Unless you're happily living the no-strings life -- or were lucky enough to find your one and only in high school -- for most of us, breakups are an inescapable fact of life.
Of course, that hardly makes them any easier.
“Separation and divorce is right up there on the stress scale. Even if it’s a positive decision, it’s still not something you would have expected to happen -- so it’s completely natural to feel grief,” Jacqui Manning, psychologist and founder of The Friendly Psychologist told The Huffington Post Australia.
There’s the shock factor as well as new avenues to navigate in both a practical and an emotional sense.
But people’s first reaction, which is generally to distract themselves, is far from helpful in the long run.
“We live in a society that has ample distractions. It’s a natural reaction to feeling pain that you want to run and hide -- but distraction only lasts for so long,” Manning said.
What actually helps people move through the stage of grief faster is if they’re able to feel the hurt by acknowledging whatever emotion they are feeling. Whether that means crying quite deeply for a while or being alone for a couple of days.
Manning said often people who have just separated also feel a sense of failure.
“But what they tend to forget is there are actually a lot of people who have been through or are going through a similar thing,” Manning said.
It’s important for people to remember that this feeling won’t last forever but at the very least, there’s a few things you can do to ease the grief and reclaim your sense of self.
Find your routine
“Starting a new routine is often a good move if you’re feeling a bit lost. Aim to do one thing per day that’s consistent. Don’t fall into the trap of aiming too high though, just ensure you are consistent with one activity for example, going for a walk every day.”
“This plays into the importance of being kind to yourself. Organise a movie night with a friend or book in to get a massage. Not only is it relaxing but it’s another form of release.”
“It doesn’t have to be vigorous, it can be quite gentle. When you’re coping with grief or change you can produce a lot of different chemicals in your body such as adrenalin and cortisol and physical activity can help to release these a bit quicker. But don't worry, it doesn’t have to be a sweat-filled cycle class with screaming instructors. The aim is to feel a sense of achievement which could come from something as simple as giving the house a spring clean.”
Brainstorm the things that bring you joy
“Perhaps you don’t have the kids every weekend now, which is a great opportunity to go and join a hiking group or a cooking class -- something that takes you out of your comfort zone. Even if you don’t feel like doing it at the time, chances are you’ll feel better afterwards.”
Go for a swim
“I often recommend people go for a swim after they’ve had a big release, there’s a lot of cleansing and healing to be had with salt water -- it might sound a bit kooky but there’s that sense of physical wash as well as emotional -- it’s quite invigorating.”
Ask for help
“Some clients get thrown by having to do activities or tasks that they may not have had to look after beforehand such as maintenance of the house or looking after the finances. Don’t be afraid of asking for help or advice. You’ll be surprised at how willing others are to help out.”
Seek peace and quiet
“This is especially useful if you’ve come from a position where you were arguing with your ex-partner a lot. And there’s often a sense of not being able to handle the silence of the house, especially if there’s kids involved. Learn to get used to your own company, whether that means playing soft music or breathing deeply while having a quiet moment.”
Find one friend who you trust
“Often people’s social circle takes a dive during a breakup. This can be due to you declining certain social events which can put you out of touch with the group. Having one person that you can honestly confide in means they can ensure those invitations keep flowing in, for when the time comes when you do feel like socialising again.”
Take a break from social media
“Social media can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that it’s easier to reach out to friends and there’s that sense of connection and belonging. But a curse because these platforms always only show a snapshot of other people’s lives -- a snapshot that is generally very positive that may make you feel worse emotionally."