How to Repair Your Self Esteem After a Breakup

How to Repair Your Self Esteem After a Breakup

How to Repair Your Self Esteem After a Breakup

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Has Your Breakup or Divorce Shattered Your Self Esteem?

Hands down, one of the most horrible parts about going through a bad breakup or divorce is the way it mangles your self-esteem. I know from so many years as a therapist and life coach, that many people experience post-divorce depression (or post-breakup depression). There are many parts to this experience: Grief and loss, or feeling overwhelmed by all the practical aspects of putting your life back together.

However, for most people, the most terrible depression after a breakup comes when it damages your self-esteem and makes you start to feel bad about yourself.

If you've been feeling down on yourself since your relationship ended I want you to know something right off the bat, feeling this way does not mean that you're actually “less than.”

I talk to a LOT of people about the most vulnerable parts of their life. I know for a fact that even the most gorgeous, amazing, successful people second-guess themselves after a divorce or breakup. Even the most naturally confident, strong, and reasonable among us — in the throes of a devastating break up — still have these types of horrible, torturous conversations with themselves in their darkest moments:

  • Anxious Thought: “Why did this relationship fail?” Self-Esteem Crushing Answer: Because of all your personal shortcomings and the mistakes you made in this marriage or relationship.
  • Anxious Thought: “Why doesn't the person I love more than anything want to be with me anymore?” Self Esteem Crushing Answer: Because you aren't interesting / fun / sexy / smart / successful enough.
  • Anxious Thought: “Why didn't my Ex care enough about me to treat me better while we were together?” Self Esteem Crushing Answer: Because you're just not that worthy or lovable.
  • Anxious Thought: “Why did my Ex cheat on me or get together with someone new?” Self Esteem Crushing Answer: Because that someone new is much more interesting, attractive, worthy of love and respect. Basically, they're just a better person than you.

If you're going through a bad breakup, chances are you're probably nodding to yourself as you see this self-destructive internal dialogue put to paper. You've probably been being tortured by these ideas too.

And it's making you feel terrible about yourself.

But, believe it or not, as bad as that is…. that's not even the most toxic, ruinous thing that can happen to your already fragile self-esteem in the aftermath of a traumatic break-up.

The most terrible thing is not when your Ex betrays you or mistreats you. It's not even when you blame yourself for why it didn't work out, or torture yourself with ongoing commentary about all of your shortcomings and failures.

The Most Destructive Part of a Breakup: Breaking Your Trust in Yourself

Yes, your self-esteem gets throttled when you feel rejected, or blame yourself for what went wrong. But it gets ground up into sausage and squished into the dirt when you betray or mistreat yourself in the aftermath of a terrible breakup:

  • When you fail to protect yourself from a toxic or abusive Ex.
  • When you do things that you're ashamed of… all in desperate efforts to even briefly escape the pain of heartbreak, and reconnect with your Ex.
  • When you keep contacting or spying on your Ex through social media, even when you know you shouldn't.
  • When you are still sleeping or hooking up with your Ex, even when you feel more devastated afterward.
  • When your mental and emotional energy is still completely focused on your Ex, and your mood for the entire day (not to mention your worth as a person) depends on what they are doing or not doing.
  • When you are compromising your ethics, morals, and self-respect in efforts to regain the love and approval of your Ex.

This darkness is not something that usually gets discussed openly. But it's very real and very destructive to your long term health, your happiness, and your self-worth. And as you know only too well if you're going through it, you need support and compassion on your path of healing and recovery.

I have spent years helping broken-hearted people with divorce and break-up recovery counseling and coaching, and poured through oceans of research to write my book, “Exaholics: Breaking your addiction to an Ex Love.” I've spent years helping my private clients heal their self-esteem in the aftermath of a bad breakup, and now we're addressing it today on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

On today's show, I'm going to help you understand how your self-esteem was damaged, and how to develop new compassion and empathy for yourself. We're also going to discuss the five steps to healing your self-esteem after a breakup so that you can start putting yourself back together again.

I hope that this helps support you on your journey of growth and healing.

xoxo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: In this podcast, we discuss a number of resources. Here are links to all the breakup recovery resources I shared:

My private Online Breakup Support Group on Facebook. (It's a hidden group, so you have to request access).
Exaholics.com
Online Breakup Recovery Program: www.breakup-recovery.com
Book: Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to An Ex Love

PJ Harvey: To Bring You My Love, and book (poetry collection) The Hollow Of The Hand

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How To Repair Your Self Esteem After a Breakup

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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How to Let Go of Anger

How to Let Go of Anger

How to Let Go of Anger

Release Anger + Reclaim Yourself

[social_warfare]

 

How to Let Go of Anger

Not to long ago I was talking with one of my life coaching clients about a regrettable situation that he experienced with a family member. There was a bad argument that actually became physical, and an already strained relationship felt like it was broken beyond repair.

He was okay with that: This family member was so toxic that it was probably in the best interests of all to not attempt to mend that particular relationship, but rather focus on healthy boundaries.

In our coaching session we talked about the event itself, and we both agreed that he handled himself as well as possible under very difficult circumstances.

But, as is so often the case, even though the event itself was in the past, he still found himself having intrusive thoughts and feelings about it. Specifically, he felt angry. He felt angry at his family member for being so horrible. He felt angry that he'd been assaulted. He felt angry that this person had been so disrespectful and hurtful to other family members. He felt angry that a holiday gathering that should have been a happy time for his family had been spoiled.

His question to me, “How do I let go of anger?” was such a good one that I thought I'd share the answer(s) with you, too. Why? Because I bet that you, like so many of our life coaching and therapy clients here at Growing Self, might also be harboring some anger that it's high time to release.

Anger: When The Past Is Emotionally In The Present

There are many different types of anger that often impact our life coaching, therapy, and couples counseling clients here at Growing Self. All are different in some way, and similar in others. All are important, and deserve attention.

Anger After Being Mistreated

Many people harbor feelings of anger after being mistreated in the past. Perhaps they were wronged by a parent, or a sibling, or a friend, or a co-worker, or in a former relationship. They have the right to their pain, and often the anger itself is entirely legitimate and justifiable: They were treated badly and have a right to be angry.

The issue arises when they are feeling angry, now, in the present moment, months or years after the event occurred. The anger attached to the past event is still very much alive inside of them and impacting the way they feel, as well as their sleep or even their physical health.

Having unresolved anger from the past can also impact your current relationships. Until you've worked through your anger, it's likely that you will be triggered by situations in your current relationship and that can lead to problems. If you find yourself having feelings about things that seem out of proportion to what is actually happening, it may be helpful to do some exploration around whether you have lingering feelings of unresolved anger from past experiences.

Anger After Infidelity

It's extremely difficult for many people to release anger after infidelity or betrayal. One of the biggest hurdles to many of our marriage counseling or couples therapy clients who are trying to repair their relationships after an affair is helping them let go of anger after infidelity or betrayal.

Feeling so angry with your partner after a betrayal is very common, but unless you're getting support in how to work through that anger constructively, anger can also be extremely destructive to the relationship. While there is a place and time for anger, if you don't find a way to work through it, ongoing anger after an affair can sabotage your efforts to rebuild your relationship. 

Anger After a Divorce or Breakup

Similarly, many of our breakup recovery coaching clients are dealing with massive amounts of anger after a breakup or divorce. While it is absolutely normal to be angry after a divorce or breakup, anger is also one of those emotions that can keep you stuck in the past for much longer than is healthy for you.

Many people find that working through the anger about their breakup or divorce is an essential step in their healing process.

Feeling Angry With Yourself

It's also not uncommon for people to be carrying anger towards themselves. This is often (paradoxically) true for people who have done a lot of wonderful personal growth work and are very different people than they were years ago. As they evolve personally, they may become aware that they did things in the past that they would never do now — and they feel angry with themselves for it. Learning constructive ways to deal with feelings of regret, or forgiving yourself for behaving badly or betraying yourself in the past is often a crucial step towards ultimate growth and healing.

Why You Need to Let Go of Anger (Eventually)

If you've had bad things done to you, you will understandably feel angry. And sometimes, in certain circumstances, anger is actually a very healthy, helpful emotion. Anger protects you, it warns you, and it gives you the energy to defend yourself. But at some point, anger no longer serves its original purpose of protecting you.

However, unresolved anger simmers inside of you, creating a physiological stress response that over time, damages your body. Furthermore, unresolved anger leads to thoughts and emotions that constrict your ability to feel positive emotions. Worst of all, unresolved anger can trap you: Tarnishing the present moment, taking up all the space in your relationships, and coming out in ways that are destructive to you or others.

Letting Go of Anger

So on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I'm going to be sharing my best advice for how to let go of anger. We'll be discussing:

  • Different types of anger
  • How holding on to anger harms you, ultimately
  • Strategies to work through anger, productively
  • Ways to maintain a more positive emotional equilibrium
  • How to find forgiveness (and still have boundaries)

I hope this podcast helps you on your path of growth and healing.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

[social_warfare]

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Letting Go of Anger

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: The  Golden Dawn, “Let The Sunshine In”

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Let's  Talk

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Mindful Self Compassion

Mindful Self Compassion

Mindful Self Compassion

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Mindful Self Compassion

MINDFUL SELF COMPASSION: As you may know, in addition to my work here as a therapist, couples counselor and life coach, I love addressing listener questions on the Love Happiness and Success Podcast (not to mention the wonderful questions that you guys leave for me on our blog). A while ago, one brave listener reached out with a heartfelt email, sharing a bit about her life, and asking how to handle some really difficult things, like: “How do I forgive myself when I've hurt someone?” “How do I break my old patterns so that I don't do harmful things again?” “How do I stay emotionally available when I fear being hurt?” These are important questions that many people wrestle with, and I decided to tackle them on the show. We'll be discussing:

How to Forgive Yourself When You've Hurt Someone

While so many resources are there to help you if you've been hurt by someone else, or need to forgive someone who has betrayed you, or how to rebuild trust in a relationship, few resources exist to help those suffering with feelings of guilt, regret and remorse. This is unfortunate, because who among us hasn't done something they regret? The worst is when you've hurt someone you've loved, and maybe lost a relationship as a result of it. We'll discuss how to apply self-awareness and mindful self-compassion to this situation in order to find forgiveness for yourself, by putting your actions in context of both your life experience and your inner experience. We'll talk about how to practice self-compassion, and also some self-compassion exercises to help you develop this skill. Resources: Here's the link to the attachment styles article I mentoned. One of the other resources I discuss here is our “What's Holding You Back” quiz to help you gain self-awareness (here's the link if you want to check it out).

How Do I Break My Old Patterns?

The crux of any personal growth process is using your self-awareness and your feelings to get clearer about your values, help you guide your future behavior and future choices. But all we have is the present moment. We'll talk about how to combine compassion for yourself, empathy for others, and mindfulness skills to manage yourself in the moment so that you create better outcomes in the future. Resource: Mindfulness, For People Who Hate to Meditate

How Do I Stay Emotionally Available in Relationships?

When you're feeling fragile and emotionally reactive, it's hard to have healthy relationships. Instead, we usually fall into either losing ourselves and being dependent on another for our feelings of self-worth. (Which too often leads to emotional enmeshment and codependency). Or, we swing into self-protection, lashing out, shutting down, or breaking off relationships. The key to finding a middle path — connection, and confidence — is through loving yourself and strengthening yourself. Resource: Here's the link to the Self-Love article I mentioned. Also, an article about cultivating healthy vulnerability in relationships. At the heart of all the ideas, skills and strategies here for forgiving yourself, and using your mistakes as a launch pad for growth is the concept of mindful self-compassion. I hope you keep that idea with you, on your journey of growth and healing. Your fellow traveler, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Mindful Self Compassion: How to Forgive Yourself

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Long-Distance Relationship Breakup

Long-Distance Relationship Breakup

Should We Breakup?

As a couples therapist and relationship coach who provides services online, I frequently work with couples who find themselves in long-distance relationships. Long-distance relationships are more popular than ever these days, especially as more and more people are finding love through apps or websites that expand their pool of potential partners beyond their own towns and cities. 

Lots of great articles and podcasts exist for people in long-distance relationships about how to improve their relationships or maintain their connections. However, today, I want to talk about a side of long-distance relationships that usually gets less attention–how to know when it’s time to let go, and how to move on once you’ve made that decision.

What’s The Real Problem–the Relationship Or The Distance?

When working with couples or individuals who are going through a hard time in their long-distance relationship, one of the most common questions I receive is whether the problems they are experiencing are just being caused by the distance or whether it’s the relationship itself that isn’t working. 

In my experience, the answer to this question is most often that the challenges at hand are from a combination of the two. For example, I often meet with couples who experience some communication difficulties when they’re together that then are exacerbated into something larger when they are long distance. 

In these kinds of situations, I recommend that couples work with an experienced couples therapist or relationship coach who can help them determine the root cause of their challenges and give them tools to help address them.

Here are a few of the questions that I usually walkthrough as I help my clients determine an answer to whether their challenges are being caused by being long distance or by deeper issues within the relationship:

  • What is your relationship like when you are physically together?
  • Have you been physically together for extended periods of time before?
  • Have you been physically together when real-life stressors are present? (Or in other words, not just on vacation?)
  • In thinking about your relationship’s challenging areas, what are those areas like when you are physically together?

A final point about this common question: If your relationship is likely to remain long-distance for months or years to come, differentiating between problems caused by the distance and problems caused by the relationship may not matter all that much.

When clients ask me this question in our work together, they’re often assuming that if the relationship is all good when they’re together and it’s really just the distance that’s causing difficulties, they can discount the problems caused by physical separation as somehow less real. However, if being long-distance is a standard part of your relationship, the problems that come along deserve serious consideration as you decide whether to continue in the relationship.

What If You Can’t Make A Long-Distance Relationship Work? 

There are lots of valid reasons why partners might choose to end a relationship, and when it comes to couples who are long-distance, physical separation also often plays a role. While there are absolutely couples who are able to have healthy and happy long-distance relationships, not being able to consistently share physical space with your partner can be a legitimate challenge.

One reason for this is that being in a long-distance relationship requires more intentionality to help each partner feel loved and cherished. When you live with or in the same city as your significant other, it’s relatively easy to share little moments that build your connection, such as doing small acts of service for each other or holding hands as you talk about your day. In a long-distance relationship, it often takes more planning and forethought to show these small gestures of love, which means that it’s easier for them to fall to the wayside.

If you come to the conclusion that a long-distance relationship and the intentionality necessary to maintain it is not right for you, but still want to maintain your relationship with your partner, it may be worth exploring if you or your partner relocating to either live together or in the same city is a feasible option.

What Are Some Of The Signs That It’s Time To Let Go Of A Long Distance Relationship?

How to know when it’s time to let go of a relationship, regardless of whether it’s long-distance or not, is one of the most common questions that I get asked by my clients. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that no one knows your relationship like you do, and only you and your partner can make the final decision of when to end things. With that in mind, here are some of the signs specific to long-distance couples that I often discuss with my clients about when it may be time to consider letting go of your relationship:

  • You realize that you or your partner has needs that are too difficult to meet when you are long-distance, and these unmet needs are leading to resentment.
  • You or your partner don’t have the energy or time to exercise the intentionality that’s necessary to have a healthy and thriving long-distance relationship.
  • You don’t want to be long-distance anymore, but there is no feasible way for you and your partner to live together or in the same city in the near future.

What Is The Best Way To Initiate A Long-Distance Breakup?

Just like with all breakups, showing your partner respect is a key part of ending your long-distance relationship. Here are a few things that are helpful to consider when trying to figure out the best way to break up with your long-distance partner: 

The Medium. A good rule of thumb when breaking up with your partner is to choose a medium as close as possible to speaking in person, like a video chat or a phone call. Because long-distance relationships often rely a lot on text messaging or email as a means of communication, it can be tempting to break up through these means of communication as well, especially if you’re a person who hates conflict. Resist that urge! 

Unless there were extenuating circumstances in the relationship that could endanger your emotional safety during a phone or video conversation (like emotional abuse or gaslighting), it’s always better to go with a phone or video call if possible. 

The Timing. Another important factor to consider when initiating a breakup with your long-distance partner is timing. Ideally, try to choose a time when you know they won’t be busy, like in the middle of their workday, or preoccupied, like right before an interview or large presentation.

A Head’s Up. It can be helpful to your partner (and help get the ball rolling in the actual breakup conversation) if you give them a head’s up about having something important to talk about with them when you schedule a time for your phone or video conversation. 

There’s no need to go into too much detail (after all, you don’t want to do the actual breaking up here), but simply letting them know that when you have this conversation, there’s something important you need to talk with them about regarding the relationship will give them some time to mentally prepare for what’s to come.

How Can I Begin To Heal From The End Of My Long-Distance Relationship?

In my work as a breakup recovery therapist and coach, one of the ways that I have seen a long-distance breakup be different from typical breakups is that, at first, your life may not seem to change all that much. 

In a typical relationship, a breakup often involves moving out from the living space you share with your partner or finding new things to do during your evenings and weekends. However, when your long-distance relationship ends, your living space will usually not change, and your day-to-day life will likely remain largely the same, minus some messages and calls from your ex.

Because long-distance breakups tend to change people’s daily lives less dramatically, it may take longer for the reality of your breakup and the typical grieving process to set in. Once it does, however, healing from the end of your relationship is much like healing from the end of any relationship. Grieving your relationship, experiencing a range of emotions, and eventually, growth, are all normal and to be expected. To learn about the stages of a breakup in more detail, I recommend checking out Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby’s podcast episode specifically on this topic: Long Distance Relationship Questions.

As you heal from the end of your relationship, should you feel that additional support beyond what your friends and family can provide would be helpful, I would also recommend meeting with a therapist or coach who specializes in breakup recovery for private meetings or group sessions (like my online Breakup Support Group). 

Gaining professional guidance can help you make sure that you are on the right path to healing, and, if you decide to attend a group, hearing from others in similar situations can help you to know that you’re not alone.

If you find yourself in a long-distance relationship that doesn’t seem to be working, I hope that some of the perspectives I’ve shared here can be helpful to you.

Warmly,
Kensington

Utah online marriage counseling Denver online breakup recovery group

With compassionate understanding and unique insights, Kensington O., M.S., LAMFT, MFTC helps you improve the most meaningful parts of your life, from your emotional well-being to your relationships.

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Self-Care Tips for When You’re Going Through a Divorce

Self-Care Tips for When You're Going Through a Divorce

Take Care

The nature of the relationship between divorcing couples tends to fall anywhere on the range from amicable to highly contentious, but regardless of the dynamic, going through divorce is never easy. Self-care and social support are critically important areas for divorcing spouses to focus their attention on as they navigate such a challenging time. 

As a therapist and breakup recovery coach, I like to walk my clients through the process of building self-care routines that can help aid in the recovery and healing process after a breakup or divorce.

Creating a List of Self-Care Activities

In my work with breakup recovery clients, I like to encourage you to create a list of self-care activities (I also like to call these “feel good” activities) that are diverse enough that you are able to engage in at least one activity from that list every single day. 

The reason why it’s important to have a diverse list is so that you can set yourself up for self-care success. It’s so easy to push off self-care when you’re going through a divorce, especially if you have a family. But it’s imperative that you remember to set aside time for yourself. 

I ask that clients are thoughtful about including activities that are in-home and some that take place out of the home; ones that are free and others that cost money; some that are outside and some that take place indoors; activities that require other peoples’ involvement and others that are solo activities, and so on. 

It might sound impossible to engage in self-care on a daily basis, but when you make a self-care list that is as diverse as possible, you are able to come up with activities that are appropriate regardless of the time of day or how much free time is available. 

For example, activities such as taking a long shower or watching a TV show can be done from the comfort of your home. Actions such as listening to music by your favorite artist or engaging in breathing exercises can occur at work. Going on a trip or out to dinner with friends require more planning and money than some other activities, but might still be appropriate for your self-care list. 

Anything that brings you joy and makes you feel good belongs on this list. 

[For more on creating a self-care plan, see: A Self-Care Plan to Cultivate Calm]

Establishing & Building Your Social Support

Social support is extremely important when going through any challenging experience, including divorce. Seeking support from friends, family, and/or a therapist are all good options, as is joining online support groups for people experiencing divorce. 

While you may find that you’ve lost some friends due to people taking sides or maybe you’ve lost touch with friends during your marriage and find you don’t have as many as you’d like, focusing on maintaining and rebuilding important relationships is a great way to ensure you have the support necessary to navigate and recover from a divorce.

Your support system can help you maintain your self-care activities, check-in and offer support when you are experiencing a more difficult day, offer encouragement, offer distraction, and help you work through your healing journey.

If now is the time when you are realizing that your friendships could use a little growth work of their own, check out these articles for tips on building healthy relationships:
The Importance of Healthy Friendships 
Feeling Lonely? How to Find True Friendship in a Frantic World.

Practicing Self-Care for Big Emotions

Big emotions are bound to spike during the divorce process and that can make it difficult to communicate effectively. Some divorce methods, such as Collaborative Divorce, have a mental health professional involved to help address these kinds of situations in the moment, but in other situations, you may feel more alone in terms of managing your emotions. 

Remember, divorce is a process and while there may be an urgency felt to settle the issues as quickly as possible, you are better off taking time to cool down and revisit the contentious issue, rather than making decisions while emotions are ramped up. 

Self-soothing is extremely important when it comes to managing emotions. Self-talk, such as telling yourself that this difficult period will pass or that you’ve been through other hard times and survived, can be extremely helpful, as are breathing exercises, such as inhaling through your nose, pausing for a few seconds, and slowly exhaling through your mouth. 

These are self-care activities you can engage in on the spot or immediately after divorce-related conversations or milestones.  

Feeling big emotions is part of being human, and it's important that you allow yourself the space to work through them. Emotional Self Care When Your Life is Falling Apart and It's Okay to Cry: How to Handle Big Emotions each share how to work through these big emotions while supporting yourself. 

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Managing Anxiety Around Rebuilding Your Life

Anxiety about the unknown surrounding life post-divorce is completely normal. People tend to try to eliminate the “bad” emotions as quickly as possible because they can feel so uncomfortable, but they are absolutely normal responses, and the sooner we allow ourselves to acknowledge them and even indulge them, the sooner we’re able to move through them. 

Self-talk can really make or break things and you have a huge amount of power during this process by choosing what kinds of thoughts you’d like to feed yourself. The anxiety-ridden thoughts are probably going to come to mind more easily, so it can be helpful to create a list of positive changes that are occurring as a result of the divorce so you can revisit that list when you feel bogged down by the anxiety.

I am a firm believer that crisis points often lead to opportunity and that nothing is 100% good or 100% bad, so when you feel ready, as strange as it might sound, I encourage you to contemplate the silver lining and the new opportunities that could come your way as a result of the divorce and capture that list in the notepad in your phone so you can continue to add it it as new ideas come to mind. 

Working Through Divorce Stages of Grief

When going through a divorce, it can feel like everything is falling apart. Rest assured, this feeling is not permanent, but there is validity to it. Navigating the Post-Divorce Stages of Grief can feel really scary, unstable, and uncertain. I strongly encourage you to treat this end of the relationship as a death because when we allow ourselves to frame our experience in that way, we also tend to be more gentle on ourselves and give ourselves permission to grieve in many of the ways we would if we suffered an actual death. The reality is, the end of a marriage is a death, and it’s okay if you are struggling to take care of yourself. 

The best course of action is to do one small self-care activity each day and not think too far ahead because the recovery process can feel too daunting. If that means that today you were able to get up and take a shower but not muster much else, that’s okay. Acknowledge small efforts to yourself and you will find that the efforts eventually build and build until you’ve developed a new normal. 

Perhaps most importantly, don't be afraid to reach out for help. Friends and family are often waiting in the wings to step in and help, but might not know that you’re suffering unless you communicate that to them. Likewise, therapists are always available to help support you during these difficult times, so reach out!

If you are going through a divorce or breakup, I recommend the book, How to Survive the Loss of a Love to help you on your healing journey. 

Warmly,
Dr. Rachel

Dr. Rachel Merlin, DMFT, LMFT, M.S.Ed.

Dr. Rachel Merlin is a relationship coach and marriage and family therapist who assists couples and individuals in transforming their lives by creating more satisfying relationships.

 

 

Real Help, To Move You Forward

 

Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

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Navigating the Post-Divorce Stages of Grief

Navigating the Post-Divorce Stages of Grief

Navigating the Post-Divorce Stages of Grief

Healing After heartbreak

This year in particular has been one of loss for many of us. You may have lost a loved one, or even just been mourning the many ‘normal ways of life’ that have perhaps irrevocably been lost.  

While navigating the stressful terrain of this year, as a therapist and online life coach I have been working with clients who have also been going through things like coping with job loss, infertility and pregnancy loss, and breakups. If you’ve been through or are going through a divorce or long-term relationship breakup, you should know that it will include a grieving process. I often tell my clients that a breakup can be conceptualized as the “death” of a relationship, and that it can be helpful to use the stages of grief to help move through all of the painful emotions that can arise. 

Before I go through the stages, I want to emphasize that just like when you’re grieving the death of a loved one, grief is a personal and unique experience. You may not go through all of these stages, you may go back and forth between some, and you may have some entirely new emotions come up. We use models like this one by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross to help make sense of the complicated and intense emotions involved, and to remind us that grief is a process we must move through, no matter how bumpy, to get to a place of peace and acceptance.  

With each stage below, I’ve provided an action takeaway that may serve as a helpful tool to navigate through it.

1. Shock and Denial

When relationships end in a sudden way, they can certainly cause shock and denial, as you begin to process the reality of this new life change. When I’ve worked with clients who are looking for support freshly out of a breakup, they’ve brought up things like feeling numb, helpless and generally out of control. Even when there is a longer, considered process that results in the decision to get a divorce or break-up, the weight of an ending can still result in these kinds of feelings. You may also be experiencing these feelings if you’re considering ending your relationship, and finding it difficult to make the decision.  

  • Action Takeaway: Sit down with your journal and start writing a eulogy for the relationship. Ask yourself: Why did this relationship need to end? Where were the highlights, positive moments, and the things you will miss? What were the lowlights, the hurtful, negative, or unacceptable parts? My hope for you is that you will be able to create a “funeral” or ritual of some sort where you can allow the reality of this life-changing moment to be fully felt and processed by your mind, body, and heart. 

 

2. Pain and Guilt

This is the stage where the pain of the breakup can feel overwhelming. You may have lost your closest support system in the ending of your relationship, and it can be a devastating time to be experiencing this pain. You may feel like you are “overflowing” with pain, and that you will never be okay. You may also experience feeling like your friends and family are “tired” of listening and supporting you, and appear to have moved on from this life-changing event that has happened to you.  

It’s important to know that feeling pain, guilt, overwhelming sadness or hopelessness are completely normal and needed for you to continue to process the breakup. It can be really helpful to talk with a counselor or coach who is experienced in breakup recovery, as they will know how to support you during this time. Your family and friends are there to support you, but  they also may have moved into a different stage in their own experience of the end of your relationship (especially when they were a close “part” of the relationship). Because of this, they may not fully be able to understand where you currently are in your process. 

  • Action Takeaway 1: Talk to a counselor or coach. You may have also taken a real hit to your self-esteem during this experience, and a counselor or breakup recovery coach can give you a safe space to explore your feelings and process your emotions. 
  • Action Takeaway 2: Express, express, express. Journal, cry in the shower, scream into your pillow, throw some paint on a canvas, go axe-throwing, anything to get that energy and emotions flowing out of you. They’re bubbling up and they want to come out! The more you push them down and away, the more they will simmer and bubble up. It's Okay to Cry: How to Handle Big Emotions and How Difficult Emotions Lead to Growth talk more about the darker emotions that we experience and the process that they bring us through into new growth. Check these two articles out if this is a difficult area for you. 

 

3.  Anger and Bargaining

Many of my clients are somewhere between the pain and anger stages when they come to me for breakup recovery coaching. The Anger and Bargaining stage may be when you have thoughts like “I should have done X differently” or “What if I had noticed Y years ago, maybe I could have done something differently” or “I just can’t understand or accept why they did Z”. This is likely when it becomes even harder to reach out to the people around you. You may be spiraling, experiencing intrusive thoughts, and finding it hard to manage the anger or other intense emotions, and people around you may be finding it harder to support you. 

  • Action Takeaway: Write a letter to your Ex, expressing what you’re most angry or hurt about. Try the prompts: What feels hardest to forgive? What did you need from them that you didn’t get? Then, tell your Ex how you grew, both through your time together in the relationship, as well as through the breakup. This letter is for your eyes only, so feel free to share all your thoughts and feelings – you’re the one who is holding the anger, it will help you to release it. 

Let's Talk. Schedule a Free Consultation Today.

 

4. Depression and Loneliness 

This stage can be a really low period, especially when it has become harder to feel supported from people in your life. You may also just feel drained from all the other exhausting emotions you’ve been going through. And again, you have just lost an important person in your life. It can be so easy to fall into a demoralized, hopeless place where you feel really alone. This is sometimes the stage people are in when they have reached out for breakup recovery support, and what has helped my clients is to know that I can empathize and bear witness to this grief, and really join them in a time that they may feel most alone.  

  • Action Takeaway: Pick up your phone and reach out to someone. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or someone like a breakup recovery coach or counselor, you need to help yourself by reminding yourself that you are not alone. If you feel really low, even just sending a text message to someone saying “I’m feeling like crap today” and letting them know that it doesn’t have to be a full conversation. You would want your loved ones to know that they could count on you to just listen and be there with you for a bit, wouldn’t you? Trust me, they feel the same about you.

 

5. The Upward Turn

The passing of time, processing your emotions, and support, will eventually bring you to a point where the most intense emotions have subsided, and you can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You may feel more calm, and you may finally feel hopeful and positive.  

  • Action Takeaway 1: When you feel negative emotions or thoughts coming up, engage in healthy distractions like calling a friend, reading, a fun physical activity, or doing something productive.
  • Action Takeaway 2: Practice mindfulness skills that help you stay in the present moment and use thought-stopping techniques to keep you from ruminating or spiraling into negative thoughts.

 

6. Reconstruction and Healing

Just like the stages of grief are not necessarily linear, the process of healing, reconstruction, and building yourself up will be bumpy. And just like grieving a death, the painful parts of a breakup may never completely go away. You want to continue to cultivate the feelings of peace when thinking about your old relationship, and embrace the lessons you’ve learned about yourself and about what you hope for in a future relationship.  

  • Action Takeaway: It’s time to really work on building up your self-esteem. Intentionally reflect on your positive qualities, the accomplishments in your life thus far, the personal strengths and gifts you are proud of, and what others appreciate the most about you. Make some space to engage in self-care, whatever that looks like for you. Spend time with loved ones and enjoy being able to feel lighter and more peaceful. 

 

7. Acceptance and Hope

This is the stage that I love to see my clients get to – a gradual acceptance of the end of the relationship, and feelings of positivity and hopefulness about the future. And yet, even when they have processed through most of their most intense emotions, come to accept and feel peace about the ending of the relationship, it is not uncommon that some of the earlier stages can come up again. A special day, a memory, a sentimental item in your home, may trigger some pain, sadness, anger, or betrayal. This is normal. Lean into the positive thoughts and feelings and notice the evidence in yourself of how far you have come from the earlier stages of grief. 

  • Action Takeaway: Use the learning and growth you’ve gone through during this grieving process and continue to work on your self-development, your goals for yourself and for a future relationship, and celebrate the resilience and strength that you have gained by going through such a painful experience! 

 

I’m sure you’ve faced a number of losses in your life, and are likely to face many more. It’s simply part of our human experience. I hope that, whatever stage of grief you’re in now, you found something useful here. Ultimately, grieving the loss of a relationship will be painful, and when you allow the process to take place and go through the stages of grief, it can result in remarkable growth, clarity about what you want to bring into your life next, and resilience.

Wishing you strength, support and wellness,
Sharmishtha

Life Coach - Career Coach - Hindi Speaking Therapist

Sharmishtha G., is a warm, validating counselor and coach who can help you uncover your strengths, get clear about who you are, heal your spirit, and attain the highest and best in yourself and your relationships. 

Sharmishtha offers breakup support coaching and divorce recovery coaching. She is an excellent life coach and individual counselor and can help you get clear about what you want, heal from past experiences, and move forward into a happier, healthier future. 

 

 

Real Help, To Move You Forward

 

Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.

 

 

Start your journey of growth today by scheduling a free consultation.

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