- The ending of a love relationship is one of the most devastating losses.
- Loss is profoundly felt on every level: physically, emotionally, and psychologically.
- Grieving your loss is essential to healing and moving forward.
The loss of a love relationship is a devastating experience. The life you once shared is turned upside down. Breaking your life apart means separating all that you had together. The loss of identity as a couple, feelings of failure, anxiety, and despair over the loss of the commitment and security the relationship provided rush to the forefront.
Our most intimate relationships inform us about ourselves and often shape who we are and who we are to become. Loss can be felt on so many levels: physically—the loss of the person you love; emotionally—the loss of the commitment to and reliance on the attachment to this person; and psychologically—the loss of self-esteem and well-being as you are returned to living life by and for yourself. And then there’s the loss of all the hopes and dreams for your future together.
When a love relationship ends we are suddenly alone, often feeling as if an essential part of ourselves has been cut off. But, when we are able to face what lies ahead and to work through this devastating loss, we can draw upon inner resources to help facilitate the process of loss, separation, and adaptation to a new way of being.
What do you do when your love leaves you? How do you start the difficult work of beginning over again and moving forward into an uncertain future?
1. What is, is
Accept what happens as it unfolds. The ending of an intimate relationship may be chaotic. There are no rules for how to separate, for how to feel at any given moment. It’s mostly ad-lib. Suspend any expectation of what should happen and how you’re supposed to feel because it may change moment to moment. Allow yourself to grieve. The process of grieving is not linear but rather a cyclic one. Even with progress, you may find yourself back at square one. That’s normal for grief. The ultimate goal is to find your way to your own life, back to yourself.
2. Feel your feelings
You will experience many different emotions—grief, hurt, sadness, resentment, anger, despair, and fear. After all, someone you once loved and depended upon, and may even still do and want to, disappointed and betrayed you. The ending of your relationship may feel like a death. It may take a very long time to understand everything that happened, to process all of the emotions, and to sever ties in the best possible way.
3. Keep moving forward
The idea is to move through and beyond your loss and to come out whole on the other side. Your life has meaning beyond your relationship. Once you’ve worked through the experience of loss you will be capable and ready to rejoin life with a new sense of future.
It’s essential to keep going with the routine of your daily life. That will give you a sense of structure and ground you in your environment and immediate life. Remember that things may not make sense to you; that everything you knew in the relationship will feel different than it was.
4. Don’t take radical action
The desire to rapidly move away from the drama-trauma of your loss may not be that unusual. The thought may be that if something you were so sure of failed, that life didn’t turn out the way you had thought it would and counted on, then why not try something new and different. But that will just fill the hole of your longing. Make changes slowly, deliberately, and after much thought about the outcome and consequences. No big life changes should be undertaken until most of the dust has settled and emotions have been dealt with. The time to begin to move forward, to take action is after the fog has lifted and you can see things more clearly.
5. You come first
If you learn nothing else, the most important thing is that who you are and your life must always be your No. 1 priority. Most of us have a tendency to want to accommodate and please the one we love. Often, that’s at our own expense. Many people bend over backward for their loved one, often neglecting their own needs and desires, and sometimes even totally losing sight of who they are and what they need. The strength of a really good relationship lies in the equal collaboration of both partners.
6. Take care of yourself
This may not be what you feel like doing. The ending of a relationship may find you feeling totally rejected, dejected, and unloved. Don’t neglect your health and appearance. You may wonder why you need to bother caring for yourself but you do. It’s essential to message yourself whether you believe it or not, that you are a worthwhile person, that you are deserving of respect, that you are lovable and loved. And that starts with loving yourself.
Don’t allow yourself to slide into unhealthy coping mechanisms. Don’t self-medicate with alcohol, drugs, food, or anything else for that matter, which will only distract and numb you. This behavior disrupts the grieving process, may spiral out of control, may delay the healing process, and may prevent you from moving forward in your life. Far better to feel the feelings, regardless of how painful they are, and work through them.
7. Learn from your experience
It's often difficult, even painful to examine our behavior and our responsibility, but ultimately, it’s this introspection and insight gained that makes us more honest to and for ourselves. What part did you play in making the relationship what it was? Were you realistic about what you expected from the relationship? What would you do differently in retrospect? What will you do differently in the future?
Often when we choose a partner/lover, it is not always for the right reasons. There are often issues and problems we don’t want to see. Love sometimes blinds us to what is really there. There are many reasons for wanting to be in a relationship with a particular person. Sometimes it’s about dependency, or feeling complete with another, or because we believe there can be no one else. These are simply not good enough reasons. Ultimately, it’s about mutual respect, caring, support, empathy, and shared values and goals. Each of us comes to the relationship as a whole person that wants to share a life with another whole person.
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