Experiencing a loss can put tremendous strain on a relationship. A significant loss could include a relationship, a job, a house, a loved one or multiple other events. Grieving a loss is a long and difficult road. Grieving as a couple can be even more difficult. Many of us are familiar with the five stages of grief but how each stage affects the other part of a couple can either be an opportunity for growth or an opportunity for increased conflict.
Memorial Hospital, (2006) describes the five stages of grief as the following:
- Denial and Isolation.
At first, we tend to deny the loss has taken place, and may withdraw from our usual social contacts. This stage may last a few moments, or longer.
The grieving person may then be furious at the person who inflicted the hurt (even if she's dead), or at the world/God, for letting it happen. He may be angry with himself for letting the event take place, even if, realistically, nothing could have stopped it.
Now the grieving person may make bargains with God, asking, "If I do this, will you take away the loss?"
The person feels numb, although anger and sadness may remain underneath.
This is when the anger, sadness and mourning have tapered off. The person simply accepts the reality of the loss.
In a relationship if one person is in the denial stage and the other is in the anger stage, isolation and anger can be directed at each other, creating a wedge that makes grieving together very difficult. Recognizing what stage your significant other is in can allow for understanding and growth both in the relationship and the individual.
The bargaining stage can be difficult because it is often unfruitful. Directing bargaining at a person who cannot deliver the results or harshly pointing out poor results of bargaining can result in anger and resentment in both parties.
When a member of the relationship enters the depression stage they often become unavailable emotionally and physically to their loved one. Communicating with your partner about what you are going through can reduce feelings of rejection or anger.
Experiencing a loss of any kind is difficult to transition through. Seeing a counselor can help navigate the flood of emotions or the numb detachment, and help to reduce relational strain.
Memorial Hospital. (2006). Five Stages of Grief. Retrieved on May 18, 2011 from http://www.memorialhospital.org/library/general/stress-the-3.html