Break-ups hurt whether you decided to leave or you’re the one left in the dust. No one gets out unscathed. The truth is that attachments run deep no matter which role was played, and eventually everyone has to do the work to clean things up and move forward.
The 5 most common thoughts after break-ups are:
- ‘I feel like I have lost a part of myself, like a limb is missing.’
- ‘I will never feel the same love again for another.’
- ‘Do I have to forgive?’
- ‘Will they realize what they lost and come back to me?’
- ‘What’s wrong with me?’
So why does it hurt so much and how can we move through it? Dr. Helen Fisher and her colleagues used MRIs to study the brains of people post break-up and discovered parts of the brain associated with drug addiction and romantic love lighting up. So when you wonder why it hurts so much to be without your partner, recognize you are in withdrawal. Like treating addiction, it’s important to give yourself the same support.
Addiction & Withdrawal
As with treating addiction to substances or behaviors, it is important to remove the stimulus. In the early phases, it is important to remove the items from your home that create nostalgia and reminders. Facebook and Instagram stalking are no nos. Every time a stimulation of your Ex happens, chemical withdrawal symptoms will re-emerge.
“Take a puppy, for example,” offers Dr. Fisher. “Put it in the kitchen away from its mother and shut the door. The first stage the puppy experiences is a full-on protest: yelping, barking, and hurling itself at the door. After awhile, it ceases all protest, falls into a corner and gives up in despair. This is very similar to the phases people go through with breakups. At first, the rejected individual is working every angle to win the other person back and fighting off accepting the truth of the breakup, but eventually — if the rejected party receives no encouragement — he or she will be resigned to despair.” –Theo Pauline Nestor
Honor the 5 Stages of Grief
With any loss comes grief. It is those who consciously grieve who are most able to move through and move on. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross identified 5 stages of grief that are not always sequential. These stages are: Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression and Acceptance. At the beginning of a break-up, denial and bargaining are top of the list, which sound like, ‘We are so in love and he will remember this,’ or ‘If I wouldn’t have pressured her for marriage we would still be together.’
Other grievers jump right to anger, having a tidal wave of resentments flood the psyche. Grievers can also feel pressure to jump to acceptance. Acceptance needs to come naturally after an appropriate amount of time. For some it takes months and others years.
Losing a Friend & Companion
Often the biggest break-up hurt is in losing a friend and companion. It is important to honor the significance of no longer having that person to share about your day with, or ask for advice on how to handle situations. This loss of companionship takes time to heal.
Break-Up Opportunities to Wake-Up
- Find a Passion: No matter how small, throw yourself into it. It is especially powerful to re-engage with an activity you did prior to meeting your Ex like a sport or hobby. This is a healthy sublimation of grief, resourcing to build up your strength and joy.
- Learn to Receive: Let yourself get absorbed and taken in by your community, whether that’s friends or family. Allow them to cook for you and surround you with warmth. It is crucial to move your love receptors from your Ex to your community.
- Building Self-Esteem: Surround yourself with people who believe in you and reflect the parts of you that you love. Start a self-love journal and collage it with images you enjoy, and write poetry and feelings across the pages.
- Cleanse & Clear: Let go of clothing and items that do not bring you joy. Buy yourself small luxurious items like candles, some new shoes or a massage!
- Energy Work Cord Cutting: Find an energy work practitioner who can teach you about cutting energetic cords. This will help you return to your own energy state un-merged from your Ex.
- Write an I Hate You Letter: Write down all of the feelings and thoughts you have towards your Ex, said and unsaid, and wrap it in a bundle. Bury it or burn it safely to release.
- Join a Support Group: There are many online and in-person support groups where you will find comrades to move through the process with.
- Find a Therapist: Break-ups are prime time to look at your own relational patterns and how you contributed to the breakdown of your relationship.
Break-ups can feel like a demolition of the heart and soul, yet with consciousness and support you can make incredible transformations that will last a lifetime.