This is a second blog looking at healing after a relationship ends. My first blog is here. When we talk about grief and loss we often mean the death of someone that we love. But actually our lives are full of small and not so small losses and we can experience grief when confronted with all kinds of other losses such as the loss of a relationship, loss of health in self or in a loved one, losing a job, loss of financial stability, miscarriage, retirement, loss of a much loved pet, loss of a cherished hope or dream, loss of a friendship. These losses may be very private, very personal, we may not want others to know what we are going through, or they may not understand the depth of our feelings. What can we do to mind ourselves?
I often advise clients to treat themselves with the same kind of care as if they were recovering from a serious bout of flu – plenty of rest, gentle exercise if you can, don’t skip meals. Help yourself heal by scheduling daily time for activities you find calming and soothing. Spend time with good friends, go for a walk in nature, listen to music, enjoy a hot bath, get a massage, read a favourite book, do a gym workout, or savour a warm cup of tea. A relationship breakup can disrupt almost every area of your life, amplifying feelings of stress, uncertainty, and chaos. Getting back to a regular routine can provide a comforting sense of structure and normality.
Pay attention to what you need in any given moment and speak up to express your needs. Honour what you believe to be right and best for you even though it may be different from what your ex or others want. Say “no” without guilt or angst as a way of honoring what is right for you.
Don’t make any big decisions
When our feelings are all over the place, we can sometimes act on impulse as we focus all our energies onto making a new start, a new life. But it may not be the right time – we may need the comfort and familiarity of our current life in the early stages after breakup. So try not to make any major decisions in the first few months after a separation or divorce, such as starting a new job or moving to a new city. If you can, wait until you’re feeling less emotional so that you can make decisions with a clearer head.
Don’t go through this alone
It is important to be selective in who we talk to when we are feeling raw and vulnerable. Talking to people who are judgemental or who try to minimise what you are going through (“I never liked him/her anyway” or “plenty more fish in the sea”) will only make you feel worse. But talking to close friends and family who themselves have been through painful breakups can be very helpful. They know what it is like and they can assure you that there is hope for healing and new relationships. It’s important that you feel free to be honest about what you’re going through, without worrying about being judged, criticised, or told what to do.
Allow yourself to grieve the loss of the relationship
Grief is a natural reaction to loss, and the breakup or divorce of a love relationship involves multiple losses:
- Loss of companionship and shared experiences (which may or may not have been consistently pleasurable).
- Loss of support, be it financial, intellectual, social, or emotional.
- Loss of hopes, plans, and dreams (which can be even more painful than practical losses).
Allowing yourself to feel the pain of these losses may be scary. You may fear that your emotions will be too intense to bear, or that you’ll be stuck in a dark place forever. Just remember that grieving is essential to the healing process. The pain of grief is precisely what helps you let go of the old relationship and move on. And no matter how strong your grief, it won’t last forever.
Remember that moving on is the end goal
Expressing your feelings will liberate you in a way, but as time passes, it is important not to dwell on the negative feelings or to over-analyse the situation. Getting stuck in hurtful feelings like blame, anger, and resentment will rob you of valuable energy and prevent you from healing and moving forward. Social media is a modern day evil when it comes to relationships ending as we have the opportunity, if we choose to take it, to follow our exes every future move including a new person in his or her life. People often find it easier if they delete everything and everyone that can bring up painful pieces of information and painful feelings.
Remind yourself that you still have a future
When you commit to another person, you create many hopes and dreams for a life together. After a breakup, it’s hard to let these aspirations go. As you grieve the loss of the future you once envisioned, be encouraged by the fact that new hopes and dreams will eventually replace your old ones.
When you are ready…
A breakup is a beginning as well as an end. Take the opportunity to explore new interests and activities. Pursuing fun, new activities gives you a chance to enjoy life in the here-and-now, rather than dwelling on the past. You might feel it is a good time to widen your social circle, to say “yes” to invitations you might have turned down in the past.
Need some advice and support?
If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.
Book a counselling session today!