August 23, 2019

How a Painful Breakup Can Lead to Personal Growth

BreakingUpDon’t kid yourself.  Breaking up can be brutally difficult.  In many cases, it is akin to losing someone to death.  The loss is complete.  Ties severed.  Someone who once filled your life and heart is now gone.

Don’t pretend “it’s okay” when it’s not.  Let yourself experience it, in whatever way is right for you.

Tears, anger, and pain are the least of it.  There is a road ahead for anyone experiencing the loss of a breakup but it is a road that leads to survival – and more than that.  True growth as a person awaits you at the end of that road.

Any significant experience has the potential to help us evolve.  Love and relationship are surely significant, and even when they end in loss and sadness, they offer great insights into who we are, and who we are not.  Whether you or your partner ended the relationship, you can learn from the way everything went down.  For example, what did you once tolerate that you won’t anymore?  What did you have in that relationship that you want in your next?  What did you lack that you want be sure you have next time around?  How have you grown up since you began that relationship –whether 1, 2, 10, or 25 years ago?  You may see the world, yourself, and commitment through an entirely new lens now.  As sad as it can be to start over, it is also an opportunity to readjust how you live your life and see yourself.

But first, take time to grieve.  You have lost someone, and with that person went hopes, dreams, and future plans.  Again, don’t forget that even if you decided to end the relationship, you can, and probably will, experience grief.  Just because you were the one to see that it was not working does not mean it is easy for you!

Look for these classic 5 stages of grief as you process your loss at your own pace:

  1. Denial – “I can’t believe this is happening.”
  2. Anger – “I am so mad at X for doing this to me/letting this happen.”
  3. Bargaining – “Don’t leave me/maybe it can work after all.”
  4. Depression – “I feel so hopeless/frustrated/useless/out of control.”
  5. Acceptance – “Our relationship is over. It’s really over!”

Next, it is time for what may be the hardest part: moving on.  People ask me, “How can I move on?  I can’t picture my life any other way.”  Others remain stuck at stage 2 – in anger.  Moving on requires letting go and part of letting go is forgiveness, for you and for your ex. (See last week’s blog about forgiveness.) 

Even after you have reached the final stage of acceptance, it takes time to learn how to be alone, and transform feelings of emptiness into feelings of freedom and independence.  It is perfectly natural to feel lonely.  Of course you are going to miss your previous life, whether it was ripped away from you or you walked away to save yourself.  However, don’t stay stuck in that wasteland of nothingness.  You can make the conscious decision to move forward with your life by turning the page and focusing on loving yourself.

Here are some things to think about as you heal and move forward:

    • Rediscover YOU.  Spend time with yourself.  Focus on what you want and what you need.  Even if you are feeling lonely, enjoy your freedom and independence and the gifts and experiences that they can bring.  Make yourself happy.  Spoil yourself!  See your greatness.  Allow the best version of you to emerge, confident and strong. 
    • Set new goals.  Whether you finally want to get a new and better job, move to a location you’ve always had a soft spot for, or start saving for that European getaway you never could seem to plan when you were a couple… set your sights.  And then start putting one foot in front of the other to reach your goal.
    • Create new options.  Life does not have to look the same today as it did a month ago.  You can go to different places, pick up a new hobby, see a different kind of movie, go to a different gym, or quit the gym and start biking!  Maybe you didn’t like the gym in the first place! Are there things you never took time for (whatever the reason) when you were in your relationship?  Now is the time to take the time! 
    • Reconnect with family and friends.  The people who helped you through the breakup still want to see you!  Have the social life you want, and even if you are tempted to stay in all the time… please don’t.  Go out to dinner, invite people over, or just sit quietly with a close friend on a Friday night talking over a bottle of wine or a tray of sushi. 
    • Express gratitude.  There has been a recent trend on Facebook about speaking your gratitude.  It’s one of the nicest things about social media – when people share beautiful truths with one another.  I heartily approve of the gratitude challenge!  It is healing and self-nurturing to be thankful for the things in your life that bring you joy.  Be thankful for what feeds you and makes you happy, as well as what you learned about yourself from your previous relationship and for the experience.

Once you decide to move forward, the door to happiness will be there for you.  It can take days, weeks, months, or an instant.  But when you are ready to open that door – the choice is yours – you can walk right through it.

 

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