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Overcoming the end of a relationship

We are never so helpless towards suffering as when we love (S. Freud)

The end of a relationship can be a deep wound to our self-esteem. We may ask ourselves 'why did this happen to me?' or 'how is it possible that they left me?' or even have doubts about whether we can be loved by someone: 'if they left me, it means I am not worthy of love'.

The most frequent reaction when a long-lasting relationship ends is disbelief: it seems impossible that the person we loved and with whom we shared so many moments and our best (and worst) sides no longer wants to have us in their life.

The pain associated with the end of a love affair can be very intense and it might take a long time to heal. In some cases, the end of a relationship is experienced as unacceptable. But how can we process this loss that represents real mourning in our lives?

Needless to say, we will not be able to completely eliminate the pain of the end of a relationship, but we can take some steps to process the loss. Let us look at some suggestions for feeling better when a relationship ends.

Express your emotions: expressing emotions helps us to modulate them and make them more tolerable. You can express them with a friend or even with yourself by writing in a diary. You could also decide to write a letter to your ex in which you write down the emotions you feel about the end of your relationship (e.g. anger, sadness, etc.).

Don't deny suffering: to overcome a trauma such as the loss of an important relationship, it is necessary to wade through the waters of suffering. If you avoid suffering altogether you will hardly be able to overcome it, it will remain stuck somewhere in your mind and body.

Avoid complaints: sometimes we confuse the expression of our emotions with the expression of sterile complaints, when we express an emotion that we feel at that moment we actually feel lighter and the people next to us become caring and understanding towards us. When we complain, on the other hand, we keep saying that external things are wrong, we do not listen to our emotions, and we are annoying and burdensome to ourselves and others. Complaining, as opposed to the healthy expression of emotions, alienates others!

Cultivate your psychological well-being: while we know that suffering is normal after the end of a love affair, it sometimes happens that our mind goes into a loop thinking and rethinking about the past and comparing it with the present or going back to the past almost as if we want to change it or even going into the future to imagine what could have been and will not be. A first step is to become aware of these journeys of the mind, a second step is to decide where to put our attention, i.e. whether to continue travelling or whether to get out of the time machine. Practising meditation could help you to be more aware of what is going on inside you and to be able to choose how to make your mind work.

Take care of your body: physical activity is a mood regulator. It helps from going too low and to feel more confident.

Avoid seeking support from the person who has left you: it is a trivial thing, but it often happens that we seek emotional support from the person who has left us behind. Only by losing contact with them and stopping investigating their life will you allow yourself to let go and be able to overcome the pain of loss.

Set new goals: the end of a relationship can significantly change our habits and upset our plans. It may be time to rethink how to redirect one's life.

Get closer to people who care about you: in these moments, spending time with friends can help you express your emotions, or simply distract you by sharing your free time.

Choose your readings, music, and movies carefully: why feed your suffering with depressing readings, music and movies? Yet we know that our mind drives us to seek out content relevant to our mood, sometimes ending up making it worse.

If you tend to idealise him/her, make an effort to remember their faults too: when we miss a person, we often tend to idealise the good memories with them. Remembering the flaws will help you have a more balanced view.

If you feel overwhelmed, ask for help: if you have been stuck in processing a break-up for several months or years, you probably might benefit from professional help.

If your daily functioning is somewhat impaired, the break-up might have triggered something deeper that, albeit silently, was already present within. This might affect the way you relate with significant others as well as the way you relate with a significant other.

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