Break-ups: How To Survive Them

The loss of a relationship can be incredibly hard – you can feel so much pain. There’s not only the grief from losing someone important in your life, but the pain of seeing your hopes and dreams of a future life together disappear as well. Sometimes this is the hardest part – having to totally readjust your view of how you saw your life unfolding in the next 5 to10 years. Suddenly, you can’t see into the future and it’s scary.

Feeling Like You’re Starting Over

You may feel like you’re starting over – that you’ve lost everything that was important to you and you’re not sure what to do anymore. It may be hard for you to imagine your life without your partner – your lives have been so intertwined.

Let yourself know that you will get through this.

Having Difficulty Trusting Again

You may find yourself questioning who you can trust, including your own judgment since you may not have expected the break-up. You may wonder if you were wrong to have trusted your partner. You may begin to question how real your relationship was because if it was real how could it be over?

Your ability to trust may feel shaky. You probably trusted your partner, and expected your relationship to last. You may feel alone and abandoned, even if you’re the one who decided to leave.

While it takes time, you can re-build trust in yourself and others again. Even though this relationship is over that doesn’t mean that you were wrong to trust her/him, and even if you were that doesn’t mean that you’ll make that mistake again. You can learn from this.

Having an Identity Crisis

You may experience an identity crisis, not knowing who you are any more without your partner. Not necessarily because you didn’t have your own identity while in the relationship, but that your relationship had become part of that identity.

This too will change and you will feel more secure in yourself again.

Feeling Triggered

Break-ups can hurt immensely and shake us to our very core. They can throw us right back to the feelings we had in our first relationships – the ones we had with our parents.

If as a child, your relationship with your parents were loving and supportive, you may find yourself wanting to be with them, even wanting to be a child again when it felt safer and easier.

If your relationship with your parents was difficult, lacking, or abusive you may feel some of the feelings that you felt with them (even if you weren’t aware of them as a child.) You may feel as though you are drowning in grief and feelings of abandonment. If you feel as though you are being punished or that the break-up means that you are unloveable, or unworthy of love, you are probably triggered – those are messages, beliefs or feelings that usually originate in childhood.

At times of loss, it is very common for feelings, beliefs and memories from past hurts, traumas, and losses to come up. Not only are you dealing with the present loss, but your past losses as well. No wonder, it hurts so much! And, there are ways to cope with triggers.

How To Survive The Triggers

It is really important that you try to separate out which of your feelings, beliefs and responses belong to the present situation and which ones belong to the past. This is hard to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed but it can also help you to feel less overwhelmed. Separating past and present feelings will help you to attach less of your pain to the break-up and can help you to feel more hopeful about getting over this break-up, because maybe you are not as upset about the break-up as you thought. You’re still just as upset but it can be helpful to know that it’s not all about the break up, that some is also coming from the past.

When you know that you are triggered (past feelings and issues are coming to the surface) you can find ways to comfort or reassure yourself, or to deal with those issues in other ways. The first step though is to separate the past from the present.

Ways of separating the past from the present include:

  • Ask yourself where your feelings are coming from, and notice what you become aware of, including later on in the day.
  • Notice whether your feelings are familiar to you – whether you’ve felt this way before – and if so remind yourself that some of your feelings are probably coming from the past.
  • Spend time being aware of the past origins of your feelings if you know, and if that’s not too overwhelming for you.
  • Let yourself know that even if you don’t know where all of your feelings are coming from, it’s likely that some of how you are feeling is from the past.

Continued on Page 2 – Stages of Grief

Kali Munro, © 2001. The author of this article is Kali Munro, M.Ed., Psychotherapist. Visit her at www.KaliMunro.com