Grief After Breakup: 5 Ways to Cope with Anger & Bargaining
Welcome back. Over a series of blog posts, I have been looking at each of the "7 Stages of Grief" as described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and how they relate to a breakup. We are now moving onto stage 3, "Anger & Bargaining". Read below for my story and how to cope with this stage of grief.
My Story: How Anger & Bargaining Felt
Anger is a difficult one to write about as when I'm feeling angry, if I wrote about it, it would be scathing. While I believe it is healthy to let anger out, it can be easy for it to consume us. Dwelling in anger isn't healthy as it prevents us moving on and we become bitter.
There is no denying that I have a lot to be angry about but this won't change the past, it won't make me feel better and it won't make my ex give me a sincere apology. When I have been angry, I've tried to use it productively to give me the push to keep going and strive for better for myself.
Relationships have ups and downs, they take work. However, there is no prize for staying in a relationship that causes you pain, there is only wasted time.
When I was angry, I was obsessed with closure and for it to be packaged in exactly the way I wanted. I wanted him to come back and beg, for him to realise the hell he put me through. I wanted to confidently send him on his way. The reality is, it would never play out this way even if he had come back. I know myself well enough to know that at the time, I was incredibly vulnerable, I would have taken him back and now, instead of healing and moving on, I would be back in the pit of misery he had me in before.
I wanted to be heard. I wanted him to understand my pain. I wanted to gain the power back. But realistically, what difference would this have made? We can sit and analyse every detail but we won't always know why someone rejected us. When someone leaves your life, it is the universe clearing space for you.
In some of my lowest moments, bargaining has manifested in my thoughts as "I'll be patient, he will come back" or "he'll get fed up of the shallowness of sleeping with other women, and will come back when he wants substance". Sweet girl, he isn't coming back and this is the best scenario for you.
Sometimes, the greatest gift a person can give you, is to leave.
What are Anger & Bargaining?
Anger is something we feel when things don't go our way. Our bodies become flooded with stress hormone and we may have physical symptoms such as high heart rate, increased breathing rate or an increase temperature. In terms of a breakup, you might feel anger for a number of reasons such as betrayal, wasted time or effort, or you may want someone to blame for you pain.
Bargaining is when we try to make a deal to secure a better outcome. If we relate this to breakups it could be promising to be different if given another chance or any ways of trying to negotiate a partner to come back. It can also include bargaining to your inner or a higher power to find a better outcome. We can get stuck in "bargaining" if we are unable to accept our new reality and with that, what we have lossed.
5 Ways to Cope with Anger & Bargaining
Stop "if only" thoughts. When we are in the bargaining phase it is easy to get stuck in "what if" thoughts. What if I hadn't picked a fight that day? What if I had been more accommodating ? What if I had tried harder to work things out? Don't pick holes in a decision you have already made. You broke up for a reason and that decision is final.
Can you trade your "what if" thoughts to statements about your new reality? For example, "what if I had..." could become "I gave my best in my relationship. I'm on a new path and will find happiness in the future".
Reclaim your space. Many people move out into a new home at the end of a relationship but this isn't always possible. If you are living in a home which is full of ghosts of memories, what can you do to remove them?
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Repaint or put up art work
Get new bedding, curtains, throw cushions or blankets
Rearrange your furniture
Get plants or flowers to bring nature into your space
Invite over friends and family and make new memories in your home
Letter to your ex. When we go through breakups, the conversations we have with our ex's at the end are usually emotion fueled and chaotic. We may not get the opportunity to say everything we want to say.
Often times we are plagued by thoughts of "I wish I had said..." or "I need to tell him...". While we won't get the chance to say these things directly to our ex's, we can write them a letter. Say everything you want to say but don't send it. Put it straight in bin or file it somewhere if you want to refer to it later.
Don't be consumed by anger. Can you channel your anger? What are your angry thoughts telling you? Can you do anything about your angry thoughts?
For example, if your ex cheated you are likely to be angry over the betrayal. Maybe you get angry thinking about the person they cheated with or at your ex's dishonesty. What are your thoughts saying to you when you feel this anger? What you are angry about is in the past. There isn't anything you can do to change it. But, you can control how you move forwards.
Gratitude. What are you grateful for after your break up? Make a list of everything you are grateful for. This list could be in a gratitude journal or you could stick it up on a wall in your house.
There will likely be many things you are grateful for. Your anxiety levels may have dropped, you might not have to worry about who they are messaging behind your back. Or, it might be that aspects of your life are easier such as not having to pick them up from work or being able to watch what you want on TV.
Refer back to this list when you are struggling with your break up.
Disclaimer: this is a personal account of my healing journey is not intended to replace professional advice from physicians or trained therapists.