Each wave gets you closer to a full recovery
Throughout my life, I’ve experienced the death of several people I loved, had three significant breakups, and been through a divorce.
The grief that I experienced when each relationship ended was exactly like the grief I endured when the people that I loved died.
The pain of a breakup can not be taken lightly or minimized. A 2018 study found that the end of a romantic relationship significantly predicted suicide in people aged 18–65. Anyone who has experienced the searing pain of losing their partner can resonate with how grief can push people to feel absolute despair and hopelessness.
Feelings this extreme and overwhelming need a relational home. You can barely function when you experience this type of pain with no way to deal with it.
With love relationships and attachments being almost expected of us as we mature into young adults, how do we navigate this emotional terrain with courage and open hearts?
We can do it by feeling confident we will be able to handle it if it ends.
As young people venturing out into the world of relationships, we aren’t taught how to manage the feelings that come with the end of a romantic attachment.
Considering that it is almost a given that you will experience a breakup during the course of your life, it seems almost negligent that this type of relational knowledge is not explicitly taught.
Whether you are experiencing the end of a short-term relationship or a thirty-year marriage, there are physical symptoms we will all experience as we process our loss.
Bonding And Attachment All relationships are based on attachment. Some of us struggle more than others to let go once an attachment forms, but generally, everyone who finds themselves loving someone will feel a deep sense of loss when a relationship ends.
If you’ve never experienced deep loss before, you may not understand what is happening to you or why you feel so incredibly low.
In extreme cases, people have taken their own lives because they can’t bear the overwhelming feelings that engulf them when they lose someone they are so attached to. They literally can not imagine a life without their partner and experience feelings of panic at the intensity of the pain that grips them over and over again, sometimes for years.
Ride The Wave After the end of my last relationship, I was experiencing intense emotional pain. I recognized it as grief and felt sick that I had to go through it again after surviving the excruciating pain of my divorce.
At first, I was overwhelmed when I got knocked sideways on a particularly bad day. But something interesting happened when I started to view the pain like an ocean wave.
Waves rise and fall with a rhythm. Waves can be tempestuous or lulling. During a storm, they can rage and crash. But eventually, the storm passes, and they will return to gentle lapping.
It’s the same with breakup pain.
Think of the first month or so as the ‘storm.’ You will be smashed about by overwhelming feelings of missing your ex or of never being able to feel joy again. Sometimes the pain is so intense that it feels like physical pain.
In those moments when I found myself caught in the grip of grief, I would reach for my emotional ‘surfboard.’
What happens if you resist and try to swim away from a big wave? You get completely rag-dolled and wiped out. On the flip side, if you ride directly into the wave with confidence, you are more likely to catch it and glide safely out the other side.
Here’s how to safely ride a wave of grief;
First, say yes to it. Yes, I accept the rising pain in my body. (When we try to avoid pain, our bodies tense, and it makes the pain worse).
If you want to cry, don’t hold back. Don’t brush it off. Don’t tell yourself to think about something else. Lean into the pain and integrate it into your body.
Make space for the pain — Imagine your body expanding to make room for the emotions. Let it rise up, just like a giant swell in the ocean.
Observe the pain, and notice where it hurts in your body. Allow it to flow.
Breathe deeply — Inhale for as long as you can, exhale, and release. Do this several times as the pain is moving through your body.
Picture the pain moving up through your body and out the other side. As the intensity of it fades, notice how it has come up and then gone again.
You can say things to yourself like:
What I’m feeling right now is grief. It is a normal and appropriate response to what I am going through. Pain will come, and pain will go. If I allow the space for it to come up, it will move through me and out the other side. When it happens again, I will repeat the same process and I will be ok.
As the pain subsides, notice that, for now, it has eased. You feel better than you did went the wave first arrived. Each wave will get less and less in intensity until you experience your last one.
This too shall pass — Corithians
Takeaway The end of a relationship is a test of endurance. Short or long-term, whether you initiated the breakup or not, there is always the process of letting go that has to occur in order to fully recover.
By knowing how to handle the intense feelings we all experience after a breakup, you can be fearless and know that you will safely grieve and make it out the other side to a full recovery, ready to love and be loved again.