Next to death, I believe break ups to be one of the most heart wrenching experiences of our lives. To lose someone that we love through a relationship break up can cause us to drop to our knees, cry out in physical pain and be immersed in the depths of grief.
How do I know? I have been so grief stricken that to get out of bed was an achievement, a shower was a chore, my heart felt as if it had been inflicted with a physical wound and when I mustered the courage to look, red puffy eyes looked back at me from the mirror in misery. Anger was my best friend and isolation the only option—life’s simplest activities could induce a tearful outburst. Friends and family became my crutch, rostering themselves to check in frequently on how deep below the surface of my despair I had sunk.
Having lost loves, including the man I was with for several years, and thought was the one, I came away having learnt a lesson: There is no way around the grieving, you cannot outrun it, outsmart it, pretend that you are better than it—the only way to get over it is to go through it! You need to stare the immense grief in the face, wallow in it, let it have its way with you, and be consumed by it. As much as we would like to, we cannot logic our way through emotion. On a few occasions I believed I could outwit my emotions, but they were always down the road waiting patiently for me to succumb.
I appreciate this advice is contrary to that espoused by many advice column writers who provide varying notions of the quickest way to a healing heart, that it’s ok to skimp on the grieving, to squash your emotions and take the fast route back to normal-ville.
This is what I now know about confronting a break-up, all in the knowledge that it’s the best way to a healing heart.
To Get Over It You Don’t Need to Get Under It
The number of people out there in dating land who are simply not ready to jump into another relationship let alone a sexual connection is simply overwhelming. This is generally driven by a need to seek external validation and a sense of self-worth from someone else’s positive attention.
Even in a casual relationship there needs to be a sense of dignity and respect—respect for yourself and for your partner. If you are not ready to get under someone else, then don’t do it! Not only will it mess with your healing process and your ability to deal with your loss, it will mess with someone else who may be looking for a real connection but ends up playing second fiddle.
Don’t Fake It Till You Make It
Sure, we all have it in us—I admit to being in the league of the world’s best fakers with an uncanny ability to live as though all is well in my world. Of course, at times in life, as with anything, this pretence is called for. But you need to get real, stop faking and front up in your true colours with those that care for you—be real, share your grief and be ok with your vulnerability.
Deal With It
The best way to deal with it? Workshop it! Cry until you think you can cry no more. Then cry again the next day. Break it down, dissect it, over analyse it and write about it, record it, scream about it. Whatever is going to work for you. You’ll end up over analysing it anyway so use this as part of the healing process. Visit the old pros and cons list. Recognise what you did and what they did that caused the relationship to fall apart and take responsibility for your actions. No point in glamorising it—it is what it is and it is what it isn’t.
The number of nostalgic, sentimental memories triggered as you go about your life will depend on how long you were in the relationship. Memories could flash into your mind from something as simple as seeing a car similar to theirs, hearing a song that reminds you of them, going to a restaurant or ordering a dish that you shared. There will be triggers that send your mind spiralling to that time, causing you to reminisce, and of course, miss them immensely. Even years later, I still have the occasional past-love trigger but I can now say I look back with appreciation for that time we spent together. Though it may not seem possible now, it will be the case for you too. In the initial stages of the break up, avoid visiting those special places that you shared until you feel emotionally ready.
The first few weeks will be tough—be kind to yourself and know that it is ok to grieve. As you go through the initial stages, create a daily ritual for yourself to take you one step closer to the other side. For example, focus on something else for ten minutes—write down what you are grateful for. Start small then build up and find gratitude for the little things. The moments that you allow your mind to focus on other things will eventually grow until the amount of time spent on thoughts of the break up diminishes.
We Cannot Logic Our Way Through Emotion
As the expression goes, ‘timing is a bitch’. Unfortunately, the universe does not seem to deliver based on our desired timelines! But then again, maybe it does and we are too wrapped up in our current pain to see the big picture. To recover from a break up, we need to walk through the heartache and allow it to engulf us. We are continuously taught to squash our emotions but how do we truly deal with something if it’s always pushed aside?
In the past I have put a timeline on my grief. Again, great in theory, but something emotion wasn’t prepared to buy into. Your healing will be dependant on the time you spent in the relationship and your capacity to confront it. However, if you find yourself several months down the track and you have not progressed it may be time to seek outside counsel that can assist you with getting through it.
In the depths of despair, we can only dream of the feeling of normality and wonder if we’ll ever see ‘normal’ again. No emotion is permanent—much like us, it’s just travelling through.
I am certain that from each heartache we experience, we learn and grow; that our hearts have the ability to heal, that we can feel whole again. When you are ready, if you allow it, you will love again.
Don’t avoid it, be ok with it, and put your trust in time.