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Rejection Is Often Part Of A Grieving Journey – Here’s How To Navigate It

Sandy Linda is an elegant and worldly leader in grief guidance and a life coach. After experiencing multiple losses, she began a journey using her experiences to find calm in the chaos to support those mourning multiple losses.

 
Executive Contributor Sandy Linda

There was a stark moment of realisation for me that some of the people that I had held close for decades were going to leave me in my moment of crisis. 


Lonely woman sitting on chair at the beach

I was already grieving the loss of three of my family but in the months that followed, I had to negotiate how to grief the loss of two key friendships. One friend simply couldn’t cope with what I was going through. Looking back, I remember the sting of sporadic calls and then the void when messages went unanswered. It was bewildering and so painful; and pushed me even further into despair. 

 

The second rejection was from a family friend of decades. He believed I was selfishly “wallowing in my grief”. He took it personally when, living in a haze of pain, I forgot to do what he needed me to do. There was no understanding and no dialogue. 

 

Years have passed since and I now have some clarity. Rejection in grief is the feeling of being dismissed, excluded or unwanted. It's that sinking sensation in the pit of your stomach when you're turned away, overlooked, or discredited. It’s also the realisation that years of building a relationship – of mutual trust, shared experiences and emotional support – can be pushed aside in days if not hours. 

 

Here’s how rejection can manifest in grief


Social rejection

This is when friends or family members withdraw support, avoid discussing the loss, or fail to acknowledge the grieving individual's pain. Feeling isolated or misunderstood can amplify the sense of rejection and deepen feelings of loneliness. Being on the receiving end of a social snub causes a flood of emotions from anger to anxiety, depression, jealousy and sadness. 


Professional rejection

This can manifest as a tricky return to work; encountering insensitivity from colleagues or supervisors or facing discrimination due to changes in performance or attendance. The inability to meet expectations or maintain productivity levels may worsen feelings of inadequacy and rejection.


Self-rejection

This occurs when individuals blame themselves for the loss, become overwhelmed by feelings of guilt or shame, or internalise negative beliefs about their worthiness of love and support. Self-rejection can weaken self-esteem and hinder the healing process, continuing a cycle of pain and self-doubt.

 

Recognition is absolutely key in facing rejection. It’s incredibly challenging to accept that a relationship has ended or has become toxic. For me, I struggled to acknowledge what was happening – that people were simply not available to me – and then hit a wall of emotion. 

 

The emotional impact of rejection


  1. It hurt deeply when people were critical of my grief. I was told that I “should get out more”, that my “life sucked”, that I should “try to be grateful” for what I still had or that I needed to “…get over it” as my relatives were dead and I couldn’t bring them back. I would replay these conversations over and over.

  2. When people rejected, belittled or criticised me, it made me feel like I didn't belong anywhere. I lost touch with who I was and where I fitted in the world. I withdrew. 

  3. When people intentionally left me out because they couldn’t cope with my pain, it made me feel even more misunderstood and alone, especially when I was already dealing with emotional pain. I started blaming myself.

  4. The emotional impact can manifest physically. I experienced fatigue, changes in appetite, difficulty sleeping and even physical pain.

 

My first instinct in both situations was to apologise and desperately do whatever it took to keep the relationships going, even when this was emotionally exhausting and ultimately futile. I held out the olive branches and I accepted their criticisms even when I was damaging myself in the process. It was months before I stopped. I couldn’t do it anymore. Zig Ziglar wrote: "When the wrong people leave your life, the right things start to happen." I had to let go. 

 

How to rise above rejection during grief

It’s normal to feel rejected during grief, but it doesn’t define your worth. Treat yourself with kindness and understanding, especially when you’re feeling doubtful or in pain. Attempt to question any negative thoughts or beliefs that arise. Even if life isn’t perfect, which it won’t be, don’t consider this as evidence that you deserve to be rejected. Take a different approach and consider the situation from another angle. Try to find some meaning in the experience. Think about how rejection can lead you to new opportunities, relationships, or personal growth. Take rejection as an opportunity to grow and learn more about yourself.

 

Coping strategies for navigating rejection

Dealing with the end of a friendship involves taking care of yourself and using healthy strategies. These strategies can help you cope with the grief of losing a friend:


  1. Don’t be afraid to feel and express your emotions. Deal with your feelings by journaling, confiding in a trusted person, or exploring your creativity through art or music. Sharing your emotions can help you deal with and let go of built-up feelings.

  2. Find comfort in the support of your loved ones when times get tough. Talk to close friends or family who will listen to and be empathetic. Having a caring support system can help you cope with the loss.

  3. Make self-care a priority to support your emotional well-being. Do things that make you happy and help you relax, like exercising, mindfulness, reading, or pursuing hobbies. Taking care of your body and mind is essential for healing.

  4. Learn to establish boundaries with your former friend. When a friendship turns toxic or unhealthy, prioritise your own well-being. To heal and stay safe, set clear boundaries.

  5. Acceptance is crucial for healing. Moving on and accepting changes in friendships can be tough. Accepting the loss helps you move on and embrace new opportunities.

 

Be at peace with change

Friendships alter and change over time. Sometimes friendships break down and no longer provide what we mutually need – namely love, understanding, laughter and support. Learning to recognise when a friendship has turned toxic is incredibly hard but you can reframe this decision as a moment of growth. Focus on nurturing relationships that bring positivity, support and growth into your life. But do also take time to ask yourself some questions. Were there signs that things were not right? What would you change about your reactions? What should you look for in new relationships? 

 

Rejection is not a reflection of your worth or potential. It is an opportunity to grow, learn, and redirect your efforts toward a new path. The end of one relationship is a chance to learn and seek out others. It is also a moment to really think about yourself, what you need and what you are willing to give to others. 

 

Ready to transform your grief journey and turn rejection into a powerful motivator for growth? Head on to the latest episode of the Overcoming Grief Podcast

 

Click here, How To Bounce Back from Failure, to listen now and start embracing the path to healing. Your journey to empowerment begins today!


Follow me on LinkedIn, Pinterest, and visit my website for more info!

 

Sandy Linda, Life Coach with Grief Expertise

Sandy Linda is an elegant and worldly leader in grief guidance and a life coach. After experiencing multiple losses, she began a journey using her experiences to find calm in the chaos to support those mourning multiple losses. Sandy helps her clients move from heartbreaking losses to a place where they can work towards healing and become fearless adventure leaders.

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