A breakup is hard, messy and extremely painful! Someone broke your heart and walked away. Now you’re trying to pick up the pieces and patch them back together. I know the pain is unbearable and right now it feels like it will never end. I know it feels like you will never feel the same way about another person again. And you’re right. You will never feel the same way about someone else. But at the same time, you will love someone else and someone else will love you. Because after all, why would you want to feel the same way with someone else if this time did not work?
Going through a break-up is a process. It is the death of a relationship and needs to be processed in the same way. So before you can come to terms with the death, there will be a post-mortem of the relationship and then there will be stages of grief. Today I want to talk to you about the stages of this process, about the anatomy and breakdown of this break-up. Once you understand the process, it will be easier to hold on to hope while you go through it.
Before we begin, remember one blanket rule for moving from one stage to another – allow your emotions to be felt. No matter what emotion is predominant (because different stages will have different emotions), do not treat it like a problem to solve. We get stuck when we treat unpleasant emotions as problems to solve. They are not. They are merely our body’s responses to problems that came and went. So if you want to move past these emotions, you have to allow them to take their space and then ebb away! You don’t have to DO anything. Also remember, that every emotion has a function. Sadness reminds us of loss; it helps us attach to, and connect with, important aspects of our lives. If we didn’t feel sadness, we wouldn’t care about anything. Similarly, anger draws our attention to the feeling of unfairness. May be the relationship you got out of was undervaluing you, and that was unfair. So the anger you’re feeling now is just reminding you of the unfairness so that you can pull yourself out. Emotions are there to help us, they are our allies, not enemies.
STAGE 1: Angry/Volatile/Trying to make one final effort to save the relationship
This is the most emotionally volatile and scattered stage to go through in a break-up. You feel like your emotions are all over the place. You’re blocking and unblocking your ex. One moment you hate him/her and the very next moment you’re thinking of ways to get back together. This is also a very critical stage. It is very similar to the first detox period someone goes through when they enter rehab to get out of an addiction.
What you can do: Pre-decide the number of attempts you want to make to salvage the relationship. This number will vary from person to person, for some it may be three for some it may be 10! But no matter what your number is, set one. Do not leave it open ended. And once you have reached that number, go cold turkey. You have to stop everything altogether. Remember, it is like trying to shake off an addiction. You’re going to need all your self-discipline.
What friends can do to help: Watch out for your friend’s ‘cravings’ for their ex. Put a distraction plan in effect as soon as they get into the ‘missing’ mode. These phases are like real cravings and come and go in waves so they WILL pass. Remember, what your friend is missing is the company of someone who made him/her happy. Now you need to be that company at the right moment!
STAGE 2: Revenge Cleanse Mode
You want to destroy their things, delete them from your life – literally! Drinking, bad decisions, drunk calling – all of these come forward in an effort to become a different person.
What you can do: Get it out of your system. If you feel that two nights of binge drinking is going to make you forget about him/her, by all means go ahead. It won’t make you forget, but it will remind you how horrible hangovers are and while you’re puking in your toilet bowl, you’ll promise yourself ‘never again’ – and that’s how you’ll purge! As for their things and memories, I recommend a ‘relationship burial ritual’. Collect everything in a pile and burn it. Take the ashes and bury them in a new potted plant. This is a psychological cleansing ritual which will heal you and remind you that beautiful things can grow after the old ones have been buried. You can even add a letter to the burn pile where you pen down each and every one of your painful thoughts and let it purge all the negativity.
What friends can do to help: You can make sure that if they are drinking, they don’t do it alone. If they want to smash the boyfriend’s car, give them a bat and take them to junkyard to smash other things. Finally (and this is a sneaky technique but it works!), change the ex’s number with yours on their phone so if they drunk text/dial, it reaches you and they don’t end up embarrassing themselves.
STAGE 3: New Me!
You want to show a “happy me” at least on social media. You post stuff so that he/she sees how well you’re doing without them.
What you can do: Nothing wrong with trying to make the ex a little jealous. Go all out and do it, in fact get your whole squad in on it! But, promise yourself to do at least one thing during the day that makes you genuinely happy and that’s not just to make them jealous. At the end of the day, fill out a gratitude journal with three things that made you happy that day. Do this religiously for three weeks. You’ll be amazed at the transformation!
What friends can do to help: Make spa dates, wardrobe revamp dates, ride-out dates, game dates – whatever it is that your friend wants to do, make a celebration out of it even if they want to do it make the ex jealous! Don’t preach about how they need to ‘rise above it’ and ‘be a better person’ because that’s not what they need right now. What they need is to realize that the things they started out to do to make him/her jealous, turned out to be days they really had a ball of a time with their buddies!
STAGE 4: Reflection and Introspection
You go inwards in this stage and now that the initial tsunami of emotions has subsided, you start to reflect on why the relationship ended and what went wrong. You want to curl up into your shell. You might even end up blaming yourself for why it ended.
What you can do: This is the depression phase. This is going to hit the hardest but this is also the last phase before you heal, so you’re almost there! So prepare well. Stock up on comforting teas, blankets, good books (no romance novels please!), comfort food and Netflix. Arrange for someone to come in to cook and clean. This way, when the depression hits, you’ll have everything around to comfort you and you won’t live in a mess. A clean house and hot meals are very comforting. Then allow the floodgates to open. Let all the tears come. Stay in bed for as long as you want. Its your heart letting go, its temporary pain. If you blame yourself, jot down the points where you think it was your fault (Could you have made any of these communication mistakes?) Once this phase is over, revisit that list and see how accurate you were. Our mind plays tricks on us when we’re sad and tells us lies. If you later find some truth in the mistakes you think you made, talk to a relationship coach for a while and rectify them so that you don’t repeat the same pattern in your next relationship.
What friends can do to help: Do exactly what you would do for someone who was grieving. Take them food, sit with them, allow them to cry, don’t push them to ‘forget about it’. Just be there for them while they process it. This phase only requires a solid presence by their side that can act as a sounding board. They don’t really need action.
STAGE 5: Recovery Road!
This one doesn’t really need any tips because this will feel good on its own. You have gone through all the emotions and now you’re ready to move forward. Just avoid rebounds. They rarely end well. Figure out who you have become now after this experience, rather than wanting the old person back because you WILL change, but not necessarily in a bad way. So get back to mainstream life slowly. Your interest will start coming back into activities that gave you joy earlier. Some of the old stuff you liked might have given way to something new you want to try. That’s okay! You haven’t changed as a person so don’t be scared. Embrace the growth and change and clear space in your heart for new love. You might even want to enlist the help of a relationship coach to help you clear the negativity and clean that space!
And that’s it! We’re done! You’ve successfully laid your dead relationship to rest and you are now ready to move forward! If you have recently gone through a heartbreak, come and tell me your story. Maybe someone else can find solace in what helped you go through it. Lots of love and light to you!
This article has been written by Prachi S Vaish, our founder and relationship therapist. You can book an appointment with her here.