Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ Five Stages of Grief has become widely known as a response to loss that many people experience. The death or terminal illness of loved ones kind of loss, to be exact.
What if we adopt the approach to deal with a bit different loss, such as a few-years-long relationship?
You call your friends for a night out, put on the dress that accentuates your figure best, book a table at the nearest bar, get the most expensive bottle you don’t enjoy, and wake up hungover to the familiar feelings: emptiness.
Hush, you murmur. It’s just another breakup, I’ll be fine.
You can’t tell whether the headache comes from too much drinking or your heart sinking. It takes you a couple of aspirins and endless work notifications to get up from the bed.
Remember those butterflies-in-tummy feelings when you’re madly in love? This time, they attack you real hard, hard enough you want to throw up. Comfort food isn’t comforting anymore. Your body aches for no apparent reason. You have trouble breathing. And finally, your worst childhood nightmare seems nicer than reality.
You take more drinks and midnight driving, find more rebounds, eat more than you can take. Anything to bury the pain.
A lot of us grow up learning to wipe off the tears when someone sees, to smile when the burdened heart and soul are in a neat pile.
“There is a grace in denial. It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle.”
Your friends have their own agenda, your saving can no longer support your high demand of food and fuel, your body stops responding to bottles of hard liquor. You’re forced to face your repressed feelings, your puzzled mind, your burning questions.
“Why the hell is this happening to me?”
Every little thing becomes a new trigger to your anger. You blame the dead plant for trashing your living room, you yell at the front door for shutting too early, you ignore calls from your parents who have yet to hear from you for weeks.
To you, to live is to die.
The old beautiful memories slowly making their way into your head. Look how much you’ve grown together. People adore you. What a power couple.
Now that their pros seems to outweigh their cons according to your mental notes, you begin to have doubts about your decision; to leave their dreams so you can live yours.
Was I wrong? Have I been too full of myself?
Despite the persistent unresolved issues, you reconsider a potential new chapter with them, hoping for a different outcome.
Maybe this time I can compromise a bit more. Should I give it a another chance?
“We may even bargain with the pain. We will do anything not to feel the pain of this loss. We remain in the past, trying to negotiate our way out of the hurt.”
*swipe* *swipe* *inhale* *exhale* *swipe* *swipe* *delete account*
You set your phone on airplane mode and put it away out of your reach, the farther the better. You feel the sun peeks through the blinds. Time to make the bed, you say to yourself. You think for a second then pull your blanket even higher, covering your dizzy head after making sure the blinds are completely shut—just like you did to those trying to take care of you.
“What if I can’t find someone better?”
“Then become one,” said the last person you talked to.
The emptiness enters your life on a deeper level that you could ever imagine. You feel lost and dying to come home, where their comforting arms and words are.
You believe that breaking up on good terms allows you to change the romantic relationship into friendship in a blink of an eye. You believe that you still have the rights to call them anytime you want, to tell them how your shitty day goes, to have their voice sooth your aching heart.
You believe that acting “casual” means you already let go of the longing for their company. That’s what you want to believe.
“Aku butuh separasi untuk hati yang lagi direparasi,” he said half-jokingly. “Kalo masih ngobrol gini terus, kita gak akan bisa move on.”
A quick catchup that lasted an hour. From the stock market, existential crisis, recent twitwar, to characteristics of healthy poop. I didn’t notice how fine the line between officially-already-moved-on and denial was. Yes, you might risk going back all over again.
People grieve differently and sometimes we ignore the fact that the other party is doing their best to cope with it, too.
“Coba diinget lagi kenapa kita putus. Go after your dreams. Do what you’ve always wanted to do. I’ll be fine here, really.”
And as if you were waiting for a proper farewell, their words left you nothing but a fulfilled need for closure.
PS. You might not go through all of them or in a prescribed order, and that’s totally fine.