Breakup's are a bitch.
And recovering from a breakup, is a process. It can take weeks, months, even years! The overall timing of the break up process, is different for everyone.
AND, it's filled with pitfalls, relapses, resentment and pain. Notice I didn’t say suffering?
Pain is part of life. Suffering is optional, babe.
The similarities to ‘the 7 stages of grieving’, a well defined and researched arena of loss, prove to be an invaluable guide to making it through a breakup. I wanted to take a few minutes of your day, to let you in on my own spin for navigating the breakup process, AND getting to the other side of it, fast AND whole!
Warning; The stages don’t always come in this order, nor do they always come one at a time! YIKES!
The 7 stages of a breakup;
A fierce woman's MUST HAVE survival guide!
Stage 1. Shock & Awe: "What the hell just happened?"
Shock is the body's natural protection against pain. We are foggy, disoriented at first. This is also not a natural state for the human body, so we reach out and begin to grasp onto what might steady us again.
We become almost desperate for answers… How did this happen? When did the relationship, turn? Who the hell is this person? What else have they lied about? How could they do this? What did I do wrong? How can I fix it?
The overwhelming NEED TO KNOW can be all consuming. It can plague our thoughts at work, out with friends, and home alone. You fixate on things your ex said at various times that you see as contradicting the breakup, and you hold onto them now as if they are gospel. The desperation to make sense of something so jarring compels you to debate friends, family, co-workers, even strangers, about why the relationship ended, while you justify to them the reasons it shouldn’t have, as if convincing them it is equal to convincing your ex.
Yet somewhere within, you have moments of clarity, too. Which is good. We’re gonna need those moments of clarity to build our bridge to having a healed heart!
What if the NEED TO KNOW why this happened, is beyond anyone’s ability, even your ex’s ability, to explain?
What if they don’t even know what went wrong?
Do’s & Don’ts:
Do journal the heck out of it, and choose 1-2 trusted ‘ride or die’ friends to unpack at nausea, if needed.
Do set a time limit on these thoughts. 5 minutes, 30 minutes. When the time is up, imagine an alarm dinging. Stop, and MOVE ON to thinking or doing something else. If your mind obsessively wanders back over, DING DING DING, Stop and move on.
Don’t just talk to anybody willing to listen. Don’t take to social media to post your musings to your 1000 Facebook friends to answer. Hostages won’t help you get out of this alive, my dear.
Stage 2. Denial: "This is so not happening."
Denial is rejection of reality and a storage of feelings. The thinking is that, if you don't accept the heartbreak, then it didn't really happen, thus leaving hope for reunion. During this stage of a breakup it is common to call, email or even Instagram-stalk — anything that feels remotely "normal" about the relationship — in an effort to put dealing with the heartbreak on hold.
Denial can also take form of us running ram shod right over the pain. Acting as if we don’t care, that this doesn’t hurt. Going out on a flurry of dates the very next week, laying claim to the old battle cry “the best way to get over an EX is to get under the NEXT”.
First off, Ewww. Second, your heart, your feelings, whilst painful and overwhelming, ARE VALID. Pay them the respect, the acknowledgement they deserve. They are infinitely patient, and will wait. Walk through them, own them, what does not kill us makes us stronger, dearest one!
Do’s & Don’ts;
Do visualize the waves of pain and grief you feel as if you are sitting in the shallows by the sea. Allow them to wash over you, breathing them in deeply and exhaling them, as the wave recedes gently back into the ocean. The more we fight the waves, the more likely they will smash us to bits on the shoreline.
Don’t minimize the situation or run from it. Pretending the breakup and the pain you feel is better off if not dealt with will create emotional numbness and leave you paralyzed and stuck.
Stage 3. Bargaining: Battling the IF only’s, WHEN’s, and WHAT if’s.
You are willing to do anything to avoid accepting it’s over. YOU can make this right!! We tell ourselves that being without our ex is so intolerable, that you can work harder, deal with it, even settle to win them back. Can we get really REAL with each other? It’s the fear of being alone, that’s kicking your ass.
The fear of that is so palatable, that we confuse the feeling of fear as a fact of life . Logic has no role in negotiations when fear is driving the bargaining. If you cave to this bargaining phase, not only will you find yourself back in a relationship that is broken (it’s called a break up for a reason!) you are placing the entire burden of repairing, maintaining, and sustaining a relationship onto yourself. It's as if the responsibility is yours and yours alone to make it work this time.
What if no matter what you did, it still didn’t work out?
If only you had gotten out of this relationship sooner, what harm and pain could you have saved yourself?
Do's & Don'ts;
Do go out and enjoy some activities alone. Go out and see all the movies, he/she never wanted to see with you. The long country walks they always ruined by bitching it was too rainy. We both know there are quite a few things, you LOVE to do, that have been neglected lately in favour of spending time in your relationship.
Do catch up with friends you haven’t seen in a while. Take that weekend girls trip to the spa or to the coast!
Don’t lose sight that there were TWO people in that relationship, and TWO people who contributed to it’s ending. One person alone CAN’T fix it. You can’t possibly take responsibility for everything. Somewhere inside, you know that.
Stage 4. ANGER: Rage, RAGE against the dying of the light!
Although all of us experience these phases in different order, anger usually comes further down the road for most of us. After fear is done pillaging our souls.
HOWEVER oh boy, when it comes… Anger can be wildly empowering, harnessing it to fight off the temptation to call, text or Facebook stalk them. There is an element of self-righteousness to this anger, which isn’t such a bad thing. You suddenly wake up and say I MATTER TOO! I DESERVE SO MUCH MORE! ROAR!
As long as this anger doesn’t become drunk with rage, I say grab onto it with both hands lady! Your anger, can absolutely empower you. Anger can be just the motivation we need to add the bite back our fierceness and wake us from the sadness that has been weighing us down.
Just don’t stay there. Feeling and accessing anger is a normal phase of the breakup AND a normal human emotional reaction. Anger that lingers, that we store away somewhere and brandish too often, becomes bitter resentment. “Resentment is like drinking poison expecting the other person to die.” Resentment will slow this whole grief process down to a crawl. Resentment will kill the opportunities of new love that awaits us.
Dos & Don'ts
Do harness your anger for good. Use that anger to propel you in making a list of all the things you want in your next relationship. All the things, you won’t ever tolerate again! When the anger comes, write that new must have list!
Don’t stay in anger too long. We all have the dark side of the force in us, my young Jedi, don’t let hate consume you. Even if you do look better in black!
Stage 5. Relapse AKA Nostalgia; Just one more time, this time will be different, remember all those good times?
RED ALERT! This is a BIG ONE!
If I had a dollar/pound for every time I got a Facebook message, email or heard on a call or in a session with a client getting all ‘moth to the flame’ on a past love…
Just when we are almost through the worst of the break up, getting some real clarity and hope for the future. BAM! Nostalgia comes whispering it’s sweet nothings in our ear.
Usually we are doing something that is predicating the relapse. We may have even been trying to sustain contact with our EX, right after the break up, in hopes we could one day be great friends one day. WE may have been going through old holiday photos or doing a sneaky 'harmless' snapchat. You may actually be able to convince your ex to try again (this may not be the first breakup with this partner) or convince yourself that meeting for coffee or one final bedroom romp is just the closure you need. It will TEMPORARILY relieve the agony of withdrawal. However, despite your best efforts, you will not be able to carry the relationship solo. I'm sorry to say, it probably won’t end well this time, either.
Unfortunately, you may need to go through this process of breaking up and reconciling more than once before you're absolutely convinced it's time to let go. I too, often leave a whole lot of claw marks on the things I really should let go.
Do's & Dont's
Do circle back to that must have and all the reasons you would never again list you made in the anger phase, fast!
Do institute a zero contact rule for AT LEAST 60-90 days post breakup. I know this one is hard, however it is the absolute most sure-fire way to move on. I’m talking Tried. Tested. True. Proven. Bulletproof. A complete detox! no reaching out, no responding.
Don’t contact them. I mean it. Trust me. Not even a tweet!
Don’t forget those 1-2 trusted friends you chose to hear all the tears. If you do opt for some more claw marks, don’t hide it from them, they love you and your going to need their support.
Stage 6. Acceptance; Sweet, sweet surrender.
Acceptance, when it happens early in the process, can feel more like surrender. You are holding up your end of the breakup because you have to, not because you want to. Either you or your ex has developed enough awareness, sense and control to recognize that you are not meant to be. Over time, this initial, often tenuous acceptance becomes more substantive, as both of you begin to recognize, independently, that there are boundaries that at least one of you must maintain in order for the breakup to stick, because it has to. When that acceptance deepens, it feels like the warmest kindest of embraces. It brings solace… and hope.
Do's & Don'ts;
Do remember acceptance is a verb. It requires action to exist in our language. Follow up your acceptance with actions that match.
Don’t believe for minute that surrender equals defeat. Laying down your arms, means not having to fight anymore. The war is over. Let peace into your heartland!
Stage 7. Hope; Walk towards the light Carrie Ann.
Breakups level us, in part because they also shatter our relationship with hope. As acceptance deepens, to truly move one, we must have hope. We must move from the belief that you can singlehandedly save a failing relationship, to the possibility that you just might be okay without your EX, to you have all that you need within you to be happy, to YOU WILL LOVE AND BE LOVED AGAIN, one day very soon.
Hope is a crucial life force. Hope still exists somewhere inside your heart, you will access it more and more as you continue to allow some meaningful distance between you and your ex. If you are not so sure if you will ever feel hope again… start by believing, that I believe.
Do's & Don'ts;
Do talk about your hopes and dreams for the future with anyone who will listen. Hearing ourselves speak our hopes aloud can help us cement them into our thinking. Put it out into the universe.
Don’t ever stop believing you are worthy of love. Or believe that you are alone. 99% of the human population has multiple stories of failed relationships. I do. There is nothing wrong with you! You’re just human. Welcome!