“We get together on the basis of our similarities; we grow on the basis of our differences.” – Virginia Satir
While breakups can be devastating, they can also offer tremendous growth. If we allow ourselves the chance to experience our full range of emotions, we can often gain valuable insights from the process of healing from a breakup.
When we’re in pain, it’s normal to want to move through it as quickly as possible and create distance from the source of the struggle. However, when we lean into the discomfort, we allow ourselves the incredibly valuable experience of learning about ourselves and healing the hurt.
While it can be difficult, it can also be liberating in the end. When working with individuals who have just experienced a difficult breakup– whether as a result of divorce or ending a long-term relationship, healing from emotional pain is similar to healing a bodily wound– in order for it to no longer cause pain, the wound needs to heal properly.
Sure, it’s tempting to throw a bandaid on it and go about your normal routine, but unless you take the time to clean, disinfect, and bandage the wound, it won’t heal. Without proper care it might even become worse or infected requiring even more of an investment in your time and energy than what was originally needed. By allowing yourself the space to figure out what went wrong, “disinfect the wound,” and check in with yourself around the healing process, you can strengthen yourself and move forward in your life with clarity and conviction.
Here are a few considerations to help you move through a painful breakup:
Experiencing pain is a natural part of life and can teach us important lessons about ourselves
Allow yourself to feel whatever comes up for you. Maybe you’re angry, deeply sad, full of regret, maybe you feel some shame about your behaviors. These are all normal but very uncomfortable feelings. To assist you in feeling your way through this tough time, talk with a trusted person in your life. In letting out your feelings, you gain clarity about what’s happened and can start to accept the reality of the situation more fully.
You might even want to take yourself on a date, spend a little time alone journaling, listening to music, or meditating. Notice how you’re feeling throughout the day and check in with yourself. No matter what your feelings about this relationship, this is a time to show some compassion for yourself.
Reflect on what happened
Perhaps one of the areas you struggled with in this particular relationship was your tendency to be possessive or jealous. Were you easily set off? Did you have a tendency to place blame on your partner instead of looking inward? Perhaps the opposite was true, and you felt your partner was unable to show up fully for you in a supportive and nurturing way.
Maybe one or both of you were untrue or unkind and had difficulty with trust. Whatever your pattern(s) of interaction, it’s worth exploring how you personally contributed to the issues of the relationship. When I prepare to work with a couple in my practice, they first complete a rather extensive form designed to help provide me with valuable and necessary information about history but also to orient each person to the process of taking some responsibility for the issues and mutual discontent.
Most often, each person tends to write quite a bit about not only their experience in the relationship, but also about how they may be contributing to the problems. This self-awareness can help you to become more active in cultivating the kind of relationship you’d like to create with others.
Surround yourself with people who value and care about you
When healing from a breakup, you might feel a dramatic shift in your identity. If your identity was wrapped up in being a couple, it might be difficult to experience a strong sense of self on your own. Spending time with people you trust and who care about you is a great way to begin to feel better. Now is the time to focus on you.
If we have been let down or feel deeply betrayed in the breakup, this is especially important. What is it like to get back to you? How do you experience yourself when you are truly in touch with your own needs?
Distract yourself (a little)
Part of healing from a painful life experience such as a breakup involves some distraction. Is there a particular event you’ve been meaning to check out and just haven’t prioritized? Do you want to go to more concerts or cultural events? Spend some quality time with friends?Distraction can be a great way to allow ourselves to disconnect (for a little while) from the stress, anxiety, frustration, or disappointment we might be experiencing while working through a breakup.
Nurture your own personal growth
Right after a breakup is a wonderful time to invest in yourself. Is there an area you’ve been putting off for a while? Perhaps you’ve always wanted to get better at public speaking or baking? Maybe you’ve always wanted to take a dance class or join that organization you’ve been thinking about… Investing in your personal growth and development is a wonderful way to “get back out there” and take charge of your situation.
Use your professional skills to help others in need. If you have special business insights or skills, volunteering can be a great way to help you connect with others while giving back. In serving the community with your unique gifts, you provide a valuable resource to those in need and foster a sense of meaning during a difficult personal time.
With time and a willingness to explore, you can make progress toward healing from a painful breakup. Taking the space to understand the aspects of the relationship that you will miss along with the areas that were not going so well can help you make sense of the breakup and take a more productive stance when it comes to your healing process.