Relationship Separation and Loss

The Other Side of Loss, Moving Beyond Anger.

 Although anger is viewed as an expected and understandable reaction to divorce or separation, it’s rarely acknowledged as an important part of processing loss. Whether it involves the loss of hopes and dreams, what could have been but wasn’t, growing old together, the heartbreak of letting go or the fear of being alone, anger is deeply woven into the fabric of loss.

 While we’re all familiar with how it feels to be angry, looking beyond it is where the real work lies. It is hard work and uncomfortable work that can leave us feeling vulnerable and exposed. In an effort to avoid the pain of loss, often the need to preserve and protect kicks in. As a result, instead of turning inward to acknowledge anger over the loss, our focus turns outward, mainly towards our ex-partner. This leads to a host of unhealthy alternatives from blaming and shaming to raging or stewing and brewing. No matter how you put it, the end result is the same. We get stuck. It’s been said that hanging on to bitterness and resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.  Keep in mind, your own emotional health isn’t the only thing at stake; usually your children’s is too.

 One of the benefits of anger is that it has the ability to serve as a powerful wakeup call and brings deeper issues we need to address to the surface. When this happens, we have an opportunity to push through to the other side and explore aspects of ourselves that may have been hiding in the shadows. More to the point, we open up space for new growth. The key, however, lies in paying attention to it.  Not only does identifying what’s underneath festering, it can also move us into action.

 Where to begin.

When the anger hits, do your best to take a step back from it.  For some, that may mean taking a deep breath, calling in a trusted friend to do a little constructive ranting or see a counsellor to explore your anger more deeply.  In other situations, you may need to engage in something more physical like working out at the gym or throwing yourself into some serious housecleaning. Take up a new hobby. Once you’ve moved beyond the initial surge, make time to explore what’s fuelling the fire. Don’t ignore it as it is useful information about you.

 Ask yourself:

What was happening just before you got angry?

What thoughts were racing through your mind when the anger took over?

Where’s the link?

Is the anger being fed by a sense of injustice or unfairness?

Do you feel out of control or helpless?

Is there unfinished business or some issue you need to let go of?

What do I need to change?

 Although it may not feel immediately gratifying, remember change takes time and working through the anger isn’t going to happen overnight. There may also be times when it catches you off guard. If the anger ambushes you, bear in mind you’re only human. Learn from the experience, do your best to get back on track and keep working on it.

 To go the distance, make sure you have a good support system in place and create opportunities to be around people who add value to your life.

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