front of you. Now you can deny that it’s there and pretend it didn’t happen, and just continue to breathe in the nasty fumes. You can do all you can to avoid dealing with it, by distracting yourself, or jumping into another fateful relationship which may turn out the same way. Or you can pull up your boots and do the work of trudging right through it, learning the lessons that are there, and make a move toward living a better, fuller, more mature life. The path is not around it, but right through it. Let me say that I chose to dig in and walk straight through, I learned some valuable life lessons that I wouldn’t trade for anything, and pressed forward to what is now a far better life. You can do it!
Step one: face the facts. Begin to accept the sad fact that the relationship as you have known it is dead and that things will never be the same. Facing that reality is like looking into the sun. You can only look at it for a few seconds before the pain causes you to look away. So it takes time. There is no right or wrong time table. We all fear grief because we cannot control it’s depth nor it’s duration. You are going to need to do some work to grieve this death in your life, and no friend or family member can tell you to “get over it already.”
You may not realize this yet, but you have experienced a life changing loss that affects you deeply at several levels which is why the grief is complicated. There are several deaths you are dealing with right now:
Step two: the ever present “why” question. Why did this happen? Your constant questions about “why” are a natural process and the tug-of-war that happens inside because you don’t want to let go, but you know that you must. And yet, the why question can be beneficial for the productive pursuit of learning how you got to the place you are now. I highly recommend the book by Harville Hendrix, Getting the Love You Want, which helped me figure out why I chose the person I chose, and begin healing some of those subconscious things before moving into a new relationship. If you move on too soon, you will repeat the same pattern. This is a crucial learning time so learn first, then we can talk about moving on.
Your conversations in your head about how it could work out and he/she may come back in the future are actually part of the bargaining phase of grief. Realize that you are actually grieving this loss and that those conversations have no connection to reality. One of the really confusing parts of this journey is that the other person may likely blame you for their actions, but don’t fall for this smoke screen. A person’s actions are always about them! That is such a critical truth to hang onto in the midst of this. Their choices are about them, and have very little if anything to do with you. But they may say things that are untrue, trying to justify their choices so that they can live with themselves. Do not listen to lies, blaming, untrue tactics, nor take responsibility for anyone besides yourself. Focus on your own journey.
Step three: Look ahead, there is hope! Ok, are you beginning to look at the reality of this death in your life? Now let me offer some real hope. A universal truth that you can count on is that death always gives way to new life. The reason I have focussed on this death concept is because something has to fully die before something new can emerge. Trees shed their leaves in the fall and their seeds also fall to the ground. The winter time is harsh, and it seems like nothing good is happening, but slowly, those seeds take root in the spring and new life emerges. Take the story of Christ’s death and resurrection. Jesus died on a Friday, but Sunday was coming. And for this reason, I urge you to lean into it. Right now you are in winter, but spring is coming. Dig deep and work through the grief, looking forward to the new life that will come once you are on the other side. There is reason to hope, and there will be much brighter days!
Step four: get moving. Here are some practical things you can do as you walk through this:
You will make it through this. I can tell you from the other side, that there is hope for a new life after this. I love my life now way more than my previous life that I once grieved. And the lessons learned in this time are extremely important for your next season of life. Although you are experiencing death in this season, I can tell you that your spring is the next season and there is much to look forward to!
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Joel is a husband, father, musician, and lover of life; especially life that is shared with the wealth of amazing friends and family he is blessed to have near.