Heartbreak is something that everyone will go through at some point in their life. It will feel like all the light within you is lost and you feel empty and lonely. ~ Vishant
Over the past few years I’ve been contacted by and spoken with a lot of people who were going through a break-up. After hearing their stories, I was somewhat able to provide some advice. I know that there must be a great number of people going through heartbreak silently, without ever uttering a word to anyone. Which is why I’m writing this article.
One of the infinite stories about heartbreak
At the beginning of last year one of my best friends was going through a break up. His relationship had ended after almost 10 years. Break up was not something new for him, because he had been through one five years before, with the same person. But having been in that situation before did not make it easier. This time it was even more difficult.
He had known her since 2002. Back then, they were attending the same school. During his final year of high school (2006), their communication grew more intense and they got more acquainted with one another. Shortly after, they agreed on being in committed a relationship. My friend said that the best part about her was that she was kind, sweet, honest, beautiful and easy to talk to. He waited for her every morning before school started just to catch a glimpse of her. When not in school she would give him a time at which she would be available on MSN (the chat messenger back then) and he would take a bus and walk to a cybercafé, just to talk to her. Barely anyone knew about their relationship, because that could’ve put her in troublesome position, and he did not want that. She was not scared about the consequences at all, but to him her safety and seeing her mattered most. She was important to him, because he never had someone so close to him. He had plenty of time and patience. The important thing for him was supporting each other in finishing off high school with excellent marks. Beautiful times and years went by. But one day she broke up with him, stating religion as the reason to do so. He went through the break up alone, because no one knew nor had he confided in anyone about the matter. Moreover, he was a man. Men do not reveal their pain and suffering, right? With time he found closure and moved on, but it was not easy losing someone he had given so much importance to. She had found someone else and moved on. Almost a year after his break up, they got in touch again and she asked him to go on a Christmas dinner that she was invited to. He had gotten to know that she was single again and shortly after, they got back together. And it looked like this time it was meant to be. He had met her family and they loved him, and vice versa. Her family became an important part of his life. There were also wedding plans, but things again took a different turn. The difference in religion was brought up again as one of the important dividing issues between them and it drove them apart. Permanently.
This time, their break up was extremely agonizing and heart-breaking for him, because along with her he had also lost people he had a family-like bond with. She haunted him in his dreams for months, which was disturbing at first, but had gotten used to after a while. With time, belief in self and most importantly support of others, he managed to find closure and was able to finally move on.
Mind you, this did not happen overnight. It took him a great amount of time to deal with something that not only caused him an indescribable pain but affected his mental and physical health as well. Thoughts about her occupied his mind incessantly and he wasn’t paying much attention to his health as well. One thing I do admire about him though, is that he reached out to his friends immediately after their break-up. They supported and comforted him. I am glad he confided in us, because when he shared his suffering, the burden of it became less heavy and with that the pain lessened a bit too. He told me that she was not a bad person. Sometimes we tend to think ill of our exes, but we have to realize that people change and we should hope that they do so for the best. He stated that his ex-girlfriend got married within less than six months after their break up. It did not hurt him, because he told me that he wished the best for her.
My friend went through a really tough time, but was ultimately able to put it behind him. I used his experiences and of others and have summed up the following 15 things to keep in mind when going through a break-up:
1. A break up will hurt like hell
When you break up with someone, it feels as if someone close to you has passed away. Therefore, the coping thereof should be a similar process i.e. it will take TIME. When we love deeply, losing that someone hurts deeply too. And when we truly love someone, we not only give them a part of ourselves, we also show them our most insecure and vulnerable parts. And when they decide to leave us, that part we had given to them is ripped apart and we feel empty, especially if vows about spending a lifetime together are broken along the way or the intention of doing so. You’ll feel empty and emotionally/ physically wrecked. Endless sleepless nights, uncontrollable crying spells, anger, sadness, loss of appetite, chest pains, excessive sweating, panic attacks, loneliness and depressive thoughts are some things we might go through. It’s absolutely okay to feel this way. Remember that we all experience dejection from time to time.
2. No problem is permanent
Everything ends, good or bad. At a certain period in time our emotions may seem overwhelming, but that too will fade. Remember, whatever suffering you’re going through, that too shall pass. May be not now when you severely want it to, but definitely one day. Do not get me wrong, we have the right to feel hurt and we should take time to heal, but to allow ourselves to linger in a phase of suffering is not only selfish, but we’re then too focused on ourselves. And when we self-obsess, we are not likely to perceive our options, support of friends and redeeming features of our experience, however bad it may be. We forget or tend to overlook the things we should be grateful and appreciative for. Treasure them before they are no more and we regret not have taken these opportunities or time to do so. Because the bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone (H.B. Stowe).
3. Unexpected turns in life can lead to redemption
We might not have expected someone to leave us, but it happened and one should accept it. Our denial will not help us overcome our grief nor can we change the past. Life will not always go as we had planned, hoped or dreamed. Life will hand us great disappointment, pain and suffering. These downturns in life can lead us to spend periods of time in contemplation which can lead us to explore our inner selves, our values, and our way of life, and we often emerge with a sense of greater strength, clarity and resolve.
4. Depression and loneliness may creep up
When someone important leaves us, we may feel lonelier than ever but we are in fact never alone. The world has an abundance of people and regardless of our friends, when someone breaks our heart, we’ll still say we feel alone and have no one around us. We say that because we want the person who has left us to come back and help us, no one else. Whenever we feel particularly unhappy, we are likely to describe ourselves as “depressed”. Normal dejection is seldom severe enough to influence daily functioning significantly or persist very long. Downturns in mood can even be beneficial as mentioned in point 3. But clinical depression on the other hand has no redeeming characteristics. It brings severe and long lasting pain that may intensify as time goes by. Those who suffer from it may lose their will to carry out the simplest of life’s activities; some even lose their will to live. Because of the drastic change in their lives, people are scared to start from scratch again because they don’t want to face the same pain (or worse) again. The pain is so immense that some may think that suicide is the only solution to end the suffering. If you think or feel you might be suffering from depression, please do not hesitate to seek out professional help.
5. Seek support
Everyone goes through a break up and it happens quite often that we don’t tell others about it. Why is that? Is it because we feel ashamed, guilty, or because our pride has been hurt or do we fear the judgement of others? I know that there are people who, when heartbroken, shut their friends and family out and just want to be alone for some time. They hold every pain inside, rather than opening up and talk about their problems with someone.
Many of us put on different masks to conceal the pain and try to behave normally, not knowing that suppressing everything sets off a time-bomb and will eventually cause us more harm. We tend to shut people out and do not confide in anyone when going through a break up. Remember that everyone goes through this phase, and their reaction to it may differ from yours. No one has the right to judge you and no one can fix what has happened. But something as simple as having a shoulder to cry on, or having someone who is willing to listen to you and knowing that you can count on people when you’re going through tough times, can lighten the burden you’re carrying and can surely help you find closure. It is important to reach out to your social support group (be it your friend, colleague, family member or a mental health professional or your jobs’ Employee Assistance Program). The impact of social support is heavily undervalued. There are people whom we can trust. There are people who love and care for us. And there are people who want the best for us. If you cannot find one, be sure to take a look in the mirror because healing starts with self-love.
If you know someone around you who is heartbroken, reach out to them and support them. Even if they tell you they don’t want it or need it. It may the last thread they’re holding onto.
6. Stop the blaming and hating
When going through a break up our mind drives us nuts. Thoughts like: “Why did it happen? What if I did this? What if I did that? How can someone do this to me? Will I ever find someone else?”, probe our mind constantly. Sometimes we even start hating or blaming the person who has left us, especially if it had been in an unpleasant manner. We do have the right to be hurt. We do have the right to be angry. And we do have the right to feel resentment. But. Is it healthy for us to stay in that phase? Regardless of how we were treated, how we were hurt or who is at fault, there are lessons to be drawn from every experience. These lessons will not always be clear to us right away, because at that particular moment our emotions cloud our cognition and judgement. Sometimes it may take years for us to see what lesson there was to learn. To keep on blaming and hating the person who has left us does not change anything. Some even wish ill to those who hurt them, but is it worth it? In the end you’re just harming yourself. Just like the familiar saying goes: It’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. When we’re busy hating and blaming others, how can we find time to love ourselves? So don’t be too hard on yourself. Resentment can not only prolong your grieving process, but also make it much harder. We don’t need to close some chapters to move on. With time there is a chance that all questions will be answered and all the pieces of the puzzle will fall into place. And you might not need the answers, because by that time you will have moved on.
7. You can still love someone, even when they’re not in your life
A relationship can take years to build, but can be destroyed within seconds. People change and their roads can take different courses. In our daily life we see that in most of the time people live like enemies when they break up. The challenge is to keep loving them and to love those who did you wrong or who don’t love you back. After all they had spent a lot of time by your side and made their little contribution in shaping your life and what you are today. Whatever the reason for leaving, you can always keep them in your heart and keep on loving them.
8. Take it on a low
During this period you won’t feel like doing anything. But depending on your responsibilities you’ll have to do certain things. Make a list, prioritize what you should do and can put off and focus on the most important things. Some people advise to keep yourself so busy or distracted that you forget the situation you are in. I would suggest not to do that. Why do we have the habit of running away from pain, but we embrace pleasure? Pain can help us grow. Take the time to heal, participate in new things, but most of all face your pain and overcome it. Not doing that might give you the feeling that it’s gone, but in reality it is only growing deeper and may come back to haunt you later in life.
9. Take care of your physical health
Try to eat healthier, because getting sick will make you feel worse. Some, when going through a break up, have the habit of engaging into palliative coping styles like excessive drinking, smoking, spending, gambling, sex or putting too much junk (food/drinks) into their system. Doing that might give you temporary pleasure, or might make you temporarily forget your problems, but will ultimately cause more harm. If we do not take care of ourselves, mentally and physically, not only do we restrain or inhibit our own potential, we increase the risk of illness which can lead to productivity loss and unnecessary stress or more illness.
If you’re physically wrecked or you fall ill because you do not take care of yourself, you will make everything harder on yourself. Take working and studying for example: If you get sick while you have a job and go to school, you might be laid off or fail your class. That would only add insult to injury.
10. A psychologist can be your best friend
In the beginning of his break up my friend opened up and talked to his colleagues and friends about it. One friend suggested that he should visit a psychologist. Simultaneously, another psychologist heard about him and offered him his support, free of charge. Meaning that my friend was visiting two psychologists simultaneously. He must’ve been pretty crazy right? No, he wasn’t. One psychologist listened and offered advice, but the other one helped him as a friend. With time, he switched to the one who helped as a friend. He describes a psychologist as nothing but a best friend with more skills. A friend may be there and offer you some advice. The psychologist can do the same but he can also guide you through the process to find closure. My opinion is that sooner or later everyone should visit a psychologist. The world will point fingers at you if you do something wrong, but will never compliment you or encourage you if you do something right. That’s why we shut ourselves from the world, but we need others to encourage us. And that’s where the psychologist can help. Help to (re)discover yourself and to open up. It will be worthwhile. Trust me.
11. You can still let go even if you have no one to share your pain
Some people don’t have anyone around them and choose not to build relations when in pain. The sad part is that they may not trust their selves. Even when you have no one around you, you have yourself, the first best friend anyone should have. But sometimes we are strangers to ourselves. Talking to yourself can help. And one other solution is to write your feelings / thought processes on paper. By doing this you are letting everything go bit by bit.
12. This may be a blessing in disguise for something much bigger and better
When unfortunate things happen to us, we have the habit to immediately label that moment as bad or negative and that’s how we usually imprint and reproduce this as a memory. Sometimes things happen and after a certain time we realize that it was a blessing in disguise. If that particular thing did not happen, you would not be able to have or see other options or opportunities to make you thrive. Could be a career you had side-lined, enrolling in a new study or course, relocating, new friendships or memberships to certain groups / organizations or a dream you were afraid to follow. The loss of someone will give you the time to help you evaluate your life, re-discover your true self and what you want in life.
13. Children should not suffer because you are
In the process of a break up, you might get hurt pretty badly. And with you, your whole environment suffers. And when there are kids involved, they are often the ones that get affected and hurt the most. The pain can have long-lasting and detrimental effects on their mental / physical health and with that influence their future options. We cannot change our past, but we can definitely change our present and future. Give love to those who are also hurting in the process, especially kids. Love and attention can help soften their grief and suffering. Children are also never too young or too small to understand. Explain in simple and concise words what has happened and the consequences of the separation for them. If necessary, request for family therapy.
14. Love even if you might get hurt again
Whatever you do, sooner or later we all lose people we love: our spouse, our friends, our family, our beloved pets. When in pain, some say that they will never love again. That is because they’ve been hurt, that they’re not willing to take chances any more. Even if that means spending their whole life alone, which is totally OK. Having someone you can share your life with, does not mean that you need to be dependent on someone. Some things cannot be described in words, but it’s awesome to have someone who can be there for you and most of all help you grow spiritually. This does not necessarily have to be from a partner we are in an intimate relationship with. We can obtain all this from family, friends or other people as well. We will get hurt, but we can always love again.
15. It might be possible to fix what’s broken
It says fix, not force. Fixing takes time and with time maybe people realize what they had and lost. If there is a second chance, why not take it if both parties are willing to overcome the obstacles that had caused them to part in the first place? It will obviously take time more and effort from both parties to fix all that was broken.
The perspective of a psychologist
Every breakup has some form of pressure and it is not hard to imagine, all your dreams, expectations and investments seeming to be lost. “How do I survive this?” most people ask themselves. This response is normal and can best be shared with others. The ‘new’ situation demands time, energy and understanding. The best advice that I can give people who are dealing with a breakup is that they take time for mourning. Many think: “should mourn for a living person?” Yes, mourning is often with someone’s death, but it is much broader, any loss (in this case the loss of your relationship) calls for mourning. You need to do this in your own way, most people do not want to go straight into a new relationship and choose to recover first; crying, getting angry, isolation are all part of this process. Talking to friends and family, doing sports and relaxing can do miracles in this phase. In conversations with others you will hear how they have dealt with their breakups, which may in some cases provide some clarity. Be careful not to become depressed; if you no longer go to work, school or do any kind of sport and avoid all contact with others and don’t want to get out of bed, it is important that you discuss this with your doctor and if necessary, let them refer you to a psychologist or relationship therapist. Also, a conversation with a good friend can be very effective. As you get the support you need, the pain will get less and you will be able to take up the daily things in life, maybe you’re also ready for a new relationship. The most important factors for breakups are time and regain self-esteem and trust in yourself. Also think about fun moments you’ve had together, that’s proof that you’ve loved each other and that will reduce negative feelings you may have.
- Before you jump back into dating, take it slow. Figure out what you liked — and didn’t like — about your relationship. Then you’ll know what to look for in a new one.
- There are people whom we may love and care for, but turn out to be toxic for our health. Remember. We cannot choose whom we fall in love with, but we can choose when to walk away (Film line. My Bollywood genes 😀 ).
- Obsessing over your ex won’t help you get over your breakup. It’ll probably just stress you more.
- With time, support and effort you will get over your breakup. To be honest, it differs from person to person how long it will take to move on. Don’t rush the process. Face it, accept it, give it a space and live on. Our happiness is in our own hands.
- I’ve read somewhere that scars remind us where we have been, but does not have to dictate where we are going. So do not allow your past to define your present/ future. When we do that, we halt and stand in the way of our own progress and prolong our suffering. When we suffer, we can ease that burden by giving to others.
- People will come and go in your life. We cannot prolong someone’s existence in our life. Understanding and insight into the purpose they had in our life, will provide us clarity and resolve. Que sera sera.
- A failed relationship does not mean that we have failed at life. Find things you are good at, however small and make them happen. This will help overcome negative feelings about yourself and help lessen the pain.
- Men also have feelings. We should not be afraid to confide in someone we trust when those feelings have been hurt.
- My best friend who I was referring to in the opening story is none other than myself.
Your sorrow is just like a stone. The edges are sharp at first. Given enough time, the edges of the stone will soften, but it remains a stone. The sorrow of your grief will be unbearable at first, but with time, love and faith you will give it a place and learn to live with it as a part of you ~ Karan Gokoel
Drop your comments or experience below and if you need someone to talk with or some encouraging words, feel free to send me a message.
- Sasha for supporting me all the way and helping me with this article
- Giovanni Sidoel, Kevin Hoogdorp, Simon Noerdjan for reading this and providing feedback
- Karan Gokoel, my psychologist friend and brother, for giving his take on this topic
- Giovanni Madari, Kevin Hoogdorp and Rabia Chiragally for helping me with this shot
- Cathedral Basilica St Peter & Paul
- Everyone who has supported directly or indirectly with this article
Stop that self doubt and start loving yourself,
If you liked this article and you still need some hope, read my favorite story: Cancer: How a loved one that passed away taught me how to live and to love more