Grieving bad relationships?


By David Joel Miller.

Do you grieve over the end of a bad relationship?

Couple

How to grieve a bad relationship.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

When a relationship ends we all grieve, each in our own way. Grieving is a process and that process can be different for each person. It makes sense to grieve over the loss of someone we love, but many people find themselves going through a period of grief at the end of a bad relationship, and the stages of grief they go through can be a lot like the process for the loss of a loving relationship.

This has occurred not once or a few times in my clinical practice. If it was one person I would not be telling this story out of respect for their confidentiality. But this has happened frequently in the lives of people I see and it is reported in the research on ending relationships.

Bad relationships happen in the romantic area and they happen in our families of origin. There is pain from that unfulfilling relationship whether it involved an unloving or abusive parent or a romance gone bad.

New relationships often start with huge hopes and expectations. A large number do not live up to those expectations. We invest a piece of our heart in every intimate relationship we have ever been in.

Couples get together, with or without the benefit of marriage. They expect this relationship to make them happy. Then the reality sets in they are not happy in this relationship. Many times they find they are miserable.

There may be abuse, addiction, domestic violence, and arguments. In the course of those conflicts, people say things to each other that they can never take back. The relationship hurts.

Ending the relationship does not end the pain.

You may have grown up in an unloving home. The parent was addicted, abusive or just unable to provide the affection you wanted and needed. Depressed parents, parents with their own mental or emotional issues may not be able to give those things they do not have themselves. The cycle of emotional unavailability can pass down through generations.

Children who were abused by parents, placed in foster care to protect them, still may miss that parent.   More than one of these youth, upon reaching adulthood will leave the foster care system to return to the family that abused them.

What they miss is not the reality of unloving parents but the loss of that dream that someday somehow they will be reconciled to those parents and find love.

Couples often grieve not for the loss of the relationship that never was good but for the loss of that dream that in this relationship they might find the loving other that would make them happy.

What many find out is that this other can never make them happy, happiness is an inside job. No amount of effort will make some troubled relationships whole. Often times ending a relationship is the best thing for both people involved. Other times they end the relationship and discover that they are still unhappy.

When any relationship ends, good or bad what we most grieve is the loss of potential, the end of the dreams that someday, somehow this relationship will meet our needs. We grieve when we lose a good relationship and we grieve when the troubled ones end.

We grieve mostly at the end of each relationship over the loss of what might have been.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended books.

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