The loss of a relationship
Grief is an important part of the separation process, and knowing about the stages of loss can help you through the process. When a partner dies there is a set ritual – having a funeral and so on – and grieving is accepted as being natural. For a break-up, the loss of a partner through separation, may not be acknowledged or accepted, and there is no set ritual (although some people may latch on to the court process in place of this).
You may both be at very different stages of loss. The one who decides to leave has often already experienced many of the feelings associated with grief and loss before leaving the relationship, whereas the other person has still to experience them.
There are many losses that arise when a relationship ends – the loss of being part of a family, the loss of a partner, the loss of future plans and goals as a couple, the loss of the role as a husband, wife or lover, and the loss of the status of being part of a couple.
Many people have to move from the home they lived in during the relationship, and so may also suffer the loss of their home. Each parent can also experience the loss of their relationship with their child when they are with the other parent. Feelings of loss are not only experienced by the adults, they are also felt by the child.
Divorce or separation is personal and everyone will experience it differently. You could feel a sense of relief that your relationship has come to an end or feel a failure because you were powerless to stop it from ending. You may have both decided that a divorce is the right way forward, or one of you may feel more sure about breaking up than the other.
If you have decided to leave the relationship, you may have been thinking about it for a long time, building up the courage to leave, perhaps resulting in feelings of guilt.
If you are the one who has been left, this might have come as a shock and you may feel a sense of rejection or abandonment.
If the break-up is sudden and without warning, your feelings could be more intense than if the relationship had broken down over a long period of time. Your feelings are also likely to be more intense if you have been left than if you are the one who decided to leave.
The pain of a break-up can be deep and intense. It can be experienced physically as you feel that your heart has quite literally been broken. Your emotions can also affect your ability to make decisions and make you feel tired and lacking in energy, although the extent of these feelings depends on the circumstances.