“Absence, the highest form of presence” - James Joyce
In any relationship, if there’s one thing we want to avoid at all costs, it is to be separated from the person we love. Be it a breakup or a divorce, the emotional pain one feels is unprecedented. The loss tends to turn our world around. That dreaded day has come when we have to continue our life knowing that our loved one is no longer a part of it. The person we love/once loved is out there in the world, leading their life and we are no longer a part of it, we are no longer the reason for our loved one’s joy.
Sometimes, the multitude of feelings one goes through during this period becomes unbearable. There will be periods of intense anger, sadness, & guilt, lots of self-doubts and also uncertainty about the future. If it was an unhealthy relationship, we may even feel a sense of relief (which is entirely normal and valid). Allowing oneself to feel all this is distressing. It’s important to remind oneself that these feelings don’t last forever and are essential to the healing process.
In her book Emotional Inheritance: A Therapist, Her Patients, and the Legacy of Trauma, Galit Atlas wrote about Separation.
“Separations are emotional deaths that we have to mourn. In breakups, we always lose more than just the person we love. We lose a life, a future, everything that we have dreamed about and hoped for. And while we know whom we have lost, we might not understand what we have lost”.
And the worst loss is the one in which you don’t know what you have lost.
When we grieve a relationship post a breakup or divorce, we go through multiple losses. We grieve the loss of companionship, the loss of shared experiences, support (emotional, intellectual and even financial) and shared hopes, plans & dreams (which sometimes cause greater suffering than practical losses).
Coping with Separation & Divorce
- Feeling all the Feels - Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed, and we may actively look for ways to avoid or minimize it. Instead, we can learn healthier ways to gradually get used to some of these emotions and be ok with them. It might look like (but not limited to) noticing one’s body sensations, writing in a journal, engaging in pleasurable activities and even having one’s comfort food. These activities help us recognise and acknowledge our feelings which is a crucial first step to coping.
- Moving Forward - It can feel like there is no end in sight. It can be hard for us to look beyond our struggles. However, these feelings are like waves, they come and go. Initially more frequently and intensely, but over time, less so. It’s helpful to remind ourselves that it’s necessary to move through the pain of grief to move forward.
- Embracing Support - Often we spend a lot of time analysing what went wrong and we can get caught in negative spirals of self-blame and self-doubt. Connecting with others is key to restorative practice to help us feel supported and gain perspective. If the people around do not understand your struggles, then consider seeking professional help from a Therapist.
- Caring for Oneself - Breakup and divorce is life altering. It’s vital to care for oneself during this stressful time. Maintaining a routine (which includes eating and sleeping well) will help counter feelings of uncertainty and loss. Catering to one’s needs and actively engaging in activities gives a sense of meaning that helps to calm and soothe oneself. Taking it slow and being gentle towards oneself goes a long way.
- Building a new life - The end of one relationship is also a new beginning. One can utilize this shift to pursue new hobbies and meet new people. This helps to stay in the present instead of feeling stuck in the past. Falling in love, and building a relationship takes its own time. Likewise, grieving and mourning the loss of the relationship as well as the person follows its own timeline.
Once we have healed enough, we might be ready to consider forming new relationships. But it’s not as easy as it sounds. We may hesitate to get into a new one as we don’t want to feel the same pain again. Knowing that the next relationship won’t be the same as the previous one is not enough to push forward. Introspecting what worked and didn’t work helps develop an understanding of what we are looking for in the next relationship. By increasing our self-awareness, we can have healthier relationships as we move forward in life.
Questions you can ask yourself:
- What have I learned from this relationship?
- How will I apply my learning in my future relationships?
- What kind of partner do I want to be?
- Who is the kind of person I want to be with?
- What do I need to learn to do better for my future relationships?
Every relationship has the ability to transform us. The end of the relationship doesn’t mean the end of the world (even though it might feel like it). In relationships, we grow and change. And it’s our responsibility to take the learning and be a better person in the next relationship. After all, love and loss are two sides of the same coin.
Loss is a universal feeling that everyone experiences at some point in their lives. You don’t have to suffer alone while support is available. Download our app ‘The Able Mind’ or visit our website (https://theablemind.com/) to connect with a counsellor. Lighten Your Load and move forward now…Let us show you how!
Manoj T. (Consultant Psychologist, The Able Mind)