On tangled and layered grief

A thing you’d think I’d already have figured way earlier, but only became obvious to me after this latest breakup, is that there are stages of grief (other than the anger-denial-etc. ones).
A number of times, I’ve felt like I’d already gotten through the pain… Only for it to come up again, with me getting increasingly frustrated – “didn’t I process this already?”
Fact is, I think I did. It’s just that the way we talk about grief is a little misleading. Grief is not one big monolithic block that you just “get over” as one; rather there may be a number of different issues that are painful. They are separate but tangled up with each other, and you aren’t truly “over it” until you have processed them *all*.
Things that I’ve processed so far are at least:
  • coming to accept that this would never work as the kind of idealized relationship I’d been imagining as
  • coming to accept that while it working out as a *different* kind of relationship wouldn’t have been impossible earlier, it’s too late for that now
  • coming to accept that there were some simple mistakes that I made during the relationship that would have been easy to avoid and which could have made a huge difference to how things turned out; but which are pointless to dwell on now
  • coming to accept the loss of all the concrete good moments we had before things went sour, and the loss of that shared hope and excitement for the future that we had (this is the one my mind seems to be focused on working on right now)
As well as a few others that I think I’ve mostly gotten over, but which feel too private to mention.
I don’t know whether there will still be more. But it’s comforting to realize that I’m at least making progress, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.


  1. I’m going through a similar-ish situation myself (transforming a ~10 year old romantic relationship to a co-living one). What was maybe the hardest part at the beginning, was letting go of my expectations. Expectations of what we could’ve done next summer, on the day of our anniversary and so forth.

    In my current relationships, I’m trying my best to steer away from expectations. Especially those that, if the relationship were to “end”, would cause me pain for having to let them go. I find this approach makes me face my vulnerabilities in a good way.

    On the other hand, rather than letting go, I find those “concrete good moments we had before things went sour” are something I can still cherish. They are happy memories. Although there’s now this bittersweet yearning attached to them, they do remind me I’ve lived a meaningful life.

    • I’m sorry to hear that you’re in that situation. Thank you for sharing: I hope that things go well for both of you.

      • I feel that you’re maybe trying to connect by saying that you’re sorry. Connection is always a nice thing, but I don’t feel there’s anything in my situation to feel sorry about. It just is what it is. I trust that me sharing my story didn’t actually burden you — it may be a sad story but it’s also something I cherish with gentleness and warmth.

        May your story be gentle and warm also.

      • Kaj Sotala

        Was trying to connect, yes. Glad to hear that you’re fine. :)


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