I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
’Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
Alfred Lord Tennyson
I am extremely fortunate to have both loved and been loved.
But today I write of lost love. And my first steps in a journey from it. It’s not the first time I’ve taken this journey. In theory, such familiarity should mean that this time my travel will be easier. However, I doubt it. Although past experience may mean I move through the emotional cycle more quickly. In fact, I’m already through the Denial stage.
But I jump ahead. Some who read this may now be asking what is this Denial of which I write?
Well, I liken the ending of what was once a deep and loving relationship to grief. In my mind managing the loss of the love of someone is as tangible a loss as the death of a loved one. As are the stages of emotion one experiences when a once-close relationship ‘runs out of steam’. When the warm embrace of attraction cools to indifference or even alienation.
It’s accepted that grief has five stages and what follows is how I interpret these in terms of moving forward from the ‘death’ of love;
One’s first reaction when another tells them they no longer feel love is to go into Denial. A natural tendency to say this can’t be right. This can’t be happening to me. I love you; you must love me.
At some point, Denial tends toward Anger and frustration. The ‘why me — it’s not fair’ stage. The afflicted individual spreads Blame around liberally, but usually, they accept none. Instead, they will lash out at their once-lover or the once-lover’s family and friends.
As Anger fades, one enters the Bargaining stage. Pleas are made to a once-lover on what must change in order to reignite the spark of love. And there might indeed be a change in behaviour that reignites that spark. Although that’s not what usually happens. Some people never get past this stage and evolve their Anger to hatred of the individual that has fallen out of love with them. That hatred can last years. Many years. It can stay even if the individual believes they have moved to the next stage.
And that next stage is the decline into Depression. A deep sadness that can fall to a level at which the individual, sullen and withdrawn, says to themselves, “what’s the point?”;” I’m clearly an abject failure; “why go on without the one I love?” Some then use this as emotional blackmail in an attempt to win back their lost love. More dangerously an individual can take their despair to a point where they feel life is really not worth living. Tragically, they take their lack of self-worth to the extreme and end their life.
Eventually, however, one hopes to move their emotions on and reach the final stage. Acceptance. They realise that things will be okay and that they do have self-worth. That should they wish to seek it, they can find love and affection again. That they can find a new way forward. Sometimes an individual can achieve this alone. Most times however it’s with the support and indeed love of family and friends.
Some can move through these five stages quickly. Some can get bogged down. For example, at the end of my second marriage, I got a bit stuck in Denial and then later into Depression.
This time around, who knows. As I wrote earlier, I’m past Denial and don’t think I will lapse into Anger. My wife and I have discussed the options of how we might move on. Although we both must let our emotions play out, for now, it feels like I won’t become entrenched. There could be a time when I may dip into Depression, but for the moment, I have no sense of that.
Early days though, and while I don’t intend to bleed all over future Reflections, no doubt I will share my feelings as things progress.
That’s the way it should be as I move forward. If nothing else, I’ve learnt you have to share as you move through the stages. And move forward I must.