Let’s be honest; with any separation, divorce, or break-up — the initial period sucks.
Recently, a man I loved decided to end our relationship. To our credit, it ended with love and respect, but his decision knocked me off my feet and into the void of relationship break-up.
When a relationship ends, there is nothing solid to land on. This is when the emotional rollercoaster goes into overdrive, but it can also be a critical time to accept those feelings and roll with them. That breakup reminded me how powerful emotions can be.
We feel the grief, sadness, and loss not only of the person, but the dreams we had and the opportunities that were not yet realized, the end of not just the future but also the shared past. Even those who initiate the break-up are not immune from this, but it’s worse if you are the one left behind.
In this abyss there is sometimes real, physical pain. Literally, the heart aches. It can also seethe with anger and curl up in despair. But healing means going with our feelings, not bottling them up or denying them. If we rush the process, we risk leaving unresolved issues that will make an encore appearance in a future relationship.
Recently one of my children developed an abscess. When it burst, it was painful, but it released the toxins. Even then, to complete the healing, the doctor had to further open up the wound. He told us to leave it open, because that was the only way healing could be complete. Experiencing this while being in the abyss of my own break-up reinforced what I already knew to be true. Time heals.
During that time it’s helpful to remember a few things to help you move through and beyond:
- Breathe: I try to try to celebrate each wave of grief or sadness as a sign of how willing I was to open my heart to love. Each day I feel my heart growing stronger, and I’m more able to love myself and others. When you feel strong emotions starting, make sure you take deep, conscious breaths. Shallow breathing creates stress. Deep belly breaths help quiet the ego-mind that can race with thoughts in an effort to avoid the pain. Breathing deeply while having an emotional moment will help restore a sense of calm and groundedness.
- Your Journal is Your Therapist: Your journal is a safe place to collect all of those internal thoughts and feelings that must be released. It also provides a place to harvest the wisdom available from the ending of any relationship. And you can look back and see how far you’ve come.
- The Medicine of Music: Music is a powerful tool to release emotion. A tune or lyric can touch your heart and either uplift you or plunge you into sadness and grief. If you feel numb and don’t know how to release of your emotions, music can do it. Some of my favorite sad tunes are “The Power of Good-Bye” by Madonna, “Fix You” by Coldplay and “What Goes Around Comes Around” by Justin Timberlake. If you want to connect to anger, there’s nothing like “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette.
- Celebrate Your Tears: Yes, this is the time for tears. No need to bottle them up. Talk it out with a friend and enjoy a good cry. Celebrate your tears not as a sign of weakness or neediness, but as a way of honoring your heart and growing stronger.
- Give Yourself Time: Break-ups are painful and people struggle to numb that pain with quick new relationships, addictions, gossiping and splurging on treats. You need time to heal.
Loved ones, hating to see us in pain, may urge us to move forward quickly and out of the void. But the void is where we will find the wisdom of the relationship breakdown. We need to take enough time to do our own inner work.
Carolyn Ellis the author of The 7 Pitfalls of Single Parenting: What to Avoid to Help Your Children Thrive after Divorce. She’s also the host of The Divorce 101 Show podcast on iTunes. The divorced mother of three children living in Toronto, she is the first Canadian to be certified as a Spiritual Divorce Coach. Her web site is www.thriveafterdivorce.com.