I’ll spare us all the use of any unnecessary words and cut right to the chase.
If you’ve clicked on this article, I am going to run the risk of assuming that it is due to your either having experienced real heartbreak in the past, or you are currently in the thick of it.
There is somewhat of a continuum to the level of pain that we can feel when our relationships do not work out. If you are one of the brave ones who allow yourself to feel (for which I cannot commend you enough), at a minimum you have felt some sadness during and after a breakup.
More likely though, it has felt like more than sadness.
I have been through some breakups where what I feel is more at the level of extreme grief. Some of the emotions that we commonly associate with grief can be very real—denial, confusion, anger and that heart wrenching state where our world can become dark and foggy.
I have found myself a crumbled mess on my floor—not able to cry enough tears it seems to cleanse those emotions which arise naturally as a result of what feels like excruciating loss.
This has especially been the case when I did not really see it coming. Where things were sailing along so swimmingly and then like a sucker punch straight to the guts of our dynamic it was over. These are the instances where our minds spin and we feel almost as if our “other” has died.
It is almost as if their presence in our life has become somewhat of a phantom limb. They are gone, but we can still feel them at times. Things happen in our lives and we have the knee-jerk reaction to call them to share some exciting news just like we used to, or we sometimes even swear that we can sense their scent at times when they’re not around.
This may sound extreme—or excessive, but any of you who walks around freely with a pretty open heart like I do perhaps knows this, or something similar, well.
We sometimes turn to dating other people right away to get over them, but just like fool’s gold—we scratch just a little bit and we can feel that under the surface we are still pining for our former other. Plus, this is certainly not fair to the next person that we date.
If we do not honor that which was and heal properly, we will not be able to give fully of ourselves to our next relationship—nor will we be able to adequately receive.
What we need to do is sit with our pain, which is not easy, because along with that pain typically comes a barrage of beliefs and destructive thoughts.
Some of the common thoughts that I have had after a breakup:
I am not worthy of love.
None of what we had was real—it couldn’t have been real.
I am such a fool for not seeing this for what it was the entire time.
I will never, ever be able to just have a healthy relationship.
There has got to be something seriously wrong with me.
And as you can imagine, the list goes on…
I can not emphasize enough, that these thoughts are natural and we cannot beat ourselves up for having them. We can sink into self-pity or anger—perhaps even becoming vindictive or the worst case scenario, shutting our emotions off in order to feel none of it.
It is difficult to find that healthy level of being with pain. We want to feel it and see it, but the goal is to not allow ourselves to wallow—which can happen. Especially if we have been there enough times to where it surprisingly is so familiar that it brings with its own level of comfort.
It is time during these hard times to observe our thoughts. That part of us that can watch and monitor what we are thinking becomes our anchor as well as our guide during these times.
That part of ourself knows that we are worthy of love.
That part of us that acknowledges that yes, what we felt really was real, it perhaps just changed—or someone got scared, or a myriad other explanations. We cannot assume that we know—sometimes accepting that we will never understand is better than forming toxic assumptions about our other’s reasoning for leaving.
We know on some level that we are not a fool for not being able to have seen things coming. We are always doing our best, and if we disregarded some red flags, then we use that to teach us to do differently the next time around.
There is also that part of us that knows that we can have a healthy relationship and that, while our actions may have played a role in the outcome of the relationship, there is nothing inherently wrong with us—we have all been conditioned differently and we can choose to have grace and forgiveness with ourselves and to make different decisions in our next relationship.
It is so crucial that we forgive ourselves. I believe that shame is truly the prickliest and perhaps the most powerful enabler and enforcer of what can be toxic patterns of behavior. We have the option to let that go.
We allow ourselves to feel in order to heal. We allow ourselves time, and during that time we focus intentionally on seeing the truth in the situation—not what our minds sometimes tempt us to believe. While we allow ourselves time though, we also need to be mindful of that propensity to get stuck in it.
The world is still turning and perspective of things bigger than ourselves and our existence can also be of benefit.
We nurture and nourish ourselves appropriately—despite the temptation to perhaps use vices as a means to soothe. Taking care of ourselves by making good choices and seeking friends that are willing to make us laugh and also support us in seeing the truths in the situation.
I have had friends that, despite their good intentions, turn to making angry statements about my previous partner. They mean well, but this is not a healthy route to take.
Rather than blaming them or ourselves, we can choose to feel grateful for the time that we had in the relationship. Rather than looking back on it with bitterness, contempt or fear of this happening again, we have the option of focusing on the positive, picking ourselves up and moving on.
We speak of “heartbreak” but in reality, our hearts can never really be broken. They can be closed off if we do not heal properly, but we can choose to not move forward in this manner.
I believe that our opportunity to see these truths during what we feel as heartbreak—it eventually reinforces and strengthens our ability to love ourselves. Because after all, sifting through the murk to discover the clarity of these truths in the most difficult of situations is self-love.
Of course we do not go around seeking heartbreak—we can only do our best to discern with whom we enter relationships and their natural unfolding.
But, after so many times being hurt, I still choose to love with all that I have.
This is that beautiful place where that warrior spirit that we all have, along with our vulnerability meet.
This takes some intention and grit and while we risk feeling this level of pain again—I can personally say that looking back, there has not been one time that I have not felt stronger and also felt that my capacity to love genuinely has been increased after one of these experiences.
This is what makes it all worth it.
Author: Katie Vessel
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Leah Vanderbilt/Flickr