One of life’s greatest joys can be connecting to another soul in what may sometimes feel like a lonely world. A good relationship can be a landing on which to fall when the inevitable pains of life strike; a safe harbor to point us home when we feel lost; a standing Saturday night date. So, what happens when the one you’ve always relied on to soothe your pain in times of hardship is the source of that very pain? When the agony of a broken heart feels like the stabbing of a thousand knives, how do we even begin the healing process?
Losing a loved one through a separation such as a breakup or divorce can feel as devastating as losing someone through death. Below are some of the stages of grief and some steps to get through it. Although knowing what you will experience will not take the pain away, it may remind you that you are not alone. Whatever you are feeling, others have likely felt it before. Just as those before you made it through, you can come out on the other side of pain.
STAGES OF GRIEF
In times of mourning or loss, we tend to idealize people or situations. In the case of a breakup, we may find ourselves remembering only the good times, while conveniently forgetting why things didn’t work out. Remembering the good is healthy, so long as we “keep it real” and see things as they really were—the good and the not-so-good.
The emotion referred to here is a universal stage of intense sadness that most of us will experience at least once in our lifetimes. It is separate from clinical depression, which may require professional help. Barring a clinical diagnosis, when it comes to healing the pain of a broken heart, time is our strongest ally.
Depending on the circumstances of a breakup, we may feel anger toward the partner we perceive has hurt us. We may indulge in feelings of self-righteousness and fantasize of retribution. That is, until we remember “it takes two to tango.”
Barring cases of abuse, in most relationships, both parties play a role. So, if we look closely enough, we may find the anger we are directing outward is really anger we hold toward ourselves. “How dare they do this to me” turns into “How could I have allowed this to happen?” In either case, blame is rarely the answer.
STEPS TOWARD HEALING
1. Find forgiveness and meaning.
Forgiveness is often an essential part of the healing process, whether it is for yourself or the partner who may have “wronged” you. Everything ends, including life. Some people spend their lives never having found love.
If you have had love walk into your life at least once, some people would consider you lucky. Of course, if you’re still reeling from the pain of a broken heart, you may feel anything but lucky. However, once the wounds heal and the pain begins to dissipate, you may feel differently.
2. Be your own safe harbor.
As I mentioned above, life is impermanent. So are relationships. Whether through death or a breakup, every relationship will eventually end. Knowing and accepting this harshest of realities—as impossible as it may seem—could serve you well.
Relationships are essential to our well-being. This includes the relationship we have with ourselves. For the rest of your life, the only one who is guaranteed to be there is yourself. Ultimately, learning to be your own safe harbor can help your healing process.
3. Allow yourself to feel.
One of the many injustices of being human is often we can’t heal without pain. Sometimes to get to the good stuff, we have to endure the bad. As children, if we had a splinter, the idea of someone sticking a tweezer under our skin to get it out didn’t sound so appealing. But to avoid the chance of an infection, we had to endure the temporary sting. The same principle can be applied to psychological pain.
Do what you need to do, but be sure to feel. It may hurt like hell. Do it anyway.
If you need a box of chocolate, or a night of mindless Netflix binging, you can allow yourself that. This is not to encourage self-destructive behavior. Instead, it is a brief reprieve, a moment of indulgence we all deserve every now and then.
But at some point, allow yourself to feel. You can come home, collapse onto the cold kitchen floor, and bawl your eyes out to the point of exhaustion if that helps. Do what you need to do, but be sure to feel. It may hurt like hell. Do it anyway.
4. Get back up again.
Once you do this, you can pull yourself off that cold kitchen floor. Even if it takes a week or a month, eventually you will be able to get back up and remember your greatness. Not the greatness of ego or arrogance, but the greatness in all of us. Even if you’re unable to see it at times—much like the sun on a foggy day—it doesn’t mean the greatness is not there. It will still be there when you are ready to stand back up and live your life to the fullest. You don’t have to let the fear of pain stop you. Suffering is a part of life, but in the end, it can make you stronger.
This article was originally published on GoodTherapy.