I married someone I thought I'd be with forever. Twelve years, one massive mortgage, three kids, a dog, eight guinea pigs, and four fish later, my marriage ended. Somehow, years after that, I found myself working with clients who were trying to move on after undergoing a painful breakup.
Here is what I've learned from my personal experience and from working with my clients: there are essential steps you can take to be proactive about finding peace and clearing the way for love again ...
1. Feel it.
Forget the Buddhist approach of just watching your suffering go by. At least momentarily. This is a train wreck, and you're in the middle of it. Cry, rage, feel. Numbing yourself just pushes your pain deeper, to where it festers and turns into some nasty illness or bubbles away until it explodes, volcanically -- you know, like at the coffee place or restaurant when they get your order wrong.
2. Tell the story.
Share with close friends or a therapist the injustices, the anger, the frustration — all of the little (but painful) details that you keep fixating on. You may find you need to dwell on the nature of your sorrow; or how you miss this person, and your good memories. You may feel the impulse to revisit the final goodbye. Tell it.
Write about it. Write letters to your ex, which you don't send. But it's important to give your sadness, anger, frustration, and other emotions a voice. Articulate the unsaid things, at least to yourself and your support system. (That said, I do NOT recommend sending angry texts to your ex. Trust me on this one).
3. Then stop telling the story.
You don't want to be one of those people who is in therapy telling your breakup story for twenty years. Your relationship ending is in the past, and it's time to let it float from you like mist. Yes, mist.
Here's a secret: your story doesn't mean anything. Every single one of us has a story of heartbreak, suffering, injustice. Some are verifiably horrific, true. However, in terms of emotional pain, it's all the same.
In fact, when you allow that story to float from you like mist, what you've got left is emotion.
4. Revisit #1. Feel your emotions and encourage yourself to learn from them.
Ask yourself what this emotion is telling you that you need in order to feel better.
Go back into the deep into the dark, empty hole of heartache bravely, with the attitude of a warrior. The pain is there, but don't be afraid of it. It has lessons for you. Big, important life lessons.
Any one relationship is a steppingstone to greater self-awareness, and a refinement of what one wants and needs. The emotion you are feeling is the key to unlocking it.
Companionship? A committed partner? A higher self-esteem? A wonderful sexual connection? Let this revelation guide you to refine your desires and needs so that you find the next right person for you!
5. Cultivate your unique, most empowered self, one baby-step at a time.
You are not only grieving your former partner, but the you that you were with that partner, and the two of you as a collective unit.
But there was a unique you before your partner, and even a unique you during your relationship, even if you weren't in touch with him/her. Ask yourself important questions: so who are you without him/her? What are your interests? Your hobbies? What do you want to do with your life? If you became one-half of your relationship unit, now's the time to become 100 percent you.
Cultivate that you. 100 percent.
6. Find gratitude.
Every loss is a steppingstone to joy. You are learning, like a brave soul, how to find your way to more growth, more relationships, better connection. Contrast is a crucial element that helps us sort out what we want from what we don't want. Thus pain paves the way to peace.
There is some great gift in this ending, something you have needed for you to become more empowered, to expand your consciousness, to help you make better choices — or perhaps to simply learn life's biggest lesson: impermanence. The only thing that lasts forever is the wisdom you gain from living.
There are thousands of single people out there within driving distance. There are a million small accidents of fate that put your path in front of someone else's path.
You might need to go through these steps more than once! But you will get through them with a little willingness. With an attitude of gratitude, your head can be held high, and your smile will be wide. You will have shifted your energy profoundly, and you will attract those who can see your radiance.