“I CAN’T cope with the pain of not talking to her on the mobile and not meeting her everyday,” cries Akram (name changed). “I cannot imagine a life without her. She has taken away my dreams, desires and destiny. I don’t know where I went wrong……I can’t believe this……please help me”.
Like Akram many people experience the breakup of an important love relationship during their college years. Intense feelings of sadness and despair are a common reaction to the end of a relationship.
Psychological research shows emotional response to the breakup of a romantic relationship strongly resembles reactions to what would appear to be more traumatic losses, such as the death of a loved one or the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness.
Common emotional reactions
l Denial – It may be very difficult to believe and accept that the relationship is ending. It is painful to experience a loved and trusted partner seeming to care so little about the relationship and your feelings.
2 Grief and Despair – It is normal to feel sad and lonely, and to cry a lot. You may feel an intense need at times to make contact with your ex-partner.
3 Fear – It may be frightening and difficult to imagine life without the significant other. You may fear that you will never find love or feel happy again.
4 Anger – Anger with a partner who has caused pain by initiating or contributing to the breakup is a common emotional response.
5 Self-blame and Guilt – You may obsess over what you could have done to cause the breakup, and may attempt to ‘bargain’ with an ex-partner to give the relationship another chance. If you initiated the breakup, you may feel guilty about causing pain to your partner.
6 Jealousy – You may experience jealousy or panic about your partner potentially being with someone else.
7 Confusion – Life may feel strange or incomplete and you may question who you are, and the meaning of life without your partner.
How To Feel Better
THE CLICHÉ ‘time heals all wounds’ does really apply to the loss of a relationship. Although long and difficult, painful feelings of loss and longing resulting from a relationship breakup will diminish over time. Moving on from a relationship breakup sometimes means accepting that there may be no satisfying answer to why the relationship had to end, or recognising that people often ‘grow out of’ relationships.
There are steps you can take to care for yourself and help ease your distress during this time:
1 Seek support from friends and family- Social support is one of the most important factors in coping with a loss. Reach out to people who care, and who will listen to your feelings and provide encouragement. Spending time with others may be difficult at first, but will help you to realise that there are other people in your life who care about you and are there to support you.
2 Take steps toward closure in the relationship - Ongoing contact with your partner may hinder your healing and diminish your sense of self-esteem. Ask for help from others when contact with your partner leaves you feeling increasingly upset. ‘Loss rituals’ such as writing a farewell letter (which you may or may not choose to send), returning belongings, or destroying (or giving away) photos, letters and other reminders of the relationship may help in the process of letting go.
3 Make a daily schedule- Structuring your time and having a schedule can be helpful in lessening distress and preoccupation with your ex-partner. Try to redirect your mental energy to accomplishing projects and tasks, such as academic work, which can boost feelings of control and competence.
4 Make changes in your life and express yourself creatively - Develop new interests, activities and relationships in your life separate from your ex-partner. Focus on doing things that reflect your unique nature, and that are not reminders of your ex-partner. Engage in activities that help you recover a sense of meaning and balance, such as religious/spiritual activities, art, poetry or music.
5 Meet a psychologist
( The author is a psychologist and heads the twin departments of psychology and social work at BSSS. He can be contacted at email@example.com)