Whenever I write about break-up and divorce as an opportunity for growth, I am very mindful of the fact that we need to allow grief first. When we heap positive expectations or goals on top of unexpressed sorrow it doesn’t serve us in the long run. You have to let yourself feel and express your emotions.
However, at some point we have to draw a line; we need to recognise the difference between healthy expression of grief and simply being stuck in our pain. Moving on is such an appealing goal, but it is very difficult because it requires willingness to look within and make changes. To avoid this we might (unconsciously) begin to retreat more deeply into heartbreak, as uncomfortable as it is, because it provides an excuse not to do the hard work of moving into an unknown and potentially scary new future without our partner.
So, how do we know when it’s time to haul ourselves out of the rut of emotional turmoil?
Each person is different, but a good indicator is when you notice that the same emotions are coming up again and again but never being resolved. You might find that nothing useful is being expressed by the emotion; that you are simply obsessing over the same angry or painful thoughts, but no longer expressing tears or any other form of emotional release. Perhaps you notice that other areas in your life, unconnected to your break-up, are starting to suffer (work, other relationships, health).
When you find yourself sick and tired of your own misery it’s time to get out of the rut of grief. For me, change came from frustration and fear of the thought that if I didn’t do something, I might feel this way for ever: resentful; hopeless; lonely. I grew weary of feeling pain every day because my husband had left. I saw that my energy was being completely drained by this unhappiness; this was precious energy I could have spent focusing on myself and my children.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful
than the risk it took to blossom”
In my book Break Up and Shine, I talk about the extra stages I discovered beyond the classic cycle of grief. These pushed me from simply “getting through” the process of grieving to actively taking myself to a better place. I describe the stages as:
- Learning -recognising what the former relationship and its ending might be teaching you about your life
- Healing – being willing to look at the lessons and assess what needs to change going forward
- Growing – noticing how your mindset shifts and changes through having a new perspective and greater self-awareness
- Flourishing – the point at which you realise that your life can actually better than before because of your divorce
This process will take you out of your entrenched beliefs and emotions about your divorce and into a new life. And here’s the pep talk: No one else can do this for you; no one can rescue you from your grief (unless you temporarily find someone on the rebound, but that’s never the long-term solution!). You have to want and choose to move forward despite how hard it feels. You have to want to grow and flourish more than you want to be a victim of your broken heart. You have to want to be happy more than you want to blame your ex or regret your past choices .
When you decide that you want to take charge of your life, you will sometimes slip back emotionally. You might take a positive step forward, then find that anger, resentment or sadness pull you two steps back. This is normal and it doesn’t matter; eventually the forward steps become strides and the backward steps become insignificant.
Getting over a break-up or divorce can feel impossible, but you don’t have to do this alone; find friends or family who will support you. If you don’t have those people in your life, look for help locally or online; you could consider joining our growing Break Up and Shine Support Group on Facebook. Keep going because your relationship might be over, but your life is not! What emerges on the other side of a painful break-up can be precious and wonderful, but it’s up to you to do the work to get there.