Grieving the death of an ex-lover may cause confusion

StaceyNHerrera

**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events that I have experienced firsthand; used with permission.

Less than a year after my daughter was born, my ex-boyfriend was murdered. At the time, I was a happily married new mom, and suddenly I was faced with the challenge of grieving another man while I was married to someone else.

My husband was supportive, he understood that I needed to grieve in my way, and he gave me the space to do that. I think it was hard for him to see me mourning someone else. And I felt confused about whether I was allowed to feel the way I felt or not.

It’s been over twenty-five years now, and I sometimes think about my ex-boyfriend. I’m not sure if I’ll ever stop thinking about him entirely, but I’m OK with that. He was an essential part of my life, and I loved him.

How do you recover from the death of an ex-lover?

“The bereaving ex has as much of a right to treat the loss as though they were still currently involved with the person.” — Laurel Steinberg, PhD

There’s no rule book when it comes to grief. And there is very little information on how to mourn the loss of a former partner. Especially when you’re in a committed relationship with another person, so know that you're not alone if you find yourself in this situation. And know that it’s OK to grieve.

It’s normal to have strong feelings for someone, even though many years have passed. Feelings are not static; they do not stop just because a relationship evolves, changes, or ends. People might find being distraught over a former lover strange, but it’s an authentic experience.

“As with a breakup, the bereaved is not just mourning the loss of the person, they are mourning how all of the memories and experiences associated with that person will now feel different and will hold a different place in one’s memories moving forward.” — Elisabeth Joy LaMotte LICSW

If your ex-lover dies unexpectedly, you may feel a range of intense emotions, including shock, anger, sadness, and guilt. You may also feel confused about your place in the world. It’s OK to feel these things.

If you’re struggling to cope with the death of an ex-lover, here are a few things that might help:

Acknowledge your feelings

Allow yourself to grieve in whatever way feels right for you. Don’t try to bottle up your emotions. It’s OK to feel sad, angry, or confused.

Talk about it

Talk to your friends and family about your former partner. It can be helpful to share memories and stories about them. This can help you feel closer to them, even though they’re gone.

Write about your feelings

Writing can be a therapeutic way to process your emotions. You can write a letter to your ex or keep a journal where you write about your memories and thoughts.

Seek professional help

If you’re struggling to cope, consider seeking professional help. A therapist can provide support and guidance as you navigate your grief.

Be gentle with yourself

Grief is a process, and it can take time to heal. Be patient with yourself, and give yourself the space to grieve.

When someone we love dies, it’s natural to feel grief. And when the person who dies is an ex-lover, that grief can be even more complicated. There is no one right way to grieve, so do what feels right for you. Acknowledge your feelings, talk about your ex, and be gentle with yourself. If you’re struggling to cope, professional help can be invaluable. Above all, know that you’re not alone.

Have you ever grieved the death of an ex-lover? What helped you through it? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

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Intimacy & Relationship coach, writer, and creator of The Sensuality Project. I specialize in Relationship-ing (it's a verb).

Los Angeles County, CA
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