Breaking up is hard to do. Much like the passing away of a loved one, breakups have stages of grief. Here's an outline of the breakup process -- and how to get through it.
Breaking up isn't as hard to do if you understand that everything that is happening to your heart, your mind and your body is totally normal. That's right: Consuming endless bowls of ice cream one day and being disgusted by the sight of food the next is normal under the circumstances. It is also normal to want to slash your ex's tires and want him back all at the same time.
What isn't normal, though, is to stay stuck in your confused, lonely or sad state. Breakups have stages of grief, as outlined below. These breakup stages may not be in order for you, and there is no telling how long you will stay in each one, but consider progress of any kind positive. Be gentle with yourself during a breakup, and don't stop reminding yourself that, no matter how dark the day, you will get through this.
1. Shock: "What the hell just happened?"
Shock is the body's natural protection against pain. And when your relationship first ends, you just might not want to deal with what's coming next. It may be too scary, too lonely, too confusing. A state of disbelief could last minutes, weeks or even months and likely lasts longer if you are on the receiving end of an unexpected breakup. Don't be surprised if you feel a sense of blurriness about the actual breakup scene, a literal loss of breath, or trouble sleeping.
- Do prescribe yourself calming cures like meditation or long walks.
- Do not freak out. You will make sense of all of this!
2. Denial: "This is so not happening."
Denial is rejection of reality and a storage of feelings. The thinking is that, if you don't accept the heartbreak, then it didn't really happen, thus leaving hope for reunion. During this stage of a breakup it is common to call, email or even Facebook-stalk -- anything that feels remotely "normal" about the relationship -- in an effort to put dealing with the heartbreak on hold.
- Do open up to a journal or trusted friend to begin unleashing fears, identifying unreasonable thoughts and more.
- Do not minimise the situation. Pretending your breakup doesn't have to be dealt with will lead to emotional numbness and leave you stuck.
3. Isolation: "I just want to sit in this all by myself."
Once you've recognized the breakup, you get into the dirty work: Dealing with the dissolution of the relationship. You may replay the relationship over and over in your mind, trying to pinpoint where it fell apart and how it could have been saved. Your thoughts may feel very scattered and disorganised. This stage of grief has you in withdrawal; you don't even feel like updating your social media status or checking your voicemails. You may draw your blinds and not even want to leave the house. Sitting in silence, darkness or a bucket of ice cream feels better than going outside and admitting to the world that, yes, it's over.
- Do take regular showers and create reasons to face the day (work, social activities).
- Do not indulge in self-pity by letting irrational thoughts like "No one will ever love me again" take over.
4. Anger: "I hate you for breaking my heart!"
In this stage, your heart goes from sad to raging mad. It becomes fuelled with anger towards your ex for whatever his part in the breakup was, and/or toward yourself for your part. During this stage of breakup, you may find yourself burning pictures of him, holding his stuff hostage, slandering him to his friends or worse. If you are angry with yourself, you may do a lot of self-talk -- regretful thoughts and angry conversation with yourself. The deeper desire here is often to place blame.
- Do feel, write or talk about your anger.
- Do not act on it.
5. Bargaining: "What will it take to get him back?"
Sometimes involving begging, this stage is often about getting your ex back, but other times, it is about absolving your own guilt if you did something wrong that caused the breakup. Desperate to negotiate with yourself or your ex, you may go to extreme measures to make deals or become something else (thinner, less jealous, etc.) to make amends -- when in truth, it is just about making the current pain go away.
- Do create a self-love list complete with what makes you happy and things you want for your future.
- Do not include wanting your ex back in the above list!
6. Depression: "I will never get over him."
You realise the magnitude of your loss in this stage of grief, and it can feel all too overwhelming. You may wind up in a state of deep sadness that can even resemble mild depression. At this point, recalling what your life was like prior to your relationship or what it could be like now can be hard. Just getting out of bed feels difficult, and you may even feel physical aches and pains perpetuated by deep feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and sadness.
- Do surround yourself with positive people and lots of sunshine.
- Do not fall victim to unhealthy behaviours such as binge eating or drinking.
7. Acceptance: "I understand why I was with him, why I'm not now, and that I will be better than just OK."
The acceptance stage of a breakup makes all the other really tough ones worth it. This is the one that finally gives you that welcome sense of exhalation. You come to realise what the past meant and what the future can hold. The sun begins to shine, and you begin to feel like yourself again, ready to move onward and upward.
- Do celebrate getting through your breakup.
- Do not be surprised if you still feel moments of sadness from time to time; it's normal. Just keep on your positive path!
Do you have any breakup tips?