Picking Up The Pieces after a Break-Up

Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross determined the ‘Five stages of grief’, which are relevant after the loss of a relationship. It is helpful to be aware of what to expect so you recognize your ‘rollercoaster of emotions’ to be normal. We do not move through these stages in a linear way, sometimes taking one step forward only to fall three steps back.

Let’s take a look at the stages of grief through the eyes of a relationship loss in order to move forward.

Stage 1: Denial

It is during this stage you will do everything you can from admitting that the relationship has ended. Whether you are secretly stalking, finding opportunities to bump into him, following his movements on Facebook or blatantly pursuing him – it’s time to stop. All feelings are valid, not all behaviours are; so regardless of whether or not you were treated unfairly, if the relationship is over, show yourself some love and move on by letting go -with dignity.  We all share the need to feel loved and to experience a sense of belonging. It is this loss that is driving your  (sometimes crazy) behaviour. The fear of being alone/ fear of rejection/ fear of failure/ fear of not being good enough holds the assumption that you cannot feel fulfilled without a partner. You can. And you will be fine. Pause and breathe. It is over.

Question to consider:

What do I know about myself that tells me I can get through this?

Stage 2: Anger

When your anger sets in, the energy and power you feel is paradoxically better than the powerlessness of the previous stage. Better but still not ideal. It’s about now that you become furious with yourself or your ex. Demanding explanations, insisting on a justifiable cause for the end or worse, lashing out at anyone who does not support you in the unfairness of it all is one option. Another – find a positive way to channel the anger. Box a bag, run long distances, paint your heart out, dance wildly, scream loudly, spring clean vigorously – do anything constructive. Getting drunk and falling off bar counters does not count.

Question to consider:

How can I constructively express my anger (without making matters worse and without doing something I might possibly regret later)?

Stage 3: Bargaining

Today you realize all your mistakes and errors in judgment. You believe if you can convince your ex you will NEVER do any of those again, he will return. “If you take me back, I will never argue with you again”, “I promise I will be more easy going and encourage you to go out with your mates and get trashed till all hours of the night” etcetera etcetera.

If your ex believes these outrageous claims and returns, there is little chance of holding up your end of the bargain and the relationship is bound to end – again. Tactics like these are equal to grovelling and that is not a healthy dynamic for anyone (and it’s really not pretty). Resist the urge to plead/ beg/ bargain/ haggle/ barter/ negotiate for anyone’s affections.

Question to consider:

What supportive/helpful distractions can you divert your attention to when you feel the need to call your ex to negotiate a deal for his return?

Stage 4: Depression

Your Relationship has ended. The reality has finally set in. A broken- heart means a broken fantasy – the fantasy that the relationship would last forever is over. Adjusting to this new certainty and coming to terms with a different future will be the greatest hurdle. The best way out of grief is always through. Mourn loss; let the tears flow when they are there. Don’t deny the pain. This is how we heal. Loss is life’s advanced graduate programme. The best thing you can do is to allow yourself the time to mourn. Find a safe space to be vulnerable and let it all out. Snot and ‘trane’ are your friends.

Question to consider:

In what ways can you nurture yourself consistently -to be kind and gentle when you are feeling depressed – so as not to fall apart completely?

Stage 5: Acceptance

The tears have run out and you feel ready to move forward (albeit only occasionally), knowing that it is better to be alone than in an unhealthy/ unsupportive/ disrespectful/ going nowhere relationship. You realize there will be some difficult times still ahead but the healing process has begun and although the wounds are still raw, you are ready to face the world again, alone. There is a difference between alone and lonely and now is the time to treat yourself well to allow healing to happen.

Question to consider:

Which people, places, experiences can you invest your energies into that uplift and encourage your emotional wellness?