Grief Is a Test of Our Maturity

November 16, 2016

We are accustomed to referring to grief as the time necessary to emotionally recover from the loss of a loved one. It is common to treat it from that point of view, but we aren’t aware that we live with everyday grief. They may be less shocking, but they are definitely more frequent. This way, we grow and mature as we face these various losses and integrate the feelings these produce in the story of our lives.

Today, I want to talk about another kind of grief. The grief that we experience when we go through a break-up. The process that two people go through when, after a while, they end what their relationship used to be. In this process, in which we can feel helpless, powerless or unwilling to move forward. It has many similarities with other types of grief, such as the passing away of a loved one.

Phases of relational grief

It’s obvious that every person experiences relational grief in their own way, that no two people experience it the same. When you’re the one who made the decision, when it was a mutual decision or when it was a betrayal. But in a general sense, we can refer to the different phases that we all go through, be it in to a greater or lesser degree or intensity.

When a breakup occurs, the first thing we do is generate a shield of protection against the pain, and there is no better way of doing this than denying what has happened. Not accepting that it is happening.

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As we start to become aware of what happened, the shield starts to give way and we start to embark into the battle. This is a personal and inner battle, made up of anger and rage. What didn’t quite make sense before, now starts to seem inexplicable. Therefore, you start asking yourself: “What did I do wrong?”, “How could he do this to me?”, “Maybe making this choice was a mistake”, etc.

At this time you start to assimilate your reasoning and long for that idealized being, more than for your partner. Also, the realistic sadness associated with the breakup begins. The inner battle has ended, because there is no one to fight against. The feeling of emotional pain will be stronger in this than in any other phase, but it will serve for you to take a step towards the next phase.

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Beyond the sadness, life begins to recover its natural normal meaning. The other person exists and you are aware of it, but you don’t suffer because of it. It is an objective reality that you know is unalterable and which is not a problem. You begin to remember the people who love you, because due to this situation, they have let you know and feel this fact more than you ever expected. You begin to accept that the situation is probably for the best, and you are now ready for the last phase.

It is now when the best part arrives, the most functional part. This is when you look back and find only learning and lessons to draw from the situation. An accumulation of situations that you have experienced together and which have provided you with a new “you” (self), with new qualities. Suddenly you are aware that what happened wasn’t destructive. You are now a wiser person, and you wish the other person nothing but good things. Because they are not the enemy, but rather a partner during the long journey of life.

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Learning is the final goal of grief

In the end, this is nothing more than a journey during which we should learn and experience what life has to offer us. No matter how hard it may be, and in the best way possible. Everything has two sides, and at least one of them is good. In this fragment of the book “Men Without Women, Murakami, perfectly describes the last phase or stage of this type of grief:

Was it hard for you?
– What?
Suddenly being alone when you used to be one half of a whole.
– Sometimes- I answered honestly. 
– But, don’t you think that, when you are young, to a certain extent it is necessary to live through difficult and sad times like that one? I mean, as part of the process of becoming mature.
– Do you think so?
– It’s like a tree: in order to grow tall and robust, you need to withstand some heavy winters. If the weather was always warm and easy, I wouldn’t even have rings in my trunk.