If you’re going through a divorce or a breakup, let me tell you I’ve been there. Wherever you are in the process, I get how much this hurts. I know all too well that background emotional pain that only subsides when we’re asleep, or the longing to see that person walk through the door. The aloneness late at night and early in the morning. The inner conflict of needing to process what’s happening but worrying that I’ve exceeded my friends’ patience.
Of course we want to find ways to alleviate the pain. That’s normal and healthy human behavior! And yet, dear one, let me tell you that this is a sacred time. Your heart is fully awake. Your grief and loss is dark and painful, but it is also vulnerable and precious. And right now, it has the potential to be rocket fuel – fuel that you can harness to heal and to create something much better in your future. So use this! Make sure you don’t go through something like this again!
“Contrary to popular belief, time does not heal all wounds. We do.”
—Katherine Woodward Thomas,
from Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Even After
So how do we do that in the midst of this emotional pain? Here are the three most important mistakes to watch out for and what to do instead.
1. One of the biggest temptations but the most damaging mistake is to start dating right away. Even the act of creating that online dating profile alleviates a lot of the pain. Waiting to see who responds, then starting to chat and flirt creates newness, excitement and blessed relief. But the truth is, you are only masking the pain and pushing it aside. That grief and loss is still in you and it will re-emerge powerfully as soon as you feel that first moment of rejection or the first rebound romance fizzles out. I encourage you to resist the urge to date again right now. Find ways to comfort yourself through being with friends or a supportive and understanding community. Learn new ways to self-soothe and practice loving yourself using this free guided audio. This is what will help you move through the grief and emerge stronger and wiser.
2. The second biggest temptation and mistake is to use our all of our new “self-care practices” to avoid what we are actually feeling. It’s healthy to spend time with friends, to indulge in comfort food and a glass of wine, but only if we are still making time to be with our feelings and fully acknowledge them. When we aren’t willing to feel them, we have to push them aside, and while it may feel a bit better in the moment, ultimately this shuts us down! Over time, it becomes more and more scary to return to those feelings, so we don’t. Instead, we develop a tough skin that covers them up. On the outside, we look strong and resilient, but underneath it, we remain hurt and resentful. And our heart, our ability to love and be loved, the capacity to be vulnerable and love another’s vulnerability disappears too. What can you do instead? When these feelings are too big, get support! Find a coach, therapist or group (like this one) that really gets where you are. Learn new skills to gently acknowledge our own pain and deepen your capacity to be with these feelings (free guided audio here.) Not only will this allow the grieving process to complete itself, but you will receive the gifts of deeper capacity and compassion.
3. The third biggest mistake is to focus completely on what the other person did wrong. But anger is healthy, you say! Yes, of course it is. Everything is healthy in moderation. But when we are in pain and it seems as though another person caused that pain, it’s very tempting to focus 100% of our attention on that person and their actions. But here’s the thing: staying focused on the other person really just makes us feel worse! Why? Because we have absolutely no control over him/her or his/her actions and choices! The most important reason not to focus on the other person is that it doesn’t serve you. When we focus instead on ourselves, we reclaim our power! Turning the attention back to ourselves gives us the chance to offer ourselves some self-love and compassion, which feels better immediately. It also allows us to consider choices we made the past and different choices we might want to make in the future, which causes us to feel self-empowered again! So as difficult as it is, remember that there is power in turning our attention around. Surround yourself with people who are positive and who will encourage you to focus on yourself and your own future. Remove photographs and reminders from your home that bring up those feelings, even if only temporarily.
None of these suggestions are easy, I know. Simply put, you are going through one of the most difficult things we ever get to experience in life — the loss of loved one. Losing that person we trusted, we felt safe with, we counted on is like losing a part of ourselves. But this is what’s happening and we have the choice to either avoid the pain, OR to make sure we grow and heal, and we never go through something like this again! Choose yourself. Find the resources and support you need to create something good from this. It’s possible, I promise you.
Here are some resources to support you in your healing: