One of the most difficult parts of dealing with a broken heart is letting go. When we start dating someone, we attach to them with our minds, bodies, and souls. Together, a couple creates memories, inside jokes, and make promises to each other. They build a little shelter-world together that protects from the outside world. Sharing space together and living together makes the bond and attachment even stronger with each passing day.
But disagreements, conflict, and betrayal cause breakups. Sometimes it’s nothing but paths heading separate directions that causes a split. When a couple goes their separate ways, maybe they share one last hug. One tells the other to take care of themselves, and that’s it. They part, and life continues on.
If only it were that that simple. Breakups are anything but simple because of all of the emotions involved. Even the most stoic person feels the pain and confusion when their partner is suddenly gone. The physical attachment is severed, but the emotional attachment remains.
Breaking that attachment is both painful and necessary in the healing process. It’s something that none of us want to do, but we have to do in order to heal.
Think back to being a kid on a playground. My favorite thing on the playground was the monkey bars. I used to see how many bars I could skip through each swing. I was on them so much in elementary school that I actually ripped open the skin in the middle of my palm during recess in 2nd grade.
The first time that I ever got on the monkey bars was in 1st grade. Some other kids were doing it, and I ran over to try it for myself. I climbed up the ladder and got up to the first bar. Initially, I was afraid, and just held on to it. The other kids behind me were like, “GO!”
I had to trust myself to move forward and get to that second bar. How did I do that?
I let go.
When my engagement ended, I left Guam physically four days later, and not because I wanted to. Each day of watching the sun rise and set ripped my heart out anew. I spent two days traveling back to the US, just weeks after flying to meet up with my ex’s family and mine. The flight was a haze. I couldn’t understand how I was on a plane again, and even worse, my engagement ring was gone and there was this inexplicable pounding in my chest and head. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Even though my body landed in Orlando, my heart was left on an island thousands of miles away.
I didn’t want to believe what was happening to me. I thought that I could not let go. My love was pure and unconditional. A man had come into my life and made positive space there for the first time. As someone that’s been traumatized by dating and relationships, it took a long time for me to trust, let alone love him. It’s understandable that it took almost double the time to fall out of love once I had to. We were supposed to spend our lives together. There were times that it felt impossible, but I’m standing here today, feeling so much better and no longer looking backward.
How did I get through letting go?
Limit contact. Unless you have kids or live together, find a way to limit interaction with your ex. It’s not to be rude or teach them a lesson. It’s for your emotional well-being. All sorts of uncontrollable feelings come up when it comes to an ex, and it’s an unnecessary chance to say things that we don’t mean or do things that are completely opposite of who we are. When it comes to living together, find a friend to stay with for a little while. Create some space from each other.
Gather all the reminders and gifts from your ex, their belongings, and put them in a box. It’s okay to reminisce and cry, but don’t dwell on any of the items. Have a friend give them back, because this is your time to spend with yourself, friends, and loved ones. This is a time of support, reconnection, and release. Letting go of the physical representations is easier than the emotional connection, but it does help. So that favorite hoodie, the weird shaped rock you found while hiking together, and anything else has to get put away and given back.
Cry. It. Out. Do it for you own good. A lot of people try to hold it in and appear tough or unbothered by their breakup. All that’s happening is pushing the sadness down further and further until one day it explodes out. I don’t know who made up the rule that it’s not okay to cry, but all genders need to do it when they get sad. Ever wonder why crying is exhausting but somehow everything feels better afterward? Crying brings release, as well as releases oxytocin and other endorphins, which make us feel better afterward. Let those tears go, dear. Don’t sit on them, or else you’ll find yourself hanging out with a group of friends, suddenly rushing to the bathroom overcome with grief.
Come to terms with the realities of the relationship. It ended for a reason, but we tend to look back and idealize our exes. I know I did. I loved a person that I thought existed, rather than the person he truly was. That happens to be the case in a lot of minds post-breakup. Rose-colored glasses and what I call people-sickness the “people version” of homesickness will have you remembering only the good things. For every good memory, write down one of their faults, like the times they were jerks to you for no reason or when they made you feel stupid about something you were excited about. Activities like this are featured in my 30-Day Breakup Recovery Journal. That’s unfair, and it’s important to remember that the relationship was not perfect.
Take your time. There isn’t a straight line to healing, and there also isn’t a fast lane to feeling better. A breakup, or any loss or cause of grief, is life changing in two ways. There’s the loss that changes us, and there’s the pain that gives us the biggest opportunity to change into better people. The pain gives us a reason to take a step back and look at ourselves. We see where we have room for improvement or find out new things about ourselves. It’s our chance to reconnect with ourselves and grow. Take your time and explore all of these options and avenues. When I was going through my breakup, a whole bunch of traumas from my past came up. I finally had the determination to heal from it, because I wanted to heal all the pain underlying the breakup. My past traumas made the breakup hurt much worse than necessary.
Focus on YOU. Take time for yourself. Do all the relaxing things that you’ve been denying yourself. I never took a second for myself. When I tell you that I glowed up after my relationship ended, I. GLOWED. UP. Instead of taking care of everyone around me, I pampered myself and exercised. I joined a gym, ran every other day, and got the body that I never seemed to have time to get. I also went to a spa and got my skin right, and got my hair and nails done regularly instead of every now and then. Because I was so stressed and alone, I didn’t recognize my face in the mirror toward the end of my relationship. There were deep circles under my eyes, and I felt exhausted and used up. When I glowed up, looking in the mirror was like, “Oh yeah, there she is!”
Helpful hint? (This is something I wish I had done for myself!)
Doing all these things and going on the emotional roller coaster, may have you thinking, “You know what? I’m okay. Let me text/call him.” DON’T. When you think you’re ready for anything, wait another 24 hours. My rule of thumb for getting back in contact with an ex, is when you think you’re ready to be friends, wait another month. I didn’t follow that rule, and it bit me in the butt numerous times (as in getting led on and hurt multiple times). Again, it’s not to be callous and give your ex the silent treatment, it’s for your well-being. There are days that you feel great, and that’s great! But don’t let that be an opportunity for backsliding. Keep your “feeling great” streak going with going out with your friends, investing more time in your new hobby, or even volunteering. Do things that make you feel good, that don’t require validation from your ex.
Swinging back and forth on the monkey bars is a pretty apt description of healing. The healing process means a few steps forward, then a leap backward. Another step in the right direction will be met with the thoughts like, “I miss him.”
One example? The first time I made dinner for myself, I bawled my eyes out. I was so used to making so much food for multiple people instead of just for one. I missed him so much in that moment.
Don’t give in to those thoughts. It’s okay to miss them, but if it’s going to hurt you, don’t reach out. If they reach out to you, that’s okay. You can send a simple and polite text message that says, “I’m not ready to talk you yet. I need time for myself to heal.”
In my last post, I said that I left a door open for my ex to come back. That kept me attached to him, and it wasn’t until I was furious that I saw him for who he was. I hope that instead, these steps will keep you from having to have a painful emotional response to push moving on. Breakups are the most difficult time to be rational, but give it a try. You deserve to have support and guidance after getting your heart broken. I sure didn’t, and I combed the internet for it. Eventually, that drove me to create what I needed.
You are strong enough to get through this. You are worthy.
You can get through today and every day after.
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