Have you been banned from Duane Reade because you emptied their shelves of Kleenex and ice cream? Did you binge watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix? Do your eyes burn when you draw open your bedroom curtains? Good.
Because it means you’re not okay. And it’s okay to not be okay when your relationship ends.
Experiencing Anger, Denial and Depression While Grieving
Whether it was a long-term relationship or a marriage that came to a close, you need to take time to mourn your losses. The end of your relationship marked the death of a lot of hopes and dreams and coming to terms with that is not easy. If you are the partner who did not want to end the relationship, you will go back and forth between anger and denial, and will probably engage in bargaining tactics in hopes of getting your partner to change his or her mind. All of this is part of the normal grieving process.
One way or another, everyone eventually enters the stage of depression. The initial days and weeks after the breakup will be the worst. You may not have the energy or the desire to get out of bed, let alone leave your home.
That’s okay. You’re allowed to not be okay.
So if indulging in this behavior makes you feel better, do so. One to three weeks should be adequate. I wouldn’t recommend longer because you might fall into a level of depression that could be too difficult to pull out of on your own.
After three weeks, force yourself to get out and socialize. Start slowly at first if you need to. Call up your best friends if they haven’t already reached out to you multiple times. The movies, a nice meal, a spa day or a vacation are all great ideas.
Talk about what happened with people you trust. Vent. Rehash the details over and over again to yourself and your sweet friends who will patiently sit and listen. This process is crucial and you need to go through it because slowly over time, re-hashing will allow those memories to hold less meaning for you.
Get new hobbies or re-engage with old ones. Love kickball? Join a meet up group. Enjoy cooking? Find a class to improve your skills or if you love to host, have your friends over and cook for them. I recently took up painting which is something I haven’t touched since I was eight years-old. While my work still looks like a kid made it, I’m enjoying being present in the activity and I find it therapeutic:
Grieving When You Share Children
Grieving after a breakup is hard enough if you’re able to completely sever ties with your partner. But if you have young children, the process will be slower and more complicated. You will have to manage your grieving process while simultaneously maintaining a working relationship with your ex as you make joint agreements on how to raise your kids and help them cope with the divorce. If you and your partner don’t get along, that means potentially having old wounds reopened frequently and that will delay your ability to recover from the breakup. Even if you can be civil with each other, it may still be difficult to manage your emotions if your partner moves on with her life while you are still grieving.
Be upset. Struggle with it. Maybe you won’t respond to things as gracefully as you would like. You’re grieving and it’s okay to not be okay.
You can try to manage your emotions by rewarding yourself for your hardship. Every time your partner does something that irks you, gives yourself a treat. Get a manicure, get a massage, have a drink, go out with your friends or buy yourself a new dress/gadget. You survived the setback and every time you jump a hurdle you’re one step closer to recovering.
Dating After Your Relationship Ends
Don’t date while you’re grieving. If you are divorced, experts say it can take about two years before you’re ready to date again. Others say to wait one month for every year that you were married. These are just guidelines.
For those who initiated the break up, you could be ready to date immediately. For others, you may need longer. Regardless, it’s a good idea to take time for yourself to understand why your relationship ended, what role you played in the break up so you can learn from your mistakes and to reconnect with yourself to figure out who you are as an individual post-relationship. A year is a good time frame for this stage of self-reflection because it allows you to go through one full cycle of the seasons to figure out how you’re going to feel and what you may need at different times.
If the idea of taking photos of the both of you off your walls or social media accounts makes your heart palpitate, then you are not ready to date and that’s okay. Because you are not okay and you don’t need to be okay. Not now and not for a while.
During your grieving period, if you meet someone interesting and want to go to dinner, there’s no harm as long as you understand that these are casual dates that are helping you manage the grieving process.
It can be all too easy for people who are more used to being part of a couple than being alone to seek their comfort zone which is to immediately find another relationship. Fight the urge because by entering another relationship without ample time for self-reflection, you are likely to repeat the same mistakes you made in your previous relationship. And if you are not over your ex, then you will not be able to fully meet the needs of your new partner. Essentially, you would be setting yourself up for another failed relationship and there’s no need for that.
Be good to yourself while you grieve. Take the time that you need to come to acceptance and expect that process to take as long as two years. Don’t pressure yourself to feel better sooner than you’re ready to. It might be helpful to mark a place on the calendar about a year from now as an “end date.” Until then, give yourself a pass to not be okay during the grieving process and embrace the struggle.