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The 5 Stages of Emotional Triage for the Divorced, Betrayed, Broken-Hearted, and Discarded

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When my marriage ended a few years ago, I felt like I had been run over by a truck. I wandered through the world silently wounded with an invisible arrow through my heart. I was in a daze, life felt surreal, and my mind, body and spirit were broken.

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When it comes to abrupt endings related to love, the experience is very similar to being the victim of a blunt force trauma. The symptoms are the same, and your functioning drops to the level of someone who needs to be hospitalized and treated for injuries.

If you are someone whose marriage has abruptly ended, then you know this is no exaggeration.
Instead of realizing the depth of this hurt, you are most likely limping around trying to maintain a normal existence. This is close to impossible, just as it would be if you were suffering from a hit and run accident.

When the hurt is internal, the tendency is to slip under the radar and "pretend" that everything is okay. However, the level of your hurt runs deep, and it has to heal in the same way cuts, scratches, and bruises would.

You will recover and feel normal again, but understanding the depth of your wounds will help you heal fully without hidden scars and permanent disability.

Here are 5 stages of emotional triage, and advice on how to move through each one.

The hit and run
Acknowledging that you have been the victim of a blunt force trauma is the first step toward healing well. Thinking about your experience, and what has happened to you in these terms will allow you to address your pain and suffering from a different perspective. You are a victim in the sense that you are on the receiving end of something that deeply affected your life and wellbeing. This state is unavoidable for a period of time, but just like with any trauma if you stay stuck here you will never heal. This is the "scene of the crime" and the worst part of what you are facing. You are in a state of shock, numb and can't really wrap your head around what has happened. This is a time for crisis intervention, and calling for help to get the support you need to ensure your survival.

Applying the tourniquet
You are wounded by this experience, but the depth of those contusions are still unknown. The goal here is to stop the immediate bleeding, and temporarily dress the wounds so they don't become worse. Focusing your full attention on where you are injured, and putting temporary bandages will sustain you until more profound care and healing can begin. This might take the form of leaning on supportive friends and family, finding a professional to work with, and surrounding yourself with whatever brings you comfort. This is not a time to start taking action or doing things that put you at risk for further injury. At this point you are weak and barely surviving, so anything that requires effort or depletes you should be avoided.

Hooking up the IV
Admitting yourself into the emotional ICU will get you the outside support and nurturance your need to sustain your wellbeing. You probably cannot eat, sleep, concentrate or attend to your daily activities. Accepting and realizing that you are not yet strong enough to function on your own will allow you to slow down as you heal. You are depleted and lost your "source" of support when your relationship ended. Refueling with other healthy and adaptive sources like yoga, meditation, spirituality and connecting with supportive friends will be essential to your recovery process. Let the new nutrients feed into your body until you feel the strength to stand on your own two feet, and focus on the normalcies f your world.

Waking up from the coma
There will come a point in time when you will awaken to your new normal. Up until this point your world has felt surreal and confusing. You are now through the shock and trauma, and you will now be facing your new life post break-up. It will feel like something is missing or changed because you have experienced what feels like the loss of a limb. Your life has been affected by this experience, and facing what has changed will be hard. You will begin to piece things back together as you think and reflect on what happened to you. You probably won't make much sense of things at first, but your brain will organically want to "figure it out" as you try to comprehend the depth of your loss.

Assessing the damage
Now that you are more alert and taking in the magnitude of what happened to you, it's time to assess for the deeper damage. Surface cuts and bruises are beginning to heal, but the internal healing takes much longer. It's easy to ignore this when everything on the surface appears "normal" but just like with real injuries, the internal trauma takes longer to heal. You may experience stronger feelings of guilt, regret, anger and sadness around this time. You still hurt, but you are not in excruciating pain anymore. You probably cry and think a lot about the trauma, but every day you heal a little more. This is to be expected, and you will have good days and bad days.

Rehabilitation
Everyday you will gain strength and feel more like yourself. However, this is constant work and requires a lot of self-reflection and internal awareness that can be achieved through therapeutic modalities. This is a time to understand what happened, how you want to move on from it, and the story you want to tell about the trauma. Your dedication to healing each and every day will ensure that you make a full recovery with no lingering wounds or scars. You might want to work on forgiveness, how this might have been avoided, and how you can protect yourself from going through something like this again. Have patience with your process and trust that you are on the path toward full recovery.