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The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Facing the inevitable unknown of a breakup.

Source: tommaso79/Shutterstock

When your relationship ends, where there once was a known, there is now an unknown. The void that loss creates can drive you to fill the space with reasons why it had to end—you’re trying to make the unknown known. Having your relationship ripped away with nothing comparable to put in its place can leave you in such an uncomfortable space, one that feels so intolerable, distorted, empty, daunting, disorganizing, and desperate that it feels like you have no choice but to try to make sense of what's happening. However, the void is so vast that there are no answers that will ever be enough to fill it. No matter how many distractions you throw yourself into, it still feels like you're dragging around dead weight. When the outcome is not in your control, waiting for answers, waiting to feel better, or waiting to get back together can feel like life or death. You are waiting for resolution—a way of understanding or defining what is happening or has happened between you so you can feel relief.

In this void, time passes so slowly that you can become preoccupied and even inundate yourself with questions about how you're going to get through it, and what's going to happen to you now. You feel an urgency to know if there's a way to reconnect with your ex: If not, how can you guarantee that you will feel better and love again? Unfortunately, there is no way to predict what will happen in the future. It is profoundly painful to accept that there are no answers in your immediate external world – nothing that can soothe you or fill that terribly anxious space within you.

The waiting is the hardest part. You’re waiting to feel better from what feels like unbearable angst.

First thing’s first: There are no answers that will assuage the discomfort you feel. The only way to get through it is to recognize that you can't rely on answers from outside yourself—you can't rely on external sources to make the pain inside of you go away. Rather, knowing that you are in a period of incredible discomfort is inevitable when experiencing a loss. Instead of looking for ways out which don’t exist, work on trusting that your pain and sadness are supposed to be there. Your feelings are a natural response to loss. Therefore, they are part of your grieving process, which is the only way to get through the pain.

There is no way around waiting, no way to get answers from any source that will fill the empty space of the unknown. But take comfort in knowing that having no way to fill the void of the unknown during this time is a part of the human condition. Working with the reality that you are in pain, whether or not you believe the breakup deserves the overwhelming angst that accompanies it—that’s reality. Accepting the reality that you are in pain and must tolerate the unknown in order to feel better is what helps you get through.

I can hear the questions now: “How long will I be waiting?" "How long will it take to get over this?” The answer: As long as it takes. No matter what you wish were true, you can only go one step at a time. The way to ease your anxiety of the unknown is to look inside yourself and determine whether you feel better today than you did yesterday, or than you did five minutes ago. You can only know how you feel by comparing it to your personal feelings at other times. You can only be in your own skin having your own experiences, your own pain, and your own understanding of your relationship. If not, work on trusting that you will. Trusting that the unknown remains unknown for a reason can help you let go of the expectation that you're not supposed to feel like this.

Nobody said it better than Tom Petty: “The waiting is the hardest part.” But the answers you are waiting for do not exist outside yourself. Feeling better in the face of the unknown lies within you. Take it one step at a time.