Monday, April 7, 2014

Getting Over a Broken Heart in 10 (Not so) Easy Steps.

Grief and loss have steps that you must go through. Generally 5 stages are recognized by professionals, but we can walk through it more clearly by adding some steps. Here's what to do after disappointment, divorce, infidelity, betrayal, or the end of a relationship.

1. Unfortunately first, you are going to waste some time in denial. You simply aren't going to believe that the thing you are confronted with is the truth. You are going to rationalize what you are seeing away. You may even think you are crazy. Okay, you may actually be crazy temporarily while you try to come to grips with what is happening.

2. You are going to be livid, furious, and perhaps even experience a level of anger you didn't know you were capable of. Just go with it as long as it isn't too destructive.  For lots of women this level of anger is uncomfortable and you may have to learn to express it. Drop trying to be nice. But don't do anything you will have to explain to the cops later.

3. Use some of that anger to start to imagine how amazing your life will be once you are over this. And remind yourself that you will get over it.

4. Let yourself feel all those "if onlys." It's probably not your fault but this step seems to be unavoidable in the process. Come to terms with any role you might have played in things.

5. Depression is going to settle in. Like anger, if you are naturally a really happy person the level of this emotion you can sink to might be frightening. Just allow yourself to feel all the terrible emotions that come with a broken heart.

6. Write. Journal about all that pain. When you start to recover it is helpful to look back on what you wrote on the darkest days and see how far you've come. You may also have some insights you don't want to forget.

7. Plan to get over it. This may be the most important step. This painful event isn't going to define you. Give yourself all the time you need to grieve, stay in bed, cry. Then start making an action plan. Get help if you feel like you are getting stuck in the depression phase.

8. Get a little help from your friends. It's cliche' but you need people to tell you that there isn't anything wrong with you. Your emotional health may depend greatly on having support from people who care about you.

9. Reprogram your thinking and reframe the events. You can get use to thinking a thing, "I'm broken hearted" for instance. You may continue to have these thoughts long after you no longer feel the emotion that goes with them. As soon as you start to feel better change the phrasing to something like  "I was broken hearted." It's also very helpful to think of what happened as being due to the other person's weakness, or how the stars were aligned, or that they were just human and stupid. It makes things so much easier than believing that the emotional pain caused was intentional.

10.  Accept this loss. It may be unfair, but the alternative to accepting it as part of your life story and a valuable experience is to become bitter and not really recover at all. In this state instead of learning something and being able to help others you are likely to do damage to yourself and others. No it isn't fair, but trust me on this one. Understand that you are different because of this event. Stronger. Braver. More self reliant. Share what you have learned with someone else who is going through the same thing.

Eventually you will be able to think of the painful experience without any accompanying emotion. That's when you know you've really recovered. The day you can think of it without overwhelming sadness. The day you can put it in the context of your whole life.

The final step of completion is recognizing all you learned and sharing it.

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