Coping with loss of a relationship
Coping with betrayals as a loss
Continuing from our earlier discussion on trust offenders and lie forgivers, we will learn how to deal with betrayal and loss of a relationship. To deal with any form of betrayal, the victim needs to understand he has just experienced a loss. The question then is how do you cope with losses? Anyone who has lost someone undergoes a period of grieve. It, therefore, implies that the victim will go through the process of grieve and only then can he be free.
The Process of Grief
Most often, when people have been betrayed, they have overwhelming emotions which are so intense that they are unable to make any sense out of them. Therefore, if you have been betrayed, you need to be able to understand and interpret these emotions and why you are experiencing them.
The theory of grief is that it involves several stages: shock/denial, anger, venting emotions, sadness, and acceptance. Frequently these stages may overlap, or one may be experienced more intensely than another, or one might be so shortly lived that it didn’t seem that it was part of the experience. At other times people stuck in one of the early stages which prevents them from moving on. It is even conceivable for someone to be stuck in one of these stages for years.
1. Denial/Shock Stage. The first stage of shock or denial is when you are initially confronted with the betrayal. There might be a tendency to disbelieve the betrayal. Most commonly people want to avoid the experience of grief because the emotions are so intense. So they will engage in avoidance behaviors. These can be compulsive, addictive behaviors such as abusing drugs or alcohol, over-eating, or gambling. These types of behaviors are escapes from emotions. People also escape emotions in other ways such as obsessive reassurance-seeking, questioning, or dependency. Or people might just avoid the situation altogether and write the other person out of their lives. These are only a few of the most common ways people avoid the grief process.
2. The Anger Stage. Once the betrayal and loss is fully acknowledged, the individual is likely to feel intense anger. This is a very delicate stage because this is when many things can go wrong in the process. Primarily, it is critical to recognize that the emotion of anger is perfectly okay, but our actions that are influenced by anger may not be okay. There is nothing wrong with feeling this way, but it is best to not react during this stage. A common stage where people become stuck, especially with the issue of betrayal, is in the anger stage. They become so focused on the wrong that was done to them that they never fully experience the other emotions. For many people, when they are first hurt and react with anger, their inclination is to retaliate, to hurt the person who hurt them or they want to resolve the matter too quickly by pretending they are not angry and dismissing the seriousness of the transgression.
3. Venting Emotions. During the time of anger, the betrayed person needs to vent. The tendency is to want to vent with the person who hurt you as a form of retribution. However, it isn’t really a safe way for you to vent. The transgressor is going to be dealing with his/her own issues and is most likely to respond defensively. Therefore, it is only likely to lead to escalating anger. You need to vent to someone who will listen and validate your anger without feeding your anger. For example, you want someone who will say, “I can understand why you are angry” but not someone who says “He’s really scum. You should throw him out.” Therefore, it is often best to talk with a trusted but unbiased friend. If that’s not possible, a minister or a therapist can help you through this process.
4. Sadness. As you work through the anger, you should begin to come to a point of sadness. The sadness is experienced when you begin to recognize the full extent of what you have lost. You begin to think about the good things in the relationship that you miss. You think about the shattered trust and knowing that you can never get complete trust back. Once someone has violated our trust, we can get to a point where we can continue the relationship with them, but we will forever know that they have the capacity to betray us. During the time of sadness, you need to release those emotions just as you needed to release the anger. Again, you can write how you feel. Or you can imagine telling the person the hurt you have experienced and the loss of the relationship that grieves you. And, of course, it is okay to cry.
5. Acceptance. The grief process is a healing process. It was built into our systems to help us cope with the numerous losses we experience in life. If we trust the process fully, we will heal. Trusting the process means allowing the feelings to be what they are, whatever they are. Feelings are never wrong or bad. What we do because of feelings can be wrong or bad, but that is a choice. The feelings themselves are not bad. Therefore, they won’t hurt us. They help us in healing. If you trust this healing process, you will finally get to a point of acceptance. This is the point where decisions can be made and action can be taken. At this point, you are able to think clearly about the situation and decide what the best course of action to take. And, of course, that action will vary depending on the person and the situation. You may decide that a continued relationship with this person can only lead to more hurt and is not worth the effort of trying to sustain a relationship. Or you may decide that there are too many good things in the relationship to give it up.
You are stronger than you think! Snap out of it. You will bounce back stronger!
Hope to hear from you.
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