There’s really no hiding it…Valentine’s Day is nearly here. And, independently of our sentiments toward this “special day” the truth is that Valentine’s Day can be an emotionally painful time for many people. This “love day” can often bring up feelings associated with unmet hopes, dreams, and expectations in which we cling to the idea of wishing things were better, different or more in our lives.
For many people, Valentine’s Day is a reminder that their significant other has passed away leaving an unfillable void in their heart. Others may be dealing with a break-up, either recent or from long ago, that is making it difficult to get up in the morning and have the energy to do even the most mundane of things. For some, feelings of unhappiness and disappointment equate to being stuck in a toxic relationship that has dragged on for years. For others, it may even be the “forever single and always a bridesmaid” scenario which can bring up feelings of loneliness and unworthiness in a seemingly endless future of singledom. Whatever the cause of your broken heart, we are here to acknowledge that what you are feeling is called grief – and your feelings of grief are completely normal and natural.
Romantic relationships can come to an end for any number of reasons, and Valentine’s Day can be an unwelcome reminder of the love you once shared that is no longer there. Whether the romantic relationship ended due to death or a break-up, the pattern of behaviors that we had been following with our special someone up to that point have now shifted. This is exactly what grief is – it is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of, or change in, a familiar pattern or behavior.
If you are grieving the loss of a romantic relationship, know that your emotions are valid, and we are here to help. In this piece, we will explore 5 “Do’s and Don’ts” of surviving heartache on Valentine’s Day.
5 Do’s and Don’ts of Surviving Heartache on Valentine’s Day
1. DO Reflect on Your Emotions
Take time each day to monitor how you feel and outwardly express those feelings if you need to. Cry if you need to cry. Find a safe space where you can express the emotions you may have repressed during the work day, and allow yourself to experience your feelings for what they are, and not for what you are pretending they are. Be intentional about staying true to what you are feeling, because the reality is that you cannot heal from the pain if you are not truthful about how you really feel.
There’s no “easy” way around our emotional pain, we need to go through it in order to begin to heal our broken heart. Avoidance only serves to prolong the pain, and unresolved grief has a way of re-surfacing when we least expect it, and it can often wreak havoc in our lives if we don’t deal with it head on.
2. DON’T Seek to Replace the Relationship
According to The Grief Recovery Handbook by John James and Russell Friedman, one of the six myths of grief is one that is learned as early as childhood when we are misled into believing that relationships can be replaced.
Sample Scenario: 4-year-old Charlie woke up one morning to find his pet fish, Goldie, dead. Charlie is completely distraught.
Charlie’s Response: Inconsolable, non-stop crying as his Mom is rushing around the kitchen trying to get the rest of the kids out the door to get to school.
Mom’s Response: “It’s okay, honey, there’s no need to cry. We’ll stop by the pet store this afternoon to pick up a new gold fish for you, and I promise that it will be just like Goldie. Okay?”
The Myth Charlie Learns: It is NOT okay to cry, and when something (or someone) I love dies, I can find something (or someone) else to replace it, and then that will make me feel better.
FACT: Crying is a normal and natural reaction to a loss. (Incidentally, not crying is also a normal and natural reaction to a loss.) Replacing a loss does not heal the emotional pain that we experience. While the replacement may seem to make us feel better, the truth is that replacing a loss only serves to temporarily “numb” our pain in the short-term. Whether it’s immediate or years later, as we compile grieving experiences in our life, those losses and the feelings associated with them will eventually re-surface. Imagine all the losses we compile by the time we are 30 years old? 50 years old? 80 years old?
All relationships are unique and individual, and therefore, we can’t heal from the pain of a relationship that we have lost by jumping into a new one. First, we need to take the time to address our grief and heal our broken heart.
3. DO Give Yourself a Break
Everyone processes grief differently and our circumstances are unique and individual to each of us. Therefore, as you begin to acknowledge the pain of your grief, remember to be gentle with yourself. Give yourself a pass if you don’t do things the way you “usually” would, and try to be patient with yourself as you begin your healing journey.
Understand that your grief is normal and natural, and that you may need to adjust your routine to accommodate for the time to deal with your emotions. Let those adjustments be okay with you as you take the necessary action steps to say goodbye to the pain in order to welcome new possibilities for your life. Grief Recovery is an intentional process, and ultimately, it’s not time that heals our wounds, it’s what we do in that time that matters.
4. DON’T Intellectualize Your Emotional Pain
After a romantic relationship ends, there may be a period of time in which you replay the events of the relationship over, and over again in your mind. You might wonder, “What could I have done differently?” or “Why did this happen?” or “How can I get this person back into my life?”. While these thoughts are normal and natural, you also need to be careful about allowing these thoughts and questions in your mind to overpower you, and keep you stuck in the past instead of moving you forward.
For the majority of us, it’s intuitive to want to analyze and rationalize our behaviors and feelings when we are grieving– it’s almost like we want to justify to ourselves the need to answer these questions in order to be able to heal. In the process of Grief Recovery, we actually challenge and guide you to take ownership over your recovery process. We help you move your thoughts from your head to your heart so that you can better communicate how you really feel, and we teach you to focus on identifying and acknowledging those feelings for what they are, instead of trying to explain the thought process of why you think you feel the way you do.
Grief is not a pathological condition or a personality disorder; however, society says there is something wrong with us if we aren’t happy all of the time. In fact, some of the most common intellectual comments that people hear following a loss are not helpful, including, “we know how you feel.” No one can ever know exactly how you feel, because no one had the relationship you had. This is why it’s so important to learn to acknowledge and accept your feelings for what they are instead of trying to rationalize or intellectualize them. Remember that you can’t heal from feelings that you aren’t honest about.
5. DO Seek Support
“It helps to talk about it.” You have probably heard these words spoken many times, and yet, we can quickly exhaust our support systems by discussing our loss and heartbreak “too much.” Sometimes even the people who you know, love, and trust in your life, are not equipped to help you deal with the emotional turmoil you are feeling. Some people may even resort to using yet another common intellectual comment like “get over it.” As a result, talking about our heartbreak can sometimes seem more painful than it is helpful.
If you are suffering from a broken heart and all the emotions that come with it, consider joining a support group or meeting one-on-one with a Grief Recovery Specialist on our team. Knowing that you aren’t alone, and working with someone to address your feelings can really help you start to piece your heart back together again.
Remember that it is never too soon to address your grief. Think about the following analogy: If you have a terrible fall and broke your wrist, would you just go about your day and wait for the injury to heal on its own, or would you go to the emergency room right away and get your wrist checked? If you’re like most people, you would likely rush to the ER. Aside from being physically painful, a broken wrist can severely interfere with your daily routine and responsibilities, and perhaps even force you to take time off from doing certain things and engaging in particular activities.
Well, grief is an injury too – not a physical injury, but an emotional injury – and grief can also be severely painful and cause a negative interference and hindrance in our lives when not addressed. Often times, we place a lot of importance on our physical health, and end up neglecting our emotional health. Yet, neglecting our grief can have an even greater negative impact in our life and relationships, because unlike a serious physical injury, grief can get buried and hidden deep down inside us. We can go through our daily lives, and months, or even years could go by without acknowledging our emotional pain.
Our Grief Recovery programs are designed to walk you through a journey from grieving to healing with a proven format to help you take clear actions that will lead you to a happier life. For more information about loss and grief, or to sign up for one of our grief support programs, please contact us today.