Breakups are a universal human experience. The jury is often split on whether breaking up is an expansive or crushing incident. As with all subjective experiences, a breakup will be what you make of it. The choice you make in how you perceive your breakup will determine your subsequent process of release. In the thick of the breakup woods, it can be helpful to remember that you are still in charge of your response.
Honor the Ending
The reason giving or searching for genuinely constructive feedback or advice about breakups can be so challenging is because of the personal nature of the event. No two people internalize the experience of a breakup in the same manner. The one common factor of breakups that exists across the board is the sensation of something ending.
Whether the ending feels positive or negative to you, it can be therapeutic to acknowledge, explore, and honor the completion of your relationship. The range of thoughts and emotions that follow a breakup can be surprising, as they can reveal attachments or beliefs that you were not previously aware of. Allowing the termination process of a breakup to breathe and flow as it naturally wants to can ease and quicken the unfolding of forward movement.
You may experience some of the following stages of grieving or releasing during and after a breakup:
- Pining for Answers
Sometimes the process of breaking up leaves a lot unsaid and unexplored. In the aftermath, you may feel a deep need to assign a neat and clear meaning to both the relationship that was and the occurrence of breaking up. Searching for satisfying answers is often one of the early stages of grieving a breakup. Even if you have a positive outlook about the breakup, it is common to question its overarching purpose in your life.
You may find yourself replaying moments or conversations with your ex-partner in your head and analyzing memories for clues or signs that may shed light on what transpired. During this stage, people sometimes feel as if they swing back and forth between clarity and understanding and total chaos in their minds. The confusion can create an insatiable drive to make sense of the breakup.
- Denial in Different Ways
If you did not want your relationship to come to an end, you may find that you have a difficult time truly accepting the finality of your breakup. It may seem unnatural that you are no longer intimately connected to your ex-partner. This type of denial often leads to the choice to cling desperately to delusional hope. While deep down you know the breakup is conclusive, the pain of accepting the end is too much to bear. If you experience denial in this way, you might believe that you can still save the relationship and spend a lot of time and energy attempting to do so.
On the other side of the denial spectrum sit the people who claim to have no emotional reaction to the breakup process. It is true that breakups can be healthy, cathartic, and relieving for many, but that does not negate the fact that it is the process of consciously severing an attachment. Part of honoring your breakup is being willing to unpack the baggage you accumulated throughout the duration of the relationship. Even if you are happy to break free from your ex-partner, you will still be carrying around the weight of your past if you do not stop for a moment to put it down.
- Bargaining and Relapse
Moving on after a breakup can be excruciating, especially if it was not what you wanted. If you are convinced that you can make things work with your partner, you may try to win their affections back by promising to do just about anything to fix the perceived problems in the relationship. This can be a very frantic state of being motivated by fear and avoidance of pain. If you or your partner decide to give the relationship another chance, serious work will be necessary to prevent another breakup.
Often second chances that result from the bargaining process are simply relapses. Reuniting may cause temporary relief from the acute pain of separating, but the pain and sadness will be sharper the next time around. Couples can fall into a cycle of breaking up and getting back together multiple times until they decide to say goodbye permanently.
When you have progressed past denial or relapse, your anger relating to the history of your relationship and the breakup may creep up on you. If you did not want the relationship to end, this may be slightly more expected, but even if you were happy with the ending, you will likely find some anger in hidden compartments.
Keep in mind that anger is a positive sign that you are healing from your relationship and breakup. Endings tend to stir up fear within us. Fear dominates most other emotions, so when anger starts to show up, it means that your fear is beginning to subside. Take this as proof that you are moving forward.
Adopt a Mindful Attitude
Ground in radical acceptance and hope. Breakups have the potential to leave us deeply in the dark. To stay mindful and in control of your response to the breakup, focus on seeing the situation honestly. Try to let go of any need to paint a different picture to appease others or mute the intensity of your pain.
If you can embrace each thought and feeling that comes as moments pass, you will claim your power to transform your breakup into what you want it to be. Perhaps you want it to become an opportunity for further self-exploration, healing, or forgiveness. The key is to choose a growth mindset. Let your pain inspire you to practice self-care, and if you are relieved, let that inspire you to practice gratitude.
At the end of the day, the awareness and acknowledgment of a breakup as a process that deserves to be honored for the sake of your Self can serve as the light that leads you out of the dark tunnel.