Common reactions immediately after a break-up are disbelief, shock, numbness and denial. This is followed by actually experiencing the sadness, anger and grief which are a normal and healthy part of letting go. It’s when people avoid feeling these feelings that they get stuck and fail to move on. The following suggestions can help a person move through their grief, so they can eventually move on.
Be Self-Nurturing When Experiencing Grief and Loss
Going through any intense loss is a strain on the body and mind so it’s extremely important to give oneself time out, eat nourishing foods, and do things one finds nurturing every day. For instance having a massage, spending time with supportive friends, going for a long walks in nature, or watching a good movie. Most of all avoid self-criticism and self blame. It’s important the grieving person reminds themselves that regardless of what happened they probably did the best they could at the time with the resources, experience and knowledge they had at the time.
Process Grief by Tuning Into the Body’s Feeling Sensations
The grieving person can ask himself “Where do I feel the ‘physical’ sensation of emotion in my body?”. This may sound strange and can be difficult at first but tuning into the body can safely and powerfully help process deeper unresolved emotions. For example one may feel a tightness in their chest and jaw, a tingling in their arms, or a butterflies in their stomach. Notice and track these physical sensations. This usually has a few different effects. Emotions may be more fully experienced and expressed, they may dissappear, or other feelings might come up. Whatever happens it’s important just to track them for as long as possible.
Writing a Letter to the Ex Without Sending it Can Help Process Grief
A letter is a great way to confront and vent feelings. It’s important not to censor what’s written in any way so it’s best not to show it to anyone and above all don’t judge what’s written no matter how bad or awful it is as this leads to more suppression and avoidance. Sometimes getting started is difficult so a good way to begin is to write down anything that comes to mind. When finished the letter can be burnt or another letter can be written. If writing a letter is too difficult to write then this may be a sign the person is not yet ready to write one which is fine, go slow and put it off for later.
Imagine Role-Playing Your feelings with Your Partner to Express Feelings and Gain Perspective.
An interesting exercise can be to imagine the ex sitting in a chair opposite. The bereaved person can then say everything they need to say. They then swap chairs and respond to their own comments as though they were their ex. They can then swap back and reply from the perspective of themself again. This dialogue can continue until they feel they’ve got everything off their chest.
See a Counsellor For an Objective Perspective
Allowing a professional to witness one’s feelings can help provide perspective on them and help one process them. It can also be healing to have someone you trust validate how one feels. A good counsellor also helps make sense of your experience by observing patterns between what happened in the relationship and aspects of personality, or unresolved past issues that may need attention. For example a person may attract partners who don’t value them because they felt unvalued by a parent and they haven’t learnt to value. Developing this kind of awareness and understanding is critical if you want to avoid repeating negative patterns in your relationships.
Remember just as break-ups are a part of life, so is grieving a natural, healthy process. There is no right or wrong in terms of how long it takes or what is felt so honor any feelings that come up and find a safe way to express them.