10 Post Break Up Lessons that Helped Me Heal

#1 — Unfollow him on Facebook, duh

Photo by Summer Hokulani Engman

It took me many months and a lot of tears to figure this one out. Before that, I would get really triggered and it took me days or even weeks to get clear. It was debilitating. I needed a boundary because even when I decided I wouldn’t look on his social media, the pull to see what was happening was so strong — can you say addiction? Kind of how you drive by a bad accident, cover your eyes to avoid the massacre, but you peek through your fingers to look at the blood. It was taxing on my nervous system and kept me in a constant state of upset.

I realized I could be waaaay more loving with my frazzled nervous system. I was terrified to unfollow him and I felt my grief as I clicked unfollow. My fingers hovered and hesitated but I knew I had to do it. I cried for a minute afterwards and then felt a rush of joy in my body - I finally felt like I could breathe.

What to do with all the memories and countless associations of eating Thai, tacos and salmon with broiled cauliflower together? At the beginning, every bite felt like torture. But as I worked on creating new experiences for myself— afterall a girl has to eat, it became easier.

And yet one food was haunting me — Ethiopian! It held a lot of memories from the past and it was my favorite. I shared this dilemma with a friend and she suggested we go to her favorite Ethiopian restaurant together and be very intentional about it.

A few weeks later, as we scooped our doro wat with the squishy injera bread, we laughed, shared memories and began a new tradition of our own - Ethiopian is now our Friday night hangout.

I took a wonderful memory and remolded it to fit my new life. Instead of letting this memory hold me hostage (it did for several months), I was able to feel appreciation for the past and find enjoyment with my favorites.

PS this is true for music, travel, movies, friends, books, clothing, etc.

I really really really thought I could do this. Turns out — nope. Maybe in the future, but not now.

I kept trying to be friends with him. But it turns out you can’t pull something apart and put it back together at the same time. Time and space is needed. See #10.

I read an article on Medium that explained that to truly be friends with your ex, some healthy qualities had to be in place and I had zero of them. I was having trouble letting go and I was always checking (and hoping) to see if he was hurting too. I really didn’t have his best interest at heart and I was being manipulative and selfish in my communication with him. Bottom line, I was not over the relationship.

Admitting this led to me to Just. Let. Go.

I stopped messaging, stopped trying to get him to see how fucked up his actions were or or how hurt I was. This action was loving to my nervous system and by stopping the madness, I gained serenity and internal power.

Even when it was slapping me in the face. Even when it hurt like a bitch. Accepting what IS feels like serenity. I spent a fair amount of time lashing out and trying to get him to see how wrong his actions were. That is crazy-making shit right there.

This lesson could also be called, Focus on Myself. Anytime I took his inventory, I was spinning my wheels, and that is what kept me stuck. I had hope that maybe we would get back together in the future, but when I focused on my true desires, I realized that based on some actions that occurred, I didn’t actually want this relationship anymore.

Eeeeek. That was a hard pill to swallow. It meant letting go of any fantasies of a future together, which made the loss feel more final. As painful as that was, I knew it was me accepting reality, and that felt healthy and sane.

It’s said that the end of a relationship is one of the biggest stressors a person can experience. On top of a breakup, I also moved unexpectedly and changed careers.

To say I was a mess is an understatement. In the midst of my personal chaos, I was also keenly aware that I was, once again, on the path of a Phoenix Rising — emerging from a catastrophe stronger, smarter and more powerful.

But it was one day at a time. Many days were dark.

I wanted to experience joy on my own so that when I choose to be in another relationship, I would know that I CAN be happy on my own, and that adding a man to my life would be from pure 100% choice. I had been in long relationships since my early 20’s and I never got to experience this before.

It was a LOT of hit and miss. I experienced a lot of fear and loneliness.

I was determined not to turn to vices such as food, sex, alcohol or spending money to make myself feel better. I meditated, I took walks in nature, I talked to friends and visited family. I cried a lot.

One day, I was walking through Central Park, and I noticed the trees, the paths, the birds chirping, the sun peering out and I felt explicitly joyful. Not because I was in love, not because someone was waiting at home for me or because of an accomplishment. I felt joyful just because. I have been building on that ever since.

I consciously chose to be single for a year after my break up. I needed to reorient my life. It felt like a soul calling.

My ego didn’t like this choice. She wanted get on with life and be fine. But the truth is that I wasn’t fine. I was disoriented in my being.

I used dating apps on and off, but it was always sticky. I hated the men, I didn’t know how to talk to them and I felt anxious on the dates I did go on.

When I realized how not-ready I was to date, I deleted all the apps and declared myself fully single and not looking. If I got in to a relationship it would be a disaster of repeating the same patterns again. Instead, I became committed to myself, my own recovery and enjoying my life.

I’m excited about a future partnership, and it will be built from a place of solidity within myself. It feels empowering to declare that and do the work to make it happen.

There were times I felt confused, lost and alone. Now that I was consciously single, I was able to clearly see how conditioned I was to lean on a man to fill my needs. My first thought was to usually to reach out to him, but as I woke up to this pattern, I changed course.

I began reaching out to women as my first line. I brought it all to women — anger, joy, tears, desires, uncertainties, crazy stories.

Women are so wise! I felt deeply heard and loved. They were compassionate and empathized with the grief. Nobody tried to fix me or make it better. They listened, loved me right where I was and told me the truth.

One night I cried and cried after getting my feelings hurt — yep about something I saw on Facebook. Refer back to #1 please. Instead of turning to distractions from the hurt, I let myself Feel. It. All. I cried myself to sleep and I remember thinking, “Oh boy I am going to feel fucked up tomorrow.”

But tomorrow came and you know what? I felt clear. Having let myself feel the hurt and fear all the way through, there were no residual feelings hanging around the next morning. Now, that is a great magic trick.

A friend reflected to me that he felt a lot of anger brewing inside me. Yep, he was right. The anger wanted to be felt and expressed.

I put on the biggest FUCK YOU! song I could find — Free Drink Ticket, by Peaches, and let ‘er rip. I used my body to express all the anger and rage. Underneath anger is always grief, so next up was a grief song, This Woman’s Work, by Kate Bush, where I cried and moved my body through the sadness and loss. Eventually, I played a joyful turn on song — Feeling Good, by Nina Simone, where I embodied my power and connection to myself as a woman who loves deeply and lives life fully.

This age-old wisdom is true. But time alone doesn’t heal wounds.

For me, it was time PLUS: loving myself, feeling all my emotions, leaning on girlfriends, movement, alchemizing the hurt in to creativity (like this article), seeking out professional help (I got a coach and a therapist), and doing Twelve Step work. Basically, Lessons #1–9.

Also, the thing about healing is that it is an organic process that happens naturally over time. It’s not true that it takes a certain amount of time to heal or feel better. The pitfall we fall into is when we expect to feel a certain way by a certain time and then make a rule that we can’t do certain things until then. That is a self imposed trap. Personally, I felt a soul calling to be single for a year (maybe longer, who knows?) but maybe for you it’s a few weeks, or years.

The other thing that was true for me is that while I was hurting and healing, I had some really great experiences. There is no rule that you need to be sad and glum all the time. There were times I would be in a lot of pain and then laugh and have a lot of fun. Mostly, it felt like an emotional rollercoaster so being kind and loving to myself with the ups and downs was key. And over time, there has been a lot of balance with those ups and downs.

I am a badass woman. I am fierce in my desire to heal and recreate myself at 50 and you know what? I am so proud of myself!

I have a toolbox of tools, amazing friends and family and I have been following my dreams and desires. I love and accept myself more than ever. I enjoy my own company.

And let me tell you, it has not been a walk in the park. There were times I didn’t want to go on, beat myself up endlessly for past mistakes and felt deep shame about my situation. I cried constantly, I felt depressed, anxious and some days I couldn’t do anything except watch Netflix and eat nachos.

This may sound crazy, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t wish this kind of internal devastation on anyone, but it is probably the best thing that could have happened. I learned how resilient I am.

When there were no vices to turn to, I learned to breathe and deeply love myself. I learned to say the truth and accept help. I learned when to keep going and when to surrender. I learned to trust my body and myself in a way that was never possible before. The stakes felt pretty high for me. The choices felt like: get stuck here and be a 50+ year old woman eating beans or become an example of what is possible.

The story isn’t over yet. It’s one day at a time. The star is ME, and I’m loving the journey.

Coach & Writer. Musings on being a woman, creator of Body Love, alchemist, mother, brendafredericks.com

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