While I acknowledge the fact that February is the month of love, I cannot ignore the aftermath of the previous month’s reputation for the “Break-Up month.” If your relationship was a causality during the month of January, you are not alone. January has twice as many breakups than any other month of the year. One out of every five people have had a breakup occur in the month of January. I feel there is a great need to discuss this downside to relationships. If it is not dealt with appropriately, the emotional baggage is carried from one failed relationship to another; cursing the new relationship from the begging. As Americans, we are not taught how to appropriately grieve. We are taught to be tough, refusing to acknowledge these hurt emotions, and cover up the hurt with a new relationship.
When a relationship is coming to its end, both parties will experience the stages of grieving. Some will experience these stages before the break up and others will after. The stages include denial, bargaining, depression, anger, and finally acceptance. Denial may appear in the form of one party believing a problem will get better, not even acknowledging there is a problem, or believing the couple will get back together. Bargaining occurs when a person acknowledges the problem and promises to change to make the relationship better. Even if the couple does get back together after this, usually there are feelings of resentment and insecurity issues, that make it very difficult for the couple’s relationship to be repaired. The next stages of depression and anger last the longest and overlap each other.
These are the most difficult stages to go through; depression and anger are emotions that we try to avoid. In order to heal, a person must experience these emotions and have catharsis, releasing these emotions. This may occur through journaling, talking, expressing emotions through artwork, etc. Some individuals may even need to seek professional help through a life coach or a therapist, to help them through these stages. As the person works through these emotions she will overall notice a decrease in intensity of the emotions, and will come to the point of acceptance. At the point of acceptance, a person will no longer experience the negative emotions when thinking about the lost relationship. She can think about the relationship as a phase in her life, and hopefully be able to reflect on the things she learned about herself and the type of relationship she wants long-term.
There are also a few guidelines to follow to help a person minimize the aftermath and length of the grieving process.
1) Delay making significant changes in life – A person usually does this in hopes it will make her feel better. It is very important to delay these decisions, since emotions are trumping logic at this time. The rash decision does not accomplish what it is was intended to and it usually causes more of a mess.
2) Focus on Maintaining Physical Health (It helps with the mental health too!) It is important for a person to get ample sleep during this time, as REM sleep helps us process these negative emotions. Cardiovascular activity is extremely helpful. It causes our brain to release endorphins improving the mood to decrease depression and/or anger. Sometimes depression can cause an increase in appetite for some and decrease in others. It is important to eat healthy during this time. A lack of a healthy diet can increase the chemical imbalance in the brain.
3) Get rid of (or at least put away) the mementos- Holding onto mementos will only cause the person to stagnate in the denial stage of the grieving process.
4) Find a Hobby- After a break up there is usually a lot of empty time in the schedule. If it is not filled productively a person may use the time to fixate on the loss. This will also help a person rebuild their identity separate from the relationship she just lost.
5) Schedule Specific Time to Grieve- I usually recommend clients to grieve at night. Grieving can cause significant emotions to come up, and it may be difficult to recover from during the day. If it is done at night, REM sleep helps the person recuperate from these emotions, getting through their day more productively.
6) It is important for a person to understand that their emotions are normal. There will be some days that she feels like she is getting over the relationship, and other days she will feel like she is moving backwards. As long as a person allows herself to grieve and does not fixate on the relationship, she will make progress and heal from the relationship.
During my dating days, my friends would criticized me for falling for guys too fast, but they followed with the compliment that I bounce back pretty fast too. These were the techniques that had gotten me through those tough times. I now share them with those of you who experienced a loss in January or any other month. I also share it with those of you who are in a relationship and know you may need to end it in order to find the love of your life. I have been there too. At a point I was in a relationship that was not progressing, I stood with a Dove chocolate in my hand and prayed to God for advice. I opened the wrapper and it said “In order to discover new oceans, you must have courage to lose sight of the shore.” I was discouraged at the time, but I knew what I had to do. I knew I had to let go of the relationship and heal. It was just enough time to heal before I discovered the new ocean; my husband.