A friend of mine is going through a breakup at the moment. After a few years of really turbulent relationship, she finally managed the strength and courage to put an end to it.
She is also going through nasty wild mood swings. You know the ones when one day you’re steady on your feet, feeling confident “I can do this!”, ready to accept whatever new and exciting life has to offer you… and the next day you’re wallowing in your pillow, fearing will this suffering ever end, and through bitter tears you silently mumble “Why (me)?”…
Sounds familiar? Yes. The famous Ups and Downs. We’ve all been through them.
I know I have. When I look at my biggest heartbreaking break-up and how I’ve handled it, it was one hell of a roller-coaster ride. Break-ups have a way of getting to us in the ugliest way. When it comes to love and relationships, especially if not wanted, they are one of the worst and painful things that can happen to a person.
Until they pass. Yes of course, until they pass. Until they take their time. And you learn a lesson or two. Sometimes even surprise yourself with a statement like “Oh, this break-up turned out to be a good thing for me” … but it’s hard to imagine saying that while you’re hurting, right? While going through that whole process and waiting to finally – heal.
How long does it take?
My friend, currently at this stage, asked me the other day “How long do you think it’ll be this way? How long will I feel this way?”
I don’t like boxing people into patterns and even less telling them what to expect. Each and every one of us has its own way of going through these situations and I definitely wouldn’t want to suggest or impose any general rules or patterns. But there is one type of pattern a lot of people go through during a break-up and that is: The five stages of grieving (no, they are not the Poos from the headline but they sure make you feel bad).
Each stage takes its own time
The concept was first introduced by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying (1969) as a result of her work with terminally ill patients. The Kübler-Ross model is based on five emotional stages a person goes through when facing a terminal illness, a loss of a loved one, a loss of a relationship or any loss for that matter that causes our grief.
Knowing these stages can help you get a clearer sense of what you’re going through. They can serve you as guidelines and very well remind you that your grief isn’t endless.
They do not have to be in this exact order and most definitely aren’t the only range of emotions a person can experience. I don’t take them as a golden rule although a lot of my clients with whom I worked with were going through these stages.
So was I.
And so is my friend now.
The Five Stages we go through:
1st Stage: Denial – not fully accepting the idea that we just broke up.
We are thinking maybe things aren’t that serious, this isn’t final, maybe there’s a way around it or maybe it’s just a rough phase… The idea of a break up still hasn’t set in. There’s a part of us that’s still not accepting this break-up and we cling to hope that things will work out somehow.
2nd Stage: Anger – being angry at various things.
We tend to get angry at our ex-partner for not doing things the way we wanted, we might get angry at ourselves for not handling things better, angry at the whole situation, other people involved, the Universe or God, injustice, unfairness, past events, past decisions, you name it… In this phase it’s easier to feel the anger than sadness. It hurts but in a different way.
3rd Stage: Bargaining – time for deals and compromises.
Deals we are ready to make with ourselves and compromises to make with our partner. Suddenly, our previous relationship problems seem as small issues. We tell ourselves we can change, that our partner can change. We may be willing to accept things that we didn’t want to accept before, try new approaches. In this phase we think what we could have done to save our relationship.
4th Stage: Sadness/Depression – feeling helpless and powerless.
If there was any, our positive attitude is now gone. There is only room for our sadness to fill in the blanks and that cannot be hidden nor consoled. At this stage we have lost interest in many things, nothing seems to brighten our day and the only thing we feel is the burden of our loss. This is a very important stage because it allows us to over come and finally accept our loss. This is when our wounds are starting to heal.
5th Stage: Acceptance – accepting the break-up and your current life situation.
We finally manage to admit to ourselves that it’s really over. No more sliding between all listed stages, no more anger then sadness then some more anger then bargaining… It is over. And you know it. Doesn’t mean you jump for joy but it does mean you’ve finally accepted it. You are starting to take care of yourself. Slowly, but steady. Sadness is still here but now you can breathe.
Become aware and be kind to yourself
You will go through all of these stages back and forth. Everyone’s experience of loss is unique and there are no rules. No one can diminish the importance and the value of your relationship and what you feel you have lost. It’s the feelings of pain, anger, sadness and disappointment we all share with more or less similar level of intensity. So for some of you one stage will pass shortly while another one will take much longer. It’s important not to rush things and to listen to yourself.
Each stage has its own value and purpose. You should give your wounds time to heal. And while doing it, you should try to be your own best friend and take care of yourself the best way you can. Learn how to be your best friend after a break-up.
If you need advice or a talk, I would be more than willing to help. Feel free to contact me.
[40 days to Break-Free program]