The unthinkable happened. You and your reliable partner – you thought – have separated. The marriage, or the long-term relationship, is over.
Gone are your visions of a happy future together. In fact, you feel at times as if your entire future is completely erased. Every picture you had constructed of a happy future had them in it too.
You feel as if you have suffered a permanent impairment. As if a limb has been severed from your body. At times the pain feels both physical and emotional. How will you recover?
First of all, understand that this feeling is a normal reaction. The extreme feelings of loneliness and helplessness are normal. So too are the fits of rage that might cause you to break things or curse over the tiniest inconvenience.
There is no cure for the strong emotions that come after a break-up. There is no medicine to induce the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
And, whether you believe it right now or not, there is a healthy happy YOU on the other side of this experience. You, like millions before you, will survive this. You will come out on the other side.
The question is, how quickly will you manage to work through this process? Will you wallow for months and years, and simply become a victim of the break-up?
Or will you work through the steps of grief while building the foundation of a better future surrounded by loving friends and filled with satisfying experiences?
If you wish to get through this as quickly as possible, these steps will help.
But please note. While reading one article or doing one or two of the steps outlined below will temporarily make you feel better, this is a process. You will have good days. You will have bad days.
With time, and practice, there will be more good days, and the bad days will arrive further apart. Only gradually, after a long time, will you realize that the bad days have stopped altogether.
Let’s get started.
Honestly explore your emotions
You will experience grief. In fact, the entire process will be a grieving process.
However, there are actually a large range of deeply felt and even wildly contradictory feelings that accompany a breakup.
The important part is that you identify them and let them have their place. Name them, using the list below. Write about them, or simply just experience them as they come into your consciousness.
Some say that grief has a certain number of stages that happen in a certain order, but in reality the path to healing is a crooked line.
Take these short-term steps
Sure, you might want to spend a few days on the couch or in bed, indulging in your favorite foods. That’s normal.
But as soon as possible you need to take some steps to set the stage for recovery and your good health.
Find yourself – engage in some activity that you have always wanted to try. It is most beneficial if you try something your former partner avoided or refused to do. Celebrate your freedom and autonomy.
Stay socially interactive – intentionally schedule social time with friends, especially your most supportive ones. And take people up on their offers to do something on the weekend. This activity will help remind you of who you are.
Re-arrange your living arrangements – perhaps you had to move out of an apartment or house. In that case, this step has been handled for you. If not, make a big and noticeable change fast. Your new reality needs a new landscape, a new setting. Creating visual reminders of your own strength and control over your surroundings will help create landmarks between old you and new you.
Talk with a therapist – this is not just a cure for depression or acute trauma. Therapists are trained to help you navigate your emotions and experiences. They can help you sort your strengths and weakness, and reveal where your self-talk is standing in the way of your progress.
Talking honestly with a therapist also serves a different and very important role than talking with a friend. Instead of bringing their own judgments about the situation, and a loyalty to supporting you, a therapist can be a neutral observer to help you see yourself in a new way.
Perhaps you are carrying blame. Your therapist can see that and help you sort it out. Perhaps you are carrying rage. Where a friend might amplify and share the anger, a therapist is trained to help you unpack the causes and place responsibility where it belongs so the anger does not control the future.
Next week we will explore steps you can take to manage your long-term health, and how to help your children or other family members process the loss or separation.
Looking for help getting through your own grieving process after a divorce or break-up? Need a trained therapist to help you identify the self-sabotage and self-blame that is making it hard for you to move forward? Sakina Issa can help. Click the red button in this page to set a time to meet Sakina and see if therapy is right for you at this time.