In my work with men and women who are going through a breakup, I find that often what they want to know first is…How long will this take? Will I ever get over this? When will I feel better? Those are complicated questions, with a unique answer for each person. However, I like to use this visual to describe what healing from a heartbreak looks and feels like.
Imagine you are standing at the sea shore, right now a wave comes in and crashes over you and pulls you out to sea. You are flailing your arms, being tossed around by the water and struggling to find your way to the surface. Now imagine you are standing at the sea shore and a wave comes in and brushes over your feet. You feel the sand shift and notice the chill of the water, but the wave goes back out to sea and you are left standing firmly on the beach, noticing the ebbs and flows but not being uprooted by them.
The second scenario is what healing looks like. While you are affected by thoughts, memories, feelings and maybe even longings, you learn to notice them, even honor and enjoy them, without being overcome. Here are some signs to look for, to know you have made strides towards healing your heartbreak. (**Don’t miss my important warning at the end of this post)
The ups and downs are less severe. Healing is a process, with good days and bad days. At the beginning, the difference between those good and bad days can be drastic. One day you “only” think about your ex 20 times but refrain from texting them, whereas the next day it’s hard to get out of bed due to overwhelming feelings of sadness and anger, and an uncontrollable urge to reach out to your ex. It is hard to imagine when you are in the middle of this, but gradually those shifts start to even out and you find yourself in a more comfortable “middle ground,” a place that feels like acceptance.
You have more of an understanding of why the breakup happened. Making sense of a painful experience is one of the keys to healing. We often know what incident or “final straw” was the catalyst for a breakup, but truly understanding the relationship dynamics and our own part in how it unraveled is very empowering and can lead you to being at peace with the outcome. It also gives you valuable information about yourself to take into your next relationship.
You find yourself looking ahead instead of backward. Right after a breakup it is almost impossible to imagine a future without your ex that could be meaningful, happy, enjoyable and satisfying. Instead it feels like you are doomed to a life without “your soulmate” and the one you were “meant to be with.” However, as you work through your feelings around the breakup and make more sense of what happened, moments of looking at the future with hope, promise and even excitement will start to sneak up on you.
You embrace the good and bad of your old relationship. Right after a break-up it is common to swing between either idealizing your ex, or villainizing them. Those rapid swings are hard to manage and add to the whole situation feeling chaotic and confusing. When you have moved well along the path to healing, you will start to notice that you can acknowledge and accept both the good and negative aspects of your ex and the relationship. This is a much more realistic view and it is genuine, so it feels better too.
You know yourself much better. Hopefully you have used the pain of this breakup to learn about yourself and grow, leaving you in a much better place to enter a new relationship. **This is where my warning comes in! It is entirely possible to bypass all of this and actually never heal from a breakup. Many people do this by quickly getting into a new relationship to fill the void and cover-up all the difficult emotions or not getting the support they need to adequately work through it. Of course, the emotions stay right where they are and continue to affect your life and relationships outside of your control. However, it is never to late to realize this and take steps to re-visit and heal those old wounds.
I firmly believe that our struggles hold the potential for so much growth, and that once healed they can be appreciated for positive changes in our lives. In my work with clients we work side-by-side to deal with this difficult process, creating a space where you can have a healthy, happy relationship and live a life you never imagined was possible. If you are ready to heal your broken heart, contact me to learn more about how we can work together at 424-302-8227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Stephanie Macadaan
I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Los Angeles. I love working with couples and individuals to find strength, growth and empowerment through their struggles and challenges.