Has your heart been recently broken and have you ended up either separating or are in the middle of divorce proceedings? It is so hard when the relationship you had such high hopes for ends and the person who you once loved becomes almost a stranger.
Whether you initiated the separation and divorce or your partner, your life as you knew no longer exists and the structure of your life has broken down. These circumstances are at best unsettling and sad, and at their worst devastating and extremely stressful.
You now face a new chapter in your life and you have to start rebuilding your life. You may have many questions in your mind such as:
– How will I cope emotionally and financially?
– Are my fluctuating feelings or flat/low mood normal?
– If you have children, how to support children through this time?
– Will I ever feel better and have stability in my life again?
– Will I ever (be able to) love again? (or perhaps it is the last thing on your mind)
Any emotions you experience are perfectly normal; there is no right or wrong way to feel. When we are faced with a loss and such a significant change in our lives, our emotions are on a roller coaster. Heartache is gut wrenching and it can make you feel physically ill, as you are so stressed and your body is preparing to fight.
The aim of this post is to give some understanding how grief and loss impact on us and what you can do to help yourself during this difficult time.
Stages of loss and grief
Regardless of how the relationship ended, a period of mourning is likely to follow. Everyone copes differently with the situation depending on personal resources (emotional & physical). There are five stages to the process of loss and grief (Dr. Kubler-Ross):
Denial Initially the heart will rule and the head will not accept that the relationship and married life is over. One may even pretend that nothing has happened and carry on living as before for a short period of time.
Anger Once there is a realisation that the safety structure of the relationship has been dismantled whether this involves third parties or not, anger will follow. Anger can be directed at many people: ex-partner, his/her family, other people or life circumstances.
Bargaining This stage often goes hand in hand with denial. One tries to do everything to stop the separation, such as promising that things will change, and agreeing to go to couple therapy.
Depression When the reality of the situation sinks in, one starts to understand that the relationship and marriage is over. This can manifest in many ways, such as feeling flat, unable to enjoy anything, constant tiredness, overeating/loss of appetite, sleeping too much/not able to sleep, using alcohol to self-medicate. There is a strong sense of helplessness and feeling like there is no way out. This can feel almost like a physical pain in the body.
Acceptance Gradually one comes to terms with the relationship being over and accepts that life will never be the same again. It is about letting go and then gradually starting to think about the future. It may take time to reach this stage and feelings fluctuate a lot before reaching this point. If it feels that you will never reach this point, you are probably still in an earlier stage.
Tips for supporting yourself:
Make use of your support networks. Don’t feel embarrassed to ask for support and help from friends, family or a therapist. Resist the temptation of throwing yourself into another relationship just in an attempt to find a plaster for your wounds. Rebound relationships rarely last. You may end up confused and even more hurt if you meet a person who is completely incompatible and takes advantage of your vulnerable position.
It is easy to be self-critical during heightened stress. Learn to be self-compassionate (Neff, 2016):
– Become your own supportive friend
– Accept that a degree of suffering is part of being human – You are not alone!
– Be mindful and recognise your feelings
What kind words of encouragement can you say to yourself during difficult moments?
If you are being very self-critical, you may find this article “Shrink the inner critic” useful. Read it here.
Get to know yourself again
When the relationship ends, you may feel lost. It is easy to lose parts of you, when you are in a relationship, and now is the time to rediscover who you are again.
– Engage in activities that you used to enjoy but perhaps stopped doing
– Find new interests to test out
– Spend time with yourself really listening to your feelings and desires
– Avoid the temptation of being so busy that you become exhausted and don’t have time to process how you are feeling
When you are distressed, it is easy to neglect yourself. Prioritise yourself and pay attention to self-care:
- Eat a balanced diet
- Do calming exercise, such as yoga or pilates
- Have enough sleep, most people need 7-8 hours
- Relax without technology
- Learn Mindfulness meditation to help with relaxation
- Anything that brings you pleasure, e.g. spending time with people who have a supportive, positive energy about them, burning smelly candles, having a regular massage
Whether you have only recently separated or you have had some time to get used to your life changing following a break-up, I hope this article has given you some understanding how we emotionally react to loss and how to start rebuilding your life.
If you are struggling and would like to have emotional support, process what has happened, heal internal wounds caused by your relationship or other events, understand how your upbringing impacts on your relationships, get in touch to organise a FREE 15min consultation to discuss how therapy could help. Contact now!