Grief After Breakup: 5 Ways to Cope with Shock & Denial
Grief is something we all deal with at some point or another in our lives. We can grieve any loss, it isn't exclusive to bereavement. We can grieve the loss of a job, a friendship, a pet or a relationship.
Over a series of blog posts, I'm looking at each of the "7 Stages of Grief" as described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and how they relate to a breakup.
My Story: How Shock & Denial Felt
When we initially broke up in early January, I had all the typical shock symptoms: I didn't sleep, I couldn't settle. I drove to a friends house at 10pm and spent all night crying, not sleeping. I managed to stop crying just long enough to get ready for work and apply makeup but then got in my car and cried some more and made a mess of my face. Work was impossible, so returned home where I laid in bed and you guessed it, crying.
Here's where denial kicked in. My resolve was that I was going to mail his things back and write a letter. He would read it and we would make up, everything would be fine. I didn't get this far and this is where he came to look after me after my miscarriage.
When he disappeared into thin air, I went straight to denial. He's done this before, he always comes back. He will realise my worth, he will miss me. He will come back, he's just in a bad place. In moments where I was slipping into the other stages of grief, I told myself there is no point getting upset because when he comes back, I will have cried for nothing.
I had a second bout of shock when we spoke 2 months later when I realised it was really over. Forever, ever. The shock was not as bad this time as I had already had 2months of processing the possibility of this outcome. It didn't last as long, I had three very bad days.
I had a panic attack, I threw up, cried uncontrollably, paced my house. It was not my finest hour. I was unable to settle in any room in my house so I dragged my duvet and pillow onto my landing and tried to sleep there for the night. I managed to make it to 6.00am before driving back to my hometown and turning up at my parents. My mother consoled me and had me living at her house for the next month.
I was in denial about some aspects as I could not, and as I write this still, can't believe he was in my life only a few months ago and now he is a complete stranger, living a totally new life. To this day I still wonder if I am in his thoughts and if I will get a "Hey, how are things?" message.
5 Ways to Cope With Shock & Denial
Clear Your Space. Remove all photos and all traces of your ex from your house. You don't have to throw anything away at this point, just grab a box and anything that reminds you of them goes in. I had a huge shopping bag and everything went in the bag - books, toothbrush, gifts, even his mug, everything must go.
Healing Messages to Yourself. Here I don't mean reciting positive affirmations you don't feel. Telling yourself every morning that you are over your ex and you are happy won't work because you don't believe it, you don't feel this way yet. "I miss my ex, but I'm healing" or "this breakup hurts, but it won't be forever" are more believable statements that could resonate more as it is true. You will get through this breakup.
Write these statements down on post it notes or A4 sheets of paper and stick them around your space to serve as a reminder that you are healing, you are getting through this.
Remember, we aren't promoting toxic positivity here. These messages are for you and what will help you in the moment. I put a poster one on my door that I would read as I was leaving the house that listed all the way in which my ex was an absolute c***, along with my positive reinforcement messages.
Talking Things Out. Friends and family are a life line when you're going through a breakup, you don't have to go through this alone.
However, there are only so many people you can tell before every knows your breakup details and you feel like you are repeating yourself. Journaling can be really useful to get rid of those ruminating thoughts.
I've done voice note journals for the last couple of years so found recordings a good way to get out what I needed to say. I generally recorded these before bed in a way of getting my thoughts out of my brain so I was able to sleep.
Build a Morning Routine. You don't have to achieve something profound to have success. You can accomplish a lot in a day. A great way to start the day is to build a morning routine. You will already have some routine in place, get up, brush teeth, get ready for work. How about adding in drinking a glass of water and having breakfast.
Navy Seal, Admiral McRaven talks about making the bed as part of his commencement speech to University of Texas graduates. He talks about accomplishment and how the little things in life matter. The link to his speech is here. Skip to 4:55 for his views on why making the bed every morning is important, however I would highly recommend listening to the whole clip.
Once you have decided on what your morning routine will look like, write it out and pin it up in your bedroom or on your fridge. Work through this routine every morning and every day, no matter what happens you will have accomplished each item on your list.
Self Care Apps. Having therapy or counselling isn't always available however there are many self care apps that can support you during tough times. Below are a few suggestions to get you started.
Mend is is self care for breakups. You have a daily check in of mood, training and journal to support your breakup.
Motivation gives you affirmations throughout the day.
Gratitude gives prompts for journal entries such as "what are the 3 things at your home that help you take care of yourself?" or "when did you feel grateful today?".
Daily Bean is a mood tracking app.
Dear Reader, thank you for joining me here. I hope you find this useful. I will be talking about Pain & Guilt in my next post on the stages of grief in heartbreak.