Grief and loss in relationships


In the last couple of weeks I've had a few conversations about letting go of a previous I thought I would share a few thoughts.

Grieving needs space.

I didn't realise that what I was experiencing was deeply held grief, until I found myself connecting with two amazing friends who'd both experienced huge losses in their lives. They were using the word ‘grief’.

I hadn't counted what I had lost when I left the church: my network and community, my trust in that community, friends, people who'd known me since I was born, a lifestyle, a belief system and a world view. These were deep, deep roots. I lost my trust in the childhood belief that I'd received, believed and acted upon. I knew it was over then, but the grieving didn't really start until after I'd let myself step through the fear of *not* believing (a strong one for a ‘churched’ girl) and feel the pain of that loss, and by allowing myself to accept that it was ok to be someone else in someplace else.

Grieving the loss of relationship is the pain of loss of intimacy, of closeness, of what you were creating together - in whatever kind of partnership or communion (or community) you had. Of presence and joint experience.

Grieving the loss of a relationship doesn't just happen when someone dies. It might because they broke up with you, or even you ended things with them. Or you found out about a betrayal or change or some other circumstance that prompted (or had you deciding you would choose) a permanent change.

I needed space from the situation, the town and my community so I took myself out of there. The guy I'd been seeing was coming back and I couldn't be in the same room as him. There was too much pain.

I wish I'd known that I needed to grieve at that stage. I wish I'd known how it works and that release is a process and a necessity.

Grieving needs support.

I have spent more time than I want to imagine over the last few years feeling helpless in processing my own feelings of untangling the past and working out what's mine and what's to let go of.

You have to cry. You have to yell. You have to be heard and be seen in your pain. And that takes other people being in your life...and you letting them in.

It's not easy asking for someone to listen to you. Especially because very often they can't or won't allow you to be as you want to be in that process. (We're not very good at knowing how to deal with grief in our society so some people aren't sure what to do with big emotions). I've had lots of coaching and counselling and friends allowing me space to talk through around and about whatever is going on. It's important.

Grief needs movement.

Unless you want to stay in bed, crying or in your house, moping or in the corner, complaining for the rest of your life, you have to decide to move. Emotion stays in the body unless it's processed, which can cause all sorts of issues, and, in my experience, physical problems in the body if it's not dealt with in time. Movement - physical movement (exercise - however minimal) can start the body’s process in letting go of whatever is ready to be released.

Even before I’d finally left the church, I’d started dancing jive, taken along by a work colleague who’d danced jive before. It was one of my ways to stay in community, despite wanting to run from it over and over. It was the physical movement and connection I needed after the overload of ‘sky-god’ teachings of the church - to be able to move freely, be more in touch with my body and connect with all kinds of people, who didn’t know my story or my pain.

Grief needs plenty of alone time, to restore to oneself.

When we come together in partnership and create intimacy, we open up and impart of ourselves to allow the other person or people in. If it's a good partnership, there is a flow of energy between us; a natural giving and receiving. When that door closes - for whatever reason, we have to let go of that connection and restore to our own selves again. It's not easy, especially for empaths, who can also often feel or sense what the other person is feeling or experiencing as well as their own. If they were the ones who initiated the loss (for example a breakup), it can be doubly painful to have to create and hold the boundary between them to allow self-restoration.

When that partnership (or community) has been a huge part of your life, its loss can feel like a huge gap that seems difficult to fill. Even if you’ve moved through to accepting the loss (or you initiated it, there is still a place of unknowing, a place of ‘not sure what I’m doing next’ or the fear or disbelief of ‘who or what can take their place?’ The answer is - it’s different for everyone. But re-focusing on yourself, the activities, people and places you have loved (even if you haven’t accessed them for a long time) can help soothe, heal and restore.

Grief can need professional help.

I’ve had at least three rounds of counselling and hundreds (probably thousands) of hours of coaching to help me break through the patterns I built up because I didn’t deal with my grief. Professional help can feel like an expensive way ‘just to talk to someone’, but the active listening and provision of space for you to explore, express and unravel thoughts and feelings is not something most people are willing or able to give. In any case, my experience is that it’s less of an expense and more of an investment in your own happiness. Getting 1:1 professional help from someone outside of my own network was the most powerful step I ever took in changing the direction of my life. I’m still benefiting from the work that I did, even with my first counselling and coaching sessions.

Grief is part of the cycle

It’s part of my intention for this year to teach more about the cyclical nature of life - moon cycles, menstrual cycles, creative cycles. Death, loss and grief are a part of the cycle, but it’s easy to forget this is a normal part of life. That doesn’t make it any less painful, but can help us take a step back and see the bigger picture, in time. And to grieve is to mourn the loss of relationship in one form: of a certain intimacy and of communion. It’s not easy, but there is always support available.

And you know what? After some time has passed and emotions have moved through us, we can also see this grief as a transition: to relate differently to who or what we had before.

The shape of it has changed, sometimes irrevocably, but we still get to love them.


If you’re struggling with a loss of relationship and you’ve been wondering about 1:1 help through coaching to move forward, I’d love to speak with you about how that could work. Book a consultation call here.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash