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Think About It... Rumination is a mode of responding to distress that involves repetitively and passively focusing on symptoms of distress and on the possible causes and consequences. Ruminating often precedes onset of depression. However, emotional memory can be managed for those who are haunted by the experiences of their past. ~Joseph Carver, Ph.D
Question: How long did you spend in each stage of grieving?  Think carefully - especially between Denial and Bargaining.  If you repeated a stage, just add the time of each cycle together.
Denial: 0-3 months
Denial: 4-9 months
Denial: 10-18 months
Denial: 19 months or more
Anger: 0-3 months
Anger: 4-9 months
Anger: 10-18 months
Anger: 19 months or more
Bargaining: 0-3 months
Bargaining: 4-9 months
Bargaining: 10-18 months
Bargaining: 19 months or more
Depression: 0-3 months
Depression: 4-9 months
Depression: 10-18 months
Depression:19 months or more
Acceptance: 0-3 months
Acceptance: 4-9 months
Acceptance: 10-18 months
Acceptance:19 months or more

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Author Topic: 8.04 | The Five Stages of Grieving a Relationship Loss  (Read 37216 times)
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« on: January 26, 2011, 07:38:38 AM »

The breakup of a marriage or long-term relationship can trigger similar grieving responses to the death of a spouse.

There are 5 common stages of grief that a person goes through.  These stages were first identified by the late Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D. when she spoke at the The Ingersoll Lectures on Human Immortality at Harvard University in 1970.

Where are you in the process?  
What have you struggled with?  How might you have approached it differently?
How has your perspective changed as you have gone through the stages?
What have you struggled with?


The five stages of grief are:

This is when we and our partner are on different page about our commitments to the relationship. This stage is filled with disbelief and denial.  
In the Kübler-Ross model, if your partner has died you still expect him to walk through the door.  The equivalent in a relationship breakup is that your partner is drifting away or has broken-up and you still think that he/she doesn't mean it - that it is a ploy or a reaction.  
Often in this stage we are engaged in relationship struggles and are expecting our partner to respond in the way that someone in a relationship would respond. However, they are in a very different, less caring place.  We are confused, hurt, put off by their behavior.

Anger/Resentment -
Anger often the reaction to being hurt and/or fearful, and helpless to do anything about it. The greater the loss, the greater the reaction.
In the Kübler-Ross model, you might feel anger at your deceased partner for dying (Kübler-Ross model).  In the relationship, you may feel anger at your partner for asking for a divorce and breaking up the family. You may feel anger at your friends or family for supporting her and not you. You may be angry for being betrayed.  You may be angery for not being idealized any longer (ego wound).  
Anger is a very complex pat of grieving - many of us stumble in this stage with either unhealthy anger (misdirected, trapping) or no anger (no release).
We need to determine why we're angry and focus our feeling on the true issues - if not, anger can imprison people.  

You try to negotiate to change the situation.
In the Kübler-Ross model, if you've lost a spouse to death you might bargain with God, "I'll be a better person if you'd just bring him back". In a relationship, you might approach your partner who is asking for the break-up and say "If you'll stay, I'll change".  
Bargaining is that stage of the break-up when you’re trying to make deals and compromises. It’s when you start talking about how an open relationship might be a possibility or a long-distance thing could work. It’s when you say to your partner, “if you just did this then I could do that and it would work”. It’s when you say to yourself that you’ll do x, y, z to be a better spouse so that the relationship doesn’t have to end.

The is the "it's really over" stage.
After all of the denial and the anger and the bargaining have been done and we realize that things really are starting to end and we become depressed. We fell helpless and powerless and overwhelmed with sadness about the loss that we are experiencing.  We realize the situation isn't going to change. The death or break-up happened and there is nothing to bring the other person back.  Acknowledgment of the situation often brings depression.
Acknowledgment often starts the serious process of us trying to understand what happened.
Acceptance – The "This is what happened" stage.
Acceptance is a final stage when we have finally sorting out what happened, accepted it and are more interested in moving forward than looking back.  
Acceptance can take a lot of time and a lot of processing. It involves understanding the situation, understand our role / understand their role, understanding what can be learned, and letting go / moving forward.  

Note: Each person mourns a loss differently.  You may not experience these stages in one fluid order. You may go through some of the stages more than once. Sometimes during the bargiaining stages we recycle the relationship. Or an event will trigger us to experience one of these stages again - like hearing your ex-partner is to remarry.

See list of all romantic relationship surveys

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« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2011, 07:58:48 AM »


Staff only

Please start your posts by putting the name of the stage yo are in in the upper right corner in bold.

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« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2011, 09:16:06 AM »


I struggled the most with reconciling who I "thought" he was (who I fell in love with) with who he really is.  Accepting that the bad was as much apart of him as the good.  Understanding that it was a serious disorder, with little hope of substantial change.

Once I navigated through who he was, his diagnosis, prognosis, etc., I still felt stuck, because I was dwelling on he, him, his...ALL about him and "his" problems.  Through counseling I was forced to accept my role in this.  Focus on "my" problems.  Examine my actions, motivations, illusions, fears, etc. 

When that happened, I really turned a corner, and the pendulum swung in the opposite direction...me, me, me.  During the course of therapy, self analysis, awareness, control, discipline, forgiveness, etc.  I now see it in a more balanced light.  It took two people to create that fiasco.  I've accepted each of our roles in it, properly looked at failures on each side, and taken responsibility for the ones that fall on my side of the fence. 

It's been a challenge, a valley and mountain to navigate, but I no longer harbor resentment for either of us.  Like most life changing experiences, it either changes you for the better or for the worse.  That outcome was totally within my control and my choice.  I'm glad I chose the first one.   Thanks to all those here that made that choice easier.   

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« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2011, 09:25:22 AM »


Where are you in the process?

I think I'm in the depression stage, although it changes from week to week or month to month right now. I can see part of why it hops around is when I allow myself to get re-engaged and then the grieving cycle doesn't necessarily start over, but it falls back a few steps.

What have you struggled with?  How might you have approached it differently?

What I've really struggled with is not having any idea what was going on. This didn't follow the "normal" pattern of past relationships I've had. I didn't know what was going on in many ways, to the point of not being able to recognize which stage I was in for the grieving process--and that's something I previously felt I was able to see, at least a lot better than I did this time.

Honestly, without knowing what I know now, I don't know how I could have approached it differently with what I knew then.

Knowing what I know now, about personality disorders and what I know about myself, I would look at signs that I am acting radically different and try to be more attentive about that.

How has your perspective changed as you have gone through the stages?

Since I haven't gotten to Acceptance yet, I'm not sure I can accurately describe that. I've changed from denial->anger->depression->bargaining so many times that I don't even believe I've followed the normal progression of the changes of grieving.

One thing that has changed is how I'm not turning a blind eye towards many things I ignored or wouldn't/couldn't believe in the past. Many things that I'd dismiss as "she's having a bad day" (that go well beyond a bad day) to "if I'd been more perceptive, this wouldn't have happened" - I'm trying to see them more objectively. Not always successful, but...

What have you struggled with?

How my ability to gauge people could have been so wrong. Maybe it was arrogance, but I always have felt I had at least a good ability to read people. Not seeing through the public face and seeing the core, shook me a lot. Made me doubt myself and my people skills in many ways.

Trying to admit to myself that I couldn't help her. I've long been one of those persons that people go to when they need something done, whether it's advice, or work, or simply knowledge. It's been tough to get past that ingrained characteristic that I can see answers and can explain them to people, and then see them succeed or at least move on to the path towards success.

Except... with her. Things that are/were readily apparent to me, when I'd try to explain them over and over, would end up in a black hole. It goes so much against my nature to not try to "teach" until someone gets something. Accepting that I simply can't help, and my offers of help are of minimal help or actually hurt her--that's tough.

Keep moving.
Because the human mind is tricky.
And we ought not to linger in its dark places.
seeking balance
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« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2011, 09:52:35 AM »


2 areas of grief for me: 

the relationship is over & ex is BPD, thus mentally ill.

I notice that after contact (still divorcing), I find myself go back through a short stint of bargaining, anger, depression - usually about 24 - 48 hours depending upon how much other stress is going on in my life.

My bargaining, is not about the relationship being over actually - it is about ex actually being BPD.  Although T's & MC told me a list of her issues, nobody  actually said BPD.  It has been a struggle to fully grasp the mental illness quality as ex was officially never diagnosed.

Faith does not grow in the house of certainty - The Shack
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« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2011, 09:53:25 AM »


I really didn't have the opportunity for two steps of the grieving process.  My pdexbf abruptly slammed out of our home in a rage.  There was no warning, no discussion, nothing, just a shocking turnabout where he moved out.  The day before we'd been out grocery shopping, planning meals, life as normal.  I never saw it coming.  It was a very ugly two days and communication between us was pretty much completely cut.  I think I went into sort of a shock.      

So Denial and Bargaining were pretty nonexistent, other than glimpses of them earlier in the relationships where I rationalized and justified the red flags  |>  that were there.  But at the end there was no denying what was happening, and I couldn't bargain for the relationship.  I was given no opportunity for either.  

I did attempt to email, first the day after he moved out (no response) and then maybe 3 more times in the months afterward.  I was trying to find some explanation, some decency, something that could make sense of it all.  

He responded once about 2 months after he left.  Cold and ugly.  It was a real eye opener to me.  I'd given nothing but love and devotion (and plenty of my personal resources), and I was just appalled at the person he'd become and how he could treat me the way he did, how he could talk to me the way he did.    

I've often said that I would need DNA evidence to believe the ugly person he had become could possibly be the loving, wonderful man of less than a year earlier.  It just didn't seem possible.  

Anyway, my grieving process turned very quickly to ANGER.  Even when he was moving out, I was shocked by my own anger...an emotion pretty new to me.  I don't know if it's something I picked up from him  PD traits  or if it was my own response from having lived in a rather confusing world for the two months we were together.  

Normally I would have been devastated (and I was this as well), but I was so so angry.  I did lash out at him verbally, called him a POS and trash, told him he was hateful.  I regret that because it's not in my nature to be like that, but I was unbelievably shocked and hurt and that was my response.  I did apologize for it in my emails.  Not once has he offered a word of apology to me.  

I think I've been angry enough to feel loathing and disgust for him.  I've felt used, violated.  I've said that I felt raped on every level...physically, emotionally, financially, psychologically.  And my anger stems from that feeling of being used and violated.  

I loved him, I trusted him and I was devoted to him.  I gave to him in good faith, believing the words and promises he'd told me early on.  I helped him in ways that have cost me dearly, used my resources to help him that I could have used to help myself and my children.  

I have been through hard times and difficult relationships before in my life, but I have never felt more hurt and betrayed.  For having given nothing but love and devotion I have suffered serious losses on many levels.  Yes.  I am angry.  

My anger has abated somewhat as time goes on, and with a lot of prayer and seeking, but it is not gone.  I don't think it's unhealthy, how is one supposed to feel when one has been raped?  

I have been working my way to forgiveness, but it has been an uphill battle.  My only peace has been found in giving it up to God, and letting it go, and taking responsibility for my own life, in the here and now, as is.  I know that many have lost more than I, so as they say "it could always be worse".  

Next, DEPRESSION, absolutely.  Deep, serious depression at a time in my life when I needed it least.  I had just graduated school when things geared up with my ex.  At a time when I should have been roaring into my career, I spent months helping him, dealing with him, moving him, settling him in...and then basically getting totally trashed by him.  It derailed me on every level, especially career wise and I've been struggling since.  Pretty tough to be "up on your game" when your life and your legs have been kicked out from under you, by the person you loved and trusted above all others.

The depression and accompanying exhaustion, feeling utterly drained both physically and emotionally, have made it very hard for me to pull up and do what needs to be done.  I have been, have been fighting for it every day, but the costs to me have been huge on every level.  At a time when I just needed to just take care of myself and heal, to cry it out, to sleep, to seek comfort, I have had to fight every day to survive and get back on track.  

The only things that have helped me through this have been my children, my other family and friends, and ultimately my faith.  If I didn't believe in God's care and will I don't think I would have made it.  

ACCEPTANCE:  Guess I'm sitting on the fence here.  I've absolutely accepted the relationship is over on that basic level.  He wigged out, was incredibly ugly, hit me, left, is gone, isn't coming back, wouldn't want him back, end of story.  

But there's another part of acceptance...getting past *disbelief*.  Every time I go over it in my mind, I'm still stunned.  The totaly Jekyll/Hyde turnabout is really just so shocking to me still.  The loving, wonderful, caring, good, honorable, Christian man of the earlier days v/s the cold, ugly,vicious monster (and this word comes to mind again and again) that he became...how do I reconcile the two?  

So acceptance is here on some levels, and a bit stalled on others.  

Acceptance is reality based, and I get reality.  It's also got a component of forgiveness, and as I said, the only place I can find that is in giving it to God...releasing it to his will.  It's not my forgiveness then, but His justice that I seek, and whatever that justice is, I abide by.  I can't do it alone.  I've not had a problem with forgiveness in the past, but this time the betrayal was too deep.  

So I guess that's where I'm at with the grieving process.  Working my way through it.  Not there yet, but surely better than I was on day one...


"Be gentle with your words, for they can be as mortal as a bullet to the heart - or a soothing balm on a broken soul."
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« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2011, 10:02:56 AM »


I went through the denial, anger, resentment, bargaining and depression during the course of the horrible 17 year marriage I was religiously stuck with, "My lot in life."

Leaving me and filing for divorce is absolutely the nicest thing the man ever did for me.  I have not grieved the loss since he left.  Grieving over the marriage was finished years ago.
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« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2011, 11:14:23 AM »


Mixed with depression, so perhaps somewhere in the middle. Part of the whole process, I know. Way too much to deal with at first, felt like being in shock, couldn't sleep, couldn't think of anything else but 'Why?' and 'Where are you?' All the times it seemed like she was really going to stay here, and have a life together, and then the next day moving out again? There were a handful of times where this occurred, the back and forth, make ups and break ups, rages, silent treatments, she'd never apologize... I never knew about BPD, but as soon as I started reading about it, all of the 'symptoms' just seemed to fit her behavior. It really wrecked me in a lot of ways to find that this may be what is going on with her. Such a good hearted person but she's mentally ill? This isn't about her loving me or not, she's just ill and can't help it? The illness itself causes her to NOT seek real help, just more superficial, short-term, selfish types of aid? Finding out she most likely does have BPD has made me very sad, as she probably really does love me, she just can't handle it or really trust that in her life. Knowing there is nothing I can do, especially now that she has cut me off completely, is very hard to take. Even just as a friend I'd like to help her somehow.

So, I am in the 'acceptance' stage, because I have come to see the relationship is over, we would never be together again without her getting some real help. She's turned herself against me so much, how could she ever face this again? So I have been reading up on dealing with the fallout from this situation, finding a lot of help here on the boards, a lot of good suggestions and positive energy being shared, which helps to not feel so alone. I have been talking with some friends, and, perhaps not so surprisingly, finding they have similar stories of some of their own ex's. Have been working on art, meditating, trying to keep busy to help think of other things... Having to accept that I did do my best, and I did love her, and despite the times I yelled back or whatever, I have forgiven myself because it was just situational and not a part of the 'bad' patterns I see in myself. I'm not an angry person, not looking to fight with anyone, especially not the woman I'm in love with. So i knew all along that the arguments were not really due to me. She kept telling me they were, so I questioned everything there was to question, talking it out in therapy, too. The therapist said I am just dealing with the stress of a hard relationship with someone who sounded very much BPD, and that I was going through depression from it, especially after the break ups occurred. It's good to find I wasn't the main problem between she and I, but it still hurts knowing I'd played a part in it. I have been working at uncovering my own underlying issues, working on sweeping them clear if possible.

One of the hardest parts about this situation has been the feeling of helplessness, of trying and trying to help her and help the situation but not being able to when it came down to it. It seems no matter what I tried, things just got worse. That she'd then blame it all on me, and I knew it wasn't like that, just made everything seem crazier and more out of control. There was just no pleasing her, not in any lasting way. To go from such Love to telling me she Hates me now, we're never going to be friends again, leaving extra wounds behind, gone forever now... I still don't get it, and probably never will. I am at the stage where accepting means I'm letting go of things, the bad feelings, the hope of reconciliation, the relationship itself... My heart does not ever want to be without her, but my brain says it's time to move along. The advice and things I've learned from reading so many other stories here is to 'let go, move on'. It's hard, but it's in progress. Does this grieving ever end? Do these questions ever stop? That's to be seen, I guess. I feel I'll always think of her as the best I ever knew, the one that really could have worked, but also as the one that was the most complicated and painful to be with. The one that I never could have had a truly good life with, due to the effects of this mental illness. Which does stem from rotten childhoods and so much previous pain, I do believe, which just adds more sadness to the pile...

Don't see how I could have done anything differently. I was at my best with her, trying everything I could find to try. Kindness, sweetness, cooked and cleaned and all of that, paid for most everything, had her living here, held her when she was upset or hurting, listened, loved her unconditionally... I read self-help books, went to therapy, talked with friends, strangers, anyone I could find. I really went out of my way, trying to help her and our relationship. I held my tongue, and I spoke up, too. Not sure what else I could have ever done. She wouldn't even admit that she was doing anything against me, or doing anything wrong between us. Didn't ever really reach out for the help she needs. I was her lover, partner, friend, not her doctor or some miracle worker. I didn't even know about BPD until after she left this last time.

My perspective has changed in ways that leave me more clear headed and sure about myself, but also sad and distressed about what she is going through. Like a lot of people here, I thought, she's just having a bad day/ her period/ or maybe it's something I did wrong... Even though, the more I got to know her and her story, I saw there was so much there that was full of pain and resentment. She held long-time grudges against people for the smallest slights, said she never could trust anyone as the world is full of 'idiots and perverts'... Every one of her ex's, friends included, had done her wrong... My perspective has changed lately into one of looking forward more than looking back. I felt frozen, at first, thinking she'd return, thinking she'd write once she cooled down, thinking she still loved me and the silence would not last. Well, she never did. She's Gone. I find that it is better this way, overall, and my view on that gets clearer every day. I'm still in love with her, just can't see us being together the way things are. My perspective has gone from one of being with someone, a real partner to share this life with, to one of being single and alone, dealing with this breakup and trying to dust myself off and move on. I feel like i let myself down as far as following my instincts and being aware enough to not be in an abusive situation. It's taken a while to even admit that that was going on, which was part of the denial/ grieving process for sure. It hit me hard one night, realizing just how bad she had treated me, how those hurtful words really got in there and helped to break us up. How could such a sweet woman ever act like that with the one she said she loved? It's still hard to get my mind around that concept, but in looking forward, it seems to matter less and less. I have to accept, for whatever reasons, she made her choice to go be somewhere else, and can't be with me anymore. I honestly look at myself and can say I didn't make this happen, but will always have a bit of doubt as to how much I did play into it. It's something to continue looking into, if only to not have it happen again should there ever be another chance to be with someone in love. My perspective now is more hopeful, yet there's a profound sense of sadness and loss still very much attached. Still have a way to go...

I struggle with missing her. Not hearing her voice, not holding each other, being in the bed together, her smells, her ideas, her laughter... Just sitting here together, smiling, feeling in love. I miss being there for her when she's down, as I could find ways to comfort her and help her through her pains and such, some of the time. It's a struggle knowing that she's out there, telling herself and whoever else, that I am just a bad person and she's better off without me. Hard to know she's really just hurting even more now, feeling alone in the world, that someone else has not been 'trustworthy', telling herself that all the good memories she has of me are really something else... I struggle with the loss of the 'dream'. The plans we made for marriage and family and a life together. Struggle with feeling there may never be another woman I ever feel that much for, or even anything close to it. Never find someone I'd have so much in common with (although how much of that was her just mirroring me? That's a complicated subject, and extra confusing when the disengaging process is occurring. How much of who she said she was is 'real'? How much just an act? How deeply did she really love me, or not love me? Etc.) It's all a struggle, and it makes me question just how much actual progress I am making, when I feel better one minute and consumed in doubt again the next. One thing I've seen with this BPD situation, and many others would agree: It seems to be an illness that both people in the relationship end up being afflicted with. She may be the one who has it wired into her very being, but it got into me as well. It affects everything. She and I became so close, how could it not? Well, I'm still confused about a lot of this stuff, so... Still processing.

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« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2011, 12:01:49 PM »


What have you struggled with?

I struggle with several things along the way,  most of them in the acceptance stage.  Me and my ego really had a hard time understanding that it wasn't a personal thing that happened to me.  Once I came to terms with that,  my clarity started to happen.  I could rationalize who I was to her,  what role i played in the relationship,  and the steps I needed to take to prevent something like this again.  It's hard to make yourself believe that what you saw...the fantasy...was false.  It was hard to understand that I was only an object to be used for her needs. 

How has your perspective changed as you have gone through the stages?

For me,  going thru all of the stages and now dealing with acceptance has taken me from focusing on her and trying to place the blame there to understand and accepting who she is and coming to terms with MY role in the situation.  At first,  it was very easy to see the "wrongs" she had done and place blame andsee that she was ill and excuse her mistakes and my mistakes with that.  Now,  i've taken a look at me.  Understanding who I am and what i'm doing to change myself. 



"Drastic times call for drastic measures"
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« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2011, 12:05:00 PM »


I am in the Acceptance Stage that the relationship is over; I received the default divorce papers just yesterday. What I struggle with is accepting the notion that he did not feel the same things I was feeling while we were married (3 years). I felt content and secure with him when there was no security in him, nor contentment. He did not reveal his inner thoughts and was secretive and now I think I understand why. I found him to be shallow but was willing to accept that he would develop relational skills if I was patient and loving. I understand the BPD flits from one r/s to another but from his brief description of his history he did not do this. I've come to the conclusion that he avoided intimate r/s due to his fear of closeness. He has a strange ongoing r/s with his EX that may be the substitute for new relationships--he splits from black to white with her, while he has split me black, seemingly permanently. Although his EX is married (to the man she cheated on him with) he claims that he is friends with both and has forgiven them. He won't forgive me though I've never betrayed him. I am finding the acceptance stage to be muti-faceted; accepting the end is different than accepting the dance of deception. I'm still trying to figure it out and accepting the bitter pieces one step at a time as the dance is exposed. I feel I am very gulliable to have been so clueless to the impending tragic ending and still in shock. I am beginning to accept the lack of closure but I am still trying to put the puzzle pieces together---not for his sake, but for my own sanity. This website has been extremely helpful although I feel obsessed in coming here to find answers.
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