Recovering from a devastating breakup

Heartbreak is no small feat to overcome, but it can be done with perseverance and a few basic techniques.

by: E.B. Johnson

Our relationships can form a critical piece of who we are, and when we lose them it can cause us to flounder and struggle on a number of different planes. When we lose a long-standing or deeply important relationship, it can cause us to lose an imperative sense of who we are and — without that — we can become lost and trapped in a number of negative patterns that keep us stuck, scared and unhappy.

If you’re coming off the back of a devastating breakup, you have to reclaim your sense of self and do it with the same compassion, understanding and love that you would extend to a friend. By learning how to rewrite your narrative, and getting a handle on who you are and what you really want, you can forge your way back to happiness and come out on the other side stronger than you ever were before.

Why breakups can be so devastating.

There’s no denying that breakups can be truly devastating. Our relationships are an important part of who we are and they make a massive difference to both our self-confidence and our outward relations. When someone calls it quits, it can damage us on a number of levels, and it’s us to up to find that damage and heal it so that we can thrive in future.

Our relationships have a profound impact on our beliefs and the way we see ourselves in the world around us. Through our relationships, we learn how to better connect with people, and we learn how to be vulnerable; opening up in new and special ways that can make it hard to stomach the rejection that inherently comes along with a break up.

A breakup is an undoing. No matter how strong or independent we might perceive ourselves to be within that relationship, the loss of it is still a major shift that sends ripples of devstation throughout our entire existences. Every corner of our lives and self is touched by the ending of our romantic relationships, and there are some concrete signs that you’re still struggling with those shockwaves — even years after the event.

Signs you’re still struggling with a bad breakup.

Breakups aren’t easy. Getting your heart broken can lead to some serious emotional and mental consequences that can become negative patterns that seriously undermine our happiness over time. There are a number of signs that you’re still struggling to recover from your bad breakup, and recognizing them is one of the first steps in finding your way back to true joy and fufillment.

Passing up new opportunities

If you’re still passing up new opportunities, in favor of an old relationship that can offer you nothing, it might be a sign you’re still struggling to come back to yourself. Take a step back and analyze the reasons you’re saying no to things that might suit you better than what once was. You might be surprised at the failed hope you’re holding on to.

Wanting to get back together

Desperately pressing your ex to get back together? That’s a definite sign that you’re not quite over things, and not quite willing to let go yet. Part of healing is no longer feeling a need to be with the other person. When they call it quits, it’s up to you to put your own pieces back together and move on. Everything happens for a reason and every ending is a new beginning.

Seeing things through rose-tinted glasses

Loving someone can cause us to turn a blind eye to bigger issues, or look back at things through rose-tinted glasses. Being in love alone does not constitute a good or healthy relationship. Only when we see things for what they truly are can we reprogram and reset our hearts towards the things that better suit us.

Still caring what they think

Breakups are a severing of ties, and one of those ties is caring what the other person things. A critical part of moving on is losing the need for the other person’s approval. If you still care what they think, it might be a sign you’re still clinging to the baggage of the past, and preventing yourself from embracing new opportunities that might offer more happiness and fufillment.

Giving yourself time to grieve

When we suffer major heartbreak, it’s important to give ourselves the time and space we need to grieve. Without this distance, it’s impossible to efficiently sort out our emotions and piece back together who we are without our other loved one or spouse. You have to indulge in some quality self-care, and learn how to get back in touch with yourself while you get back on your feet. Give yourself some time to grieve this loss just as you would any other.

How to overcome a devastating relationship breakdown.

The good news is that, even though it is seems impossibly hard, recovering from a life-shattering breakdown in your romantic relationship is possible. Once you’ve spotted the signs that you’re holding yourself back, you can take charge of your life (and your heartbreak) by learning how to talk about where you’re at, expanding your concept of self and redefining the things that make you feel truly joyful, happy and at ease with the world around you.

1. Talk about where you’re at

Learning how to talk about where we’re at is often the first step when it comes to healing from a difficult breakup. When we talk about our feelings with someone we trust, it allows us to dive further into our emotions and understanding and get a better perspective on how we could make things better for ourselves.

Get comfortable talking about how you feel, and find a friend you can trust that is willing to listen to you vent. Let them know exactly how the breakup is still causing you to struggle and let them know you need a willing shoulder (and a willing ear) to listen to you on a regular basis.

Talking about our failed relationships can be hard, but it’s necessary. Speaking up about what’s going on inside facilitates healing by helping us to see the reality of the situation and our role in it. Love often comes at the cost of clarity, but an outside perspective can help us overcome that. If you’re still struggling to thrive in the wake of a relationship that hit the rocks, try reaching out and opening up about how you’re feeling.

2. Expand your concept of self

No matter how successfully we retain our independence in a relationship, they become a definitive part of who we are and what we want. Our relationships are a looking glass through which we reaffirm our sense of self and solidify our boundaries. They are a touchstone in a world that can be chaotic, and exiting them requires a certain knowhow and expansion of our sense of self.

Find new ways to reclaim your self-concept. Start by engaging in things that require you to expand your skills, abilities and emotional intelligence, and focus on redefining who you are on your own, recalibrating it against who you were in an intimate relationship.

Consider the parts of your authentic self that might have been pushed aside or compromised over the span of your relationship. Focus on those aspects in your new life, and try to build them in a way that allows you to feel good about yourself and your future. Healing requires us to get in touch with who we are at our core, and there’s no better time to dig into that topic than in the wake of a devastating breakup.

3. Write a new story

Our relationships can be a narrative, and one that dramatically changes the course of our lives — for better and for worse. When we’re deeply invested in another person, we align our lives and our desires to their own, creating a private and enclosed world of shared goals, ideals and desires which power us forward together. Part of recovering from an ending to that existence is to write a new story, one in which you alone are the hero and the star; dictating your own future according to the wishes of your authentic self.

Write yourself a new story. Branch out and burst forth, letting your true self shine. Pursue those things which make your heart sing, and stop making excuses for other people (or yourself) based on the whims of other people.

Let go of the heartbroken narrative you’re stuck in, and start telling a new story. Recovery is slow, and can often feel like walking in quicksand, but it’s easy to take control of your destiny once you get the hang of it. Start living for you, and learn how to reframe the bad in your life in a way that serves the greater good. Reach out to someone you trust if you need support.

4. Practice mindful journaling

Balancing our positive and negative thoughts is all about balancing our emotions and there are few things better for this process than a mindful journaling practice. Mindful journaling allows us to get in touch with our deeper self, and identify the things (and feelings) that are holding us back.

Journals can act as the checkpoint between your emotions and your current mental space, allowing you to align your feelings and your reactions in a way that is more authentic to who you truly are. Use your journal as an outlet for the stress and emotional struggles you deal with throughout the day. With a journal, you don’t have to hold back, so fully express who you are and what you’re thinking.

Once you’ve composed your thoughts, check back regularly to reasses how you’re feeling and to judge how far you’ve come. When we look back at our thoughts, we can empower personal growth and expansion of our own personal knowledge and self-revelation. The only person who has the secrets to unlocking our happiness our misery is us. Taking a few minutes each day to establish a mindful journaling practice is a great way to begin that journey.

5. Engage in adaptive disclosure

Though most often used in therapy sessions by psychiatrists, adaptive disclosure is a powerful practice that can help kick off the healing you’re so desperately looking for. In adaptive disclosure, the victim discusses the cause of their injury while imagining that they are speaking to someone completely and wholly trusted; a technique that can allow them to open up with the understanding that they will receive only compassion (rather than condemnation) on the other end.

If you’re not ready to open up to a real, physical being yet, you can practice adaptive disclosure on your own by incoporating it into a mindful journaling practice. When you feel safe and find yourself in a comfortable and quiet space, open up about your experience while holding nothing back. Let the words flow and let your feelings come to you in a way that allows you to see them, accept them and release them onto the page.

Healing from major traumatic events almost always require the help of an outside party, but you have to embrace that pain before you can share it with anyone else. Prepare yourself for true and authentic healing by embracing your pain and the reality of where you’re at and how you’re feeling. Through this method you can start to find self-compassion, but it takes that scalding first step to get there.

6. Start reclaiming who you are

One of the most critical parts of finding ourselves after a devastating breakup is reclaiming our concept of self, while getting back in touch with who we are and what we want at our authentic core. When we’re in relationships, who we are changes; and it changes when those relationships end too. Start reclaiming who you are in order to find your way back to healing.

Consider what parts of yourself might have been compromised or pushed aside during your time as part of a couple. Build those things back up, nurture them and search out activities and skills that reinforce those buried aspects of self.

Only when we reclaim who we are and engage in some radical self-acceptance can we dig ourselves back up to the surface of thriving success. Heartache is real, and it’s hard to overcome, but it can be done when we learn how to love and appreciate ourselves as hardly and as fiercely as we love others. Breakups are devastating, but they aren’t the in — rather, they’re often the beginning of a new lifelong relationship with self that clears the way forward while unlocking new opportunities for growth and transformation.

Putting it all together…

Breakups have the power to wreck our lives, but we can overcome them with acceptance, a little understanding, and a lot of compassionate patience. If you’ve found yourself on the back of a heartache that doesn’t seem to end, you can start healing, but you have to take charge and become determined to change your own life. No one is in charge of your happiness but you, but you’re the only one that can take control of that destiny.

Talk about where you’re at with someone you can trust, and get a bit of perspective on where you’re at and how you can start feeling better again. Expand your sense of self and get back involved with the passions and activities that make your sense of self soar. Devastating breakups require us to write a new narrative for ourselves, so get busy rewriting a future that is based solely upon what you want from this life. Practice some mindful journalling to get back to the root of who your authentic self is, and engage in adaptive disclosure if you’re really struggling to let go a hurt that’s burrowed deep. Breakups take away who we are. Start reclaiming who you are and build a new you. Every day is a choice for a new start. What are you going to choose today?

I help you unlearn your pain. Author & NLPMP. My book “Relationship Renovator” is available now.

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