Friday, June 19, 2009

Let's hear it for the mourners

I get a lot of letters - I mean a lot - from readers and listeners who have just endured the ending of a relationship.

But here's something that may surprise you. The ones that worry me are not those who outline in heart-rending detail their tears and rages, not those who report a deep loss of self esteem and trust in the world.

Yes, such responses are painful and not to be trivialised - but they are totally normal and healthy. Let emotion flow, get support for the agony, and in the end you will likely recover. Of course there are exceptions, those who are crippled by break-up grief for the rest of their lives; but as with a bereavement, typically nature takes its course and you come through. You may suffer, but you will surive.

No, the readers who terrify me are those that think that they won't - shouldn't - suffer. Those who try to carry on regardless and then wonder why they are finding life difficult. Cf poor, sad Katie Price, downing drinks and hitting the Ibiza dancefloor while shouting defiantly at reporters "I'm over Peter!"

I'm not criticising these readers - their hurt is just as strong as the griefstricken or depressed correspondents, and they need just as much support and pity. But who said that suffering isn't an inevitable part of having loved? Who said that one shouldn't mourn when that love dies?

What sort of world do we live in that persuades people that they should 'bounce back' from the ending of - in Katie's case - a five-year relationship that produced two children? What sort of world do we live in where the default option for coping with such an ending is not to lick our wounds and receive the support and comiseration of friends, but to think we have to carry on regardless drowning our sorrows in drink and yet another relationship. Only last week, in my postbag, I received a long letter from a woman worried there was something wrong because she didn't 'feel better' after her long-term partner had walked out on her... barely a fortnight before.

So let's hear it for the relationship mourners, those who have the courage to feel the pain and grieve the loss, to take their time to come back onto the dating scene, and to learn the lessons of the breakup before they emerge into the world again.

Short term they may seem emotionally weaker than those who don't even break step. Longer-term, however, they will be healthier, happier and far more able to love.

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