You’ve finally gathered the courage to hit the hard wall of realty in your relationship, and have established some great, healthy boundaries. And whether the situation is benign enough or you have acted early enough in the game, or it’s been a trail of wreckage and everything in between, here comes the next step.
Grieving. Yes, we need to work through the grief process, even if we don’t want to. Here’s why:
1. We were in denial with blurred boundaries initially, seeing what we “wanted to see” in the situation, in the person, etc. until reality showed up in such a large way it could no longer be ignored. We eventually hit the wall, then detach and set limits when we are burnt and exhausted.
2. Now out of denial, we must grieve the DREAM we thought was going to be…they were going to be wonderful, responsible, and loving and behave exactly as I wanted them to. Unfortunately, the reality is that they are not in a place to be all those things right now. We see that now.
3. The contrast that arises between what we hoped/wished/thought it was going to be and the reality we are experiencing now can create fear. We want to “undo” what’s happened. We have to admit we have zero power over outcomes…and by setting limits, detaching and letting go we are then left with ourselves. To actually feel the feelings we may have been pushing down for a while. Many times, I have noticed clients with anxiety and panic attacks who had avoided dropping into deep grief. Once they do, the anxiety dissipates. There’s no longer an internal battle!
4. By surrendering to reality we are no longer other-focused. We may be very sad but we will feel more grounded. Those around us will sense the difference. Grieving is vulnerable, and it’s owning your truth. Finally. Only when we get to this place can we begin to really grow.
5. I talk about in the podcast this week that I truly believe that if we can do no other personal growth work – learning to and letting ourselves grieve is the single most necessary component of emotional maturity and healthy relationships. Grownups sit in reality. They work through their feelings toward acceptance. Immaturity keeps us from being able to do this. Old, trapped pain keeps us from maturing emotionally.
If we Don’t grieve, we usually will slide back into medicating ourselves with whatever delusion du jour works- they promise it will change, we stick the elephant back under the rug – we pretend it all never happened. Because setting limits isn’t about THEM seeing the need to change.