Staging Lies

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. The stages of grief: a method to gauge and measure grief. It is the belief of observation and theory that when a person is grieving (specifically the loss of a person in their life) then he or she is expected to move through this series of clearly defined stages and eventually come to a completion of acceptance. It is the belief of professionals that there is a right way and a wrong way to grieve. The right way is to process grief in an orderly pattern, the wrong way is to never actually heal.

If I were a professional psychologist, I would definitely say I am failing at grief. Being a writer, however, I feel fully comfortable saying I am winning at grief. That is because I have come up with my own stages of grief, and let me tell you, I like mine a whole lot more than the majority of psychological science’s stages of grief lies.

The stages of grief were not meant to tell you what to feel, how you should feel, or when exactly to feel it. The stages are simply five common experiences and not five requirements; they are meant to normalize and validate the emotions someone might go through in the chaos that is loss.

I believe I’ve discovered some stages that seem a bit more normal for society as a whole. And these, my friends, don’t come in any designated pattern. No, these jump around, bump into each, overlap, and span for days/weeks/months at a time. It’s a wonderful loss of inhibition and longing. So here are my eight stages of grief (put in chronological order for myself):

  • Sleepvation: The highly anticipated stage of starving myself and never sleeping, Sleepvation is the best diet to date. With that pit in my stomach, who in their right mind could even think about holding down any food? Oh right, I’m not in my right mind because the one hour of sleep my body finally obtained after dire exhaustion is enough to recharge my thoughts on grief for another day of pity.
  • Ben & Jerry: I’ve come to know and cherish this stage from popular rom-coms and chick flicks. This is when I faint from not eating and realize my only solace during heartbreak is found in the cardboard confines of Phish Food. Don’t worry, Ashley, at least I’m finally eating something!
  • Bar Hopping: Usually induced by my best friends, the third stage of grief is one where things can go one of two ways: bad or worse. Dancing and drinking to forget my sorrow is one thing, as is accepting those free drinks from the cute guy at the bar. However, jumping on his boat to adventures unknown, or else falling into the fetal position and ruining my reputation as “cool” are both options I really shouldn’t accept.
  • Raging Exercise: Ah, the “It’s time to make him jealous by becoming the epitome of hotness!” stage. It is probably a good idea to relieve some stress, especially after the last two stages I went through. However, becoming a gym hermit is a whole other issue. Remember, there’s a lot of people still left in my life and isolating myself is not healthy!
  • Hopeless Bliss: I’m better off without him. It never would have worked out anyways. Better now than later. Freedom! I’ve reached the point where I realize it’s his loss and not mine. There’s nothing I need to do to change, and I’m comfortable enough to at least begin looking at moving on. And that’ll only piss him off more, right?
  • Couple Despising: Right now, I’m not sure if I hate love, him, or the couple holding hands on the sidewalk. I think I’ll go with all three. This is also the stage where I contemplate deleting my Pinterest with all it’s cutesy Pins but then… nah…
  • Movie Marathon(s): My legs are tired, I have a hangover, and all I really want to do is just sit and watch all eight movies of Harry Potter. Why shouldn’t I? Harry has always been there for me. And so have Legolas, Katniss, the Avengers, and Hugh Jackman. I have a ton of friends.
  • Concession and Compromise: I understand that I no longer am in a relationship. I understand that I am single and free to do as I wish. I make promises to myself, I set goals for the future, all while understanding that at any moment someone new or an unforeseen circumstance may change the entire direction of my life. Again.

The truth is, you can’t force order on pain. Grief is the natural response of losing someone you love and having your life torn apart. It is when reality shifts and you’re hurled into an unknown place in life. Grief cares nothing about order or stages or how you should be feeling at a certain point.

To do grief “well” means you listen solely to your own reality. It means acknowledging the love you once felt, the pain of its loss, and the promise of a brighter future. There is no time frame on allowing the truth of these things to exist; each grief is unique just like every love is unique.

I have bounced back and forth between some of my own “stages”. Though the pain may hurt sometimes, there are also many highs. Grief is like a roller coaster and no one will ever experience it the same way twice.  The concept of grief pushes people to want to believe there is a right method, or order, to grieve. But remember there is no right or wrong way to grieve; just do right by yourself. There are only a few steadfast truths to losing someone in your life, and they are these:

  • Grief has no finish line or lifespan. You might move on a day, week, month, or decade later. Every loss is unique to the individual experiencing it.
  • Pain and grief never fully extinguish. You grieve because you once loved, and upon seeing a face, hearing a song, or having a flashback to that love might bring back the hurt. Love might change, but it never ends. And this is not something to fear.
  • The “stages of grief” will happen. You will feel anger, guilt, depression, confusion, joy, and a range of other things. You will get tired of grieving and you will turn away from it only to turn back. Grief can be absolutely crazy-making, but this does not mean you are crazy.
  • There is no way to do grief wrong. Make your own stages, feel the pain and the peace, and ultimately remember that grief never has closure. Even acceptance is not final; you will rethink yourself with rapid aggression just to falter and sink back into questions. And so is the way of grief, love, and life.

I am by far more than five stages, and so are you.

The Worst Personality Trait

“Everyone will go through some hard times at some point. Life isn’t easy. Just something to think about..did you know the people that are the strongest are usually the most sensitive? Did you know the people who exhibit the most kindness are the first to get mistreated? Did you know the ones who take care of others all the time are usually the ones who need it the most? Did you know the three hardest things to say are I love you, I’m sorry, and help me? Sometimes just because a person looks happy, you have to look past their smile to see how much pain they may be in. To all my friends who are going through some issues right now–let’s start an intention avalanche. We all need positive intentions right now. If I don’t see your name, I’ll understand. May I ask my friends wherever you might be, to kindly copy and paste this status for one hour to give a moment of support to all of those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just needs to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. I hope to see this on the walls of all my friends just for moral support.”

-A Friend’s Facebook status

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20 Things Not To Do After a Break Up

If there’s one thing that we all know, it’s that breakups suck. The hardest part is, no matter what side of the break up you’re on, the effects will eventually hit you and it won’t be pretty. It’s up to you how you choose to handle your sad feelings, and there are many options from which to choose. In hindsight, I may not have chosen the best options every day after my break ups, but now I’m all the wiser and able to provide some insight (along with the helpful suggestions from conversations with my friends) on 20 things you definitely should not do while navigating a break up.

1. Date just because everyone says you should

Just because your friends and family are constantly asking when you’re going to “get back on the saddle” does not mean you have to start dating again. No matter the pressure, date only when and whom you want; don’t let the free dinner and drinks get in the way. Maybe you’re simply not ready or maybe you want to spend time on other things.

2. Be depressed in public
No one wants to be seen with someone with visible tear stains on their cheeks and a frown that could make Droopy cringe. There’s a big chance that your friends invited you out to get your mind off everything so don’t let them down! Smile, flirt, throw your head back and laugh; be confident and irresistible no matter the war raging in your head.

3. Stop caring about your appearance
We’ve all seen the movie with the heartbroken girl sobbing into a gallon of ice cream, right? So cliche, but also so true! I know just how tempting a pint of cinnamon roll Ben & Jerry can be, and hey, go for it every now and then! Enjoy wearing those sweatpants and not having to suck it in with Spanx. Just make sure you don’t host ice cream socials on a daily basis. You might be hating your ex right now, but those feelings can quickly become self-loathing thoughts after too many binges.

4. Care too much about your appearance
In the opposite scheme, it’s a good thing to be lazy and disgusting every now and then. Lounge around the house for a day, forget to comb your hair, don’t shave your legs, because guess what? No one cares! Everyone has their own lives to live and no one will be completely focused on you and your appearance 24/7.

Find a balance for yourself: hit the gym, eat healthy, binge appropriately, relax and enjoy life. There’s nothing wrong with you and the way you look; you’re one damn good-looking single individual and you know it!

5. Lower your standards when you do decide to date
Take this newly found “you” time to raise your standards in a future mate. Don’t date someone who is damaged, a player, or a potential project. You have neither the time nor patience to actually settle for such a person, so why not aim for the moon?

6. Drunk text your ex (or text your ex in general)
I am a known supporter of the statement, “Nothing good comes from texting.” A person cannot hear the tone behind a text which can result in unwarranted fights, some texts don’t send right away causing a whole mess of potential scenarios, and texting can even kill behind the wheel. I much prefer hearing another person’s actual voice. But no matter the circumstance, nothing good ever comes from being drunk and owning a cellphone.

Whether you’re drunk or not, just don’t converse with your ex. He/she could end up saying nothing, but they could also say something you don’t want/need to hear, or say the perfect thing and get you right back into a chaotic web. Leave them alone for awhile so you can familiarize yourself with your singleness — you might actually find out that the break up was for the best!

7. Casually hook up with your ex
Ladies and gents… Just. No. Hooking up will not convince your ex to get back with you. Instead, it’ll only leave you feeling worse than before. Respect yourself and don’t go back to someone who didn’t fight for you in the first place.

8. Innocently (but not really) think your ex and you can still be “just friends”
Here are a few reasons why it is virtually impossible to be friends with an ex:

  • You honestly think you’ll be happy when your ex starts dating again? No way, and unfortunately real friends want each other to be happy.
  • There are too many memories, inside jokes, and emotions in the past to allow for a fresh start. You’re more likely to fall into old dating patterns even when not romantically involved.
  • Admit it or not, attempting to be friends with your ex leads to false hope in an already-failed relationship.
  • Think of it this way: your ex and you broke up for a reason. You’ve had your heart broken because you’ve discovered this person is not right for you, even though you wanted them to be. Why not invest your time and energy in the people who make you happy, not the ones who have hurt you deeply?

We all know the line “Let’s just be friends” is easy enough to say, but is simply meant to ease the pain of a broken heart. It is not supposed to be taken as a promise.

9. Rebound into a serious relationship
Coming straight out of a long-term relationship and attempting to enter another is means for disaster. You’re bringing a lot of baggage with you. It’s unfair to the new person who is interested in a happy ending. Work through your issues first and then look to devote your heart to someone else.

10. Seek revenge
Revenge is a petty action. Don’t be a petty person — don’t get even, get over it. Focus your time on yourself not on the waste who left you.

11. Drive by your ex’s home, friends’ homes, place of employment, baseball field, etc.
For those of you who read the above and hung your heads: be not ashamed! Such undeniably crazy behavior is one that a lot of heartbroken individuals find themselves participating. I’ve done it (in the form of borrowing a friend’s car and driving past my ex’s regular hangout at the time he usually arrived while drinking an actual-hot-chocolate-but-in-a-coffee-cup-for-coolness-factor and pretending I was an out-of-state tourist lost and confused while circling the block), my hard-ass best friend has done it, even my independent and self-declared asexual ex-roommate has done it. Be crazy once or twice, but then stop.

12. Stalk social media
So you think you’re too smart to stalk your ex physically, eh? But what about social media? In a world of constant contact, this no-do is one of the most obvious, but also one of the most destructive.

Don’t go probing into what you ex has been up to. Don’t self-righteously unfriend them just to type their name into the search bar, flip through as many pictures their privacy setting allows, and count how many likes/comments they have made to members of the opposite sex (“He went where with who!?”)

My advice? Block your ex, their closest friends, and their family. It is simply way too easy to track your ex through these outlets and you don’t need that! And honestly, just avoid social media completely right after a breakup. There is nothing helpful with seeing another engagement notice, or baby announcement, or picture of you with your ex.

13. Spontaneously reinvent yourself
Whether it be a drastic new hair-do, moving across the globe, or not remembering how you acquired that full-sleeve tattoo and nipple piercing, everyone goes through the phase of wanting to become someone completely new after a big break up. The problem? In most cases you’ll end up with a lot of regret and cringe-worthy pictures splashed all over the Internet.

Instead of making small changes in yourself, work towards something larger. Become Mister/Miss Determination. Choose to become super successful in your career, pick up interesting and unique hobbies, or work on your physique to make your ex know exactly how much they let go.

14. Become a floozy
If there’s anything worse than being the depressed friend, it’s being the group whore. It seems the longer the committed relationship, the less likely a person will be ready for anything too serious right away. Instead, some people decide to have no commitment with anyone and just let it all hang out. Not a good idea, folks. Stay away from the potential STDs and pregnancies and come to terms with your life. Respect yourself and you’ll respected by others. I may or may not be thinking of a specific friend in this instance…

15. Share “your love story” with everyone you meet
Everyone likes gossip, but no one really need to know how you’ve been wronged. Talk about a snooze fest! Save your heart-to-hearts with your best friends, mom, dog, or journal. The longer you keep holding onto “your story,” the longer it will take you to move on.

16. Answer “I’m fine.” to every question directed at you
(This is probably the #1 uh-oh on my list…) Even though it’s no one’s business, people will ask how you are doing and what happened in the break up. Here’s a secret: you are not obliged to give them an answer! You don’t have to lie, saying you’re okay and you’ve moved on and you couldn’t be happier. You’ll only be hiding a problem and giving yourself false reassurance. Simply tell people you’re working on you and don’t feel like talking about anything yet. Only say “I’m fine.” when you truly are!

17. Wallow forever
Like I mentioned above, there’s nothing wrong with going through the acceptance phase and crying your heart out a few times. However, don’t sit in this phase forever. Listen to Miranda’s mama and go fix your makeup and start actin’ like a lady. The world isn’t quitting for you — might as well take it on and save yourself in the process.

18. Spend all your savings for self-discovery
With break up comes an entourage of new friends: self-help books, trending mediation exercises and yoga poses, and inspirational movies. Don’t take your solace in the form of emptying your savings account though! Unlike Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love, why not take a short weekend and go camping or to a spa? You’ll find your alone time, indulge in the finer things of life, and not break the bank. It’s a win-win!

19. Hold on to memorabilia
I’m not saying to dump all the keepsakes, but put those memory-triggers out of the public eye. Just like with anything unhealthy, now is a time to detox.

In my own experience, I felt much better after the memorabilia was absent. I found a slightly-abused box to put all my pictures, notes, and various memories and asked my father to place it in our attic. (I’ve lived in my parents’ house for 22 years and have never ventured up there…) I want to be able to show my future children who my first love was, but I didn’t want the temptation of crying over our past so soon after the break up.

20. Focus on the relapses
Relapses happen. Especially around anniversaries, birthdays, half-anniversaries, family holidays, annual cookout events, etc. You get the picture. The key is to remind yourself that you are not with your ex anymore for a reason. Choose to keep moving forward and live a happy life without that person.

Enjoy being single. It’s an adventure! Revel in the freedom of being able to make decisions without having to include someone else. Surround yourself with people who make you happy and enjoy being around you. Start doing things for yourself, like traveling, reading a novel, or going to the spin classes you never had time to do before.

Keep yourself together. Don’t lose yourself in the heartbreak. Respect yourself and present yourself with poise. Know that you are perfectly capable of being alone and are happy to do so, because ultimately, you will want to love and be loved again. In order to be loved, you have to love yourself first.

5 Lies I’ve Been Telling Myself

It isn’t a secret, but it also hasn’t been made into public news: I am now single. After four years and an engagement, my life has completely changed and in all honesty, I sometimes feel as if I am living a roller coaster. Some days I could not be happier, and others I am a sniffling puddle of a woman.

In time my wounds will heal, but as I wait I find myself becoming more aware of what my past relationship truly was and was not. I have never had to go through a heartbreak before, but I have begun to learn some very valuable lessons during my emotional recovery — sometimes love just ain’t enough.

The end of my relationship left me feeling lost and confused. So much so that I have found myself grasping to any fringe of hope connected to the past. But no more! It is time to break from the repeated lies I have been telling myself and honestly try to move on with my life…

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