One of the hardest transitions is adjusting to the end of a relationship. The end of a relationship can represent many different kinds of loss, beyond just the loss of that person: loss of dreams, loss of support, connection and loss of a picture of what you thought your life was going to be. These feelings of loss can feel so intense and final that it is often difficult to see past the moment of suffering and heartache and on to a happier future. Here are a few steps to help move forward and recover from the end of a relationship.
Take time to grieve the relationship
It’s okay to feel hurt, anger, resentment, cheated. Feel what you’re feeling. Let yourself express the pain you feel. Worden’s (1991) model of grief argues that we have ‘tasks’ when we grieve. The TEAR Model of Grief illustrates the four tasks of mourning. These include:
- To accept the reality of the loss
- Experiencing the pain of the loss
- Adjusting to a new life without the lost person
- Reinvestment in the new reality
Just like the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance), nobody can tell you how long to grieve the loss of your relationship. It takes time and is unique to you.
Write a forgiveness letter
Often times what keeps us from moving on and reinvesting in new realities is the feeling of a lack of “closure”. Once a relationship ends, often times we no longer have connection to that person. This can leave us with unresolved feelings and emotions, especially if the relationship ended abruptly. A great way to process through these emotions and gain closure is to write a forgiveness letter. It is not easy to forgive those who have mistreated us, but it can be instrumental in healing deep wounds and letting go of anger. This tool is used in cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). Mind Over Mood: Second Edition: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think, by Dennis Greenberger and Christine A. Padesky has a forgiveness letter worksheet that can be used to help you write your forgiveness letter.
Take time for self
The time following a break-up can be a great space for self-reflection. Take some time to reflect on what you want and what you don’t want in a relationship. It may be helpful to ask yourself what you have learned from the experience. Writing this down can help you reflect on answers so you can access them as you move forward. These reflections can help in your next relationship. It may be helpful to work with a therapist to process through feelings of grief, self-esteem, abandonment, dependency and boundary issues. Seek support immediately if you notice an increase in alcohol or substance use, cutting or suicidal thoughts as a means of coping with the heartache.
Reconnect with friends
The end of a relationship may not only help us reconnect with ourselves, but it may also allow you the time to reconnect to friends and family. We can sometimes get so involved with our romantic partners that they become the focus at the sacrifice of other people or things. Having a strong support system is important when you are struggling with the end of a relationship. Your support system can be a great source of encouragement and positivity to help you to recover. It may just be the support you need to remind yourself that you are an awesome person worthy of love.
Be fair to your new partner
The end of one relationship and the start of a new relationship can bring its own set of challenges. Unresolved feelings from the ended relationship can seep into your new union and create tension. Be fair to your new partner, do not let them pay for the sins of the past partner.
The relationship that ended will not be your last relationship. Mourn the loss but also celebrate what you’ve learned about yourself in the process. An ending of one chapter is often the beginning of a new one.
What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the rest of the world calls a butterfly — Lao Tzu