7 Ways to Heal After a Painful Breakup
Even many months later, the pain may linger, or re-emerge. Here's what to do.
Posted Apr 29, 2015
Your relationship ended and you thought you were doing well. Right after the breakup, you felt stable and relieved to be out of the toxic, traumatizing cycle you and your ex had created.
And then suddenly, something triggers your old pain and you plunge back into confusion, disgust, and fear. Perhaps intellectually, you feel grateful to be free from the past, but emotionally, rage and shame consumes you.
If you are caught in the roller coaster of conflicting emotions after a break-up, here are 7 thoughts to help you understand your erratic feelings—and what to do about them:
- Understand why it happens. A “tumultuous relationship” is one in which there is fighting, bickering, sniping, baiting, or bullying. The chaos results in resentment, anxiety, rage, intensity, jealousy, even lust and passion. While in such a relationship, the brain remains in a state of exaggerated stimulation, anxiety, and stress for unhealthy periods of time.
- What is the result? A tumultuous relationship can program your brain to remain in a heightened state of intensity, long after the relationship is over. Unused to the relative calmness of being alone, your thoughts can remain scattered long after the source of the stimulation is gone. You may still undergo periods when you fixate on upsetting, unresolved aspects of the relationship.
- Feeling alone is okay. The discomfort of being flung back into the memories and associations of a painful relationship breeds self-disgust, anger, dismay, and frustration. When you were in the relationship, those feelings had somewhere to be directed and you knew what triggered them. Without your ex, those feelings can make you feel crazy, as they now no longer have an outlet—and you may be left feeling disoriented.
- Embrace time. It is hard to pinpoint what your triggers may be: Perhaps your ex is with someone new, or you are. Or maybe it’s some unidentifiable reason. Why are you enraged at your ex 18 months after the breakup? Why are you suddenly experiencing suffocating rage now, so long after the fact? It doesn’t matter when the loss happened: Time is not a good indicator of where you are in your grieving process; how you feel is.
- Be gentle with yourself. If this is where you are right now, do not be alarmed. There is also no official marker to identify when you’ll come to the end of this feeling of regression, but you will. Your reactions over time are part of your grieving process. Rather than feeling angry at yourself for regressing, try to feel compassion for the aspects of your trauma that never expressed themselves until now. A layer of pain of loss is coming out and you are healing.
- Take responsibility for your healing. While allowing your process to unfold naturally, your feelings may affect the wrong people in the wrong places if not monitored. Exercise caution when you feel the urge to be destructive toward yourself or others due to rage. Finally, even though your ex is the source of your rage, it’s not up to your ex to make it better. You have broken up; the onus is on you to revolve remaining anxiety, frustration, and fear.
- Avoid destructive habits. Take time to practice self-care and avoid destructive activities that will exacerbate your trauma. Self-knowledge, self-acceptance, and self-compassion will bring an end to your confusion. Make the connection between your current behavior and from where it originates, so that you can work through it. Identifying your patterns, your triggers, and your reactions helps you feel more in control. Before long, this stage will pass.