“Endings are experiences of dying. They are ordeals, and sometimes they challenge so basically our sense of who we are that we believe they will be the end of us.”
I want to talk about endings today. This is a topic that either nobody wants to talk about or that people just can’t shut up about. We’ve all experienced them. Your relationship ends in separation, the job you quit (or got fired from), your daughter moves out to go to college (or move in with her boyfriend, or both), the move cross-country to a place you’d never been – you know what I’m talking about because you’ve been there.
In this world, all things come to an end. Endings are usually seen as unpleasant, as bad, and we’re generally very upset about them. What I see a lot of in my coaching practice are the most devastating types of endings – the ones we don’t choose ourselves – the death of a spouse or child, the divorce we didn’t see coming, getting fired/laid off, the debilitating illness that threatens to take everything away.
William Bridges talks about endings in his book, Transitions, as having five different aspects: Disengagement, dismantling, dis-identification, disenchantment, and disorientation. He talks about these as symbolic events on the way towards a new beginning.
We can also talk about endings and how they fit into the cycle of change. We are always somewhere in the cycle of change, and different parts of our lives may see us playing out different phases of this cycle. And in cases of significant catastrophic loss, all of our life areas can be suddenly dumped into one cycle – that of endings.
Being Forced on the Boat – “I want a divorce.”
We usually resist unwanted endings that are thrust upon us. If your marriage has disintegrated into divorce, it’s likely you are judging yourself as having failed. If you are the one being “left,” there’s something you should know. The truth is that you are at the very beginning of the curve in experiencing, accepting, and moving on from this type of ending. You are literally trailing behind where your partner currently is in this regard. It’s just the way this works.
If your spouse/partner comes to you one day to share the news that they are done and want to leave the relationship, they have had a lot of time to think about this, to process their feelings, and come to a decision. They are ready to move on. The big difference is, even if deep down you suspected this moment was coming, when it does, you are not prepared. For the person who leaves the marriage, the predominant feelings are of guilt for causing pain to the person they once loved. When you have been dumped, the feelings of rejection and abandonment are the chief cause of pain. Both parties will grieve the loss of the partnership in their own way – and, in my experience, the one who has been left has a longer row to hoe in terms of grieving the loss, accepting it, and rebuilding their life after this loss. The pain they feel at the point of the relationship ending is truly more severe and debilitating.
The tendency when you have had the wind knocked out of you this way is to withdraw into the victim energetic stress response. It’s a natural part of the process to feel immobilized and unable to cope. There are thoughts of, “Why did this happen to me?” “How could he/she do this to me?” or even “I don’t know how I will ever get over this.” Feelings of fear, abandonment, desperation, depression, etc. are all normal reactions to your loss. And naturally on the heels of that comes the feelings of anger, rage, betrayal, and maybe even fantasizing about revenge. This is the conflict energetic stress response – the urge to fight back and hurt the one who has hurt you.
While these energetic stress responses of flight or fight are natural, it is usually helpful to be reminded that this not who you truly are. And, when you are in the greatest level of pain, you are motivated to learn, grow, and heal in order to make the adjustments necessary to move toward rebuilding your life.
Deciding to Get on the Boat
One of the things you can do right now is to become aware of where you are in the ending process. This will help to normalize your experience and, in time, provide the distance from the flood of emotions so you can more neutrally evaluate your situation and empower yourself to make changes in your life – when you are ready. I encourage you to spend time in solitude, reflecting where you are in processing the ending of your relationship. And, give yourself plenty of time for this. The key is giving the love you want to give to, and receive from, your partner to yourself.
I also encourage you to resist the urge to embark upon a voyage of new beginnings before you have completely unpacked the suitcase of your ending. It helps to know what you really want before running off to engage in aimless diversions. Also, it’s always recommended to not try to replace your loss until you have mourned it and processed it fully. Instead of speeding through the process, slow down and allow yourself to just experience it. Don’t allow anyone, including yourself, to rush you or put pressure on you to “get over it and move on.”
Following the Bridges model of endings, here are a few mile markers you may encounter as you travel through this territory – and it’s important to say that you may not necessarily experience them all or in this order:
- Disengagement – detaching emotionally from the partner/marriage
- Dismantling – physical separation and/or divorce
- Dis-identification – seeing yourself as a “me” instead of a “we”
- Disenchantment – allowing yourself to see “what is” instead of what you wanted to see
- Disorientation – inviting yourself into life’s big questions…“Who am I?” and “What do I want?”
How can you work through this? Journaling can be a powerful tool for self-expression and self-discovery. I also encourage you to seek out and create a network of support for yourself like support groups, individual coaching or counseling, spending time with friends. Let yourself express your feelings of sorrow, give yourself permission to grieve fully. Read some books on navigating through divorce and transition. This is also a time where prayer and asking for Spiritual assistance and guidance can be comforting and healing.
Endings pave the way for new beginnings by creating space in your consciousness and your life for the transformation to begin. Moving through the process and consciously choosing to accept and cooperate with endings is an important part of making the successful transition from victim to victor. It very often works out in the end that the person who has been left in the relationship comes to the same realizations about it as the partner who left, after having had the time to process the ending and bring into awareness their own contributions to the outcome. It comes down to a matter of timing.
Regardless, patiently working through endings is an opportunity for a clearing and healing that makes you ready to embrace your next chapter in your life, one that can be fulfilling, meaningful, and filled with joy.
“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”
Love and Blessings on Your Journey,