Healing from a break-up is one kind of recovery we all need to do at one time or another. It’s an opportunity to start over with experience behind us, but there is pain with growth. Let’s face it. No one gets through life without painful break-ups of one kind or another. Our lives are filled with losses that we need to process.
The break-up that breaks our hearts doesn’t have to be from a toxic person or a narcissist trying to hurt or control us. Some break-ups come from substance or alcohol use disorder, and you have to detach to survive. Or a person who’s using leaves you when you try to help. This kind of break-up is especially hard because your loved one may be at risk. Some break-ups happen because the timing isn’t right, or a relationship has run its course. All break-ups, however, bring on the pain.
Healing from a break-up is an opportunity to reflect and change
Some of us have a lot of break-ups, some just a few painful losses. No matter what the cause, the loss of a love relationship, a friend or family member has an impact that can be lasting if we don’t deal with them. We can have flashbacks, even PTSD that is triggered in new and more positive relationships. That means it’s important to process what happened in the relationship that ended.
Reflect on the relationship
Before asking yourself about the break-up, you might start thinking about the nature of the relationship itself. What were your hopes, and were they realistic? Was your relationship really good, or was it always difficult? Even worse, was it an abusive relationship. Was this a person you really admired, or was it someone you wanted to love. Did you love more than the other person? That’s hard to accept, too.
In hindsight, you might see some fault lines in the person or relationship you hadn’t recognized before that can help you heal. Journaling and answering these answers can help. Good relationships don’t end suddenly with no warning.
Getting honest means you might have to accept you may have played a bigger role than you thought. It’s perfectly okay to ask yourself who was at fault for the break-up. Was this loss a painful emotional blow? Could things have been different? Is the loss is actually a gain for you? Did it come out of the blue, or was trouble brewing for a long time? Is your ability to trust damaged?
Feel your feelings
An important part of healing from a break-up is giving yourself permission to feel your emotions, not suppress them. You may have been raised to brush things off, but telling yourself you’re not mad or angry or hurt (that much) doesn’t make your hurt or angry feelings go away.
When you feel your feelings, it’s okay to talk with friends and professionals, but doesn’t help you to express negative, vengeful or angry feelings to your ex or anyone else. Expressing the negative won’t help you heal. Facing reality without hitting back is the path to healing.
Focus on yourself
When you’re healing from a break-up is the perfect time to think of yourself. In your relationship you may have focused on the other person. You may have spent all your time catering to his/her wishes and needs. If you are an empath or a people pleaser, you would certainly always put the other person first, even when your caring actions ultimately hurt or negate you.
This is the time to explore what you like and dislike. You can recover foods and activities, movies, and other things your ex might not have liked. Freedom from worry about another person’s likes and dislikes can free you to discover your own. It can be a time of real personal growth.
Take responsibility without blame
Blame is unhealthy whether you blame someone else for what happened, or blame yourself. The blame game won’t make you feel better. We can feel like we were disrespected, betrayed, hurt, abused, or our pride took a blow. All of these negative feelings can make us blame the other person or ourselves for why the relationship didn’t work out.
Instead of blaming or shaming, just accept responsibility. It takes two people to make a relationship work—or fail. Accept responsibility for your actions and choices, and give responsibility to your former partner for theirs. Accepting responsibility is different from blaming because it allows you the opportunity to accept your mistakes and to recognize that they can’t be changed now, but you can do things differently in the future.
It also means you are only responsible for what you personally did, and you can’t blame yourself for the actions and choices of your former partner.
Give yourself time
Healing from your break-up will take some time, especially if it was a relationship of some duration. But the pain doesn’t have to linger forever. If you had a long-term relationship or it was a family member you cared about, you will need time to grieve and heal. Don’t beat yourself up because you continue to grieve for months, even a year or two. Research shows it takes three years to heal from a death and five years to heal from a divorce. If you start working on the tips above, you will heal faster.
Remember, everyone heals at different rates, and sometimes break-ups can bring past emotions, unresolved grief, and experiences we never fully overcame. so we now have to deal with the past as well as the present. Don’t rush yourself to move on, and don’t think that you are weak because it is taking longer than you’d like.