Updated: Feb 14
A breakup's impact is frequently underestimated. Sometimes people — including those who are personally harmed by the split — believe that one should just "get over it and move on." It's not that simple. When you break up with someone, there is a loss. And when we experience a loss, it opens the door to grief. One of my relatives found it difficult to accept this after ending a long-term relationship with a partner. The fact that they had been separated for more than a year made it impossible for her to see why it was so tough to "get over it."
PsychCentral reported that one of the most challenging situations for people to handle is the end of an intimate relationship. In fact, according to a scale evaluating significant stressful events (The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory; Holmes and Rahe, 1967), divorce and separation in marriage rate as one of the top three stressful events in a person's life. Only the passing of the married partner comes after this stressor, even while ending a relationship is stressful in and of itself.
Furthermore, if the person previously had traumatic events or negative experiences, it can make the breakup even more difficult. No matter the kind of relationship, a majority of us have experienced breaking up with someone. For this reason, I've listed five things you should consider if you ever find yourself in this situation again.
Step 1: Acknowledge Your Grief
As mentioned, breaking up is difficult, and it can often be traumatic. It takes time for wounds to heal after a breakup because we have to allow ourselves time to grieve. Although grief is not a linear process, it is common for people to go through five stages of grief. According to Psychology Today, they are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Denial: Denial is your brain's default reaction to unwelcome news. It allows your heart to become used to new circumstances. You might believe your significant other is returning to you during the denial period. The denial stage lasts for varying lengths of time for various people.
Anger: It's acceptable to be upset with your ex-partner. You can be upset with them for hurting you or destroying your family. But, avoid making any hasty decisions that you might later regret during this stage. It's best to wait until you are less emotional. Allow yourself to express your rage, possibly via exercise or art. Another approach to letting your emotions out is to journal about them.
Bargaining: You will attempt to repair your relationship during the negotiating stage, possibly starting over as a friendship, but this could have disastrous results. It's important to acknowledge that romantic relationships contain features that don't go away immediately. In the immediate aftermath of a split, trying to reconnect with an ex will only make the pain of heartbreak worse. It is best to work on moving on by reestablishing yourself without your ex.
Depression: Sadness is common. At this stage of grief, you accept the reality that nothing will change. It's time to think about things. You may prefer to be alone. Although having time alone to reflect is important, it can also be helpful to lean on your network of friends and family to keep you from dwelling on your loss. In your moments of pain, withstand the desire to use medications, alcohol, or food. These patterns can be harmful. Instead, try your best to care for your basic needs like eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and exercising.
Acceptance: It's normal to have a soft spot in your heart for your loved ones. You become who you are via special relationships. In the final stage of grieving following a breakup, you will start to piece together what happened, accept the split, and realize your role in it. Use this as a chance to reflect on past errors and apply what you've learned to prevent similar ones from happening again. This is the healthiest method to move past a breakup and develop as a person. Even if the agony is not gone yet, the wounds will eventually mend.
Grief is a necessary part of the healing process. If we don't allow ourselves time to grieve, we can become stuck in our pain. Although allowing ourselves to grieve takes a lot of energy and hard work, it is worth it. And the good news is we don't have to go through this experience alone. Scripture reminds us that God is with us through the entire process.
Psalm 34:18 NIV says, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Remember, you are not alone. God reminds us in Psalm 34:15 NIV that "The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry." At every point of grief, God is available to comfort you. Take hold of His peace and embrace His provision that is there to support you during this tough time.
Step 2: Feel The Feelings
Losing a relationship means also losing the goals, dreams, and hopes you shared with your partner. When a relationship ends, many people experience sadness, loss, and a sense of failure. Your daily routine will likely shift significantly after a breakup, which can be overwhelming. Along with your schedule, who you spend time with might also alter. You can lose other connections with your ex-partner. If you continue to have connections to them, these connections might evolve in some way. There may be effects on your sense of self. With this being said, feel the feelings. They are real and they are legitimate. Many contradictory feelings will probably come up for you; denying or repressing them will make the grieving process more difficult and drawn out. At times, you may feel as if you want to punish the person who hurt you.
Although we should avoid judging our feelings, we can't allow our emotions to control our actions. Romans 12:19 ESV reminds us, Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." No matter how much the other person has hurt you, feel the feelings but put and keep them in God's hands. Matthew 11:28-30 ESV says, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." So, give yourself permission to feel your emotions while keeping in mind that they will pass.
Step 3: Take Care of Yourself
Nurture yourself by planning to do something calming and soothing on a regular basis.
Consider prayer, meditation, yoga, journaling, music, progressive muscle relaxation, walking, or anything else you find relaxing. While doing that, listen to what you need. Some people find it helpful to establish a new routine. It can be comforting to have a structure in your life. However, know that you have permission to wait. Avoid making big decisions, such as large purchases or leaving a job, while feeling very emotional.
It's also critical that we learn to say "no" when we don't want to do something. Additionally, remember that your needs will change from day to day (even from moment to moment). Emotions fluctuate. Therefore, healing from a break-up is not a smooth, linear process. Isaiah 43:2 NIV says, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."
You are not alone!
While you will feel better over time, it's generally not a steady process. Continue to trust in God, and He will bring you through.
Step 4: Take note of any lessons learned
One of my favorite quotes from Joyce Meyers is "there are treasures in your trials". Reflecting on this quote has helped me get through some tough times in my life. As we've already established, a break-up is a tough time. While you have no control over the other person, you do have control of yourself.
And, if I'm honest with myself, there are relationships that I got into where the red flags were so evident, but I was blinded by wanting to be in a relationship. But I paid for it later and learned some lessons in the process.
So, when you're ready, here are some questions to ask yourself:
Do you consult with God before committing to any relationships?
Do you notice a pattern in the types of people you seek to have relationships with?
How do you react to stress and conflict? Are there some different ways you could react that might improve your relationships with others?
How open are you to accepting others for how they really are instead of pushing them to be something you think they "should" be?
Do you tend to change yourself drastically when you are in a relationship to be who you think your partner wants you to be?
Do you feel in control of your feelings OR do they seem like they control you?
Are you able to clearly communicate your needs and desires to others?
Looking back, what were some things you might have done to contribute to the problems in the relationship?
When thinking about these questions, be honest with yourself and do not beat yourself up over past behavior. Instead, focus on what you can do to help yourself make better choices in the future. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths."
Step 5: Seek help and embrace the support
Reach out to friends and family who are supportive. Connecting with others will make you feel less alone. And try to find a balance between talking about the break-up and engaging in other topics/activities.
Prioritize time with those who support, value, and energize you and minimize time with those who don't seem to understand or support you.
If you lost a lot of friends when the relationship ended, work on meeting new people with whom you can develop new friendships.
Try new things; consider joining a student club/organization - don't isolate yourself!
Remember, your goal is to move on. It is essential to experience and express your feelings, but you don't want to get stuck in negative thinking. Over-analyzing the past and resenting your ex-partner will sap your energy and make it hard to move forward. Never underestimate the power of a healing community. God created us as relational beings and brought other people into our lives to help us get through the tough seasons in life.
Getting additional support from your church community, a counselor, or even a support group is highly encouraged to help you continue to move forward on your grief journey. If you are struggling with the pain of a breakup, our company offers Christian counseling to help you navigate this difficult season. Please visit our website for more information HERE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rev. Dr. Robina Wright-Alexander is an ordained minister where she serves as an associate pastor at New Faith Baptist Church International in Matteson, IL. She
earned her doctoral of education in Organizational Leadership at Argosy University in 2017. She is currently working on her master’s degree in divinity from
McCormick Theological Seminary, while also pursing her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling with a focus on trauma at Governors State University inUniversity Park, IL. Robina is passionate about helping trauma survivors to become the best versions of themselves. She is trauma healing intern at Faith on the Journey and an apprentice facilitator with the Trauma Healing Institute.