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Separation – The Silent Grief

Delighted to see ‘The End of A Relationship – Surviving the Emotional Rollercoaster of Separation’ will be hitting the bookshops this week.   Being a largely Catholic country where ‘I do’ means  ‘I will … for life’,  making the decision to separate is one that still isn’t taken lightly – it still carries some stigma, although less so these days but what cuts far deeper into a person’s soul is their sense of failure and shame that such a significant relationship didn’t work out.

Many clients come to us when their feelings have changed and they don’t know if they can get them back (ever hear that expression ‘I love you but I’m not in love with you?).  Sometimes those passionate feelings come back when we figure out why they disappeared, but sometimes they don’t.  When that happens we’re faced with a decision to stay or to go and neither is an easy path – both will have their despairing moments.

Right now, there are many people who can’t afford to physically separate and I wonder if it is possible for them to emotionally separate when their world stays exactly the same, more or less?  Is it really possible to move on when it’s rare, if it exists at all, for two people to want to separate at exactly the same time?

If your identity has been largely determined by being someone’s partner and they are now gone, who are you now?   If you had particular roles, who will take on your ex’s role?  Or will you have to do everything yourself?  In some ways this can be quite liberating (although you will be very busy).  Without someone else to let you down (when they disappoint you by not performing as expected) you can just get on with things …. but you may still miss not having them around and may question whether it was the right thing to do (if you were the one to leave), or wonder over and over again what you did wrong, and what can you do to fix it (if you were the one left behind).

Children and other family members as well as friends of the couple are also affected.  Not only are they asked to support and encourage the grieving separated person, but they may also be grieving themselves and not know how best to help.  They may not agree with the separation and yet want to be there as a support – it can get very confusing for everyone at times, especially in the beginning.

I have tried to touch on the most common experiences that separating people and their families and friends encounter.  Fortunately, many gave me permission to use their stories to highlight what it’s really like and what helped and hindered.  I hope if you are using the book to get some tips, that their stories will be of help to you.

There is life after separation, even if it doesn’t seem so at the time.  It is a journey, not an event.  It will take much longer than you could even realise and I am glad to see that it is becoming more widely regarded as a serious grieving process, where those going through it will need ongoing support and understanding for quite some time.

Submitted by:  Lisa O’Hara

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