A breakup or divorce can be devasting. Apart from the pain of separation, you might be criticizing and beating yourself over your decisions. Be kind to yourself for a change.
Going through that phase where you are questioning all the decisions you made, beating yourself over every possible weakness of yours, and feeling agitated that you could have said, done, acted differently so that things could have turned out differently?
Welcome to the post-breakup/post-divorce phase that brings out all our insecurities and digs up a well of self-doubt. Before we go into how you can help yourself through this difficult phase, let’s first address a basic truth: You are not alone. As personal and subjective as this might seem, the questions you ask yourself are questions that many broken hearts have asked themselves.
Here are 7 practices that will make this phase a tad bit easier and a lot more insightful.
Don’t beat yourself for it
It takes two to sustain a relationship and it takes two to break it. Assuming you are not the one to have caused a wreckage by cheating on your partner with their best friend or using all their money and disappearing, don’t make yourself a villain or failure. Your mind is likely to go on a rampage and tell you that you failed miserably.
It is likely to go over the details of arguments, fights, or situations where could have acted differently. You might spend months fixated on the details, while the fact remains that what has happened has happened. Step back and see how this impacts the bigger picture of your life as it stands NOW.
Don’t lose yourself in the WHY
If you didn’t expect the breakup was coming (although there are always signs invariably), you are likely to spend every waking hour wondering why. Do yourself a favor. While it is great to reflect on what happened and learn your lessons, sometimes life will answer your questions much later only through a life well lived.
Give yourself a slot of time to mull over it. I mean it. Give yourself ten minutes or half hour to let your mind find answers for possible whys and then snap out of it. Grieving for a lost relationship is not the same as going on an endless mind-games with yourself.
Allow yourself to grieve
Irrespective of the details, a breakup or divorce is painful. It can shake your core and make you question your self-worth. Along with these come intense emotions of sadness, anger, guilt, shame, resentment, even fear. Unlike your mental patterns to beat yourself, which you should not wallow in, allow yourself to fully feel your emotions.
Cry, scream, rant, whine, complain. Write down your feelings, punch a pillow, doodle, or cook your way through your pain. Give yourself the comfort of a cozy corner to feel safe. It is scary and it is okay to feel so.
Focus on your self-esteem
A breakup often digs up our deepest insecurities. You might have started out as a confident person who lost her/his sense of self through the course of your relationship. Or, you might have started out with low self-esteem, which dipped even low thanks to your partner’s comments or jibes. Either way, address all your insecurities.
Do I feel worthless without a partner?
Has the way he/she dealt with the relationship questioning my self-worth?
Do I believe all that she/he said of me?
Use it as a time to know yourself better
Take a step back and forget your partner for a bit. What has this relationship done to you? How have the life experiences shared with someone changed you as a person? Is it for the good or bad? Acknowledge the journey you had together — the good, the great, the bad, and the ugly. It isn’t easy when you are still grieving, but again, forget the person for a while, and consider this as an experience between you and life.
How was I before I met him/her?
How have I changed as a person since the time I met him/her?
Do I feel a sense of old me vs this new me? Which do I like better?
Can I be who I am and embrace who I have become?
What scares me the most right now?
Living with someone for years can do two things: make you stronger as an individual while still keeping your heart open to give and receive. This is a sign of a healthy relationship. Or, you could have lost yourself by giving too much, putting your partner first, and ignoring your own needs and priorities.
This means you lose yourself, which creates a void that you expect your partner to fill. You alone are responsible for letting this happen.
Now is the time to put your boundaries back in place.
How much time do I want to invest in people—friends, family, possible partners/dates?
How can I say NO when I want to and mean it?
Do I feel guilty to put my own needs first?
How can I address this guilt?
Do I have the permission to feel what I feel and own it unapologetically?
It’s okay to feel angry, sad, happy, weak, vulnerable, any damn thing you feel at the moment.
Nourish your joy
As hockey-pockey as this sounds, now is the time to remind yourself that your innate joy remains intact irrespective of who comes and goes. This might seem like a kind of denial but think about it. The only person you got is yourself. The only one you can rely on to stand by you till the day you drop is yourself. Clearly, there must be a joy that comes from being connected to this person and knowing you always got you.
Do little things that make you happy. Did you always love dancing? Did you love cooking, which was once therapeutic but now become a chore? Did you love dressing up and going out with your friends? Did you enjoy reading books or watching a show for the joy of it? Do it in little doses, whenever you can.
Take care of your health: mental and physical
It’s easy to reach out for the greasy fries and binge on ice cream. While it looks cute for a day, don’t punish your body for what our partner did to you. It’s okay to mop around for a while. Your body deserves more attention from you considering all the emotions running inside you. Have a bubble bath, indulge your senses, go for a walk, listen to your favorite non-love songs.
Take note of your mental health. Watch out for symptoms of self-harm (smoking way too much, skipping meals), and go easy on self-criticism. Talk to a trusted friend or family if you find your thoughts getting too negative. Your brain needs regular doses of neurotransmitters to retain its sanity and stay immune to depression.
Dopamine (motivation/self-esteem linked chemicals), serotonin (the feel-good chemical), and oxytocin (the love/bonding chemical) are important. Give yourself the opportunity for all this. For example:
Oxytocin: Cuddle with your pet or a shelter dog.
Dopamine: Set little goals and meet it: I will go for a walk today.
Serotonin: Give yourself a reason to smile.