In her book, On Death and Dying, Elizabeth Kubler Ross explained there are five distinct stages people go through when something meaningful ends. These stages are not limited to the experience of physical death; but also apply to divorce, breakups and other significant losses, as well.
When a couple ends their relationship, a death of sorts happens. The “us” you once were is gone. The life story you spent all that time and energy co-creating together is over. Facing this death is similar to how we typically handle all deaths — with an onslaught of sadness, anger, fear, guilt, shame, and a profound sense of feeling lost, like taking a trip without a road map.
The emotional pain can be so intense that it hurts physically. Many have an authentic identity crisis. At the very least there is a fear of the unknown future. The process of recovery and reflection can be agonizing but those who ignore this important work often repeat the same mistakes. Some of the contributing factors in unsuccessful relationships often are codependency, poor communication skills, and lack of boundaries.
Other feelings common to a breakup are regret and guilt. Regardless of who initiates the breakup, relationships ultimately end because of the actions and choices of two people. Even if you’re the one who ended it and devastated your partner in the process, there comes a reasonable time to let go of those self-inflicting feelings of guilt and move on. You’re not alone in your breakup, even if it feels that way sometimes. If guilt is influencing your thoughts too much, it’s time to move past those feelings and start living your new life with a positive outlook. Make your amends and move on.
For me it was a time of lost identity. There were many losses to grieve: lost dreams, lost social status, and lost economic status. A single parent in the midst of a contentious divorce with two young children also suffering losses, I made many mistakes as I desperately tried to fill the void with new people and new experiences. Later came a second traumatic grief period when I realized that I had also lost myself and the things I was doing were not bringing peace or happiness into my life. How could I possibly have been successful when I didn’t understand my own values and needs? I was looking for another person to make me happy—classic codependent thinking.
Over the years through counseling, education, and coming to a place of understanding, I bring what I have learned into my life coaching practice where many of the women I coach are contemplating or transitioning through the end of a meaningful relationship or other significant losses. It is said that time heals all wounds but it is what you do with that time that helps you heal and move on. The coaching process helps you look at balance in your life. You set goals in those areas that do not meet your expectations. And together we provide accountability for the steps it takes to achieve your goals. We explore the concepts of codependency, healthy communication, limiting self-beliefs, boundaries, negative behaviors that lead to poor self-esteem, relationship skills, anxiety, and other areas depending on the issues being faced. Coaching is a valuable support for women in transition. At the end of a coaching program, clients have a resource file filled with tools and education to help them continue their journey and their new life.
Life is full of compromises. Perhaps you can relate to “this is not exactly what I would have chosen for me, but I love my husband (or significant other) and I can make this work for him and us and I believe we can be happy”. But after the end of a relationship, that “old” you is gone forever, the “now” you is emerging, and the “potential” you is yet to become reality. Awakening your dreams from the past or exploring new dreams may be helpful as you begin a journey to the “potential” you. As a life coach, my job is to facilitate your discovery process and support you as you progress towards your goals!
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Bonnie Harken, NCLC, Founder and CEO of Crossroads Programs for Women has spent the last 30 years assisting individuals begin their journey of healing. She is a Nationally Certified Life Coach through the Addictions Academy. Crossroads offers therapy and life coaching programs. Begin your journey of finding renewal, hope, joy, direction and passion. Each intensive outpatient program is a blend of lectures, group discussion, and therapeutic exercises offering a healing curriculum. We explore the spiritual components of healing from a non-denominational Christian perspective. Why continue to struggle? Tomorrow does not have to be like today. We can help you. Call 800-348-0937 or visit www.crossroadsprogramsforwomen.com for more information. All inquiries are confidential.