When You Mourn Someone Who Is Still AliveDave Smith
According to an RGM survey, one of the most common sources of grief is the loss of a relationship with a person who is still alive. Romantic relationships can end in breakup or divorce, friendship fractures and family members alienate after a fight.
Crying the living is a kind of ambiguous loss, a term coined by Dr. James; grief is complicated when the limit between having and not having the person is unclear (as when witnessing the decline of a loved one to dementia). This type of loss can be especially painful because there is still the possibility of a continuous relationship. Even if you know what is best, such as when you cut an emotionally abusive partner, it can still hurt to lose that connection.
I lost a friendship in this way more than ten years ago, and sometimes it is still painful. I have made some proposals to try to rekindle the relationship, but the other person does not seem interested. I have bittersweet memories of many close moments together. It is easy for me to see the guilt of the other guy in the unfortunate conflict that separated us, and yet I know that he could also have handled the situation better.
Guilt and questioning are part of the hardest thing to mourn the living. How much was my fault? Could the relationship be repaired? Is it worth a try again? It may not even be clear what broke the relationship; Sometimes it was more that was not said or made an obvious disagreement.
Our relationships become part of us, so when we lose the relationship we lose part of ourselves. Even the memories of happier times with the person are contaminated by the awareness of how it ended. The loss can be particularly painful during vacations, anniversaries and other family celebrations, when the person’s absence feels like a presence.
If you mourn a living person, be kind and compassionate towards yourself. Allow yourself as much time as you need while processing emotions and wait for ups and downs. The pain can also be delayed, sometimes it hits when you realize that an ex has moved, for example, so make room for whatever you experience. Human relationships are complex, so expect complexity when a relationship unravels.
When it hurts, surround yourself with your loved ones and share what you are going through with the people who can support you. Writing about your feelings can be very constructive; You can even write a letter to the person in mourning, without sending it. The goal is to give yourself the opportunity to express and perhaps understand the mixture of emotions you feel.
A word of caution: resist the urge to look at the person’s social media posts, which is rarely worth what it costs. Most likely, you are torturing yourself when you see the carefully maintained version of your life that you share on Facebook or Instagram.
If the relationship ended because the other person hurt you, think carefully if it is time to forgive. Forgiveness is a personal matter, and only you can decide when the time is right. It doesn’t have to mean you reconcile with them; one could forgive an abusive father, for example, and still not have contact with them. If you decide it is time to let it go, you will probably find that forgiveness feels like dropping a heavy weight.
Finally, sometimes we know that we are to blame for a broken relationship, and reconciliation may still be possible. If that is true for you, consider what it would take to repair the relationship. The degree of forgiveness available in this life never ceases to amaze me; I have seen family members meet again years after having canceled each other. Then, if the door is still open, decide if you are ready to go through it.
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Tags: Grief and Loss, mourning, loss, mental health, emotional wellness, relationships