by Jennifer Staat, Ph.D.
Some people can glide through a break-up and let go; for many, however, the process of letting go is devastating. People get mired in their feelings and get stuck. The devastation they experience can take different forms:
(1) obsession and depression – some people numb their sadness by obsessing over their lost love. This can generate anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness, sleep problems, weight gain or loss, crying spells, and thoughts of not wanting to exist. (If you feel this way for more than 3 months, seek professional help.)
(2) suppression – some people suppress their by jumping into a new relationship immediately without thinking it through.
(3) avoidance and distraction – some people distract themselves from their sadness by trying to befriend their lost love, secretly harboring the hope that they can convince the partner to get back into the relationship.
These strategies are ways to avoid grieving. Stuck in the past or running from it, you are unable to really move forward into your future.
To regain momentum and to move on, it is necessary to face your painful feelings. Sometimes it is a good idea to get a professional to help you with this process. However, if you want to work on this alone, you need to be prepared to make a small space for grieving in your every day life—maybe 15-30 minutes. This is a time for you to think about what you have lost and to feel the feelings that go with it. Grieving has 4 phases: shock, bargaining (e.g. if only I had done this, the relationship never would have ended), anger, mourning, and the return to daily life. The longer the relationship lasted, the longer the process will take.
There are several things that can help you with the process:
*developing/turning to a support network of friends, parents, others
*focusing on hobbies and interests that bring you pleasure
*taking a break from dating
*giving yourself permission to cry
You will know you are really moving on when you think about your lost love more infrequently and you begin to enjoy the new life you are constructing.
Dr. Staat is a psychologist in Wilmington. She frequently helps people build a new life when they lose a love.