When my partner and I broke up at the end of last summer, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be — or how much I would learn about myself in the process of healing post-break up.
Even though there were moments that felt extraordinarily difficult, heartbreaking, painful, and frustrating, these extremes brought me to a place where I was forced to confront some serious and important questions in my life: how do I take care of myself when I am not doing well? What do I need to feel supported and to work through trauma? Here are a couple of things I learned:
How to forgive myself
After the break-up, I blamed myself for a lot of things. I found myself dwelling over the imperfect moments — things I wished I had said or hadn’t said, things I wished I had or hadn’t done. But then I realized, we are all human! We are all just trying to figure it out. We are inevitably going to have moments of imperfection. While talking with my friend Kate recently, she expressed that she wanted to reach out to her ex-partner, who had asked her for space. She wanted to apologize for not granting him that space and continuing to reach out to him, but realized the paradox of doing that. I asked her if she had thought about why she wanted to apologize to him, and after thinking about it for a while, she realized it was because she felt guilty, and hadn’t forgiven herself. I suggested that she write herself a letter of forgiveness, instead of writing him a letter of apology. We are all human—we all inevitably make mistakes.
How to take care of myself
Relationships can be comforting because it means you always have a partner to lean on. When you are forced to confront a reality in which you have to take care of yourself, however, you develop the tools for self-care, and that is an amazing skillset to have—and one that you can keep fostering for the rest of your life. There are a few “hacks” that I’ve learned in my healing journey, including, but not limited to, taking long baths, making macaroni and cheese, reading self-help books and taking long walks in the woods.
How to reach out to friends
If you’re anything like me, when you’re not feeling well, your instinct is to hermit, to hold everything inside and to not let anyone show that you are hurting. One of the most amazing lessons I’ve learned during this difficult process is how to reach out to friends and speak honestly about how I am feeling, to ask for support when I need it. It has been, and continues to be, an exciting journey in expressing uncomfortable truths. I also have begun going to therapy to work through difficult feelings, which has been amazing so far. It is an hour a week that I can dedicate fully to self-care—and you can choose the relationship you have with your therapist! They can be a mentor, a supporter, a space-holder, a listener, a challenger—and who doesn’t need someone in their life who can be those things?
How to empathize
One of the silver linings of a painful break up has been that I can empathize very well with the pain of others who are going through similar situations. Being able to connect with people in that way, and mutually help one-another with understanding and compassion has been really beautiful and fulfilling.
How to heal honestly
Throughout this break up, my mantra has been to “heal honestly.” Essentially, what this means to me is that I don’t take short-cuts, I don’t repress, and I don’t compartmentalize. Healing honestly is different from “getting over” or “moving on.” Signs of honest healing, for me, are self-love, emotional resilience and balance, and feeling open to the world—while allowing the love I have for my ex-partner to exist. It has been extraordinarily difficult at times, but also incredibly rewarding.
Breaking up with my partner was incredibly difficult. But, it has also taught me a lot about myself—and for that, I am so grateful. And now I can carry these little lessons about myself and my journey on through to every stage of my life, whether I am in a relationship or am single.