As a life coach who specializes in working with women, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of the most interesting, brilliant, thoughtful and downright bad*ss women out there. I have also seen these same women feel completely and utterly shattered as a result of a painful break-up.
The truth is, none of us are above feeling this broken because romantic relationships can carry so much emotional weight in our lives. If we are doing this whole relationship thing the right way, we are allowing ourselves to be vulnerable with another person. We are giving someone a part of ourselves and, darn it, that is freaking brave!
So, while it may sound crazy, experiencing the pain of a relationship ending should also cause you to congratulate yourself. You were brave. You entered the scary and unpredictable arena of love and you played. The only way to avoid the pain of a relationship ending is to simply not participate. And sitting on the sidelines in the game of life and love is no way to live, my dear.
While none of us would choose to feel the pain and disappointment that comes with a break-up, we can choose how we want to move forward and heal. And frankly, based on my personal and professional experience, I’ve learned that some ways of going about this process are much healthier than others.
Here are 5 tips to remember as you navigate the process of healing after a painful break-up:
1. Limit communication with your ex
You’re hurting, you’re confused, you need someone to talk to…I get it. But, your ex cannot be this person for you. I repeat, your ex cannot be this person for you. It’s understandable that you want to reach out to your ex. After all, this was the person you talked to every day, this was the person you shared all of your thoughts and feelings with up until that awful, terrible day that you broke up. This was your person. Surely talking to your person will make you feel better, right? Absolutely not..
Every time you reach out to your ex, you are putting yourself in the position of being re-injured. It’s like you’re picking at a scab that is trying to heal (a gross metaphor, but it works). Don’t sabotage your healing process by communicating with your ex when you are grieving. Give the scab time to do its job.
This also goes for social media. Unfriend, block, deactivate…do whatever must be done to avoid knowing where your ex is happy-hour’ing on Friday.
2. Put closure on the backburner
But, you say, what about closure? I need closure! I am not saying that it is never appropriate to seek more clarity from an ex about a break-up. However, if possible, try to let some time pass before you put yourself in this vulnerable situation. Get clear about what it is that you are truly seeking in this conversation. Make sure that you aren’t trying to put this person in the position of making you feel better. Because, honestly, that isn’t their job anymore. It’s your job to take care of you. I love things to be tied up neatly with a bow as much as anyone, but when it comes to matters of the heart, we can’t always know why things didn’t go as planned. Life is messy, but it is also beautiful. It may not feel like it today, but an even-better story is unfolding for you.
3. Do it YOUR way
A lot of well-meaning people will be telling you what you need to do to feel better about a break-up… “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone”, “You just need a crazy night out with the girls”, “Maybe you should get a dog”…any of this sound familiar?
You, and only you, know what you need. And, sometimes what you need fluctuates day to day… or even hour to hour. When my heart breaks, it takes a village to put it back together again. I dial up friends all over the country, my therapy appointments increase and I re-play and re-tell the same stories, feelings and thoughts to my amazingly patient support system. And, after some time, the loss begins to have less and less power over me.
The village approach is what works for me. But, maybe you feel the need to withdraw for a little while. Perhaps you need to go inward to wrestle with what happened and to find your own path towards healing. The only “right” way to grieve a break-up is your way. Listen to your gut, trust your instincts and remember that no one knows what you need better than you. State what you need (or don’t need) clearly and kindly to the well-meaning- advice-givers in your life and remember that your grieving process doesn’t need to make them happy.
4. Remember that you can be alone without being lonely
If you’ve become accustomed to living in the world of “us” it can feel terrifying to enter the world of “party of one, please.” It’s normal for this territory to feel scary and unfamiliar. But, just because you’re watching Game of Thrones alone these days, doesn’t mean that you have to feel lonely.
Seek out connection. Maybe you’ll find that with others, or maybe it will be by yourself. But, engage in activities that give you a sense of connection regardless of your relationship status– listen to music you love, set up dates with friends, go to yoga, volunteer– do whatever it takes to remind you of the many gifts and types of connection that this life has to offer us.
5. Stop calling it a “failure”
This is a lesson I learned from my 75- year- old mother (who I happen to think is the most brilliant life coach ever). Several years ago, Al and Tipper Gore shocked the public when they announced they were divorcing after 40 of marriage. How could it be? They seemed so good together, so committed…so impenetrable. My mom and I were watching the media discuss the breaking news and they seemed to be almost relishing in the “failure” of this union. Well, my mom had heard enough and started shouting back to the the TV, “Their marriage wasn’t a failure! They spent 40 years together. They raised a family together. That’s hardly a failure.”
Wow, such a profound and progressive message coming from my 75- year-old mother! But, she’s absolutely right. A relationship ending after 40 years, or even one year, shouldn’t be framed up as a failure. As I said earlier, you took a risk entering into this thing called love, relationship and commitment. You were vulnerable. You were willing to let someone in and to share your life with someone. This, my dear, is not for the faint of heart.
So, pause for a moment to take inventory of all of the wonderful things you saw in yourself and in this relationship. Show admiration and compassion to the parts of yourself that chose to step into the arena. Find confidence knowing that you have the capacity to love and to care deeply for another person.
And if there are things that you wish you would have done differently, approach those feelings with curiosity. Commit to getting real with yourself about how you can learn and grow from both the relationship and the end of the relationship. This increased self-awareness will allow you to approach your next relationship (and there will be one) with even more confidence that you can be a great partner. Just think how lucky this person will be to bask in the light of your increased sense of love, grace and wisdom!
Need some help getting through a break-up or navigating the often-frustrating territory of dating & relationships? Let’s chat to see how I can be of help. www.lifecoachamanda.com
This article was first published by Reset Retreat, a luxury wellness retreat for women.