What you’re feeling is grief — and how to overcome it

Sadness, yearning, anger, guilt, forgetfulness, insomnia and even physical symptoms such as headaches, weakness in your muscles and a tightness in your chest — these are all known symptoms of grief, which people can experience after the death of a loved one.

But, many of my clients who are going through a divorce or separation also experience these side-effects too. There are many types of losses that people can experience over their lifespan that may result in a ‘grief response’ — and a breakup is one of them.

So, what can you do to support yourself through it? Here, psychotherapist and counsellor Shane Warren shares his experience of coaching people through loss, change and life confusion.

If it feels like grief, it is

Why does a breakup cause the same reaction as grief? Well, it feels the same because it is the same. It is a loss: a loss of dream, a loss of the good that it was, a loss of someone who you no matter what have that unexplained biochemical link with and so you need to grieve the end of all this as you would should someone pass over.

Grief starts with shock

Unexpected breakups bring shock due to the suddenness. Whether we nurse a loved one to the end or if they are suddenly taken by an accident, we know that grief always starts with a moment of shock. This is followed by questioning (why did it happen? what could I have done?), followed by anger, and more questioning. Next, we learn new ways to be without a person.

A pandemic potency

Our current situation — COVID-19 and social distancing — can exacerbate breakup grief. This is a time when we all just needle a cuddle and when the person who once provided that comfort and sense of security is no longer so available then our grief can be compounded.

Sit with the feelings

I am a big believer that, when we are feeling the adverse emotions of a breakup, we need to sit with the feeling for a while and then take action steps to move out of that feeling. Focus on self-care! Don’t forget that, no matter how much we loved someone, that love requires self-sacrifice and compromise. After a break up, we don’t need to compromise so much, so indulge in this for a while.

Don't go it alone

It’s always good to reach out to professional help at these times, as an impartial ear is a benefit. There are key signs we look for — is the experience dominating your daily activity, is it limiting you from moving forward, are you trapped in feelings of anger and resentment? If some of this rings true then professional help is best.

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