Allow the Grief, Heartache, and Discomfort to Pass
People ask me all the time, “how is it that the end of an affair can trigger grief? Isn’t grief reserved for death or the ending of real relationships?”
I tell them, grief isn’t about death. Grief is about loss. In fact, almost any type of loss can trigger the symptoms of grief. This can include such things as the loss of a pet, loss of innocence, loss of a job, money, trust, respect, or just about any other kind of loss. So, although an affair doesn’t have the same foundations as a committed relationship does, the end of an affair can still trigger grief symptoms because of the loss of fantasies, imagined possibilities, activities, and the ex-affair partner’s presence.
Here are some clues that you’re dealing with grief:
- You find yourself alternating between feelings of sadness and hopefulness.
- One moment you’re crying, the next moment your heart feels numb and frozen.
- You’re angry, and at the same time, you feel guilty and don’t want to let go.
- You’re filled with insecurity, regret, shame, and remorse.
If any of these symptoms ring a bell, then chances are pretty good you’re dealing with grief. If this is the case, then it’s important to give yourself the time and permission to allow yourself to grieve and allow the heartache to pass.
Here are three things you can do:
- Allow these feelings: Don’t judge them or tell yourself they shouldn’t be here. If you need to grieve, then grieve. Tell yourself: all my feelings are okay. Even the feelings that I’m not OK… are okay.
- Grieve honestly: Remember, you were drawn into the affair for a reason. At some stage, there was something you wanted or needed that you believed you could get from the affair. It’s important to allow yourself private time to grieve that it’s now over and gone. (Honest grieving allows for closure and helps you fully move on.)
- Focus on what’s possible, not what’s impossible. Optimism is one of the best lubricants for the grieving process. Include laughter, fun, supportive friends, and look on the bright side as much as possible.
Will it be easy? No. Will it be worth it? Yes.
Let Go and You Win
Right now, I believe you’re standing in the classroom of your life. I believe everyone that comes into your life has been sent, and every situation is here to teach you something. The question then is, what is this experience trying to teach you?
Well, one clear lesson, in my opinion, is that this experience is here to teach you the importance of letting go because everything in life is temporary. Learning to let go is a survival skill — one we all have to learn.
Here are two key things you need to let go of right now:
#1: You have to let go of the dreams and wishes for “what could be” or “could have been”.
One of the most difficult aspects of letting go is accepting the reality of the end of something. This includes giving up the impossible dreams and hopes of what could be. Yet it’s only by doing these two things that you truly can break free because as long as you cling to the “future perfect” pictures, you’ll never find closure… therefore freedom.
#2: You have to let go of the idea that letting go equals losing.
A big obstacle to letting go is people equate letting go with losing. Really, it’s exactly the opposite. It’s only by letting go that you win! What do you win? You win your freedom, the return of peace, your self-esteem and self-respect… just to name a few.
Fact: Letting go is winning!
Letting go is having the courage to accept change, and the strength to keep moving. Letting go is growing up. I believe it’s a gift to learn how to love and let go and to learn the difference between needing someone and loving someone. It’s a gift to learn how to let go of the past and move forward with your life, and it’s a blessing to let go and learn that all things are working together for your good (even the things that don’t feel good).
In order to help you gain a better perspective on this, I’ve included a copy of a wonderful poem I found somewhere on the Internet. I wish I knew who wrote it because I would like to thank them.
On letting go…
To let go isn't to forget, not to think about, or ignore. It doesn't leave feelings of anger, jealousy, or regret. Letting go isn't about winning or losing. It's not about pride and it's not about how you appear, and it's not obsessing or dwelling on the past. Letting go isn't blocking memories or thinking sad thoughts, and doesn't leave emptiness, hurt, or sadness. It's not about giving in or giving up. Letting go isn't about loss, and it's not defeat. To let go is to cherish the memories, but to overcome and move on. It is having an open mind and confidence in the future.
Find and Embrace a Support System
It’s important that you know you’re not alone (and there’s no reason for you to go through this alone).
If you want to ensure your success, then you must create a support system of people you can trust. You need only those people who aren’t interested in judging you as much as they’re interested in supporting your full recovery.
Please don’t underestimate the power of a support system.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard of women who have been drawn back into the affair simply because there was no one there to talk them down off of the ledge, and no one to talk to whenever they felt overwhelmed or tempted. Keep in mind that a support system isn’t about having a lot of people. It’s about having the right people. It doesn’t even have to be anyone you know personally. It can be a group of strangers who are going through the same thing. (The Internet is filled with forums and support groups for the end of the affair.) The key here is for you to be willing to reach out and allow yourself to be supported as you move through this process.
There are plenty of people online, in your community, in your church, synagogue, or mosque who are going through or have gone through the same thing you’re going through now. If you can’t find anyone, just do a search on Google for “affair recovery support”, and you’ll find lots of support groups, boards, blogs, and websites made up of people who understand what you’re going through.
Again… there’s simply no reason for you to go through this alone. And what’s more, it’s dangerous. On your own, you’ll be more vulnerable to temptation when things get rough.
And here’s another thing…
Because the end of the affair is bound to leave a gap in your life for a while, you need constructive ways to fill that void, or else the temptation will be to go back to the same old destructive habits.
Make no mistake about it.
The affair was taking up a lot of your time, energy, attention, and emotion. Now that it’s gone, its absence leaves a vacuum. You’ll need constructive activities to replace the destructive ones. I suggest you make a list of healthy alternatives you can do with your time, energy, and emotions (a support group can really help you come up with some great ideas).
Recapping the 7 Steps to Permanently Ending an Affair
My final thoughts:
It’s my opinion that until we learn how to accept forgiveness for our mistakes, we stay tied to them. This is why I believe that true recovery after an affair must include accepting forgiveness for your mistakes. You must find and commit to a path, plan, or process that guides you towards self-forgiveness, healing, and true recovery. Above all, forgiveness is not a theory… it’s an experience. This means you’ll need a program or process that can guide you through a true experience of forgiveness.
I can suggest three options:
- You can turn to your church or religious community to see what kind of guidance they can offer you in this area.
- You can get private coaching from me via the phone or Skype.
- You can watch/listen How to End the Affair home-study which includes two great sessions: Dismantling Emotional Affairs and How to Break Free from the Affair.
No matter which way you decide to go, it’s important that you do more than just tell yourself… it’s important to forgive. You must actually follow through and do it.
Key Insight: Our negative baggage never gets lost in transition.
It’s funny how our personal baggage seems to always show up in the next relationship or the next destination. So, if you don’t take the time now to forgive and let go, you could spend the rest of your life haunted by the ghosts of mistakes past. If that’s not what you want, then I suggest you learn how to truly forgive yourself and the past, and let it all go .
So, there you have it.
My seven steps for permanently ending the affair. I have faith that these seven steps will help you achieve the freedom you deserve while helping you preserve your dignity and restore your self-esteem.
One last thing.
I want you to pause right now and take a deep breath. As you breathe in, say to yourself.. “LET”; and as you breathe out, say to yourself… “GO”. Repeat this mantra several times (breathing in and breathing out, silently repeating “LET… GO…”) and remind yourself that all things are working out for your good.
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!