You are so in love with each other. You experience the gushing feelings of excitement, the eagerness to meet, the fire and the passion. You want to look your best for the special one. You go out of your way to do things for him/her.
You feel secure, complete and happy. It wasn’t that happiness was an unknown or all-new experience for you, but the intensity with which you feel your emotions is beyond your control. You are certain that this is the person you want to spend your whole life with! But then the unexpected happens. Alas! It didn’t last. The relationship ended within a year and your heart was shattered.
Break ups hurt. We have all been through heartbreaks and we have all mourned over our failed relationships. The pain that follows heartbreak is traumatic. It’s a time that is awfully hard and sometimes you feel agonised to the point of pitiful desperation.
Break ups evoke a range of emotional responses that are different for different people. For some of you, breakups leave a huge void in your daily life, and you often feel emptiness in thoughts, or hollowness and the feeling that something is missing, incomplete. For some others, it brings about a storm in their lives, with feelings of agitation, chaos, anger and sometimes the urge to seek revenge. For many others, the inability to control their own emotions and state of affairs stimulates feelings of confusion, anxiety, desperation and panic. And to make it worse, these feelings do not even maintain discipline or consistency.
It’s a turbulence causing a mixture of it all, from fleeting feelings of anger- “Oh I don’t even need them, good riddance”, to hopelessness- “What am I going to do without her?”, to sadness and despair- “My life is meaningless and I can’t get through another day without him”. We constantly question everything about the relationship- “Why did this happen? Why did she leave me? Am I not good enough anymore? Will he come back if I changed myself? Did he find someone else? Did she never love me EVER?” Oh it is crushing! It is gut wrenching! It is cruel! But WAIT, this too shall pass.
Researchers have often compared dealing with breakups to the stages of grief, similar to mourning over the loss of a loved one. The first stage is usually a phase of denial- “No this is not true, this is not happening to me, and he/she will come back to me soon”.
There is an unshakeable belief that whatever is happening is not real, and it is just a bad dream that will go away tomorrow morning as I wake up. It is common and absolutely normal to react in this manner. For some people, this stage lasts for 2 hours, while for others it could be two days to a week.
The second stage is that of anger- “How could you do this? You think I will cry over you? I need you? I am better off without you in my life.” There is an outburst of rage, that is particularly common when the breakup was due to power struggle in the relationship, or when one was left with a bruised ego.
Often people are able to deal with the sadness and loneliness that follows a break-up, but it is the feeling of humiliation and rejection that hurts the pride of a person and leads to an anger response. The next stage is that of bargaining- “Please do not do this, I will change myself. If you give me another chance, I will never ever repeat my mistake and do whatever you want”. Of course, this is also a fairly common response.
We have all begged and cried and desperately asked for a second chance, regardless of whether we believed that we were at fault or not. This phase often leads to something known as relationship churning, such that the couple goes through cycles of reconciliation and break up. Out of concern, hope, or sometime purely out of habit, couples decide to get back together, give it another try, but in most cases, a broken mirror is broken beyond repair. This brings in the next phase- depression. We experience negative thoughts, insomnia, loss of appetite, lack of motivation, sadness, helplessness, loneliness, and a lot and lot of tears follow. Breathe. Let this pass.
The final phase, which is acceptance, is the goal. Accept what has happened; accept that you will feel sad; let your feelings be. Patience is a virtue indeed.
One cannot really rush up all the phases, cannot kill feelings of anger or sadness, and so let them come and go naturally and accept. Look in the mirror and tell yourself, “Yes, my heart is in pain. I am not going to feel great. But I will be fine and try and move on.” These stages obviously do not follow a strict order, however, people generally oscillate between the steps and go back and forth several time before reaching acceptance. The point is one has to remain true to their feelings, aware of them and accept them mindfully.
Pretending to not be affected, or impatiently rushing to a closure, sometimes leads to unhealthy coping behaviours.
Be cautious, going out for a drink with your friends to uplift your spirit is obviously a good idea, but dependence on alcohol, smoking, drugs or other unhealthy hacks may help temporarily but cause longterm harm. Distracting yourself with a spa,shopping or catching up with your friends are some helpful fixes too. However, as per attachment theories, one is bound to feel the need for belongingness, love and association post break ups. Physical needs for touch and sex, wanting to cuddle, kiss, hug and need for intimacy also brings about restlessness. A common myth is “If you want to get over one relationship, the cure is to just find another”.
Such substitution results in rebound relationships, which too often end up making one feel further distressed and broken. Some professionals also compare love to an addiction. Imagine how a person feels when asked to stay away from the drug, and maintain complete abstinence. You want it back at any cost. The withdrawal symptoms that follow are chemically comparable to what happens in your brain and body, when going through a rough break up. It is a struggle to break the cycle and meet closure.
Of course, a lot of this depends on the initiator status, and who dumped whom. Both partners may feel different emotions, but is definitely not a good experience for either. One may feel rejected and abandoned, the other may feel guilty and responsible. If you are on the other end of the spectrum and chose to have the break up, feelings of regret, accusation and blame are bound to hit your conscience too. Repeated questions like “Why did I do this, am I a bad person? Should I just stay in the relationship and wait for the attraction to come back?” are bound to haunt you. But again, give it time. Engage yourself in yoga, music, or sports. Develop new hobbies or focus on work. Vent it out.
Right now, you need somebody who can listen to you without giving advice. You just want to be heard without being judged. Talk to a person you may confide in.It may be your parents, siblings or friends. If it still hurts, you may seek professional help.
Remember, it is YOU who has to garner the courage and effort to let go and move on. It is YOU who has to stop indulging in negative self talk. It’s time to leave your past behind and work upon your future.Trust yourself and just keep moving forward.