We've all been there. As the old adage goes: Breaking up is hard to do. And maybe even harder than breaking up with someone is the path to getting over an old relationship, and moving on with one's life. 

For evidence, look no further than the recent antics of Ray J. Last week, Brandy's brother released the art for a new single, subtly titled "I Hit It First," with the even more subtle move of using a pixelated photo of Kim Kardashian (who, you may be aware, is dating someone named Kanye West and is currently with child) for the cover art.

Ray J's claim isn't wrong. As we all know, Ms. Kardashian initially rose to fame following the 2007 leak of a sex tape (recorded in 2003) featuring herself and Ray J. The lyrics of "I Hit It First" detail Ray J's claim, and what's happened since then: "I had her head going north and her ass going south/But now baby chose to go West."

Why make the song? Ten years after Ray J and Kim Kardashian consummated their love in full view, it seems that Ray J's still working out his issues over it in public.

But "I Hit It First" seems less like a stupid, macho brag of a song, and more like a cry for help. It can be especially difficult to see one's ex happier with someone else. And there are plenty of ways—both healthy or unhealthy—to react to this. The song prompted at least one editor here to posit the question of whether or not Ray J was still stuck in the middle of the five stages of grief ("'I Hit It First' is classic bargaining, right?'").  

"Stages of grief is really wrong," explains Susan J. Elliott, the author of Getting Past Your Breakup: How To Turn A Devastating Loss Into The Best Thing That's Ever Happened To You. "It’s more like phases. Phases, you go in and out of."

Susan would know. She's a best-selling author and New York City-based grief counselor with decades of experience, and someone who has experienced the painful loss of a loved one. When read the lyrics of Ray J's single, she laughed ("That's pretty good!") before noting: "He’s obviously angry at something, and I can tell you as someone who was deeply in love with someone who died, that’s the angriest you’ll ever be in your life."

That anger might be the culmination of a decade's worth of, ahem, interesting behavior from Ray J following the release of the tape. Since 2007, Ray J has starred in two VH1 shows, one dedicated to his finding love (For The Love of Ray J) and the other about life with his more-famous sister (Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business). He's dated everyone from video vixens nicknamed "Super Head" (Karrine Steffans) to Whitney Houston, a relationship that caused infighting in both his own family and hers prior to her death (after which, Ray J was supposedly inconsolable). He also got into a fight with a rapper over a joke made on Twitter (see: his scuffle with Fabulous in Las Vegas) and then called into "The Breakfast Club" to deliver one of the most hilarious, incredible, incoherent moments of live braggadocio in recent radio history. He even made a scene of laughing at Kim on Twitter after she asserted that she "wouldn't be defined by [her] past." But for all of Ray J's antics, his rise to fame hasn't been as swift or as high as his ex-girlfriend's.


"Many, many times people have their anger come out sideways when they’re not directly dealing with the thing they’re really angry about."


"One of the things that’s very difficult for people is to watch their ex move on to someone more successful than they are. That goes for anyone," Elliott explained. But she had another theory to explain Ray J's behavior that may be more subtle: "There was the intervening Whitney Houston thing. He took her death very hard, and this might be one of the things that happens when you have a loss and you haven’t dealt with other losses: They all kind of come up together." 

"Many, many times people have their anger come out sideways when they’re not directly dealing with the thing they’re really angry about."

In other words, Ray J may not simply be working out only the loss and successes of Kim Kardashain in his life, but other problems, too.

"This could be a compilation of all of his losses coming together, and part of his anger, part of his grief," Elliott noted, before warning that "it it doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s not over her. It just might mean that he never really grieved the end of [the Whitney Houston] relationship."

That said, can somebody actually still not be "over" a relationship—no matter how superficial it was—ten years after it ended?

"Absolutely," Elliott said. "Time does
not heal all wounds. That’s a complete myth. When people say it, it makes the top of my head blow off. If [it did], there wouldn’t be people who are still bitter about their divorce twenty years ago, or people who can’t talk about somebody who died ten years ago. They didn’t do their grief work—you obviously can see that."

Clearly, Ray J's got some issues to work out. But, we asked Elliott, do these issues merit some kind of psychological diagnosis? Would Ray J be able to pin down what's wrong with him with a trip to a good shrink? It's funny we ask that, Elliott explained, as that there's currently a feverish debate in the psychological community about grief being included in the next edition of what essentially amounts to the encyclopedia of psychology, the DSM [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders]. 
"The new DSM has grief as a mental health disorder with depression, which we who work in the field of grief have been saying, ‘No, grief is a natural process.’ You’re never taught how to deal with it."
Fair enough. And maybe Ray J's just dealing with his grief: About Kim, about Whitney, about being Brandy's younger, less-successful brother, about knowing that, while he hit it first, Kris Frickin' Humphries has also hit it. But Susan was willing to look on the brighter side of Ray J, offering that, "for him, this might be a productive way [of expressing anger]."
"I have to help my clients find outlets for their anger and their grief. If they’re a creative person, they’ll write songs, do things like that, write books and paint, do music, whatever it is. You have to have an outlet."

If we're to be optimists—and not frequent Breakfast Club listeners—Ray J may just be expressing himself as a simple function of being an artist. But, on the off chance that Ray J really is still in pain, is this indeed a cry for help?

"I would definitely recommend for him therapy with somebody who’s schooled in grief who knows what they’re doing," Susan noted, with one catch. "If he’s feeling like: ‘Well, I’m okay, and this is just a song’—even though we know it’s not—he has to be the one who gets himself there. Usually, people only get themselves there when they have something happen so traumatic in their life that brings them to their knees."

"A breakup is an opportunity to finally go back and see what’s wrong, and all the unresolved issues you have with other people in your life."

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