Grief is often narrowly defined as how we feel when someone we love dies. But we do know there are many non-death losses that result in deep grief as well.  

One such loss is when someone I love decides to not love me any longer. The death of a relationship could be and often is devastating. So what can we do when someone I love dearly ends the relationship – when they leave us?

G – This is a GRIEF Experience

First, and really crucial, is to recognize this experience as a major loss. When an experience is not recognized as a loss, we might miss some ‘grief strategies’ that could really help us navigate through this mess.

The first and most important strategy, in my opinion, is to give yourself permission to grieve, to feel whatever you feel. Grievers often think something is wrong with them, and falsely assume that they are weak, perhaps weak in faith, because their devastation is so real.

If we fight against these emotions and stuff these negative feelings, we could sink deeper into the pit of grief, and reinforce the false belief “I am worthless.”

Grieving, as many say, is the price we pay for love. It sucks. When someone decides to leave a relationship, we can have many mixed and conflicting emotions. We may be very angry at the one who left, and at the same moment be angry at ourselves.

Feelings of rejection, worthlessness, and sadness may dominate. Some may even feel a sense of relief. These conflicting feelings may confuse us unless we understand that these emotions are part of this grief journey. Even when we do ‘get it,’ it still hurts. 

P – The Only PERSON I Can Change is Me

Trying to change other people always fails. I know, I have tried it. How about you?

When one’s love for someone is not returned, the tendency is to try to ‘get’ them to love me back, to change their mind, etc. This sounds selfless, and perhaps even appears to be a sound strategy. However, it usually results in frustration, and actually tends to push the other person further away from us.

So what can we do? We can work on ourselves. In fact, we can always work on ourselves. Dr. Joe Beam, who founded Marriage Helper, an organization that helps married couples who are in crisis, (, has developed an acronym for working on one’s self: P.I.E.S. Physically, Intellectually, Emotionally, and Spiritually.

Since we all love pies, this should really relate to us. Working on improving ourselves actually helps us NOT try to fix others, especially the one who left me.

 S – SINGULAR Purpose

Almost everyone who is experiencing deep grief feels overwhelmed at some point. Some feel overwhelmed every day.

Going through a loss drains us emotionally. Energy can become a distant memory. Attempting to solve the problems of our loss often results in impatience, of attempting to do too much, too soon. Then frustrations come when I can’t do enough – leading to physical and emotional exhaustion.

Gary Kellar’s book The One Thing offers great advice and a great metaphor for helping us focus on one thing at a time. One domino, he writes, can knock over another domino 1 ½ times its size. Thus a 2” domino can knock over a 3” domino, which can then knock over a 4 ½ inch one, etc.

But it does take some force to knock over that first domino. Then momentum is built, and before long, bigger dominos will fall. Anyone, I repeat, anyone, has the ability to knock over a 2 “ domino.

The only thing I can do at this moment is to knock over that 2” domino. When I do what I can do, and stop attempting to do that which I cannot do, real progress can be made to help me get out of that pit of grief. One 2” domino at a time.

 We sure wish we had the magic wand to take away your pain; you know that no one has that wand at their disposal. But we can do this: we can recognize we are in grief, we can work on ourselves only, and we can knock over that 2” domino today.

At Marriage Helper and Spark of Life, we have found this to be true  –  there is always hope.

Find hope today. 

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