Thursday, June 21, 2012

the BLOW OFF and the 5 stages of grief

One of the best pieces of wisdom I’ve ever received from my mother is this: “when you break up with someone, it’s like they’ve died.” What she means is – the loss of a significant other to a breakup is so often like the death of a loved one. You see your boyfriend, etc every day in many cases and then suddenly… they’re not there. I’m a huge advocate of the clean break, but with the clean break comes a very sudden loss. I know I’m not the first to make the realization that the stages of grief in a breakup are similar to the stages of grief in death but after posing my theory to my therapist, I thought I’d bring it here to The Blow Off!

The “Five Stages of Grief” are also known as the Kubler-Ross model after the doctor who first introduced them as a hypothesis in the 60s. While working with terminally ill patients, Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross realized that many patients and family members went through a cycle of stages associated with death. The stages, which everyone experiences differently and often in different orders, are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Let’s work it out based on me (and somewhat on my therapist’s reactions to me)…

Denial – After my most recent break-up, I went through a few weeks of being surprisingly fine. I even told my therapist that I was shocked by how well I was doing. He was skeptical but went along with it, perhaps confident that he would be seeing me every other week for the rest of my life anyway. I went about my normal life, really proud of myself and how much of a strong independent woman I was! See – I’m fine! I can go to the movies by myself! I can join OKCupid! I AM TOTALLY HAPPY! And then…

Anger - I got angry. You can partially witness this anger here.  Who the hell does he think he is? Well I’ll tell him who he is! He’s a coward! And selfish! And not even that good-looking! AND HE SMOKES! But seriously, I didn’t realize I was angry until my therapist read my blog post and said “I sense a lot of anger here.” It took a minute for me to accept that I was angry. After spending a few weeks so confident and happy while being in the denial stage, I didn’t want to admit that this boy was making me FEEL something. How could he break my heart? And I wasn’t just angry at him – I was angry at myself. Why didn’t I see this coming? Why did I let myself trust him? How did I LET him break MY heart?

Bargaining – Now, this is my favorite stage of grief – if that’s possible – because it’s really the saddest and most vulnerable and most real to me. And I’m convinced it actually worked for me once. I didn’t go through bargaining in my last break-up so I’m going to go all the way back to my college relationship break-up (read about it here). After this guy dumped me the first time, I was DISTRAUGHT. It was my first real love and so my first real breakup. I spent an entire summer bargaining. This mostly involved me doing silent rituals that I believed would induce fate into bringing us back together. I would tell myself if I didn’t eat, he would feel bad for me and realize he loved me and come back to me. I also told myself that by IMing me every day, he was telling me he still wanted to be with me. My favorite bargaining tool was wishing on 11:11 (twice a day) that he would come back to me. And he did. Come back to me, that is. Ever since then, I’ve been convinced wishing on 11:11 is a real, viable option when I want something.

Depression – If bargaining is my favorite stage, depression is my least favorite. Mostly because it generally involves letting other people know that I have feelings and I’m capable of crying… like, a lot. In this stage, the sadness really does come when you least expect it. I think it’s important to cry as much as you need to. Don’t hold it in. I’ve done a fair amount of just driving around and crying. A lot of conversations with my mom have started with her asking how I am, me replying that I’m good and then immediately bursting into tears. In fact, my mom often answers the phone “are you going to cry?” She’s not being mean, she just wants to know whether she should pour herself a drink or not.

Acceptance – So I’m somewhere between depression and acceptance right now. I am very, very aware that my last boyfriend and I are not getting back together and I also don’t want to. I still miss him and I miss our relationship terribly but I’ve also accepted that we are over and I’m better off – both for our relationship and for the fact that it’s done. I think this is the part of the break up that too many people skip over. Not only should we accept that the previous relationship is over but it can be a good idea to have some time as a single person before finding the next relationship. After a relationship, you need to remind yourself who YOU are as an I and not a We.

Losing someone to a break up really is like losing someone to death. The sadness comes in waves. Some memories are good and some memories send you to your knees. You don’t get to pick which memories come and you don’t get to pick when they come. Just when you think you’re good, just when you think you’re over it… you’re reminded of the person you lost by something as simple as seeing a TV show on your DVR or someone suggesting a restaurant the two of you ate at often. With relationships, you usually don’t completely get over someone until you’re with someone new. And just like with death – it gets easier with time. Some day you’ll wake up and realize the person that consumed most of your waking thoughts hasn’t been on your mind in days, weeks, months.

13 comments:

  1. I'm sorry about everything you went through with that asshole, but it sounds like you're so much better off without him. Coward and cancer free!

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  2. What you've said is soooo true. It is like a death. By the way, he is a coward, a jerk and, he is dead to me!

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  3. I am now going to go consume an entire gallon of ice cream....and I'm not even grieving. It just feels like the appropriate thing to do, right now.

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  4. Well, I lost my initial responses since I am not set up with this site, so hoping 3rd time's a charm! I'll just keep this one brief. You are ahead of the game with the self-respect you showed yourself and wise beyond your years, CB. "We teach people how to treat us." It's funny, your mentioning of the number "11" and equating loss of relationship to "death" since I have discovered that too many life changes at once (even in the absence of death), also feels like one. Similar wavelength, different situations. Peace 'n love, beautiful girl. xo

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    1. very insightful and thank you so much!!! Hope to see you soon!!!

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  5. i absolutely love this post. I'm a clean break kind of girl, so i can definitely relate to that feeling of a death after a relationship is over. Now, if only they could actually die in real life too. haha, jk. or maybe i'm not.

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    1. no but seriously, we all agree that the guy i'm grieving better be dead because at this point, it's his only excuse

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    2. wait. what if he really was dead?? That would make a really good blow off post. have you checked the obits?

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  6. I just came across this and it was so good to read!! Esp since i need to kick myself out of one stage and keep moving on to the next. Good to know we all go through the same things :)

    PS - I totally do the 11:11 thing too... lol.

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    1. Hi Erin! Yea, the 11:11 wish thing is pretty solid. I consider it a proven way to get what you want as long as you wish hard enough and on like 3 digital clocks at once.

      Also, yea, it's hard to move one from one stage to the next but at least you're being proactive in your grieving :)

      then you can come back and post about your breakup! ;)

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