Moving on after a relationship ends can be one of the biggest emotional struggles you’ll ever face. Grief for your loss and fear of change prevent you from seeing that this break-up could possibly be a blessing in the long run.
When I began to fully accept that my marriage was over, the real work of healing began. Anger or depression can consume us in the beginning when emotions are raw and events are fresh, but further down the line there is an expectation to move on with life. This is when the hard emotional work can set in because accepting that the marriage is over doesn’t mean that you’re suddenly, magically, OK.
Old issues can get triggered again, past wounds can reopen when you least expect them to and often the feelings get suppressed because you’re expected to be “over it by now”. So what do you do when you’ve had enough of the emotions which keep you stuck?
Well, firstly, don’t deny them; always give yourself permission to feel whatever sadness or anger has come up, however old it is. Listen to what the emotion is trying to tell you; in my experience, the pain which arises from the divorce is teaching us what we need to know to make us ultimately stronger and happier. By looking inwards, I discovered that I was being shown what I needed to get through this. My three key ingredients to healing were:
Perspective – the way we see a situation has the most significant bearing on the emotional outcome of it. We can choose to see the break-up as the worst thing that could happen to us and remain in the pain, or we can choose to use it as an opportunity to move our lives in a different direction. Gaining a new perspective amid grief is not easy, but it is possible; it starts with making the shift from seeing change as “bad” to seeing it as “opportunity”.
Another useful perspective is to look at all relationships with the view that they are intended to serve a purpose; to help us learn what we need to know about ourselves. So, once the relationship has taught us all we need to know, and no longer serves us, the end can feel less devastating and more inevitable, and perhaps even valuable. Shifting perspective is not intended to diminish the genuine pain we feel or put a falsely positive spin on life, but when grief has left us empty and hopeless, looking at a situation in a new way can really help us to move forward.
Self-Love – this involves the practice of making yourself a priority in your world and realising that your life is not over because one person has left it. Self-love means putting your own needs first, in a way that you might not previously have done during your relationship. It can mean taking steps towards what you want from life now; rediscovering your interests and passions, looking at what makes you happy as an individual and believing that you deserve to have it.
Sometimes before you can show yourself this kind of love, self-acceptance is the first goal; If you can simply learn to accept that you are ok as you are, despite any perceived flaws and despite your failed relationship, then you are on the road to healing.
Forgiveness – this can often be the trickiest of the three but is a vital part of healing. It helps to think of forgiveness as an act of self-help rather than something you do for the other person. It’s not about letting anyone “off the hook” for any wrong they did you but is a way of ensuring that a past situation does not define you forever; it’s a gift of peace to yourself. Forgiveness is not about saying a situation or treatment was ok; it’s about accepting that it happened, that it can’t be changed, but that you will not let resentment affect the rest of your life. Forgiveness is not a one-time act but an ongoing process of letting go of the past and allowing yourself to move forward. Far from making us weak, the ability to forgive is empowering and freeing – it means that the memory of that person, and whatever they did, is no longer keeping us emotionally trapped.
These three principles formed the basis for turning my life around after the emotional turmoil of my divorce. Always remember: however hard your break-up feels at the beginning, you have the power to turn it into something that makes your life happier and more meaningful.
Want to learn more about how to make these shifts from heartbreak to a happier more fulfilling life?
Break Up and Shine is now available from Amazon in paperback and e-book.