Suddenly or not so suddenly - the relationship is over. Like many natural disasters, there is little you can do, if anything at all, to be fully prepared for the event and the aftermath. Whether you saw it coming or not is irrelevant because when it hits, it hurts.
In the aftermath, there is immense loss, seemingly irreparable damage, and it changes everything. Loss of a relationship or the breakdown of one is a highly critical time for individuals. The steps they take and the support we as a community of friends, family, and professionals offer, is equally critical.
Sunday night was the Inaugural Event of "Embracing Single", a Singles' Wellness Initiative that I have recently undertaken to focus on supporting individuals in Single Wellness. A dynamic group of singles mingled over coffee, and participated in a few community-building activities, then engaged in a group discussion.
One of the many takeaways for me at this event (that will now be a monthly event) was the stark reminder that we are all in various stages of our journey with singleness.
If I was to describe to you exactly how depression feels, having experienced depression more than once in my life, I could do a fairly good job of conjuring up enough memories of my mental and physical symptoms to describe my experience. But it would never capture its intensity, depth, or darkness as when I actually experienced it.
And if I was to describe the pain of childbirth, being 18+ years ago now, I could try to muster a memory of it, but the physical pain has buried in my distant memory and washed away by the highly capable and independent young woman who is my beautiful daughter today. The image of the event is now a completely different thing, not the pain of the event that gave life to her this many years later.
What I was reminded of at Sunday night's gathering of singles is the emotions and feelings of what it felt like a few "stages" of singleness ago. I was reminded of the rawness of it, the chaos that goes with it when emotions are just beneath the surface, of the mental anguish, and the emotional turmoil. And it's not that any of this was visibly seen at any time during this amazing event but let's just say there was a presence of it.
This reminder and awareness helped me broaden my scope of reach to singles in order to address the "other stages" of singleness.
Before you go about "Embracing Single", which I call Stage 3, you may need a little help "Stepping Into Singleness", which I call Stage 2. And you may be trying to do both and you dance in between the two. And that's okay.
I'll briefly describe the Stages from 3 to 1 so I can end up back at where I want to be.
Stage 3: The Clearing
Embracing Single is when you begin to see yourself and your world much clearer than previous stages. It is a season of stepping into full acceptance of your present independence.
The timelines for this stage would be around the 2+ year mark, although this is not a hard and fast rule. Time for healing is essential but of course depends on the circumstances and complexities around the ending of the relationship, how long you had been partnered, how long the finality of the relationship or divorce took, etc.
Stage 3 is essentially when you are ready to welcome this single season of your life and wanting to use this time to work on self. We call this individuation which is a time of heightening and fine-tuning self-awareness (internal self, how you see yourself), and self-actualization (external self, how you present to the world). It is a time where you are choosing to stay single and/or are in preparation for being coupled again. When you do enter a future relationship, doing this work will help you be higher functioning as an individual and as part of a couple.
Join us for Embracing Single: Conversations for Singles in Greater Victoria.
But before one can embrace singleness, one must have had to step into singleness.
Stage 2: The Mist
You are in Stage 2 of singleness if your relationship ended in the last 3-24 months. You have started to experience a clearer vision, the dense fog is clearing now you are in the mist (and the midst) of the events that have transpired, you have some knowledge of what you must do to move forward, but you are aware (whether you want to admit it or not) that this would best be done with support and resources to guide you through this season. This might require asking for help rather than retracting into isolation and continuing to struggle in unnecessary isolation, which for some of us is our pattern.
You are transitioning (whether by choice or necessity) into a new identity as a single and ready to make the choice to step into a new season of healing and toward wholeness. You are open to receiving support and learning additional life and coping skills.
Some may be still going through the legalities of separation and divorce, including court proceedings, addressing the sale of assets and properties, and maneuvering complex co-parenting issues. Other may find themselves facing destitution and financial ruin, homelessness, bankruptcy, and feeling very alone in it all.
The only thing I can absolutely promise in this stage, although not much consolation but riddled with hope, is that time will take care of most of what seems to be overwhelming you right now. Time for you to work through these things, time for others to journey with you, and time for you to reach out to get the resources you need to get through it including counseling and/or coaching, support groups, community resources, trusted friends and family.
I have created a new Meetup group called "Stepping Into Single" which is a Meetup to do similar things that the "Embracing Single" group does (connection, support and community), but with the emphasis on "support group" dynamics, giving those in Stage 2 a place and space to be in this stage.
*Please note that I have made this a faith-based support group as I cannot see my way to offering everything I have to offer singles in this stage without including gently applied biblical principles to offer love, hope, and support for those struggling, as well as music therapy and prayer. Those joining the group will be fully aware of this format. Join us!
Before the mist... there is fog.
Stage 1: The Fog
The aftermath of a loss of a relationship is a critical time for self-care and seeking the help of others. Separation and divorce is a loss. In fact, this event is loss upon loss, and treatment of it and recognition of this as a loss is when the healthy process of grief can take place.
I can only imagine what it would look and feel like through images from news reports, what it would feel like to stand in a house or community in the aftermath of a tsunami. The wave hit and annihilated everything in its path. Now you stand in the chaos of what was once your life. The resources that were once there, things like shelter, power, and light, have been wiped away. Members of your community were washed away with the receding tide. You stand alone. You stand among the ruins.
This is crisis. This is life-threatening. This is going to stretch every skill and resource you have at your fingertips to get you to a place of refuge. And perhaps in your mind, you are waiting for the next wave to hit.
Stage 1 of singleness can feel much like this tsunami scenario. You are standing in the aftermath. You find yourself feeling completely alone, in a fog, and the support you seek during this time is crucial. This is when you lay down your pride (if you have any left at all) and need to dig deep. The ironies are all around you. For to become self-sufficient, you ask for help. To become independent, you must depend on healthy relationships. Finding a small group of safe people with the resources to help you through the fog is essential. This could include being in the care of your doctor, seeking one on one counselling, joining a community support group, and staying connected to a close circle of family and friends who are safe, nurturing, and supportive. The support circle can start very small. Make it safe. As the fog clears, you will know who to invite into it. Just take care. Reach out. And know you are not alone.
I trust this was helpful for you in identifying where you find yourself in your stage of singleness. Perhaps you are someone in between. Whether you are in the fog, the mist, or the clearing, I hope you feel seen and supported...
Because every one counts,
firstname.lastname@example.org | www.melaniehart.ca