A client recently asked me about the best way to handle a break-up. I don’t think there is a best way, rather ways that are healthier for you and those that are not. Many of you may have heard of the Kubler-Ross model of grief. It is typically taught as applied to terminally ill patients and their loved ones, but it applies to the end of relationships as well. The stages of grief associated with this model are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages can be applied to the world in general or directed toward the one who broke your heart. How you handle the break-up will likely change depending on which stage of grief you are in at the time.
Denial: You try to shut out the reality of the break-up and develop a false, preferred reality.
“It’s not really over – we are just on a break.”
Anger: angry at yourself, others, the one who broke up with you, a higher power, and all of the above.
“It’s all my fault!” or “It’s all your fault!” or “It’s all his fault!”
Bargaining: negotiating with yourself or others to get the relationship back.
“I’ll be nicer if we get back together.” or “Can we, at least, be friends?”
Depression: sadness, regret, fear and uncertainty. May become silent, isolated and spend much of time crying or sullen.
“I have nothing to live for.” or “I’ll never meet anyone else” or “I will die alone.”
Acceptance: coming to terms with the end of the relationship.
“This is hard, but I will be OK.”
Healthy things you can do when a relationship ends:
- Spend time with family or friends (pretty much anyone who thinks you are awesome)
- Allowing yourself time to “just be sad”
- Acknowledging both the good and the bad about the relationship. Try not to create some fantasy where it was the best thing ever if it was not
- Keep busy with hobbies or other interests to keep your mind distracted
Unhealthy (please don’t do these) things people do when a relationship ends:
- Drugs and/or alcohol so they don’t have to think
- Sleeping around to numb themselves
- Stalking or any other obsessive behavior – please don’t monitor their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (you really don’t want to know)
- Agreeing to “unagreeable” things to get their ex back (i.e., give up friends or family, accept drug abuse or criminal activity, etc)
- Any form of self-injurious behaviors (cutting, burning, suicide)
- Begging or other forms of self-degradation (maintain your dignity, if possible)
The most important thing you can do is find ways to take care of yourself.