The five stages of getting over heartbreak

Love is a language that no one can speak fluently. There’s no textbook with guidelines. It doesn’t always last forever. It’s precarious in nature, and it can be catastrophic at its end. We can fear its beginning because the pain at its demise can be as bad as a physical injury.

Heartbreak is something that most people go through in their lives; it’s a near-universal part of the human experience. There are films, books and songs dedicated to love’s aftermath, a that period of time where you’re left aching and sad. It can prevent people from trying again in a new relationship for fear of ending up with the same pain again. But I’m here to say that though heartbreak is painful and awful, you can get through it. It doesn’t have to destroy you. Even though it seems impossible at first, you move on and find new things to love and enjoy again. Here are the five stages of healing a broken heart.

You find yourself again

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been with someone for four months or four years, time doesn’t determine how you felt about someone or the impact they’ve had on your life. Once a relationship has ended it can sometimes be a one player game of How to Find Yourself Again. A serious relationship creates stability and routine and when it’s lost both are gone; coming home to them, eating dinner, even just having a default person to send silly pictures and catty remarks too. The first person you’d call when something bad or fantastic happened isn’t there to listen anymore, there’s a cool breeze where their arms should be and an empty space in your life they once took up.

You have to re-find your own self again, your own routine and stability. This is not to say that a relationship strips you of any kind of independence or that you somehow merge in to one whole, becoming only half a person without the other. It means that when someone significant from your life is removed it’s not as easy to go back to the person you were without them, when you’ve changed in order to be with them.

It’s a significant shift when you fall in love with your own life instead of a mutually shared one. Finding yourself outside of a once partnership and realising that you can live just fine without them; sometimes that’s all a broken heart needs to be put back together again.

Grieving and coping with a loss

Learning how to cope during loss is a difficult yet valuable life lesson. The time of heartbreak circles around grief, for the lost relationship. It’s hard, and it takes time. But it also allows you to figure out how to deal with that sudden emptiness. What’s going to fill the space? Whatever it is, you learn how to deal with it, slowly but surely. You have to give yourself time to feel your way through it.

Gathering your strength, and finding courage where you least expect it

Strength does not necessarily equate to cynicism or being hardened. When people go through breakups and the heartbreak that follows at its fringe, there can vows to never fall in love again, or promises to always have the emotional upper hand in the future. Strength is different from that. Hurt shouldn’t stop us from doing it again.

While heartbreak makes its presence known in your body and in actions, life carries on. Work doesn’t stop, bills aren’t re-routed until a more convenient time, your friends and family are still there. The motions of everyday life still exist and while they may seem trivial for a time, going through them even though they exhaust and overwhelm you, reveals a personal hidden strength. It would be so simple, so tempting to lie in bed and dream until the pain disappears. In doing the opposite we realise our strength that life’s disappointments won’t crumble our world.

Getting used to riding solo

A lot of people in long term relationships fear repeating the dating game and think of being single again as a kind of personal doom. Of course this can be scary. There’s the distant rumble of fear that you won’t ever find someone again. (There are no guarantees, but the vast majority of people find another person to love again.)

Part of the reason why being shattered won’t destroy you is relearning that your own company is not something to be afraid of, that there’s a distinct difference between being alone and being lonely. Slowly, through heart break’s drawn out pain, you begin to realize that going home alone isn’t a dark, daunting thought. It’s kind of great, actually. It’s an unexpected revelation that eases heartbreak, that being by yourself is not a terrible, unfortunate outcome. And when you do meet the next person you want to share your life with, you’ll be that much more prepared.

Being able to look back at the relationship with fondness instead of pain

The end of heartbreak is when you’re able to look at that shoebox under your bed or your closet—the one where you crammed all the snapshots and ticket stubs and memorabilia from your past relationship—and look through it with wistfulness and a little bit of joy instead of hurt. It can take a long time, but you’d be surprised at how, in months or years, you can look back at the relationship that ended and remember the best parts of it instead of the most treacherous parts.You were fortunate enough to love and be loved. It hurts now, but we promise the old saying is true: Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

[Image courtesy Universal Pictures]

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