The ending of a relationship is soooo incredibly hard. Whether it was your choice or not, grief often hits hard and it feels like a death.
So what do you do?
Curl up in bed and hide for months?
Bury yourself in work?
Pretend it didn’t happen and try to just “get over it?”
Any of these options might sound more appealing than thinking about the break-up. Ugh, it just hurts SO much.
It’s hard to know what will help and what will make it feel worse. So how in the world do you figure out which way is up and how to heal from one of the most painful events EVER?
I’ve got you. I’m here, holding your hand through the pain and offering up these 5 tips for how to cope with all the feels and start to work towards healing.
#1 Feel your Feelings
Hear me out: I know it’s so tough to actually let yourself feel the pain, but feeling them is the only way to the other side.
What that might like is this: Imagine yourself in the kitchen, making a quesadilla because that’s all you can manage. Your mind wanders to the recent vacation you and your ex took and suddenly you’re back there. Tears are streaming down your face and you just can’t understand why it happened, how it happened, and wondering “if I could just go back in time and do x differently, maybe I wouldn’t be here, crying, in so much pain right now.”
Stop. Pause. Take a breath. What emotion are you feel right now? Sadness? Anger? Frustration? Regret? Whatever it is, label it. I’m feeling sad and angry.
Good. Now validate these feelings. It makes sense that I feel this way because…
These two simple steps are helping you to process what you’re feeling and making space for the feelings that are coming up.
Remember: all feelings are valid. Always.
Also remember: this feels hard because it IS hard.
#2 Gather up your comfort resources.
A cozy blanket, your favorite snack, a good book, that TV show you love to binge watch, sunshine, a walk – whatever it is that under “normal” circumstances you’d find comforting, gather those! They may not feel very comforting right now because often when we are grieving, nothing feels good. Do it anyway!
Picture these things as your life raft, keeping you afloat during this difficult time. So much has changed with the break-up that as much as you are able to lean into the usual comforts, the more you’ll prevent downward slides to feeling worse as well as sustain your energy to keep moving forward.
#3 Connect with those who will honor your needs.
Connecting with other people can feel like the last thing you want to do. It’s sooo hard to muster up the energy to have a conversation about…anything. You may feel that all you can think about is the break-up, but it’s also the last thing you actually want to talk about…which leaves you with absolutely nothing to say to your friend.
Pro tip #1: Choose a friend who will let you talk about the break-up if you want or will take the reigns on convo topics so that you don’t have to do the heavy-lifting.
Pro tip #2: Plan for small increments of time, not marathon hang-outs. Be clear on the time frame with your friend and feel proud of yourself for making the effort to connect, for however long you are able.
#4 Focus on basic needs.
Fatigue is one of the most common side effects of grief, and it’s one that you might not expect. If all you have the energy for is to do the basics to take care of yourself, that is MORE THAN ENOUGH. YOU ARE DOING AMAZING.
This is not the time to be hard on yourself if you’ve stopped training for that marathon or if you are putting your pursuit of a promotion on hold. Grief is EXHAUSTING, so please be mindful of your capacity and understand that honoring your energy levels is essential to working through the grief.
#5 Be present.
Hahahahah. This might be you laughing at me. Often, when we are grieving, the mind is anything other than present. It’s consumed by replaying conversations and past situations with the person we lost. This is normal.
So what do I mean then by “be present”?
Try – and you may not feel like you’re very successful – but try to do things that bring you to the here and now.
For example, you decide to take a walk around the neighborhood. Look around you. Smell the flowers. Notice the people you pass. Say hello. During this time, your mind will inevitably wander, and that’s not only okay, but expected. When you notice that it’s wandered, bring it back to the present.
This is the other side of “feel your feelings.” The key components to processing grief is to feel the grief while also doing things that take you out of the grief. It’s a weaving in and out of process.
Finally, don’t hesitate to contact a therapist. It can be SO helpful to have designated time to talk about the break-up, gain additional tools for coping, and work through related issues as you feel ready and able to.
Along the healing road, don’t forget this: You are an incredible human who is worthy of love. This break-up does not define you, and you will get to the other side. It’s okay to take as long as you need to process this loss and you’re on no one’s time frame but your own. You do not have to “just get over it” and you don’t have to “look at the bright side.” Break-ups suck, and you are allowed to grieve in your own way and in your own time.