Navigating Painful Breakups without losing yourself
You found him! You’re so happy! Everything in life feels brighter and better.
You talk for hours. There’s a huge connection and chemistry between you. You feel like a teenager again! You start to think there might be a future with this relationship.
And then… it ends.
This article isn’t about why the relationship ended. Instead, let’s talk about how to get through the loss of breaking up without losing yourself.
*A side note: This article is written from a woman’s perspective (because I’m a woman and it was easier that way). I know men can have the same experience and I hope my suggestions are helpful for you as well.
Surviving the breakup
After the breakup, your task becomes how to live with that unbearable ache for him in your mind, bod, and soul. You miss his voice, his touch, his presence. Sometimes the pain becomes so large you wonder if you’ll get through the next hour.
It doesn’t matter whether you ended the relationship, or he did. Either way, it’s tempting to reach out to him. You want him back in your life. You want things to go back to how they were (especially the good times). You want to text. You want to call.
He’s on your mind all day, distracting you. You cry at the drop of a hat. Your energy is low. It feels unending.
Because I’m a visual person, I use images to help manage big life challenges and emotions. For example, I often use the image of ocean waves to represent my overwhelming feelings.
I have found that – just like the ocean – intense feelings come in like powerful waves, knocking me off my feet and tumbling me over and over with no air to breathe. With huge feelings (just like the waves), I feel like I can’t breathe, that I’m drowning, and I’ll never surface again.
And then just like the ocean, the wave finally goes back out, and I can breathe again, stop crying, and maybe even muster a smile.
A lesson from widowhood
My widowhood journey has taught me that the horrible ache of loss and sadness eventually becomes “less awful,” a bit at a time.
In the meantime, the best thing for me to do is to feel all my feelings when they show up (even though that’s the last thing I want to do).
Then, as time goes on (days/weeks/months), I start to notice moments when I actually feel better. Even if the good feeling is only one or two minutes out of 60 minutes, I consider that a win because those good moments will eventually come more often and last longer.
Finding the teenager within
Another image that helps me… I picture the hurt, sad, mad, disappointed part of me as a crazed teenager. I remember how passionately I felt things as a teen.
My feelings of wanting a life situation to go back to what it was (when I know it can’t or shouldn’t) belong to the teenager – and they’re very real feelings inside of me (even though in reality they are unreasonable and irrational).
It helps me to realize that idea of taking immediate action belongs to a teenager. And that it’s time to put my adult head in charge instead of my teenage heart – for that’s what keeps me safe from re-entering a situation or relationship that is wrong for me.
Taking this image a step further, I think about the inner teenager and my car. It’s dangerous to have a crazed teenager in the driver’s seat (because that’s definitely how it feels inside me). She could crush me into a wall!
So my next visualization is to gently put her in the backseat and give her things to soothe her. I promise not to give her a hard time for her feelings. I give her permission to have all the feelings she wants for as long as she needs to. I promise to help her heal her broken heart.
I give her things she likes: a funny movie, time in the spa, a friend’s shoulders to cry on, comfort foods, exercise, permission to cry at any moment, and anything (sentimental commercials, Hallmark movies).
Then I put my adult self in the driver’s seat so I can navigate through my day. My adult self knows I need to eat and sleep. She knows I need to get work done. She knows how to prioritize tasks to best use my energy. And she knows to keep an eye on my teenage self and give her attention when she needs it.
Have you used images like these (or something else) to get through a hard breakup? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Send me an email.