Grief knows no nuances. Its fragrance is anything but bittersweet. Nothing about grief is poetic; grief is nothingness. Utter darkness. The implosion of the soul’s particles. Thanatos. It stands alone in its capacity to accommodate the vastness of human loss. Grief’s nurturing nature is boundless; it doesn’t demand anything. It will never tell us to sit up straight and stop our tears. “Dry your eyes, boy!” – Never. It is a motherly cape of synchronous movement of the sentiment. You move, it moves. It swallows us whole; we swallow it whole, and we become one. And we dance. Celebrating our own malaise. Non-existence. Void instead of a heart; sorrow, despair, pining, misery – its most trusted companions. Oh, to lose the one you love. “Parting is such sweet sorrow,” as our beloved William Shakespeare once wrote. And, indeed, it is, until the final farewell. This is how to cope with breakup grief 101.
Every single person grieves and heals in their own time, led by their grief’s idiosyncratic baton. There are rules, but there are no common denominators and no “median value” itineraries. Factors are plenty. But why are breakups so painful? Well, because we associate them with death. Although we cognize our partner’s physical existence (post-breakup), their presence is no longer tangible. The “US” entity dies. Given our inherent, yet untamed tendencies and our need for interconnectedness, belonging, and symbiosis, the abrupt absence of what (who) became an integral part of our partial identity (the entity part) feels like a dark force purloining our mental and heart space, leaving us excruciatingly incomplete. Indeed, breakups invite hard times into our lives.
Stages of grief
Like death, breakups may feel impossible to survive. Luckily, human beings are wondrous things of nature; we come into existence prepared for worst-case scenarios (our conscious part might not know it, but our subconscious does). And we endure. A psychiatrist named Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was the first to articulate the grieving process and its five stages successfully.
- Denial: a natural response to shock; this stage allows our heart to adjust to the unbearable idea of loss. We keep the hope alive and reassure ourselves the significant other will return.
- Anger: resentment, rage, frustration, blame, guilt; mutiny stage. We may point fingers, hate them, their new romantic partner, or ourselves for not being worthy enough. Everyone’s a potential target.
- Bargaining: the befriending phase after the breakup. Usually a slippery slope. The urge to restore the relationship at any cost drives us to work on building friendships with our ex-partners. End result: it only prolongs the agony.
- Depression: the fourth stage is all about accepting the truth. There will be no reconciliation. The relationship is done. We may feel hopeless, lethargic, and socially withdrawn. Turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms isn’t unheard of. If depression symptoms aren’t subsiding, therapy should be introduced.
- Acceptance: finally, the silver lining stage. Although the pain may not be gone completely, we will start coming to terms with what happened. We now know that being happy again is possible.
Stages aren’t always experienced in order; we may go back and forth, 5,1,3,4,2 – then 1,3,2,5,4. Taking “laps” around our grieving racetrack is more than natural. To cope with breakup grief doesn’t mean the positive emotional spectrum is off the table. On the contrary, we can experience anything from elation and joy to tranquility. Yes, we are strange fruits. But, we know what’s good for us. We know how to heal our wounds.
Who am I, again?
Long-term relationships inevitably take a part of our autonomy; after the relationship ends, we feel as though we have lost our inner compass. The outlines of the self changed without us even noticing. It’s time to get re-acquainted with who you are. Grief can become an ally in rediscovering the self. Remembering. Reinventing. Take time to “go within,” and let the inner hermit take you where you need to go: find yourself. Although we do not encourage social isolation, spending quality time alone will speed up the grief process. Introverting can help us rediscover the things we may have overlooked during our relationship. It’s time to get out of bed. Find your passions. Hobbies. Start painting. Start singing. Start living through self-expression. Many individuals decide to relocate after a breakup. Moving on short notice can be stressful, but it can also provide that “tabula rasa,” that blank slate for self-expression. We say do it, but if you have to do this quickly, be sure to get some help.
Stay socially active, but…
Having trusted friends and family members around when we’re grieving is crucial for our recovery. Still, we must remember that accommodating our wants and needs has to come first this time. Create space for You. Relying on someone’s company to ease the pain and loneliness will only work for a short time. No one can compensate for our loss – that’s the harsh truth. We are doing this for us. We matter. Do the things you love, and do it your way. Whether it be Netflix/bed day, hiking with your dog, getting up at noon, or reading a book per day. Being single again gives us room for organizing our time. Time is no longer a shared unit. It is all yours.
Help comes in different shapes
One of the best ways to let the emotion palette rise is therapy. Only a professional can truly guide us through the grief storm objectively. Opening up to our close friends can also help in understanding our emotions and receiving the love and support we need. Also, volunteering and other activities proved to be one of the best remedies for a broken heart. Being an integral part of something bigger than us makes heartache a little more tolerable.
Self-love is a way to cope with breakup grief
If we decide the best way to cope with breakup grief is a series of casual relationships, our grieving process might be in trouble. One-night stands tend to cause emotional disruption. Preserving our energy and focusing on self-love is the only right path to healing.