Grieving for a Relationship

I’ve spent the last year or so being angry and devastated in turn. Mostly, long periods of joy, happiness, and contentment have been interspersed with these darker moments, and it didn’t make much sense. For the longest time, I blamed myself. Surely these unruly emotions were a personal failing, something lacking in me… It took longer than I’d like to admit—especially after losing my brother—before I recognized the emotions for what they were: grief.

I was grieving for a dying relationship. And this relationship wasn’t dying with grace. No, it was going down in flames and explosions. Grieving for the dead is easy, grieving for the living is something else entirely.

Relationships die for a number of reasons. Probably the most common is just a gradual drawing away on both sides, and that grief is so gentle and quiet that you hardly notice it. No, the relationships that go down in burning wreckage are usually precipitated by a break up, family fights, and divorce (and divorce affects more than just the two people, I attest to this personally).

I’d like to tell you how to find joy when somebody you were once close to, somebody you still love, intentionally sabotages your relationship, meticulously and thoroughly cutting you out of their life. Unfortunately, life isn’t that clean or simple. Answers, when it comes to the human heart, aren’t clean or simple either. What you can do, however, is:

  • Feel comfort knowing that you did not do the cutting and burning. If you break up with somebody, yes, it’s inevitable that most likely you won’t stay friends. If a family member is getting divorced, that doesn’t have to end in estrangement for everybody.
  • Show love. Even if that person wants nothing to do with you or anybody with your same last name again, show love. It’s possible they’ll come around. It’s possible they won’t, but at least you’ll have no regrets.
  • Work through the grief. Like any other grief, allow yourself to be sad, to mourn what you lost. Just don’t let it define you.
  • Refuse to stoop to their level. Relationships that die violently often do so with recriminations and anger on every side, and there’s plenty of blame to go around. If that person heaps vitriol upon you, don’t respond in kind. If it helps, remember what you once meant to each other. That part of the person, the part you laughed with and loved, is still around; look for it.

Joy comes when you work through the heartache, when you hold onto the precious moments you shared and let go of the anger. Joy comes when you make allowances for the flaws in others. Joy comes, especially, when you have hope that maybe resurrection for a relationship, or at least a mutual understanding, is possible.

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