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By Hiba Giacoletto, Wiser Humans

It has been six months since the end of my 11-year marriage and I wanted to share my personal experience of getting through the past six months in the hope this might help others, too.

I have room for it all
I learned that I could feel deep sadness about the end of this chapter, this identity, this relationship - AND ALSO excitement, gratitude, anxiety, doubt and regret all at once. In the past I would have denied some of these emotions as not being ‘real’ because I thought they couldn’t co-exist. And yet they can, and even more: They always do when we are honest with ourselves.

I learned that I had room for all of these emotions, that I didn’t need to reduce my emotional experience to ‘just’ grieving. That it was OK to feel whatever I was feeling - that I could hold all these experiences at once.

Grief ain’t linear
One of the most important experiences I had was realizing just how un-linear emotions are. One minute I would be feeling OK, and then BAM - a painful pang of remembering would show up. Or just when I thought I was reaching the end of it, a new realization that of this is really over would bring on a whole new stage of grieving. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

It all felt more like waves than a linear progression of feeling better. Again, being OK with this, even expecting it, made all the difference.

Peaceful turmoil
I have not cried or grieved as much in my life as I have in the past months. And yet, there has also been a sense of peacefulness because I was not fighting my emotions. I was neither trying to repress them nor allowing them to explode all over the place. As much as possible, I was simply allowing them to be, to hang out.

I noticed that inner peace is not about not having emotions or difficulties in life and being permanently zen. That isn’t realistic. It isn't real life. Instead, it is about bringing an OK-ness with whatever we are experiencing in all its messiness.

Hello, sadness
This experience really brought to life in a completely new way that every emotion has a right to be showing up and a reason to be there.

For example, sadness signals that something is over and needs to be let go of. Doesn’t it make sense that it would be showing up at a time like this?

I also viewed this sadness as a signal that I cared, that this relationship had meant something to me.

I realized it wouldn’t be normal for sadness NOT to be showing up.  

So I started to speak to my sadness as if we were old friends - because frankly, we were becoming well acquainted!

I would say: Oh hello there again sadness, my old friend. It totally makes sense that you would be showing up. You can hang out as long as you need.

And you know what? Most of the time, sadness didn’t need to hang out for too long. It showed up, and we hung out for a bit, and then it moved on, and I was able to feel something else.

When we are not fighting emotions and listen to them instead, emotions deliver their message and then they move on. I see it as their having better things to do with their time.

So. Much. Anger.
I felt a lot more anger than usual during this phase. Not in the yelling at people form, but simply in the form of noticing annoyance or frustration. I was feeling more sensitive than usual, and I used frustration as a signal that I needed better boundaries to allow me to turn within - which most of the time meant more self-care and alone time.

I respected this as much as I could, reducing my social contact to people who I felt really supported me and avoiding certain relationships that felt too draining during this time. I also didn’t force myself to go out and enjoy single life until I felt ready.

Eek. So many ‘what ifs?’
Anxiety is another emotion that has shown up a lot in the past few months.

Anxiety for me was filled with WHAT IFs. It sounded like:

What if I can't get by on my own financially?
What if I never meet anyone again?
How will I deal with x / y / z?

Anxiety wants to help us plan for the future as much as possible, even if it doesn’t always feel very effective.

Again, I realised how normal it was for anxiety to be showing up, with all the newness, uncertainty and unknown elements of this new phase of life.

I worked with the messages of anxiety by acting on the stuff that I could do something about like hire someone to do my accounting while opening up to the uncertainty of what was out of my control as much as possible.

Again, I didn’t fight anxiety. I allowed it to do its thing and used it to help me plan for the future to the extent that this felt realistic and kind.

Staying with the discomfort
When I first moved out, I felt more pain than I have ever felt in my life. I had been in this relationship for almost 15 years and it felt like a piece of my body had been torn off and that this part of me was raw and exposed.

I felt I would never feel better.

I felt an overwhelming sense of emptiness, like a great, gaping void had opened up and would engulf me.

And I know that in the past, my way of dealing with discomfort has been to overbook my time or eat emotionally.

I knew this, and so I made an effort to really stay with what was showing up, instead of trying to avoid it or numb it or push it away. I brought curiosity to it. I tried staying with how it felt in my body, with the images that came up. I tried to explore it, to get really curious about this.

I realized that when I stayed with the emptiness, it didn't feel so threatening. That I didn't want to have this feeling but that didn't mean it was my enemy, either.  It started to feel like a vast space opening up, where yes, there was a lot of uncertainty AND where anything could happen. Instead of calling it emptiness, I started calling it a space of possibility.

The perks of vulnerability
This was also a time where I made some incredible connections.

I discovered a strength in myself I only hoped I had but hadn’t actually tested.

I learned to be OK with being in my own company. I realized there is so much more I can give myself that I thought - that we can all give ourselves.

I also learned just how much I can get from others, and how beautiful it can be to ask for help as well.

That there is a tenderness, a rawness, an openness that comes from being in this space. That this space can be beautiful too. It broke me open, it moved me past fears and limitations, it revealed to me a strength I didn’t know I had.

Above all, it allowed me to live with my emotions in a way that feels harmonious despite the turmoil.

The reality is that emotions are here to stay. We can't get rid of them, we can't not feel them without harmful consequences -  so we might as well learn to live more harmoniously with them.

Download a free PDF on 7 life-changing facts about emotions (that nobody teaches us) here: www.wiserhumans.com/free

Author's bio

hiba portrait

Hiba Giacoletto is a Psychologist and Coach working in Geneva, Lausanne and online.

A Swiss-Jordanian mix, she has a Masters Degree in Psychology from the University of Lausanne and is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). She previously ran Healthwise.ch, a health coaching business where she also created healthy recipes.

Hiba uses mindfulness-based behavioural approaches such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT). These are more active forms of therapy where, more than just talk, you learn skills for living.

She specializes mostly in difficulties around relationships, emotions, making healthy change and eating, and also offers group sessions, both in-person in Geneva/Lausanne and online.