AS COVID has taken so many things from us, it shouldn’t be a surprise that one of those things are healthy relationships. I was asked by a reader to discuss the above topic as they claimed that distance due to COVID, as well as different beliefs in terms of safety and precaution, ended a relationship that was thought to be strong and real. I’m sure that many of you have ended relationships during this pandemic and I hope this piece may possibly alleviate even some of that pain.
To feel heartbreak is to feel a deep emotional loss. The first step is always acceptance – accept that you are hurting as we are supposed to hurt after such a trauma, it’s the only healthy way to overcome it.
While all human experiences differ, the universal symptoms of heartbreak are persistent sadness, anger, crying, isolation and overthinking, as well as an inability to eat or sleep (or eat and sleep too much). It really does feel never-ending. I actually think people go through the five stages of grief during the process of a break-up. These are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, finally, acceptance. For instance, during a typical breakup, we don’t want to believe that it’s actually over, which causes us to make unrealistic promises to both our partners and ourselves. We then become angry with or blame the breakup on either our partners or ourselves.
We may then plead with our former significant other to try one last time to make things work. When this does not have our desired effect, we fall into the deep sadness that accompanies this loss until enough time has passed for us to finally accept the situation and move forward.
While time really is the best medicine, in this case, some things can be done to speed up the recovery process.
The thing about psychology is that it’s a form of science and there has been research conducted to support the effectiveness of everything I’m about to mention — all you have to do is apply it where and when you can. A particular research study conducted in the United States now comes to mind.
Researchers decided to test three methods to determine which led to a decrease in negative feelings towards an ex-partner. They recruited newly single participants and divided them into four groups. The first group was asked to think negative things about their exes — these were the things that really bothered them while they were in the relationship. The second group was asked to accept the feelings they were currently having without beating themselves up –- giving them sentences to read such as, “It’s ok to love someone I’m no longer with.” The third group was asked to think about things that generally made them happy — things that did not involve their past significant others at all.
The fourth and final group was used as a neutral group and were asked to just sit in the room, without thinking of anything in particular –- their thoughts could wander wherever they wanted them to. After the participants were placed into these groups, they were shown love-themed scenes (pictures or movies) as well as pictures of their exes. The frequency and intensity of their emotions were again measured by the researchers. All three of the strategies were found to decrease the negative emotional responses that the participants initially had. This means that by practising any of the three above strategies, they felt less anger and sadness when seeing their exes.
Although painful, I never understood why people regret being in love. Knowing that you’re capable of that emotion is knowing that you have a loving, caring heart and you’re not afraid of being vulnerable with it. Having said that, accept what you are feeling, as the more you fight these negative emotions, the longer you will feel them. Drowning out the pain with alcohol or other drugs will do nothing but extend the pain as you are not allowing yourself to truly feel and overcome. Get the negative energy out in a healthy way — cry, scream into a pillow — whatever it is you need to do to really feel it.
Despite the pain that comes with it, realism is your friend right now — in every way possible. Most people have skewed memories of their relationships after a break-up, only remembering the few good times or personal wrongs. Many forget all the arguments, reasons not to trust and the times where their partners made them feel worthless — the realistic and truthful view of what it actually was (most of the time) helps in the recovery process.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not beneficial to pretend that you were never in love with that person. The key is acknowledging and accepting what qualities you did love about them, but also believe that you can find those qualities in other people.
For those really struggling to get to grips with reality, it is best to list reasons why the relationship did not work out, or reasons why that particular person may not be for you. Read this every day if you have to.
Practise forgiveness, with or without an apology, because any anger or hatred that you hold on to will only extend your grief period.
Set aside a grieving time –- this has been very helpful with many of my clients. I ask them to set aside half-hour a day to fully feel the pain of the breakup. Throughout the day, the mind will wander toward it, but you can say to yourself for example, ‘I will deal with this at 7 pm’. Find a comfortable and quiet place to look at pictures, listen to music that may bring up memories — anything that makes you feel and acknowledge what happened. Most people cry for the whole half-hour and then they automatically start to see the grieving time decreasing — without even trying to –- because they are organically letting themselves feel what they need to.
If you have social media, unfollow your ex-partner. This may seem childish but it’s definitely not to be mean. Out of sight, out of mind is a cliché for a reason. Ask those around you not to bring it to your attention. I feel everyone in Guyana does this –‘ I saw your ex out last night, he was happy or talking to this other person.’ This is such a hurtful thing to do to someone. Even if you tell them that their ex looks broken without them, you are hindering their recovery.
Do not become friends with an ex right away. I never get how people do this, as it is nearly impossible to become friends immediately after a break-up — please, don’t even try. I know that person was once close to you and will remain very near and dear, but you need to have mentally moved on before even attempting a friendship. Friendship comes later. It’s common to be curious about what your ex is doing, but does it feel good knowing that you are actively contributing to your own pain and slow recovery?
Finally, I hope you all know by now how much better we feel when we maintain a healthy lifestyle – eat well, sleep well, exercise and don’t abuse substances. Incorporating these suggestions will decrease the ache until time heals it. Do not allow this experience to harden your loving heart.
Thank you for reading. Please keep sending any topics you’d like to talk about to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like personal counselling sessions, please reach out to me at +592 623 0433
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