How to Recover From a Broken Heart
Have you ever been through a breakup and wondered if and when you will ever feel normal again? If you answered “yes” you are not alone. Breakups are hard! Sometimes, when you end a relationship, it feels like a part of you has died inside.
That’s because, in a way, a part of you has died. It’s the part of you that counted on your partner and maybe even had plans for the future. When you lose a significant relationship, you grieve that loss just like you would if someone had actually died.
One of the world’s greatest experts on grieving was a psychiatrist named Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D. She studied death and dying and came up with a model that explains the grieving process.
The Kübler-Ross model breaks down grieving into five stages, and it is probably the best understanding that healers have of the grieving process. The five stages are as follows:
Denial is the first stage of the grieving process. In this stage, you don’t feel much besides numb. Denial, which is sometimes called shock, is an important stage because it allows you to ease into your grief. When you are in denial, you usually haven’t fully understood what has happened and you aren’t yet feeling any of the difficult feelings that you will soon be facing. It might sound like staying in denial would be better than going through your grieving process, but it isn’t because if you get stuck in denial, you can’t heal.
When you are experiencing the anger stage of grief, you feel, well, angry. You may be angry at your ex, angry at yourself, angry at whomever you blame for breaking the two of you up, or you may even be angry at God. However your anger shows up, know that it is important for you to feel it. Note: I said “feel it,” not “act on it.” That’s a very important distinction! Acting on your anger can cause you more problems for your future, but allowing yourself to feel your anger is an essential step to healing. Find healthy outlets to express your anger such as taking a boxing class, going for a run, journaling about your feelings then tearing up the paper, or talking to a therapist.
In the bargaining stage, you want to go back to the past and fix or change what has happened. You might promise to never yell again if only you could have the relationship back as it was. Or you might wish your partner would just change his/her mind and come running back to you. In this stage you might also feel guilt and regret and wish that hindsight wasn’t 20/20.
After you realize that bargaining didn’t work, you go into the depression phase of grief. This is different than Clinical Depression because what you feel in this stage is a normal reaction to the loss of a relationship. You might feel sad or lost or just not yourself. You might have difficulty eating, sleeping, or enjoying activities in this stage. Even though it feels like this stage will last forever, know that it won’t. In fact, none of the stages last forever. And, they aren’t linear either. Your grief will likely jump around from stage to stage before finally settling into the final stage.
In the acceptance stage, you begin to accept that things have changed and that the relationship you once enjoyed is not part of your life anymore. While you may not feel happy about this change, you can accept that it is true and learn to focus on other positive aspects of your life. This is also a great time to take a look at yourself and any areas for personal growth. Maybe you can finally learn French or take up gardening. Or perhaps you could learn what it’s like to date yourself for a while and just focus on you.
After a breakup is a great time to start therapy or go on a retreat. Though breakups are hard as hell, they can also be the beginning of a breakthrough for those that choose to do the inner work and reflection. Are there areas you could work on to be a better partner? Are there areas in which you could grow to become the type of person you want to attract? Would working on how you communicate concerns to your partner help you uncover red flags sooner than you have in the past so you don’t waste time with partners that are not a good fit?
Even after you have reached acceptance and done the inner work, know that anniversaries, birthdays, or other important events may bring up old feelings. Or feelings may just show up out of the blue for no reason. Grief is one heck of a roller coaster =(
Though these stages give an outline of what you may feel, there is definitely a wide range of possible reactions to losing someone. So, whatever you are feeling, know that it is okay and it eventually will pass. If you need help getting through the hard times or are ready to do that inner work, contact me to setup a free 30 minute consultation.