It’s hard for me to let go of people. When someone very close to me leaves my life it is a particularly difficult challenge, even when it’s for the best or as a result of something I have no control over.
For example, my brother left us all very suddenly. He was killed in a car accident on the eve of my father’s birthday. My brother was on his way home from a neighbor’s house to have a celebratory party for my father when his car slid on the icy January road and crashed into a tree. There was no preparation for this final goodbye.
The next day, I flew into town, from 3,000 miles away where I lived, to mourn with my family. I had spent the previous evening sobbing in disbelief. In the following year I passed through what has long been recognized as the grieving stages for the death of a loved one: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and, finally, Acceptance. (Elizabeth Kubler-Ross)
There have been other losses after this first traumatic one, as there are in most of our lives. Some of them I knew were approaching. Like the end of a faltering marriage or the death of a cancer-ridden parent. Less expected was the rejection by another sibling, a friend’s betrayal, the sudden departure of a colleague or the end of a romantic relationship.
Some say that the final outcome of a romantic relationship is seen in tiny signs that appear at the beginning of it. These are the little red flags that briefly flare before one embarks wholeheartedly on the emotional journey of falling in love. In my last relationship, the flags took a bit longer to unfurl but by that time I had already committed my heart. When cracks finally began to erupt in the foundation of our partnership, I truly believed that we could work out the issues that were distancing us. I was in stage one of the grieving process: Denial.
I quickly bypassed the next stage, Anger, and moved into Bargaining in order to save what I considered an important life-long bond. In an effort to make the relationship work, I began to focus my attention mainly on him. Slowly I began to lose myself as I twisted and turned to accommodate him. Soon our time together centered solely on his needs and desires; his emotions and moods; his timetable and work schedule. The more I gave, the less I received. I felt very hurt and Depression predictably followed.
Inevitably, after witnessing an especially overt display of dysfunction, I was forced to recognize, once again, that it takes two people to make a partnership thrive. Work, former emotional patterns, and other commitments can’t be used as an excuse to avoid dealing with what isn’t functioning in a relationship. Each partner in a romantic relationship has to be ready to participate fully and maturely if it is going to be mutually rewarding.
After back-tracking and revisiting the Anger stage of loss and then thoroughly reviewing my part in this failed relationship, I am finally moving into Acceptance. This doesn’t mean that I don’t miss the man at times or some parts of the connection we had. However, I have now regained my sense of self, my sense of humor, and my confidence. Despite how hard it is to let people go, it is now abundantly clear to me that ending the relationship was for the best – the best for me.
Copyright © 2013, Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.