No matter how much it was needed and how much it will contribute to your mental health and evolution, a breakup is still experienced by many as a major loss.
Loss usually includes a process of grieving and reintegration of what was broken into meaningful aspects/experiences in one’s life.
When the loss, the griever, or the process of grieving is not acknowledged or accepted (say you ended a relationship with a married individual and no one knew about it), it can lead to a phenomenon known as disenfranchised grief.
What is disenfranchised grief?
Disenfranchised grief is a term that was coined by Ken Doka. He defines disenfranchised grief as, “Grief that persons experience when they incur a loss that is not or cannot be openly acknowledged, socially sanctioned or publicly mourned.”
It may be particularly difficult for you to express your feelings of loss during the current pandemic crisis when you know that there are people who are dealing with death, diagnosis, not knowing how they’re going to put food on the table, and not being able to care for elderly parents/grandparents. We often do not recognize our own loss. However, this lack of recognition may lead to this more complicated form of grief. The combination of stress and grief can create neurological changes that make the already-stressful coping seem even more impossible.
As much as we want to, we can’t change what has happened. The relationship ended and we are grieving. And that’s okay.