To recognize the intense grief that a breakup can trigger, we can look at some of the things that may be lost when a marriage or relationship ends:
Friends of theirs
Your imagined future
It needn’t be an unwanted breakup to grieve these losses. When a relationship ends, your world as you know it ends. Or, if it was a relationship in early stages of development, your “world as you were hoping it would be with this person” ends. The disappointment can be crushing. The absence is palpable. The loss of so many aspects of life. The dashed hopes and plans for the future.
It is possible to grieve a breakup as intensely as a death, but the people around us don’t quite get the gravity of the loss- especially if we chose to end the relationship.
Grieving a breakup requires similar supports to grieving a death. Here are a few tips to help you cope:
- Treat yourself kindly and gently. Like any other grief, this experience can be exhausting and confusing. You may be emotionally drained and mentally overwhelmed. This is a time to scale back on non-essential responsibilities. Take extra naps. Lower your expectations of yourself. Allow your grief to bubble up without shaming yourself. Your grief is valid and appropriate.
- Seek counseling. The support of a counselor during this process is invaluable. Friends and family may not understand your grief, or may quickly urge you to move on and feel better. With a professional counselor, you can express more and explore more to heal after this loss.
- Conserve energy. Grief is draining and will tire you quickly. As you move throughout your day and are faced with choices such as new work, social commitments, activities and requests from others, consider this at each decision point:
Will this replenish my energy? Or will this deplete it?
The same choice may replenish one day and deplete another. For instance, sometimes we really need the company of other people and connecting can restore us and strengthen us, but other times we can’t muster the effort to even talk, and time in solitude has more replenishing benefit.
- Don’t push yourself to “move on.” It is okay if you are grieving for months. It is okay if you take a dating hiatus. It is okay if you are not open to meeting someone else right now. People will urge you to “get back on the horse,” but this grief process is essential. If and when you are ready to move on, you may experience some trepidation, but you will know that it is time. Don’t push yourself to get there.
This loss has changed your life. Of course it is okay to grieve.