Breaking up with someone you love so much is always hard.
How many sleepless nights have you been through since the day you said goodbye? How many painful days have you been through since the day you fell apart? How long have you been trapped in the past and unable to move on?
You want to forget. And you want to forgive. But it you just can’t.
You thought you had forgotten the best memories of the past. But whenever you walk past the place where you two first met, the good old days pop up in your mind again and you just can’t help but burst into tears.
You thought you had forgiven him for everything he did to you. But whenever you see his/her face appearing on your Facebook news feed, you find your heart is filled with a complicated feeling of melancholy and anger.
Letting go is never easy. But here’s what we can do with the grief and loss.
The 5 Stages of Grief and Loss
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss psychiatrist, introduced the five stages of grief in her book On Death and Dying (1969).1 The model was initially inspired by her work with terminally ill patients. But now it is also widely adopted to explain the behavior of people who experience grief and loss. After all, facing death and facing the death of a relationship share so much in common.
1. Denial: This CAN’T be happening
The first reaction to the loss of a relationship is to deny the reality of the situation. This is a defence mechanism to stop you from dealing with painful feelings.2 You try to pretend everything’s alright but deep down in your heart you know it is not real.
When you have the feeling that you’re denying the loss of a cherished one, you should focus on accepting the brutal truth:
- Remind yourself things have changed every day
- Stop texting or making phone calls as you used to
- Allow yourself to cry whenever you feel the pain
- Stay with someone who can help you recognize the truth
- Keep a diary to write down how you feel every day
2. Anger: How could he/she do this to me?
As time goes by, the reality becomes less blurry and you would gradually feel the pain of heartbreak. The pain is sometimes redirected and expressed as anger. You need someone to be blamed for causing you pain: your ex, people around you, the universe, or even yourself. Rationally, you know they might not be the one to be blamed but you just can’t control your emotions.
What you need here is to forgive:
- Know that both of you share the responsibility for the breakup
- Forgive yourself for any inadequacies as no one is perfect
- Realize that you are not the only one who suffers the pain
- Admit that you are not functioning at your best right now
- Distract yourself through exercise
3. Bargaining: Can’t we just give it one more try?
When you realize that the reality is pushing you towards to the edge of a cliff, you panic and strive to survive. You would do everything and anything to reverse the situation. You look for any possible ways to win him/her back, perhaps through negotiation or threat. You just don’t want to feel the pain.
But for most of the time, things don’t happen as you wish. You should better let it go:
- Avoid direct contact temporarily
- Stay away from social media where you might find anything about him
- Reassure yourself that you two are not getting back together
- Never try to win him/her back again and again
- Realize that you are independent enough to be single
4. Depression: It’s all OVER
When you finally realize you can do nothing to alter whatever you are experiencing, you are real depressed: feeling tired all the time, not wanting to do anything, avoiding friends and family, losing appetite or overeating, suffering from insomnia or sleeping too much. The hopelessness makes you feel hard to move on.
Nobody says it is easy but you should regain your mental and physical health before it is too late:
- Surround yourself with positive people
- Take a break from work
- Talk to someone who is willing to listen
- Go to countryside and breath some fresh air
- Listen to sad songs
5. Acceptance: Okay, I’m trying
Now, you are almost there. When you begin to accept whatever happens on you, you would gradually be able to make peace with the loss. It doesn’t guarantee happiness as you are still in one of the stages of grief, but you will be less emotional and begin to find some light along the road. And the light will eventually guide you home.
Things that evoke memories might still trigger your emotions but you can prevent self-absorption again:
- Put the old photos in a place where you can’t easily reach
- Keep yourself away from the places which trigger your emotions
- Focus on the benefits of letting go
- Only reconnect with him when you are ready to be friends
- Believe that everything is going to be okay and it is just a matter of time
Letting Go Makes Us Stronger
We always want a long-lasting relationship. We want someone to stay with us whatever happens in life. We want to hold on. But sometimes what makes us strong is letting go instead.
When you look back in the future, you will be surprised at how much you have grown.