going through the 5 stages of grief
It's six in the morning, and once again my internal turbulence is making sleep impossible, so I figured I might as well get up and do something useful with my time. I was speaking to a close friend yesterday who remarked that it sounds like I've moved on to the second of the five stages of grief: anger. For those who aren't familiar with the model, it describes the a series of emotions experienced by people who are grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Supposedly there's no order to these stages and people experience them in vastly different ways, but just seeing them outlined like this reminds me that what I'm going through is normal. The stages were originally used to describe people's responses to the death of a loved one, but a breakup (especially of a long-distance relationship) is pretty much the same thing. In both cases, someone you love suddenly ceases to exist in your life.
In the beginning I experienced a good deal of denial & depression. I've written repeatedly that the whole ordeal felt like a nightmare that wouldn't end. I deluded myself into thinking that maybe she'd made a mistake leaving me, and she'd come back once she regretted her choice. But of course by that point the writing was on the wall, and I chose not to read it. Instead I dissociated, mentally checking out from real life to numb myself to the shock of loss and betrayal.
I also found myself bargaining, not just with myself, but with her as well. I told her I'd take her back and forgive her if she stopped seeing her new lover. For a while I even was okay with letting her go seem him again (to "sort out her feelings", as she put it). But now I can see that for the ridiculous excuse it was. How could a relationship continue after such disloyalty? How could I even continue to love her after seeing how little she valued our relationship and how difficult it was for her to choose me?
Something that has helped me cope with my anger is the Stoic idea that nobody deserves anything. I've clung on to the idea that I deserved things from her: the truth, promises kept, and apologies. But people lie and break their promises all the time. Life isn't fair. There's nothing I can do about it now except accept it.
My friend also told me about the difference between being heartbroken and having your ego shattered. Em calls the former "clean" pain and the latter "dirty". I know the indignation I feel about being left for someone else definitely falls under "dirty" pain, and it's good to know that it stems from my ego.
Reading bits like these from the article made feel very seen:
If your now ex-partner is emotionally immature, they could be coming across as distant and selfish. They find it hard to process how they’re feeling and find it even harder to communicate it. Someone who is emotionally immature may invalidate what you’re saying to get out of the situation or avoid the situation altogether.
No matter how emotionally stable you are, when someone you shared a loving experience with has little to no regard for your feelings, it stings. They are not going to validate your pain or put effort into comforting you. The key to compassion is understanding, if someone does not care to understand where you are coming from, they won’t feel compassion for you.
And this below is what all my friends have been telling me about closure, try as they might to convince me:
In the end, no answer or reason they give you will ever be enough. Closure is a myth, at least in the way we look at it. You don’t need it to move on and heal.
If someone has left you with piles of questions and never gave you a chance for a real goodbye, they probably weren’t ever going to be a good partner to you anyway.
If she cheated on me, chose not to be loyal to me when given the chance, and treated me without respect or compassion in times of distress, maybe what I lost wasn't worth keeping. She liked the idea and stability of being in a committed long-term relationship, but didn't want to make the sacrifices that come with it. Just as my friend says, "you are not losing a person who was loyal enough to you to deserve what you could have continued to give them."