Let’s face it, breakups are rarely easy.
The pain can leave a giant hole in our heart and it’s all too common to think that the solution that’ll take that pain away is to fill that hole with another relationship ASAP. In working with thousands of people over the last 27 years, there are a few things I know for sure.
Here’s my five-step checklist of to-dos to help you recover from a break-up:
When we need support the most, we often choose to “go it alone.” We do this for so many reasons. Maybe we’re afraid of judgment, we’re feeling shame, embarrassment, or we’re just not comfortable being vulnerable. It can also be that we’re comfortable giving to others yet we struggle with receiving. Well, now it’s your time to receive. Think of how great you feel when you give to others. Choosing to keep your pain to yourself is taking away that same great opportunity someone could have to help you.
Recovering from a breakup may also mean that you need support from a qualified professional. Be careful here because someone not skilled in the specific area you need help with can do more harm than good. For example, if you broke up with a gaslighter or narcissist, someone unskilled can have you believing you were at fault (of course, we do need to take responsibility for our part in a relationship). Or, someone lacking empathy can try to “help” by telling you to “put it behind you,” “get over it,” or “just move on.” While well-meaning, you need to process your break-up and grieve the loss before you can put it behind you for good.
The stress from your break-up is likely taking a toll on your body, mind, and spirit. Left unchecked, that stress leads to symptoms, illness, conditions, and disease. Take time for self-care, whether that means more rest, eating healthier, moving, spending time in nature, beginning or restarting a daily practice of meditation, journaling, yoga, etc. Also, if your break-up is due to a betrayal, there’s lots of clean-up left in the wake of this type of crisis. There’s a collection of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms so common to betrayal it’s known as Post Betrayal Syndrome. The good news? You can heal from ALL of it.
Recovering from a breakup takes time and it’s the perfect time to see who you were in the relationship and what you’d do differently next time. Jumping into another relationship too soon halts this process and typically only allows for more of the same. Take this tender time to see what thoughts, behaviors, beliefs, and habits didn’t serve you and slowly exchange them for ones that do. It’s a beautiful time to recreate yourself based on all you’ve learned from your experience.
Now that you’re out of that relationship, what do you need? It’s the perfect time to listen to those subtle nudges urging you to learn a new skill, enjoy a new experience, move in a new direction that inspires creativity, joy, and fulfillment. What’s been on the back burner that your practical side said “no” to but may be the perfect thing to revisit now? It’s still not time for a new relationship but it’s okay to design a new criteria list. What do you need in a friendship or partnership going forward? Do you need to feel more valued, heard, or respected? What aspects of yourself did you choose to not fully express because you didn’t feel safe or comfortable? What would a rewarding relationship look like and who do you need to be to create that when you’re eventually ready?
Write Your “Coherent Narrative”
What’s that? A coherent narrative is when you take what may have become your life story and turn it into a pivotal chapter of your story. You’re making sense and meaning out of your experience by writing (either figuratively or literally) the story of your relationship and break-up. It’s common that by the time you’re done with this activity, you see the benefit in all you’ve learned, along with what you’re no longer willing to accept or tolerate. It’s also common to see how that person who hurt you was actually one of your greatest teachers; showing you what new boundaries need to be in place and how lovable, deserving, and worthy you are. Whether you give yourself sentence prompts like: “I learned…” “The benefit of this experience was…” “What I’ll do differently next time is…”, this is an important activity that signals the body and mind that you’re ready to heal.
It’s important to realize that people are in our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Your relationship may have been a wonderful learning experience that ran its course. Doing the work to heal, learn, and grow allows for your best version of you to be birthed, and it’ll be a version that’s healthy, healed, and whole. It’s also a version that, if you choose to and when you’re ready, allows for an entirely new type of relationship to emerge
– Dr. Debi