“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”
Don’t take your love away from me
Don’t you leave my heart in misery
If you go then I’ll be blue
‘Cause breaking up is hard to do
I know I am dating myself here with a Neil Sedaka song, but I thought it was fitting for this topic. You don’t need to go download the song on iTunes or Spotify, unless you really want to. But be warned, next thing you know you’ll be listening to all of his tunes, singing them in the car, or while you’re working out in the gym!!
I have worked with many clients with various relationship issues but none has been more difficult than addressing the aftermath of a break-up. Regardless of which side of the break-up you are on, coping with it can be extremely difficult, if not traumatic. While the relationship is over, some may experience grief-like symptoms as a result. Typically I hear people having appetite issues (not eating or overeating), having trouble sleeping, feeling nauseous, and having no desire or motivation to do anything. They’re also angry, sad, lonely, and feeling rejected and lost about their future.
“When you break up, your whole identity is shattered. It’s like death.”
Dennis Quaid was right, it really can feel like a death. In some way it is a death, the end of the relationship, it isn’t coming back. The symptoms described above, while illustrating what may happen at the end of a relationship, are the same symptoms described for someone experiencing grief from death.
So how do I get over it you ask!? Great question! Sometimes it is as simple as giving it time; “Time heals all wounds”. This basically means with the passage of time (and distance from that relationship), things will get better and you will be able to move on with your life. If that doesn’t work for you, the following are some other ways to cope with the break-up:
- Write or talk about it: Sometimes writing in a journal or diary helps get the intrusive thoughts and feelings out of your head. Also, it can serve as a reminder of where you were throughout the different stages of grief about the relationship. Talking to trusted confidants, friends, or a therapist is also helpful not only for getting the thoughts and feelings out, but for receiving feedback, guidance, and support through the recovery process.
- Self-care: You need to take care of your basic needs. Eating right, getting a good night’s sleep, and exercising are key components of self-care. But you also need to just make sure you’re doing all the basics (i.e. bathing, brushing teeth, etc). It is so important to try and resume your normal activities. One thing self-care certainly does not include is any self-DESTRUCTIVE behaviors. We’re talking about pretty much all the addictive behaviors here: alcohol, drugs, overeating, gambling, shopping, casual sex, etc.
- Exercise: Specifically cardiovascular exercise. This type of exercise gets the heart rate going in a healthier way, releasing endorphins that make you feel better. It can also help “clear your head” by providing a healthy distraction. Go for a run or a brisk walk or bike ride at least 3x/week for 30-60 minutes.
- Practice gratitude: Remind yourself of all the things you appreciate in your life instead of focusing so much on the negative. Make a list of the things you are thankful for, even if you have to force yourself to find something positive. In time this process will get easier as well.
- Laughter: Laughter is the best medicine as they say. Do something that will “lighten the mood”, whether watching a comedy TV show or movie or sharing a light moment with a friend. Laughter has been known to boost mood, improve overall health, and speed up the healing process. Not everything in life has to be so serious, even a breakup.
- Give back: It’s not all about you! Believe it or not, other people have it worse than you do, yeah it’s probably hard to see that when you are deep in the grief process of the breakup, but it’s true. Performing acts of kindness have been shown to alleviate stress and depression, as well as improve one’s overall health.
“Pain is certain, suffering is optional.”
Believe it or not, you can die from a broken heart. The condition is called Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or stress cardiomyopathy.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Broken Heart Syndrome is a temporary heart condition that’s often brought on by stressful situations, such as the death of a loved one. The condition can also be triggered by a serious physical illness or surgery. People with broken heart syndrome may have sudden chest pain or think they’re having a heart attack. Broken heart syndrome may be caused by the heart’s reaction to a sudden surge of stress hormones.
Obviously, if you are experiencing symptoms that mimic a heart attack like shortness of breath and chest tightness for any extended period of time you should seek medical assistance. Of course, this may most likely be anxiety-related symptoms you are experiencing, so practicing relaxation techniques like breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, etc can help alleviate the anxiety-related symptoms associated with the break-up.
So how do I move on once I have accepted the relationship is over? Another great question! Well, some might say it is easier said than done. Doing the techniques and skills I’ve identified here are very important for the recovery process. But that may not be enough. So here are some other things to consider:
- Recognize he/she might have not been the right one for you. Sometimes we are more attached to the IDEA and FEELING of the relationship, but not necessarily with this person. But since you were just in a relationship with this person, you still perceive he/she is THE person for you. Sometimes when you feel this way you tend to bargain and compromise your principles to convince this person to take you back (or convince yourself this person is still the right person for you). This is delusional thinking and can lead to more self-destructive if not humiliating behavior.
- Eliminate (or significantly reduce) your contact with this person: Unless you have something or someone you have to continue to be associated with (children, businesses, etc), I strongly recommend detaching from this person entirely. That means all forms of social media, phone numbers, emails, etc. What about mutual friends? That may be more difficult and should be taken up individually. They may not want to get in the middle of your situation and opt to remove themselves from both of you. Again, this should be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
- Closure: Sometimes it is necessary to get closure from the other person. “Why did you break up with me?” “Did you ever really love me?” There are usually unanswered questions after a break-up and ideally getting those questions answered can aid in the recovery. But don’t be surprised if the other person doesn’t want to talk with you about it or answer those questions. I’m not saying that is right or wrong, but that is their choice and you will have to ultimately accept whatever it is they decide to do with that.
- Forgiveness: When the time is right in your mind and your heart, forgiving the other person can really set you free. But first, you MUST forgive yourself. You need to forgive yourself for holding on to the baggage that may have prevented you from living the life you wanted to live. You need to forgive yourself for the emotional turmoil you put yourself through; just forgive yourself for everything that has happened. When you do that, it will be easier to forgive the other person, hence setting yourself free.
There is hope for those going through a painful break-up. With time and healing, break-up sufferers can move on to have happy, fulfilling lives. If you are struggling with a break-up or contemplating breaking up a relationship, seek professional assistance for guidance through the process.