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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Empathy in Relationships

Empathy is perhaps the most important relational skill. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and understand how they might be feeling in a given situation. The ability to listen empathically — relating to and understanding the perspective, position and feelings of others — is a tremendously important capability in both personal and professional relationships.
 We don’t need to have had the exact same experience or scenario in life to empathise with somebody else. As human beings, we all experience similar feelings of joy, sadness, loss, love, fear, loneliness, pride, shame, guilt, relief, and elation. If we listen in a way that allows us to relate to that common feeling or human experience, we can improve our connections and shared understandings with others.
 Empathy does not involve judgment, criticism, opinion or problem solving. We can not change or control other people’s feelings. Instead, we can help them work through their feelings by letting them experience being heard and validating their emotional responses.
 Sometimes people appear to have a larger emotional response than is appropriate to the situation at hand. This is because the event has tapped into a well of feelings from past/similar experiences. Their response may seem excessive or dramatic, but feelings are never “wrong.” They are normal responses to a person’s nature and nurture.
 Verbalising empathy allows the people in our lives to feel heard, known, understood and connected to us. It can diffuse conflict as once people feel heard, they may not feel the need to become increasingly defensive or aggressive to get their message across.
 As part of the human condition, we can all become self-absorbed at times and tend to look at things from our own perspective. Consciously stepping outside of ourselves and putting ourselves in the experiences of others (similar to identifying with a character in a movie) can increase our awareness and improve our relationships.


Mindful Breathing

Mindful Breathing

The primary goal of mindful breathing is simply a calm, non-judging awareness, allowing

thoughts and feelings to come and go without getting caught up in them.

Sit comfortably, with your eyes closed and your back reasonably straight.
Bring your attention to your breathing.
Imagine that you have a balloon in your tummy. Every time you breathe in, the balloon inflates. Each time you breathe out, the balloon deflates. Notice the sensations in your abdomen as the balloon inflates and deflates. Your abdomen rising with the in-breath, and falling with the out-breath.
 Thoughts will come into your mind, and that’s okay, because that’s just what the human mind does.
Simply notice those thoughts, then bring your attention back to your breathing.
 Likewise, you can notice sounds, physical feelings, and emotions, and again, just bring your attention back to your breathing.
You don’t have to follow those thoughts or feelings, don’t judge yourself for having them, or analyse them in any way. It’s okay for the thoughts to be there. Just notice those thoughts, and let them drift on by, bringing your attention back to your breathing.
Whenever you notice that your attention has drifted off and is becoming caught up in thoughts or feelings, simply note that the attention has drifted, and then gently bring the attention back to your breathing.

It’s okay and natural for thoughts to enter into your awareness, and for your attention to follow them. No matter how many times this happens, just keep bringing your attention back to your breathing.

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Aim of an Effective Apology

To apologise well, you need to first recognise that you were part of the problem. Even if your part was small, it helped create the dis-connect, and you need to take part in re-connecting.


Second, don’t get caught up in what your partner does – whether or not they accept their share of the blame, or how they respond. An apology is an act of integrity. You do it because it’s the right thing to do.


Third, the AIM of your apology should include all three parts –

A – Action

I – Integrity

M- Management


Action is an introduction. It’s the part where you say, ” I’m sorry about…” or “I wanted to apologise for…” or “I didn’t mean to….”


Integrity is where you acknowledge your part of the problem. It’s not an explanation, which can come across as a “brush-off” or an excuse. Rather, it recognises that what you did had an impact and that wasn’t your intention: “I left the kitchen a mess and I know it’s hard to make dinner in a messy kitchen.”


Motivation a statement of commitment, and of what you will do differently in the future: “I’ll sweep the floor after dinner, so I don’t forget; “or “I’ll make sure I help with the kids in the morning”


Apologies build connection

An effective apology isn’t automatic. It takes awareness, thought, and energy. To apologise well you need to set aside your need to be right, and instead show that you regret your part in the misunderstanding.


It’s not about outcome. It’s about doing your part to mend the relationship. Apologies demonstrate that the person you are apologising to matters to you. Apologies show compassion, promote understanding, and help avoid future misunderstandings.


Each time you do this, you reduce relationship stress and build a stronger connection with your partner. AIM to offer effective apologies. They are worth it !

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What to do when you feel angry

STOP! Pause, take a breath, don’t react automatically

 Walk away – you can come back and talk later
     Ask yourself: What am I reacting to?

 What is it that’s really pushing my buttons here?

 Am I getting things out of proportion?

 How important is this really?

 How important will it be in 6 months time?

 What harm has actually been done?

 Am I expecting something from this person or situation that is unrealistic?

 What’s the worst (and best) that could happen? What’s most likely to happen?

 Am I jumping to conclusions about what this person meant?

     Am I mis-reading between the lines?

      Is it possible    that they didn’t mean that? Is this fact or opinion? ( read my fact or opinion blog)

 What do I want or need from this person or situation?

     What do they want or need from me? Is there a compromise?

 What would be the consequences of responding angrily?

 Is there another way of dealing with this?

    What would be the most helpful and effective action to take? (for me, for the situation, for the other person)

Visualise yourself dealing with the situation in a calm, non-aggressive but assertive way, respecting the rights and opinions of all others involved.


Anger Responses

Anger is a result of thinking that we have been unfairly treated or disrespected, or that others have broken or fallen short of our rules, standards or expectations, and we won’t stand for it.
Thinking this way leads us to feel angry, which stimulates the body’s adrenaline response which is our body’s way of helping us to cope with either fighting, or running away (‘fight or flight’ response). We respond to those thoughts and feelings, by acting, or feeling an urge to act, in threatening or aggressive ways.
Thoughts that often occur:

 I’m being treated unfairly
 I’m being disrespected
 They’re breaking a rule or standard
 I won’t stand for it

Physical Sensations – The Adrenaline Response
When there is real, or we believe there is a real, threat or danger, or that we have to defend or stand up for what we believe is right, our bodies’ automatic survival mechanism kicks in very quickly. This helps energise us to fight or run away (‘fight or flight response’). We will notice lots of physical sensations, which might include:

 heart racing or pounding – enabling good blood supply around our bodies
 breathing quickly – allowing more oxygen around the body
 tense muscles – a state of readiness to fight or flee
 hot, sweating
 stomach churning or butterflies
 fist or teeth clenching

Behaviours might include:

staring & angry facial expression
aggressive body posture
go towards what makes us angry
attacking or arguing
hitting out (or urge to hit out)
shouting, snapping at others
running or storming away
staying silent, inwardly seething
door slamming, making lots of noise


When a relationship is not healthy

It is important to work towards building healthy relationships. It is equally important to identify if a relationship is not healthy and abusive. Generally people think in terms of abuse as involving physical actions. It is not only limited to the physical; emotional abuse can be just as devastating. Physical abuse is serious and is a valid reason to end a relationship, your safety should always be paramount. Emotional abuse is equally damaging, it can destroy your confidence and self esteem. Below are some signs that one partner may be abusing the other. If you identify some of these qualities in your relationship, you should seek advice through relationship counselling.


Using Intimidation

Making your partner afraid by using looks, actions, gestures.
Smashing or destroying things.
Destroying or confiscating your partner’s property.
Abusing pets as a display of power and control.
Silent or overt raging.
Displaying weapons or threatening their use.
Making physical threats.

Using Emotional Abuse

Putting your partner down.
Making your partner feel bad about himself or herself.
Calling your partner names.
Playing mind games.
Interrogating your partner.
Harassing or intimidating your partner. “Checking up on” your partner’s activities or whereabouts.
Humiliating your partner, whether through direct attacks or “jokes”.
Making your partner feel guilty.
Shaming your partner.

Using Isolation

Controlling what your partner does, who he or she sees and talks to, what he or she reads, where he or she goes.
Limiting your partners outside involvement.
Demanding your partner to remain home when you are not with him or her.
Cutting your partner off from friends, activities, and social interaction.
Using jealousy to justify your actions. (Jealousy is a central concept in abusive relationships).

Minimising, Denying and Blame Shifting

Making light of the abuse and not taking your partners concerns about it seriously.
Saying the abuse did not happen, or wasn’t that bad.
Shifting responsibility for your abusive behaviour to your partner. (i.e: I did it because you ______.)
Saying your partner caused it.

Using Children

Making your partner feel guilty about the children.
Using the children to relay messages.
Using visitation to harass your partner.
Threatening to take the children away.

Using Male Privilege

Treating your partner like a servant.
Making all the big decisions.
Acting like the “master of the castle.”
Being the one to define the role of the male and the female.

Using Economic Abuse

Preventing your partner from getting or keeping a job.
Making your partner ask for money.
Giving your partner an allowance.
Taking your partners money.
Not letting your partner know about or have access to family income.



Mindful awareness greatly enhances the joys of daily life. In practice even the smallest of things suddenly become captivating again.
There are two MODES of the mind
The doing mode is truly brilliant at automating our life using habits. We do so much automatic thinking, working, eating, driving without clear awareness of what we are doing. The danger is that you miss much of life this way.
 Mindfulness brings you back again and again to full conscious awareness; a place of choice and intention and BEING in the moment.
 The Mindful BEING mode allows you to become fully conscious of your life again. It provides you with the ability to ‘ check in’ with yourself from time to time so that you can make intentional choices. When you become more mindful, you bring your intentions and actions back into alignment rather than being constantly sidetracked by your autopilot. You learn to stop wasting time pointlessly running through the same old habits of thinking and doing that have long since stopped serving any useful purpose. It also means that you a less likely to end up striving for too long towards goals that it might be wiser to let go of for a while. You become fully alive and aware again to what has become dead through habitual thinking and DOING.
Mindfulness teaches us at our thoughts are just thoughts; they are events in the mind. They are often valuable but they are not always reality. They are your internal running commentary on yourself and the world. This simple recognition frees you from the dislocated reality that we have conjured up for ourselves through endless worrying, brooding and ruminating. You can see a clear path through life again.
Useful Reading :- Mindfulness, a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world.
By:- Mark Williams & Danny Penman

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J. William Worden, professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, developed a model that he calls the “Tasks of Mourning” (1991). His premise is that grief is work. It requires commitment and active participation on the part of the person who is grieving, and, these authors would add, on the part of those who wish to help them.
The tasks are:

to  accept the reality of the loss;
to work through to the pain of grief;
to adjust to an environment in which the deceased is missing
to emotionally relocate the deceased and move on with life.

Worden’s task-focused model offers a motivational framework for grief work. Time, in and of itself, does not heal all wounds. There is no magic in the one- or two-year anniversary date following a loss. This model acknowledges that death does not end a relationship. Emotionally relocating the deceased is an on going process that will continue throughout the life cycle. Personal and meaningful commemoration and certain rituals help facilitate this process.
Love endures death. The loss of a significant loved one is something that is not got “over.” Words like “closure” may create anger and hostility on the part of the bereaved. Things (doors, wardrobes, bank accounts) are closed and emptied. How, then, does closure apply to a relationship that was, is, and always will be significant? The work of grief involves learning to live with and adjust to the loss. According to Worden, there may be a sense that you never finish grieving, but realistic goals of grief work include regaining an interest in life and feeling hopeful again.
Redefining and recreating a purposeful, meaningful life is an enormous physical, social, psychological, and spiritual challenge to the bereaved. Re-kindling the desire to live and thrive can be a difficult process. Support through the tasks of mourning is essential to enable this to happen.


The Five Stages of Grieving

The different stages of grieving are universal and experienced by people from all walks of life. Mourning is a response to the loss of a valued being, human or animal. Elisabeth Kubler- Ross ( 1969) wrote about the five stages of grieving.
In grief we spend different lengths of time working through each step. Grieving is a personal process that has no time or limit, or a right way or wrong way to do it. We often move through each stage before achieving an acceptance of death.
Many people do not experience the stages in the order listed below, which is okay. The key to understanding the stages is not to feel like you must go through every one of them, in precise order. Instead, it’s more helpful to look at them as guides in the grieving process — it helps you understand and put into context where you are.

1. Denial and Isolation – This is a defence mechanism that buffers the initial shock. We can block out words and hide from the facts. It is a temporary response which carries us through the first wave of pain.

2. Anger- As the masking wears off , reality of the pain emerges. The intense emotion is deflected and expressed as anger. The anger may be aimed at strangers, family or friends. It may be directed at the deceased loved one. Rationally we know they are not to blame. Emotionally however we may resent the person causing us pain for leaving us. We often feel guilty for being angry, which makes us more angry !!

3. Bargaining- The normal reaction to feeling helpless and vulnerable is often to try and gain some control.  If only questions flood your mind. Regrets are just a way of trying to reason and protect us from the painful reality.

4. Depression- Two types of depression are associated with mourning. The first is reactionary, associated with the practical implications. Worries about the future, and our grief. The second is more subtle and in a sense more private. It is our quiet preparation of separation , bidding our loved ones farewell and pure sadness.

5.Acceptance- Reaching this stage of mourning is not afforded to everyone. This phase may be marked with withdrawal or calm. This is not a period of happiness but maybe making peace with the loss.
Coping with loss is ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience — nobody can help you go through it more easily or understand all the emotions that you’re going through. But others can be there for you and help comfort you through this process. The best thing you can do is to allow yourself to feel the grief as it comes over you. Resisting it only will prolong the natural process of healing.


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