How to Ride the Waves of Grief after a Breakup

Breakups, Relationships, Grief, Loss
October 25, 2016 Mariana 0 Comments

“You can love someone so much… But you can never love people as much as you can miss them.” –John Green

Of course, John Green (author of my bible throughout the teen years, Looking for Alaska) would come out swinging with a quote like the one above. Still sifting through how I feel about it- part of me agrees missing someone is so profound and another part of me says “love conquers all.”

Loss, longing, and grief are powerful experiences and emotions. In the mental health field, the “Stages of Grief” are often referenced to describe what people go through following a loss. What is important to note about these stages, is they are not necessarily linear- you don’t graduate from one stage, never to encounter it again. You might cycle back and forth through all of these stages, at various points of time, and there is nothing pathological about it. You are experiencing normal human emotions and turmoil to a gut-wrenching reality.


This pain is inevitable, but letting that pain impact your functioning is what we are trying to avoid. Cry, smile, sleep, go to a therapist (we really aren’t that bad), spend time with family and friends, learn something new, go on a weekend adventure, share a meal with someone, join a support group, paint, pursue a hobby, attend a yoga class, go to a museum, journal- take care of yourself and do what you need to validate (not ignore, push down, avoid) your pain (it deserves to be seen and validated too) and do something each day that sparks joy in you, something that feels good.

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“Get up, dress up, show up, and never give up.” Time does heal the pain and longing as you focus on doing you. And, in unexpected moments, a wave of grief might come pouring over you. Like, walking past a restaurant, putting on a pair of socks, a social media post, a song, a birthday. Anything, can remind you of a beautiful or painful moment that you once shared with someone you loved and who loved you. And with that memory, comes the reminder that you will likely not form new beautiful memories together, that they probably don’t think about you anymore, that they might not even like you anymore. You miss them, a lot.

‘I was sentimental about many things: a woman’s shoes under the bed; one hairpin left behind on the dresser; the way they said, “I’m going to pee..”; hair ribbons; walking down the boulevard with them at 1:30 in the afternoon, just two people walking together; the long nights of drinking and smoking; talking; the arguments; thinking of suicide; eating together and feeling good; the jokes; the laughter out of nowhere; feeling miracles in the air; being in a parked car together; comparing past loves at 3am; being told you snore; hearing her snore; mothers, daughters, sons, cats, dogs; sometimes death and sometimes divorce; but always carrying on, always seeing it through; reading a newspaper alone in a sandwich joint and feeling nausea because she’s now married to a dentist with an I.Q. of 95; racetracks, parks, park picnics; even jails; her dull friends; your dull friends; your drinking, her dancing; your flirting, her flirting; her pills, your fucking on the side and her doing the same; sleeping together.’ -Charles Bukowski.

You might start questioning your own judgment, what you could have done differently, what they could have done differently, you start questioning everything about your life- your job, where you live, your friend group, your new significant other. Evaluating your life to determine if you are on the path you want to be on might be disorienting but it is also fruitful. Continue doing things that move you towards the person you want to be, towards the life you want, towards what your gut is telling you is the right thing to do, for you. And for some hope throughout the process, remember things start, continue, and end- this is the natural cycle of life and when something ends, remember something new is about to begin, that’s just how the universe works. “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” -Lao Tzu

Some people become jaded by a broken-heart. If there is a part of you that is feeling this way, it’s trying to protect you, it’s trying to help you from being hurt again. And you can gently ask it to step aside, so you can open up again to one of the most beautiful feelings and experiences of being a human. To be seen, valued, cared for, accepted, and genuinely loved. “You don’t need another human being to make your life complete, but let’s be honest. Having your wounds kissed by someone who doesn’t see them as disasters of your soul but cracks to put their love into is the most calming thing in the world.” –Emery Allen.

“Happiness is what happens when you go to bed on the hottest night of the summer, a night so hot you can’t even wear a tee-shirt and you sleep on top of the sheets instead of under them, although trying to sleep is probably more accurate. And then at some point late, late, late, at night, say just a bit before dawn, the heat finally breaks and the night turns cool and when you briefly wake up, you notice that you’re almost chilly, and in your groggy, half-consciousness, you reach over and pull the sheet around you and just that flimsy sheet makes it warm enough and you drift back into a deep sleep. And it’s that reaching, that gesture, that reflex we have to pull what’s warm- whether it’s something or someone- toward us, that feeling we get when we do that, that feeling of being safe in the world and ready for sleep, that’s happiness.” -Paul Schmidtberger.

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