Relationship breakdown - moving on
Mourning the loss
Relationships come to an end for many reasons; even when this has come about through mutual choice people usually experience intense feelings of loss, confusion and failure. As with any loss or transition in life, time is needed to come to terms with the feelings experienced. At times the emotions may feel overwhelming – sadness, anger, vulnerability, fears for the future. Such feelings are not a sign of weakness or of not being able to cope, but a natural part of the process of grieving the loss of the relationship and the dreams and hopes that had at one time been part of it. Allowing yourself time to grieve is an important part of moving forward.
- Don’t bottle things up – allow space for feelings.
- Consider writing about how you feel in a diary or journal.
Saying goodbye to guilt
Following separation and divorce people often find themselves repeatedly questioning what went wrong and whose fault it was – could they have done things differently? It’s easy to become trapped in a cycle of negative questioning – which only serves to undermine self-esteem. Reflecting on the problems encountered and the reasons it was not possible to overcome them, may help you gain greater understanding but it may not be possible to find answers to all questions. There needs to come a time for letting go of guilt, feelings of failure, and of blame. It’s not a matter of forgetting or erasing unhappy memories but it is important to allow yourself to value and enjoy that what is in your life in the present and to reach out towards new opportunities.
- Take a step back when thinking about what went wrong - there were reasons why problems could not be resolved. Guilt only serves to keep you stuck in the past.
Helping yourself move forward
Research has shown that a good support system is one of the most significant factors in maintaining wellbeing. Think about the support network you already have and how you might build on this. Talking with trusted friends, joining a support group where experiences can be shared or talking with a counsellor can provide vital support.
- Find support – a trusted friend or relative, support group, or counsellor.
Moving on involves recognising and drawing upon personal strengths and setting realistic goals for the future. Consider what’s most meaningful for your life right now, how might you resource yourself moving forward, what help will you need? Accept that you are human, you can only do your best! With each challenge you overcome, you will gain an increased sense of competence and self-esteem. Ensuring you have time to relax, socialise and exercise can all make a difference to how you feel about yourself. Plan regular treats and indulgences – no matter how small and remind yourself that you deserve them!
- Set reasonable goals for the future.
- Give yourself credit when even the smallest goal is achieved - keep a diary of all achievements made along the way, no matter how small.
- Challenge negative thoughts – get away from self-blame.
- Nurture yourself – discover what makes you feel good.
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About Sharon Kirby
Sharon Kirby is an Integrative Psychotherapist working with individuals and couples in Exeter, Devon. She has a specialist interest and extensive training in working with relationship issues.