Most of us have been there. You meet someone and before you know it you are doing everything together. You enjoy spending all your time with this new person and you cannot imagine being apart from them. Then, the breakup happens. Sometimes we are blind sided and other times we initiate the split. Either way, breakups can have a large impact on our lives.
I work with many clients during the transition of a breakup. During this time it is necessary to normalize their experiences and to help them move forward and cope in a healthy manner. However, it is not my job to have an opinion on whether the breakup was warranted or if the ex is a good match for my client. A psychotherapists’ role is to remain neutral and provide a supportive environment for clients, not a judgmental one.
If you are going through a breakup, remember that there are stages of grief that you will experience (Kübler-Ross, 1969):
1. Denial and Isolation
When a breakup first happens, whether we ended it or not, it is common to deny the reality of the situation. A person rationalizes overwhelming emotions as a defense mechanism for the immediate shock.
Once we have accepted the breakup, we may feel resentment towards our ex and replay how things ended. It is typical to ask ourselves, “what went wrong in the relationship”. We may resent the person for causing us pain or for leaving us.
The normal reaction to feelings of loneliness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control. We may try to become friends with our ex or find a way to be around our ex to ease some of the pain and loneliness.
Once we realize that the relationship is definitely over, depression kicks in. This stage is often perplexing because during this time a person may find themselves crying frequently and feeling generally low. Sometimes it can be surprising, especially after going through the bargaining stage. Because this stage can be confusing, a person can go from depression, back to anger, back to bargaining, back to depression, and so on. Depression can be a hard stage to process and accept. It can be the hardest stage to complete.
Everyone does not reach this stage. Because of the back and forth exercise in the last stage, some people never reach acceptance. When we accept the breakup withdrawal and calm appears. This phase is not to be confused with happiness and it must be distinguished from depression.
Additionally, read books or articles that can empower your experience. Breaking up with someone is hard and you shouldn’t feel that you have to be strong and move on without feeling hurt or a sense of loss. Gaining knowledge about our experiences can only make us stronger. Lastly, during a breakup is a great time to seek counseling. A person can learn a lot about themselves through this process. A breakup usually allows a person to see things about themselves that they would like to change. Counseling can offer an extra source of support during this transitional period.