Fixing a broken heart
Shattered dreams and broken hopes – painful memories and dark thoughts. How does one survive the agonising effects of a broken relationship? For a while, you built your world around this person and he or she was your main source of happiness and inspiration. So, how do you go on without this love in your life?
Whether abrupt or gradual, initiated by you or your partner, a break-up is unquestionably a very painful experience. However, as bleak as things may seem, it must be remembered that eventually the pain and hurt do lessen – and time really does heal. There was a life before this person, and there will be one afterwards. One of the best moments you experience is waking up and realising that you can stand on your own again. But things are easier said than done, and everyone has a different healing process.
It is important to first let yourself go through the grieving period, says Santushi Amarasuriya, Psychologist and Lecturer, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo. A break-up is the 'death' of a relationship. Therefore it could have a similar emotional effect as a death, and you can go from the initial feeling of shock and denial, to disbelief and anger. You may go through a stage of bargaining with yourself – wondering whether to get back to your partner or not. Some may slip into depression, losing interest in daily activities and becoming immersed in their own sadness.
Your pain is as deep as the degree to which you have invested yourself in the relationship, emotionally, spiritually and financially. As such, you could have an identity crisis where this individual was a significant part of your self-concept – of whom you perceived and identified yourself to be.
Allow yourself time, but do take steps to put your life together and focus on yourself and your strengths. After a while, you will be able to look back on this time in your life and see how it has helped you to grow and mature as a person – for now, concentrate on healing and moving on.
Play an active role in your healing Process
It is important to take responsibility for your own healing and identify what methods work best for you, says Ms. Amarasuriya. Acknowledge your feelings, and do your best to deal with them.
Each person has a different coping mechanism – some go back to their faith, some cry and get emotional, others express their pain through creative ways such as writing or painting and some may find relief in sports or physical activities. Still others may find comfort in the constant company of friends. Use your experience in coping with difficult situations in the past to find out what would help you the most.
Understand that it is not something that went wrong with you, but with the relationship, and do not waste your energy with self-blame or anger. Try not to feel victimised – you probably have more inner strength than you think.
Sometimes significant moments, such as regular times during the day when your ex used to call, or special days such as birthdays and anniversaries can be especially difficult – make an extra effort to divert your thoughts by going out or getting involved in other activities, advises Ms. Amarasuriya.
If you initiated the break-up, there may be moments when you are not sure that you did the right thing. Writing a letter explaining your reasons, she says – even if you never send it – can make things clearer in your own mind.
Give closure to the relationship by putting away the mementos – cards, gifts and letters. After some time, you may be able to look at these and recall the happy memories of the relationship without bitterness – and without pain.
Mobilise social support
Now that the person who may have been the closest to you is no longer around, it will feel hard at first to confide in and draw comfort from your other friends.
However, you may be surprised at how much lighter you feel after a long talk and cry on a friend's shoulder.
Sometimes it may be difficult to face a group of friends soon after the break-up, says Ms. Amarasuriya – you may feel embarrassed or uncomfortable if they all knew about the relationship. It may help to have a close friend with you to break the news. Be open to support, but do not feel pressured to answer questions if you don't want to.
Don't fall into a rebound relationship
Right now, when you are at your most vulnerable, is probably the easiest time to 'fall in love' with someone else.
The care and comfort offered by another person can easily be mistaken for love.
However, it is important to let yourself recover from the break-up before jumping into another relationship, cautions Ms. Amarasuriya, or else you will have unresolved feelings and simply end up taking the emotional baggage from one relationship to another.
Seek professional help
At times when the pain is unbearable, and you find yourself experiencing the symptoms of depression such as loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, and constant feelings of guilt and sadness, it may help to talk to a counsellor or psychologist.
There are many counselling centres in the country that you can visit or call, and you will be amazed at the difference it makes in your own attitude. Perhaps life will never be the same again; perhaps the memories of your loss will always be there.
But, with time, you will discover new strengths and a maturity that will guide you to an even more fulfilling relationship in future.