Coping with a Failed Relationship: It is okay not to be okay

By 22 July, 2016Thoughts

Relational losses are one of the hardest to stomach; claims that suggested otherwise probably didn’t have much relational investment in the first place. And by definition when I say relational investment, I am referring to this sum of physical, psychological, emotionally and spiritual attachment with another person. Relational loss could have the potential to rip us apart and caused intense disruption for a long period of time.

Grief isn’t all bad – it is a natural human response to a significant loss that meant something important to us. Sometimes, we avoid grief intentionally because it makes us vulnerable. In a society where concept of strength and resilience are highly regarded, we simply detest weeping around the idea of helplessness, pain and disappointment. I mean what do some people typically say when they have through a relational loss, say through breakup?

‘Stay strong’
‘Cheer up’
‘You will find someone better’

Even the people around us cannot manage seeing someone else’s raw vulnerability; it’s no wonder that we do not have the space or permission to grief appropriately. It is denying a part of his/her emotions by putting a steel lid onto a jar of acidic smoke, forcefully being fettered via containment.

Next time, you could try one of my favorite line – “it is okay not to be okay’.

Asking a person to embrace pain may be counter-intuitive, but surprisingly therapeutic. When given the needed permission and the appropriate space to grief, people often develop personal ritual process that helps to deal with the loss. It could be finding meaning through journal writing, songs, poetry, movies, books, etc. Many times, the expressed ritual has nothing to do with the circumstances of the loss, but it somehow connects that most intimate part of our feelings with attempts in trying to make sense of this devastation.

It is important to find a suitable time to grief. It is like this dark eerie storeroom; though you know you have to sort out the mess someday, however, the fear of stepping inside instantly paralyzes you. So what could be helpful for you is not to avoid, but rather to find moments where you could feel safe enough to go in for a brief period of time before stepping out.

Dealing with grief is like fashioning a key to this storeroom. When you need to deal with the reality of life – close that door first. It would be hard to deal with so many things at one time. But once you are back in your own private space, you could decide if you could like to unlock the chamber or keep it sealed.

Having the power to decide when, how and why you want to have access to this storeroom is extremely liberating. It does not deny some goodness that came out of the failed relationship and forced us to evacuate people that were once important in our lives, but also the tacit acknowledgement that we need to let go because any further attachment to something nonexistent can be painful – akin to making way for the new by clearing the old.

About Mark Lin

Mark Lin works in Montfort Care and is the brain for the Good Death project. He has been working in the social service sector since 2010 with a passion to serve the elderly population in Singapore. He loves potatoes very much


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