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When Breaking up Is Hard to Do: How to Cope With the Loss of a Relationship

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
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When Breaking up Is Hard to Do: How to Cope With the Loss of a Relationship

You just want to forget. But the memories are haunting. When you see photos or objects that remind you of your past love, the pain is crushing. How will you ever find happiness again?

Divorce or losing a loving relationship is one of the most stressful experiences in life. For many people, the misery can last for weeks, months, or even longer. During this time, emotions often run wild. In an effort to escape the pain, some people seek revenge on the other person. Many people have difficulty getting on with their lives and may feel consumed by a painful void. Is there any easy way to get through a breakup?

Ways of Coping With the Loss

Everybody handles the loss of a romantic relationship differently. Some people get over it relatively soon, while others go back and forth through a number of stages before they begin to feel better. Since each person is different, there is no one best way to cope with the loss of a relationship. Find whatever works for you, and be patient. Here are some guidelines that may help.

Accept the loss.

Even though it may be difficult, when you fully accept that the relationship is over, it will help you to bounce back more quickly. What did you learn as a result of the breakup? Every experience (good or bad) can provide a valuable lesson. Remember that it may take some time for you to heal, and that is okay. Everybody is different.

Feel the hurt.

It may be tempting to try to forget or repress the hurt, but doing so may only make things worse in the long run. Repressed hurt often resurfaces as mistrust, poor self-image, hostility, and other undesirable feelings that can haunt you for a long time. Hurt is normal after the loss of a romantic relationship, so allow yourself to feel it. It’s not a sign of weakness to feel miserable, so let the misery come.

Try releasing your sadness and loneliness by listening to sad love songs and crying. If you’re angry, pound a pillow, write your feelings down in a journal, tear up photographs of the person, or destroy mementos. However, make sure that your anger is manageable and that your actions are not harmful to yourself or someone else. You don’t want to do anything that you’ll regret.

Talk about it.

You can work through the painful feelings by getting them out in the open and talking about them. Look for a supportive friend or two who is willing to listen, or seek the help of a therapist. A therapist can help you to see things more clearly and to identify and overcome self-defeating thoughts and behavior patterns. If you’re going through a divorce, see if there’s a support group in your area.

Stay socially involved with others.

You may feel tempted to withdraw from others, but don’t. Maintain regular contact with friends, family, and acquaintances. Join some groups or take a class. Supportive relationships can help take your mind off the loss, reduce stress and improve your physical and emotional well-being.

Get rid of reminders.

Immediately put away all reminders of your lost lover or spouse, including photographs, cards, clothes, etc. You don’t need constant reminders. When you are feeling a little bit stronger, gather all the reminders of your former loved one, have a good cry, and say goodbye to them by throwing them out or storing them out of sight.

Take good care of yourself.

You feel like eating a box of chocolates or a gallon of your favorite ice cream. You want to drown your sorrow in a bottle of shiraz. You have an urge to reach for those faithful old friends that you haven’t seen in five years—your cigarettes. It’s tempting to sleep all day. Curling up in a corner and dying sounds good too. As appealing as these comforts may seem, in the long run, indulging in them will make you feel worse. You’ll be much better off if you take good care of yourself and treat yourself in loving and nurturing ways. You can help yourself by:

  • Keeping a regular schedule
  • Getting adequate rest and sleep
  • Eating a healthful diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Engaging in a pleasurable activity each day
  • Working on your personal and spiritual growth
  • Getting a massage
  • Taking up a new hobby or sport
  • Setting goals, such as a home improvement project, losing weight, going back to school, or planning a vacation
  • Finding a project, idea, or goal for which you have great passion and commitment

If problems persist, get professional help.

Each person has his or her own timetable for grieving a loss. Therefore, you should allow yourself plenty of time to heal. However, there may be circumstances where professional help may be warranted. For example, if you find that your ]]>depression]]> and sadness are greatly impairing your daily activities. If the following symptoms are severe or persistent (lasting more than a few weeks), you should seek the help of a mental health professional immediately:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness
  • Guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, or hopelessness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Uncontrollable anger or violent impulses
  • Eating problems
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Any physical symptoms that won’t go away
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in activities

Focusing on the Future

After the loss of a romantic relationship, some people are ready to plunge right into a new relationship, while others may feel that they never want another relationship. A new love can certainly help ease the loneliness and unhappiness, but “rebound relationships” are often entered into too quickly. When you feel ready to date again, take it slow and make sure you really get to know the other person well. Try to use the lessons you have learned in your past relationships.

Eventually, you will begin thinking about the future rather than the past. With some patience and effort, you will make some good friends and plans for your future. You may find a new interest or even a completely new life. With time, proper care, and good fortune, you can emerge from the broken relationship stronger, wiser, and more developed as a person.


Mental Health Net



Mental Health Net website. Available at: http://mentalhelp.net .

Last reviewed August 2006 by ]]>Lawrence Frisch, MD, MPH]]>

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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