I decided to write this piece because even though I don’t want to, I am in the phase of life where I have to let someone I love go. Of course, there was a lot of googling, youtubing and debating this topic with my friends. I am sharing what I learned, found and what worked for me (at least on the temporary basis) in hope that it will give you some inspiration and maybe you can also advise me something I haven’t tried.
The story of how it happened is irrelevant. What is important is that I still have strong feelings for the person and it is quite difficult to accept that the only solution is to let go. As I was reading I found out that it does not really matter how long did you spend with the person, it is more about the intensity of your emotions that might be correlated with the difficulty of dealing with the situation. What does not help either is if you did not agree or chose to end the relationship.
So here are some things I tried, observed and experienced:
Break up Box
In one of the articles, they suggested putting all the things from your partner into the breakup box. It is a box in case you don’t want to throw things out (or in some cases, it is advised to burn them 🙂 ). I know it could be hard because, for me, even little things, moments, parts of my furniture would remind me things that made me cry. But to begin with obvious things like gifts, things you collected together, cinema tickets… everything like that, put it in the box and put the box out of your sight. Maybe one day you will be able to look at it without hard feelings. My box is actually blue laundry bag where I put all the t-shirts, mugs, tickets etc.
In case you have jewelry.. like me, for example (girlfriend earings, first x-mas gift earings etc…) those I still keep. But it is harder to look at them every day. Maybe you can take a break from them for a while if you don’t want to put them in the breakup box. I would not recommend to take them as exclusive jewelry for your solo trip 😀 Like I did! That was actually a bit silly when I felt I can prove myself how strong I am.
Write things down in different forms
1. Journal (good old paper)
If you are not a diary person, in this case writing things down can actually help. I personally prefer writing things down on paper. When you write things down it can have various effects:
- you express things that until then are just flying all around your mind
- you can see how your thought evolve and also how they are most likely stuck in the circles
- when you write things down with hand, at some point you will probably get tired of it. It happened to me when I was going to write the same things maybe 10th time when I told myself: “You know what? I’m tired of it!” Not only of writing it but also of thinking it. It was a moment when I was able to stop. Gradually, but it was less and less hard to get out of the labyrinth of my mind.
If I write in my laptop I have series of Captain’s logs (or newly Battle Plan) entries in my favorite app Evernote ( you can sync it with your laptop, phone or iPad).
2. Mind Map (black holes and energy)
One of my favorite techniques to write things down is actually writing thoughts down in form of a mind map. That is how I got to the idea of mind universe. When you write things down as a map you see that basically, some topics are more interconnected than others. You would be able to see what eats up most of your energy. It could help you to realize how different thought patterns are sucking you into deep circles and are feeding what I call black holes of mind (topics that are not building you, but rather sucking all the light and energy out).
The good news is there are ways how to get rid of black holes. In my theory 😀 (which is not so sophisticated yet) you should first try to gain strength before fighting black hole. That means focusing your energy on little things that step by step will make you stronger. Start ideally with small digestible topics (for example: write a blog post, post nice picture on Instagram, make a painting, take your camera out for walk, sing a song…) your energy will slowly increase and the black hole will not be growing as quickly as you will be giving it less and less energy.
Now you can try two things, either grow much bigger than the black hole and consume it so it evaporates altogether or push it towards something else that is stronger to consume it. It can be any bigger topic in your life such as your faith and relationship with God, traveling, art, reading or work.
3. Letters never sent
Another thing that helps me is writing down letters or even e-mails. You don’t need to send them, for that reason writing old-fashioned letters is a perhaps better choice as it requires more effort to actually deliver them. Write them as openly and honestly as you need. You don’t have to watch your language or worry about how the reader will interpret it, because the intention is not to deliver them. It will help you to articulate your feelings towards the other side. It will get all you hold inside out of your system. Maybe it is something like a simulation of closure.
I did send one of them. The truth is I don’t know if my pages were ever read, I did not get any response or comment about it. Which to be honest did not help. So maybe it is better not to send them, although it does not have to be a strict rule. I always think it is important to follow our own hearts and do all we feel we can to save what we believe is worth saving. It might not work, but at least we know we did all we could.
The tricky part about writing e-mails (and not sending them) is that because it is so easily accessible from our phones we might end up glued to our screens and constantly talking to our partners as if they were still here. And as we live in that at some point we might even persuade ourselves that we actually want to send things to them. Now if your partner asked you for peace, space and for you to move on, writing and trying to reach out again might not be the best thing to do, even if your heart can’t resist. Please try going back to paper or write someone else (your friend) when you are at top of your urge.
4. Write a story about yourself in the third person
Why I came up with this method was because I love reading Murakami’s stories. I love Murakami because he usually depicts casual characters that I can easily identify with. I tried to see myself as one of his characters, so even in my story, I am a regular 30 something man who is suffering from heartbreak. I am describing what I am doing what the man is doing and it almost makes me feel like I am in Murakami’s book. When I read Murakami a lot of the times I have the feeling that I am reading so silly normal daily things about people that are imaginary. Suddenly as I was writing about myself, words were flowing by themselves. It gave me strange calming energy and focus. I also felt so close to the character (obviously) that for few moments I felt like I want to help him and started to write a storyline that would cheer him up. I would, for example, describe him sitting by the lake and then I would take him for coffee where he would start talking to someone. And then actually I went for a coffee… I know that might sound so stupid, but in little ways, it was helping me to see myself from outside.
Maybe you find that I am too much focused on words. I found out that words have great power. It is words that have the power to create. Not only in Bible (creation of the world, miracles, etc.) but even in our own reality. What we bring into our minds and outspoken words is shaping how we live and what we live. After a breakup a lot of these words are describing pain, past, suffering, wishing for something that we lost, something we can’t bring back and sometimes the powerless of doing anything to change how things are. It is quite difficult to change that into something positive. In fact when I hear positive thinking everything inside me rebels. I think, I actually like to be miserable, but that is not the point now. I also like to build things and I don’t want to spend my life in attitude that would be just endless complaining and sadness.
You probably heard about principle fake it till you make it. I do believe it works. I also think we should be approaching it with the right set of expectations. Things and mind will not miraculously change in a second. Also, I can’t start telling myself I am so happy and then in 3…2… 1…. stop crying and smiling all the time.
But there are other words I can start using. I can, for example, say that even if things are hard, I am going to grow stronger out of them. And I can slowly shift my focus on this strength. I can say I will learn from this experience. I can say I am thankful for having a chance to feel happy and loved and I believe this will come again.
Now there are various ways to cope with heart pain via talking.
1. Prayer (there are no limits to what can be said)
Try paying. My early prayers were full of anger and crying. I actually did not know what to pray for. All I was able to do was being quite annoyed and mad. Surprisingly my mind started to change when for the first time I was able to pray for him. Instead of asking why and being lost in my mind circles I was asking for blessing, peace, love, and joy for him. To be honest I didn’t get to stage where I would pray for him to be happy with someone else. Maybe I won’t get there. My mind process was going something like this: I do believe what I felt was real love and I don’t want this love to turn into something ugly or bitter. I don’t think I can be just his friend, but I am not at that stage yet either. For now, all I can do is ask/pray for good things for him. It is turning the thinking energy into something that in my heart makes sense and is building rather than torturing me inside.
Yes at some point I started to pray for him to come back. You know, with prayer I realized, nothing is forbidden, there is no right formula to how and what to ask for. And also as my dear friend reminded me God is not a praying-vending machine. Instead, I am opening my heart to Him and as I go, day by day, my prayers are evolving and changing.
2. Friends and Family (use love that is there for you)
You might get to the point where you think that you only talk about the breakup. That might be the case. Just imagine if someone you love would go through the same thing. You would be willing to listen and to talk. Some people will try to give you space, some will be checking on you as much as they can. Help others help you. Don’t worry to reach out for help. Help could be as simple as a phone call or chat as well as walk in the park, coffee or sleep over.
Maybe you will get tired of explaining what happened all over again. That is ok too, friends and family are there to support you even if they don’t know the whole story.
3. Therapist (sometimes we listen better to people we don’t know)
Don’t worry to reach out to a therapist. No matter how it sounds, the therapist can help you to bring new fresh perspective. Why I do reach out to a therapist is also because usually (not always) your close ones are trying to make you feel better by telling you things like: it’s better this way, you deserve better, he was not worth it. For me, that was hard to listen to, because I still believe that he was all I ever wanted. I didn’t fight with them about something they didn’t see first hand. But I also did not want to hear about what I did wrong hehe. Anyway, a therapist is someone impartial who can ask you right questions and can help you see some things that friends and family cant because they love you too much.
4. Meet new people (refresh your horizons)
I don’t mean start dating right away, that is probably not the best solution because if you are like me you might still be holding on to your partner (or his vision in your mind) too much. But meeting new people via for example meetup.com could be an alternative how to get out of your circles and talk about things that interest you. I was not very excited at first, but once I got to the meeting it was an actually nice experience. Another way is to go to cafes where you can interact with new people as well.
5. Video Journal
As I was browsing through youtube I found many people talking about their experiences and also giving some advices. That made me think and I came up with video journal. I am not posting it online or sharing with anyone. It is just something I decided to do for myself. Recording myself on video on my phone was surprisingly refreshing new way how to get things out. At first, it was strange and I mostly cried. But later it was something I was really looking forward to doing.
I even took courage and watched my entrances. And you know, instead of me judging myself on how I look or how I talk in a funny way, I actually felt compassion towards myself. I felt love towards someone who is clearly going through a hard time. I also saw some topics even sentences are repeated throughout videos. It gave me a better understanding of myself and some new ideas on how to move forward.
TIP: Ok, for traveling I have one recommendation right away! please! Don’t be as silly as me and don’t go right away to country/city where you planned to go with your partner. Well, the good news is even if you do, it still can be a good time, just be ready it will be a bit more challenging.
Traveling to a new place could be refreshing because the new environment and people will entertain you and you might forget at least for a while on what happened.
I would recommend getting away for at least three full days. The first day might be a bit challenging. I personally found it a bit hard especially because I kept thinking of how we could have been here together, what and where we could go and it was basically leading my mind in no useful direction. But anyway, if you spend your first day in a new place just wandering around and basically seeing nothing important, remember what is important:
- You are taking yourself out for a trip.
- It is ok to not do anything significant.
- It is ok not to take happy selfies with all major sightseeing, even if you don’t take any pictures at all.
- There is not the one perfect café with perfect view. Make any café perfect for yourself. Get something nice to drink (my favorite right now are fresh orange juice and usual cappuccino). You can have a drink in one place and try dessert in another one. In cafes, there is usually free wifi that you can use to check up what is happening in the world or check if there is something interesting happening close by.
- Take your notebook with you. Write down your thoughts. You might have something you want to tell yourself. If you were your best friend (which you are) you can note something like I did: Rediscover what makes you excited when no one is looking. Give yourself the freedom to follow your curiosity, wind, and sun. Don’t worry about missing out on the best of the city, this trip is about you not about the city as such.
If you can’t leave the country, you can try taking train or bus to the new city, town or village and pretend to be a tourist there. Or simply walk to the forest or meadow. Give yourself a micro-vacation. Which means you pretend for as little as one hour you are worries free and you are totally free to enjoy yourself.
… And finally!
My story does not have a happy ending yet. It still is work and life in progress. I am right now actually finalizing my first day in Istanbul. I wanted to capture all these thoughts as they are fresh and to me very real.
If you are going through the same phase of your life, please hold on! we can make it through the fire (like Anastasia is just now singing in the background). Your pain is unique just as you are and just as your relationship was. But know there is at least one person (me 🙂 plus others who write songs and poems about this) out there. And from what I hear, this shall pass. There is hope we will get through this stronger, deeper and ready for next adventure.