Dear @colette, I would firstly like to commend and thank you for your openness and courage in sharing your story with us here on this platform. Matters of the heart are never straightforward and I imagine that navigating the layers of emotions arising from these recent series of events can get really overwhelming.
I’m assuming that by the time you’re reading this, a couple of days would’ve passed since the last time you’d spoken to friend I. I’m wondering if your emotions have changed in any way since then? Being social creatures, the relationships that we form with others tend to make up a big portion of our identity and the way in which we perceive ourselves. As a result, when we lose any of these relationships, especially ones that are of great value to us, we may experience the process of grief. This process of grief may take you through different phases – for example, you may initially find yourself being desperate for answers, before moving into a state of denial and anger. You may read more on the stages of grief here (1). These stages may not necessarily take place in a linear manner. Eventually, our goal ideally is for the grief to bring you to a place of acceptance and redirected hope. It is important to bear in mind, however, that this process can happen at vastly different paces for different individuals. I’d like for you to know that it is okay to take it at your own pace. There are times in which it may feel like the grief will last forever but know that there are healthy ways to cope that will help these feelings dissipate over time.
Before I share some coping strategies with you, I’d like to tell you that all the emotions you mentioned feeling in the process are valid – you mentioned that you felt humiliated, foolish, and at some point jealous, when you noticed friend I paying close attention to M. Given the close relationship you had with friend I and the way things had ended between the two of you, it’s only natural that such feelings would come up. From what you’ve shared, it sounds like there had been a fair bit of ambiguity when the two of you had previously decided to end the relationship – perhaps this had allowed you to harbour some hope for a future with friend I still, despite the romantic relationship ending. It sounds like the recent situation has forced you to confront this sense of hope, and this is bound to cause a lot of discomfort.
Here are a couple of things you could try out and some reminders to help you cope in this time:
1. Identify your feelings and embrace them
As hard as it may be to accept, it is not possible for us to avoid the pain of loss. Attempts to ignore or suppress what you’re feeling are only likely to prolong the grieving process, and possibly cause you to even get stuck in it. I’d like for you to try to identify everything that you may be feeling, and allow yourself the space to experience them. Doing this may be quite straightforward when it comes to less consequential events, but for more impactful events such as this one, it can take a while to do so. Take some time to try and really think about what you’re feeling. Identifying our feelings allows us to acknowledge and accept that we are feeling these emotions. Before we can brush ourselves off and pick ourselves up, it’s important for us to acknowledge the hurt and not to rush through this process – however counterintuitive this may feel. You may use this emotion wheel (2) to help you. If you find your emotions getting too overwhelming, you may also wish to try out this guided meditation exercise to help you cultivate the strength and awareness to accept any difficult emotions that may arise with greater mental resilience (3).
2. Air your thoughts and feelings
Talking about your feelings related to the loss of the relationship is an equally powerful tool to manage them. As we share our feelings with trusted sources of support, we may be able to come to new understandings and relieve some of our pain. Realistically speaking, as you would’ve seen based on the stages of grief, losing contact with someone who was such a significant part of your life will never be an easy change for anyone to come to terms with. It might take some time for you to come to a sense of true acceptance, but know that you don’t have to take the steps towards this sense of acceptance on your own. Speaking to others in such times may also give us comfort by reinforcing that our feelings are normal, and that others have survived such feelings as well. If you need some guidance in identifying trusted sources of support, you can try out this exercise (4).
Having said that, people may not always be available when you need to let out your thoughts and feelings, or you may deem some of these as being too private to be shared with others. In such cases, you may wish to try penning them down instead by journaling. Here are some journaling prompts to guide you along as you reflect (5).
3. Avoid personalising the loss
In the process of reflecting the end of a relationship, it is easy to fall into the endless trap of pointing fingers at yourself or the other party for the way things turned out. Much of the pain arising from the end of a relationship comes from perceiving the loss as being your fault and regretting the choices you made while having been in the relationship. Instead of personalising the loss, it may be far more helpful to look at the end of the relationship as resulting from conflicting needs and incompatibilities that are neither your nor friend I’s fault in particular. Each individual in a relationship is trying to get their own needs met, and some couples are able to help fulfil each other’s needs while others may not. One of the biggest issues in relationships is communicating these needs and negotiating them. This is something that requires a lot of experience to learn, so try not to blame yourself and redirect the focus instead to thinking about what you can takeaway from this experience.
You may also find yourself succumbing to ruminative/negative thoughts more easily if your basic needs are not being met. It is important, more than ever, to take care of yourself in this time. Try to make sure that your basic self-care needs are met, even though this may be especially difficult in the presence of overwhelming emotions. You may not feel like eating but try to find ways to help you do this anyways – for instance, by scheduling meals with the sources of support that you’ve identified. Give yourself sufficient time to sleep as well – sleep deprivation may compound the impact of grief. You may wish to try listening to this sleep story when in bed if you are struggling to fall asleep (6).
Making decisions can be especially difficult when your mind is clouded with too many thoughts and/or you’re feeling overwhelmed. I hope engaging in some of these strategies will provide some comfort and give you some clarity as to what steps you’d like to take next. Feel free to share your experience after trying any of these out. Take care!
(1) The 7 Stages of Grieving a Breakup | Psychology Today Singapore
(2) Emotion Wheel: What it is and How to Use it to Get to Know Yourself
(5) Self-love journal prompts for healing from a breakup - Longwalks - Unfilter Yourself.