"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was within me an invincible summer." - Albert Camus
It is in our darkest moments, when we feel the weakest, when we feel that we cannot go on one moment longer, that our true tests happen.
It is also the time when our true self is revealed to us. Our egos and everyday masks are pulled away from us. When we are raw and aching and convinced we will not make it, we are left with ourselves and our pain.
The unbearable pain of human sorrow from loss, of uncertainty as to what the future brings, of how to repair ourselves after someone or something has turned our entire lives to shambles.
It is here, in the dark, in the pain, in the complete collapse of all we love and all we know, that we come face to face what with what we are truly made of and find the will to go forward.
These are deep, dark and truly frightening moments. We feel bereft and alone, anxious and frightened, unable to be comforted even for a moment. We know not where our salvation or our healing will come from, if it comes at all.
We are not sure of anything except the searing pain in our souls and in our hearts. We cannot think, we cannot make plans, we cannot hold a conversation. We want to take to our bed and never come out. To go to sleep and never wake up. But sleep is impossible and we cannot wish ourselves well and we cannot pray ourselves into immediate wholeness.
And we think that is SO unfair. And adds to our pain.
So, how do we heal our heart when a relationship ends against our wishes and we are deeply bereft? Here are 5 strategies to help you heal and move on:
1. Feel Your Feelings
When a relationship ends against our wishes, we experience a terrible loss. Even if the relationship was not a great one, we had a familiar person who knew us. We may have lost their family, mutual friends and, sometimes, a place to live. If we shared children or pets, we may have lost our daily attachment to them as well.
As a result of the loss of our primary relationship and the secondary losses that come with it, we feel that loss deeply. If there were losses before this one that we have not dealt with, every one comes rushing back to us crushing our broken heart.
The only way to "feel better" eventually is to stop, in the deepest darkest moment, and face the losses.
Feeling awful feels awful. The pain and the sadness feel overwhelming at times. Grief pangs, that deep woeful sadness, can feel as if it's knocking you over. It's natural to want to run from that. But, as John Bradshaw once said, grief is the healing feeling. Feeling your grief allows you to work through it, heal and move on.
When you are not afraid of grief, you make better decisions. When you know how to work through loss, you're not afraid to leave unhappy situations. You learn to be strong on your own. Grief truly is the healing feeling. It heals so very much.
After your breakup, stop for a while and feel as bad as you really feel. Allow yourself the sadness, the anger, the broken trust, the bewilderment, and the anxiety. Feel your feelings a few times each day. Let it out. Let it all out.
Journaling is a release. It's a place to pour out your heart and soul. If you don't like writing, record it. Make a video or an audio that you don't share with anyone. The reason journaling is so recommended is that it is so important when you are hurting.
When I was a daily therapist, my clients would roll their eyes when I said this. In seminars I see the exasperation when I say it. But it is an incredible tool. When you are in pain you should journal at least once a day...free form writing or speaking...just let it out.
Write or speak all your uncommunicated feelings, what you ask forgiveness for, what you forgive them for and whatever you didn't tell them. Both Getting Past Your Breakup and Getting Back Out There, lay out the Relationship Inventory and the Life Inventory. By doing these inventories you work through all the past pain and the present loss. Wipe the slate clean. It's do-able. Both books give you the structure to do it in a healthy way. Get rid of the unresolved loss once and for al.
You don't have to (and should not) try to do this all in one day, you cannot heal a loss in one day...and you can only do so much in each 24 hours. Spend 10-30 minutes a day expressing how you feel. Some days it may be sadness; other days anger. Sometimes a mix of both. You may be anxious and upset. You have trouble concentrating. These are all normal when you're grieving. It's real and it hurts and you need to give it its due. It's important.
3. Find New Interests
When you're in emotional pain, you may think that everything is an effort. But after a brief time, it's time to realize that you now have the freedom to do whatever you like.
Find things you've always wanted to do. Take classes, find groups, travel. If you need to plan and budget, do that! Set short term goals and long term goals. Think about things you've always wanted to pursue. Have fun goals, academic goals, hobby goals, career goals. If you need to expand your friends or professional networks, join associations or go to meetup groups. There'a world out there that wants you to be a part of it. You're not going to find new things sitting in your living room, pining away. Get out and about.
4. Be Good To You In Unplugged Silence
On the other hand, unplug and disconnect. It's important to have time each week and even each day for just you. Stop looking at your phone, your computer, your television. It's time to turn off the phone, the computer, the distractions.
Take "me" time to figure out what you really want. Learn to make peace with the peace. The only way to do that is to create the silence and the space and learn to be okay with that.
If you've been trying to outrun the pain, you will find the silence uncomfortable at first but unless and until you learn to be okay in the silence, you will always try to find someone or somewhere to hide. Learn to be alone. Do it for a few minutes a day and then expand to a few hours until you learn to unplug and disconnect for a day or a weekend. It will help you grow as an individual. After a time you will learn to thrive in the silence.
Get up and do something relaxing or invigorating, whichever one feels better to you. Take a walk, go for a run, or relax in a bath with a good novel (no self-help books allowed! not even mine :) ) Meditate. Do yoga.
Go easy with yourself when you are grieving...learn to cut yourself some slack. Insist that others cut you some slack, if not by words, by actions. Don't be the one who is always there. Don't go places you don't want to go or do things you don't want to do. Stop running and learn to be okay in the "me" space.
5. Reach Out For Support and Help
Know that it is hard work but in order to resolve the losses, all the losses, it has to be done. Allow yourself all your emotions, cry, get angry, get irrational. Just don't harm yourself or anyone else. If you need to see a therapist, do that.
If you feel overwhelmed and think of harming yourself, there are crisis lines or go to your local emergency room. Every emergency room in every hospital can deal with emotional crisis.
If you feel too sad or angry, let your emotions out in your journal, to your friends, to your therapist. If you've had addiction or alcohol issues, go to a 12 step program or support group. Find the help you need. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it's a sign of strength. Get support and one day you will be in a position to give support. That is how it works.
When you are healed and give back to others who are newly hurting, you will experience the rewards of a life that includes service to others. Be the change you want to see in the world.
It is true that in your darkest moment, you will find the invincible summer...if you use this time as an opportunity for growth...to become the person you were meant to be. In this dark time you will find that you are much stronger than you thought you were...you will find a way out of the sorrow and the pain...you will find yourself tackling this loss and one day you will wake up and realize you feel better and that the worst is over.
You will go on and you will find the strength and the will to not only survive, but to thrive. You CAN get there from here...a little bit, one day at a time, in small steps. You can do it.
By taking care of yourself now, you will learn you don't need anyone else to survive. You will be able to welcome others into your life who will truly love and cherish you. When you are independent and self-sufficient, you choose who you want in your life from a place of "I'd like you be with me..." not "I need you to be with me so I'm not alone..." When you take the time to pursue your interests, your hobbies and make your goals and dreams come true, you enrich your life and won't give it to someone else without a lot of thought. When you learn to make peace with peace, loneliness will never again shake you to your core. And when you take care of yourself, you eventually learn how to teach others to do the same. You learn to pay it forward.
Find your invincible summer.
It is there.
Wait for it. Work for it.
Enjoy it when it comes.
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