Our lover/partner/husband leaves us. We are devastated. Hurt past hurt. We can’t eat or sleep. We are so sad, disappointed and confused. At some stage or another, most of us have been there. Here are some tools that may help, if this is familiar.
Firstly, we need to realize that this is normal. We are suffering from grief. The relationship and our dreams have literally died and we are in the grieving process. The five stages of grief and loss are;
1. Denial and isolation.
People who are grieving do not necessarily go through all of the stages in the same order, or experience all of the stages. But just realizing that what we are experiencing is normal, can be helpful.
It is also useful to realize that we don’t actually feel 100% sad, all of the time. The sadness tends to come in waves. In the beginning (if we observe ourselves) we will notice that we have 5 minutes, every now and then, when we are not feeling bad, and/or thinking of the other person. Then, after a few days, we will start to have 10 minutes here and there, when we feel ok. Then a week or so later, we will have blocks of 15 minutes or so, when we are feeling ok. The periods of time we feel ok, grow slowly, until we are once again functioning normally. The length of time this process takes depends on many things including; the strength of the attachment to the other person, the length of time we were together and the amount of resilience we have.
Our feelings are caused by our thoughts. Therefore, the more work we can do on our thoughts, the less emotional pain we will have to go through. Sometimes it is helpful to see a life coach, councillor, or psychologist to help us do this thought work. Particularly if we are feeling sad or depressed for any length of time. They can give us tools to help us cope.
We need to accept that the other person was allowed to leave. We cannot control them. Our job is to control our own thoughts and emotions, and the things we do with our own life. At times, this sucks! But it is true. Other people get to think, do and feel whatever they want. Accepting this is often hard, but a necessary step to healing.
One of the most useful things we can do is to change our environment. If we are living in the same house where we lived together, we are surrounded by memories. This is not helpful. We need to get some boxes and take all the things that are related to the person, put them in a box and get them out of the house. Put them in the garage, give them to charity, burn them. It does not matter. Just get them out of the house. Now we set about redecorating the house. Move the furniture and/or buy new furniture. Change all of the pictures on the walls. Change the duvet, paint the walls, hang new curtains. Make it a beautiful new space that we can enjoy and that has no memories attached to anything. Or alternatively, we could move to a new apartment/house. Start fresh (if this is an option).
When we have a partner/boyfriend leave, our brain forgets all the bad stuff and only remembers the good stuff. That is because our brain is wired to resist any change. Someone leaving is change. Our brain wants us to go back to the way things were. It does not get that this is not an option. For this reason, our brain throws up all of these tricks that make us feel bad. One of the ways it does this is by forgetting the bad stuff, and only remembering the good stuff. In his book “How to heal a broken heart” Paul McKenna suggests making a list of 4 times when our partner/spouse was awful. Everyone drives us mad some times. So we have to search our brain for 4 examples and write them down in detail. Include how we felt, what was said, what we thought. We have to make each one as vivid a memory as we can.
Now we practise remembering each of these 4 examples, one after the other. Run them through our mind. Speed up the time that we take to run through the whole 4 examples. Practise doing it over and over. Then make a decision that any time we find ourselves daydreaming about the other person, we run the “bad-time” examples through our mind repeatedly. This exercise helps us realise that the other person was not perfect and the relationship was not all roses.
Another way to help ourselves feel better is to get in touch with our family and friends, that we know are supportive. Don’t be too proud to lean on them during this time. We need to ask for help. One day they will need support for some reason and we will get to repay the kindness. But for now, it is our turn. Even if we don’t want to spend time with other people, it is exactly what we need to do.
Lastly, being kind to ourselves is a must. During this period, do things that we enjoy. Spend time with friends, take walks by the beach, read books, watch movies; whatever it is that we find most enjoyable. We must also talk kindly to ourselves. We must not indulge in thoughts such as ‘if only I had tried harder/done something/said something/been thinner/been blond…, etc. Instead, we must imagine we are talking to our best friend. What would we say to her? Talk to ourselves like this.
Eventually the pain will pass and we will move on. We will be happy again. Life will be fun. And we will probably end up in a better relationship, particularly if we have taken this opportunity to do some work on ourselves.
Note: if the sadness or depression persists, talk to a professional. There are lots of other practical and healthy tools we can use to help us get through this time and feel better.
Written by Lynda Timperley Btch, Dip Psych, Cert Life Coaching.
Acknowledgement. Paul McKenna “How to mend a broken heart”