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How to deal with the stages of grief after a breakup

PUTTING EXPECTATIONS ON YOURSELF

Healing processes after break ups never go the way you plan them in your head.

Before I left for my European holiday, I put expectations on myself for where I would be in my healing journey. I told myself things like, “I’ll be fine, I’ll be moving on, having fun, going out and partying, meeting new people and maybe going on some new adventures with some nice guys”. Of course, the break up process is never that straightforward. It’s like a rollercoaster ride going up and down, and we can’t plan when we will suddenly be “okay” or “over it”, or put a deadline on our healing process.

I had a vision of how it would be when I got to Europe, and then when I got there that vision was quickly dashed. I told myself I was ready to go partying, but when I did I felt really anxious. I wasn’t in a place where I wanted to party or go out and meet new people. The expectations I set on myself were completely different to where I was really at. I started judging myself for how I was feeling and I was even told, “why are you letting this affect you when you’re in Europe?” and to “just let it go” – but it’s so much easier said than done. You can’t just completely switch off your emotions and it’s certainly not healthy to do so either. So, I realised I had to allow myself to feel whatever it was that I was feeling, and let myself do what I felt like doing. I chose to put my expectations to the side and honour where I was truly at. 

Putting expectations on yourself never ends well. Rather than honouring, accepting and being okay with where I was, I was pushing everything away and saying, “no, I shouldn’t be feeling like this –  I’m in Europe, why am I sad? I should be doing this and feeling that”, which made me reject my true emotions and suppress my deeper feelings. This is not the way to deal with our emotions when they don’t meet our expectations, and only stunts our progress in healing. It’s so important to take away all expectations of when you should feel weird, how you should be and in what stage, after however many months – because healing is not quantifiable like that. Instead, you need to go with the flow and allow yourself to be where you are, without the expectations of being somewhere else.

GRIEF

Breakups feel like a funeral because you’re grieving.

You are grieving the death of a relationship, the death of what could be, the death of a dream. You are also grieving the loss of a person who is still alive but will no longer be a part of your life, so it is a really hard situation to be in for many of us. A break up can come very suddenly, too. For me personally, just a few days before my break up we were talking about the future. Investing in a property together, moving to Singapore for 2 months, and literally planning our future together. Then, I found out about things that left me with no choice but to break up with him. So for me, this came out of nowhere because things were really progressing forwards and after having a rough patch for a few months, things were actually looking great. We were excited about the future, and then all of a sudden, everything just came crashing down. Relationships don’t always wind down in a way where you see it coming – so for many of us, it can be a huge shock, because we don’t expect to lose a person so suddenly.

PROCESSING THE FIVE STAGES OF GRIEF AFTER A BREAKUP

Elisabeth Kubler Ross created a model of grief that describes five stages of grief, which most people go through when they are grieving a loss. The first stage of denial gives us time to adjust to what has just happened, and helps us face our new reality. Right after my break-up I was in denial because I had no idea how to face my new reality, so I was talking about it like we were still together. I just had no idea how I was going to deal with it.

The second stage is anger. After denial you usually move into the angry phase, and underneath the anger is all the pain. In this stage it’s natural to feel abandoned by your now-ex partner and just be angry at the world and the people around you. After that comes the bargaining stage, and during that you will think about all the “what if”s and “if only”s. For example, what if he did XYZ? What if I hadn’t done this one thing? This stage has a lot of overthinking and overanalyzing. You then move onto the grief stage of depression. That’s when you grieve on a way deeper level than you had before, and often it feels like you’re going to be in this state forever. 

In the beginning of my trip to Europe I was in the bargaining days, now I’ve been through that and experienced the depression stage. Afterwards comes acceptance, and that’s the last stage. It means accepting the reality that the relationship has ended and recognising that this new reality is your current and permanent reality. This is all about readjusting and starting to live life again. When it comes to the five stages of grief, you don’t necessarily have to feel them all in this order. If you listen to the first few episodes of the break up series in my podcast, you will probably hear that I was in the acceptance stage back then – I had fully accepted reality, I was happy moving forward. Of course it was difficult, just like every breakup is, but at the time it was easier than I thought it would be. It wasn’t until I went to Europe that it hit me again, and that unpredictable journey through the grief stages is all part of the process. 

Some people go through the five stages of grief in order, some people don’t, others feel them all in one week, others stay mainly in one state and then feel a little bit of the other stages. Each person’s experience is unique and individual. 

If you’re going through a breakup, it can feel incredibly lonely – that’s why I created FREE breakup resources to help you feel like a QUEEN again!

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