Undoubtedly, going through a serious breakup is one of the most devastating experiences anyone will ever undergo. Even when we know it's the right thing, it's challenging to move on through Life without that someone that had become such an important part of it. It can be even worse when we feel that what happened was wrong or unfair.
Some people never recover from a bad breakup, and while most of us do, we still carry the pain from past relationships in our hearts. Most of us have learned to do certain things in a breakup or behave in a certain way, not realizing that these behaviors are what have us struggle to really let go. Even when we think we've let go, we often find the pain coming up again and again in our future relationships.
There are healthy ways of growing through a breakup, and while it's not always easy, it can lead to peace, fulfillment, and ultimately confidence. In this post, we'll walk you through that process so that after a breakup, you'll be able to truly heal your heart and confidently move on to find the Love you desire.
You may have heard of the 7 Stages of Grief:
1. Shock and Denial
2. Pain and Guilt
3. Anger and Bargaining
4. Depression, Reflection, Loneliness
5. The Upward Turn
6. Reconstruction and Working Through
7. Acceptance and Hope
In a healthy breakup, you will pass through all seven. What happens for most people is that they get stuck in the first four stages and never truly move on from there. Some may never even get past the first one!
To truly heal we must go through all of the stages but many of them can be passed through fairly quickly if approached in the right way. In fact, the first four stages, which happen to be the most painful ones, are the ones that we can pass through most quickly.
The first thing you must practice is not to resist, argue, or deny.
Shock and denial is the first stage of grief. If you are courageous, you don't have to remain there for long. It is normal to experience shock initially; it will come and go on its own and will usually pass within a day or so of the breakup. However, denial is where most people tend to get stuck.
Denial is more than simply denying what has happened. Denial is a state of resistance to the situation. It is also what locks you into the next three stages. (Have you heard the saying "What you resist persists"?)
Due to individual personality styles, some people will experience mostly anger, while others will move towards guilt or depression. You may experience more of one or the other, although we usually experience some of all of them.
While you are going through any of the first four stages, you experience a state of internal resistance so strong that it locks you into these limited ways of processing.
We believe that we have to close our hearts when we experience pain. I'm sure you know that feeling--it's a way of becoming cold to the world when it gets too painful to bear. Many of us started learning how to do this when we were very young and it's become such a habit now that it's basically an automatic response. Oftentimes this is what leads people to feel jaded, hopeless, isolated, depressed, and so on.
That "becoming cold" to life is one of the fundamental sources of human suffering. In a breakup, it can be devastating.
You have to be willing to go through the process and experience the pain and the emotions, the hurt and the disappointment, that come with it.
Just feel it. Don't hide from the experience or push it away. Don't attempt to justify or explain it. Don't create false hope to try to hang on. Don't beat yourself about it or attack the other person for it.
If you look closely, you'll see that for the most part, we usually only experience a fraction of the painful things that happen in our Lives. The rest of the time, we use mental tactics to try to avoid the pain and push it away. When we do that we don't really allow ourselves to let go. Instead, we repress the feelings and judgments associated with it and pretend like everything is OK.
When we recognize that we're doing this, it's no wonder we have the insecurities and fears that we have, why we're always concerned with what people think of us, if we said the wrong thing, or if someone is going to hurt us. All that repressed pain that we've never fully let go from our Lives is churning just beneath the surface.
You must come to fully accept that it happened, it hurts, it feels awful, it didn't go how you had hoped it would, and it's not going to change. Just be with that.
Don't pretend like it doesn't hurt--of course it hurts. You're experiencing something very real and human; let yourself have that experience. Don't pretend like everything is cool; it's not--it's painful. Don't attack the other person and make them wrong for it; in most cases they are hurting just as much you. Simply put, it's a tough situation for everyone and there is no way out of it.
Make this process as easy as it can be for yourself. Don't go trying to connect with them. If they reach out to you, tell them you need your space.
One of the ways that we prolong the process and make it more painful for ourselves is by continuing to generate interactions with the other person. Each time we do interact with them, it gets progressively worse, and we end up re-experiencing the pain of the breakup. Being around them during this time will likely undo any progress you've made so far. As long as you have a desire to rekindle the relationship, you should not be attempting to see that person.
To heal, you must distance yourself, accept what has happened and commit to moving on. When you do this you can experience the pain without getting lost in it and you can begin to transition out of it in a healthy and complete way.
As you're working through this transition it's crucial that you take care of yourself in order to support your healing. Do the things that make you feel great about who you are. One of the biggest reasons that people spiral during a breakup is because they believe they only have that person to hold on to and without them they have nothing else.
If you don't have anything to hold on to, you have to create something. Grow closer to friends. Throw yourself into a hobby or interest. Start hitting the gym harder than ever.
During a breakup, you'll likely experience a major loss of power as one of the most important areas of your life is changing drastically and there's nothing you can do to stop it. You must affirm your power by accessing it in the places where you can. In the moments you feel the pain, take that energy and turn it into passion for what you're doing. Use it to better yourself. Take it to the treadmill, or to the canvas, or volunteer your time with an organization that is meaningful to you.
During this time you'll have days in which you'll feel confident and days that you'll cry. You'll want to accept that this is a process that will fluctuate and there will be ups and downs. Whatever comes, take it in stride. When you need to cry, you cry.
With your heart open, put one foot in front of the other and do your best every single day. As you continually do this, you move more and more out of the first four stages and into the fifth and sixth.
In the fifth (The Upward Turn) and sixth (Reconstruction and Working Through) stages, the pain is no longer so intense. You've accepted what is happening. You are no longer needing the other person to say or do anything and you begin to feel the Love you have for them in your heart--not a romantic Love, like a desire to be with them in that way again, but gratitude for the time you spent together and the way that they have touched your Life.
Whether the relationship was good or bad, Gratitude is the only healthy way to think of an ex. Learn this for your own happiness. They don't need your Gratitude--you do.
You cannot resent them and move on. You can not feel guilty and move on. You cannot regret what happened and move on. All of these feelings will keep you tied to the relationship. When you let them go, you will feel grateful because it's the only sensible thing to feel once all of the feelings of resentment, guilt, and regret are removed.
The fifth and sixth stages are about learning and growth. In your gratitude, you can look back on the relationship and learn. Even if all you learn from the experience is to never date someone like that again, that's an extremely valuable lesson! The main reason that people have repetitive patterns in relationships is that they never reach this stage and therefore never learn this lesson.
The relationship was a gift. They weren't "the one" but if you can reach a place within yourself where you can really learn from it, it can teach you everything you need to know to get on track for finding "the one." In fact, it's one of the greatest resources you have on the journey from heartbreak to happiness.
The best thing you can do for your partner, current or future, is to be the absolute best that you can be. Not that you were not good before but there is always a next level for everyone. If you want to have a relationship with a perfect 10, be a perfect 10.
Use this time to become the very best version of yourself. Learn from the past and use the relationship to show you what can be improved in the next one. Find resources that will help you with this. Access content online that teaches you and inspires you to be a better person. Get into the best shape of your life and explore your passions on a deeper level.
Maybe there were things that you Loved that you lost or gave up in the relationship. How can you re-explore those things and rekindle your relationship with them? The more you engage with things like this the more you focus on what lies ahead and the less you focus on the relationship.
Use every ounce of energy you can to look to the future life you desire rather than to the past. Remove your attention from what was and give it to what will be. Let that motivate you each day.
One day, without even realizing it, you find yourself in the seventh stage, Acceptance and Hope. You've accepted it and have not an ounce of resistance towards it. You trust that it was the right thing and that it's leading you to something better. Because you trust that, hope fills your heart and you are motivated to create the life and relationship you truly desire.
Some people will spend their entire lives cycling through the first four stages. Those people will tell you that what we're describing here is unrealistic. They are also bitter, jaded, and living from the pain of the past. Your achieving this level of acceptance and forgiveness will depend entirely on how courageous you are in the face of your pain and your commitment to your own joy.
We've supported many people through this transition. If you are diligent, it doesn't even take that long. If you find that weeks or months are going by with little improvement, there may be something major you're avoiding. If you'd like to explore working with us around that, click here.
Most importantly, be gentle with yourself. Take care of yourself, surround yourself with healthy support and people who Love you, and use every day possible to reaffirm your power to create the Life and the Love that you desire.
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Having gone through many years of relationship challenges ourselves, we've discovered firsthand what it takes to create True Love.
We are simply two people, perfectly flawed in all kinds of ways, traveling the path of Life together, making mistakes, growing through them, and learning from success and failure.
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