A breakup or divorce can be one of the most stressful and emotional experiences in life. Whatever the reason for the split—and whether you wanted it or not—the breakup of a relationship can turn your whole world upside down and trigger all sorts of painful and unsettling emotions.
Even when a relationship is no longer good, a divorce or breakup can be extremely painful because it represents the loss, not just of the partnership, but also of the dreams and commitments you shared. Romantic relationships begin on a high note of excitement and hopes for the future. When a relationship fails, we experience profound disappointment, stress, and grief.
A breakup or divorce launches you into uncharted territory. Everything is disrupted: your routine and responsibilities, your home, your relationships with extended family and friends, and even your identity. A breakup also brings uncertainty about the future. What will life be like without your partner? Will you find someone else? Will you end up alone? These unknowns can often seem worse than being in an unhappy relationship.
This pain, disruption, and uncertainty means that recovering from a breakup or divorce can be difficult and take time. However, it’s important to keep reminding yourself that you can and will get through this difficult experience and even move on with a renewed sense of hope and optimism. (Source: HelpGuide/Dealing with a breakup or divorce)
In my next article I will give you the tools to get through your break-up or divorce, but one of the main points to remember is that a break-up or divorce causes you to go through a grief process. Allow yourself to grieve the loss of the relationship. Grief is a natural reaction to loss, and the breakup or divorce of a love relationship involves multiple losses:
- Loss of companionship and shared experiences (which may or may not have been consistently pleasurable)
- Loss of support, be it financial, intellectual, social, or emotional
- Loss of hopes, plans, and dreams (which can be even more painful than practical losses)
Allowing yourself to feel the pain of these losses may be scary. You may fear that your emotions will be too intense to bear, or that you’ll be stuck in a dark place forever. Just remember that grieving is essential to the healing process. The pain of grief is precisely what helps you let go of the old relationship and move on. And no matter how strong your grief, it won’t last forever.
Tips for grieving after a breakup or divorce:
Don’t fight your feelings – It’s normal to have lots of ups and downs, and feel many conflicting emotions, including anger, resentment, sadness, relief, fear, and confusion. It’s important to identify and acknowledge these feelings. While these emotions will often be painful, trying to suppress or ignore them will only prolong the grieving process.
Talk about how you’re feeling – Even if it is difficult for you to talk about your feelings with other people, it is very important to find a way to do so when you are grieving. Knowing that others are aware of your feelings will make you feel less alone with your pain and will help you heal. Writing in a journal can also be a helpful outlet for your feelings.
Remember that moving on is the end goal – Expressing your feelings will liberate you in a way, but it is important not to dwell on the negative feelings or to over-analyze the situation. Getting stuck in hurtful feelings like blame, anger, and resentment will rob you of valuable energy and prevent you from healing and moving forward.
Remind yourself that you still have a future – When you commit to another person, you create many hopes and dreams for a life together. After a breakup, it’s hard to let these aspirations go. As you grieve the loss of the future you once envisioned, be encouraged by the fact that new hopes and dreams will eventually replace your old ones.
Know the difference between a normal reaction to a breakup and depression – Grief can be paralyzing after a breakup, but after a while, the sadness begins to lift. Day by day, and little by little, you start moving on. However, if you don’t feel any forward momentum, you may be suffering from depression.
Fighting grief is often counterproductive. Most of the time it is best to allow yourself to grieve in the ways that come naturally to you, at least part of the time. Eventually life comes back to 'normal' and the intensity of loss retreats. Different people take different amounts of time to go through their grief process and express their grief with different intensities of emotion. The amount of time people spend grieving depends on their personalities, and on the nature of their losses. Someone whose marriage was betrayed might take a longer time to work out their grief and to do it in a more vocal way than someone who chose to leave a marriage of their own accord. Someone who found out suddenly about their spouses' affair might grieve differently than someone who has watched their marriage deteriorate for years.
It is not realistic that grief over a lost marriage should be worked out in a month or even several months. Most people will continue to deal with the emotional ramifications of loss for many months, sometimes even several years. Several years is a long time, however; really too long to spend exclusively grieving when life is so short. People who find that grief has not for the most part abated after 12 months have gone by are strongly urged to seek the assistance of a professional therapist.
While grief can be immobilizing at first, after a while, most grieving people find that, little by little, they are ready to move on with their lives. For a time, they may find themselves moving on and grieving at the same time. Over time however, if everything goes well, the grieving process loses steam and more energy becomes available for moving on with life.
This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy. This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.