Following a relationship ending, it is typical to go through a roller coaster of emotions day to day. Below are some of the most common feelings that can be experienced after a breakup, as well as ways to cope and manage these feelings when they arise.
At the core of anxiety is a sense of uncertainty that feels completely overwhelming. Breakups can bring up uncertainty in a big way. It is not uncommon to wonder if we will possibly reconnect with an ex, wonder what our ex is doing, feel unsure as to what is going on for them or what they are feeling. The list can go on and feel exhausting to ruminate over. When we find ourselves in an anxious train of thought, continuing to wonder about things we do not or cannot know the answers to, it is important to hop off the train and remind ourselves that we are dealing with a lack of certainty. In these moments, it is helpful to focus on something that is in our control. We can control who we reach out to, we can limit our social media use, we can control how we take care of ourselves. When the storm of anxiety is brewing, focus on doing something that we have control over in order to help combat the lack of certainty that is being experienced.
Loss & Grief
Its important to remember that breakups are a form of loss. Outside of the loss of the person in our life, there can also be a loss of friends, loss of plans for the future, loss of expectations about where the relationship was going. Whenever there is loss, there is a navigation of grief that needs to happen. When we start to feel grief, it is crucial to be compassionate with ourselves. It may take time to come to terms with the different layers of loss associated with a breakup, and while this healing is taking place, we can be kind in the language we use with ourselves. We may even feel a pull to honor the relationship in some way. If this feels like something you want to do, sit down and list out a few reasons you are grateful for the relationship. Think about what you may have learned from your ex-partner coming into your life that you may not have learned had you not been in a relationship with them. Seeing the ways in which the relationship may have given back to us can help us cope with the heaviness of the loss one may be experiencing.
One of the most common post breakup feelings is the feeling of loneliness. The void of no longer having someone to call, text, do things with and share with can feel absolutely devastating. If this is the case for you, now is the time to plug back into other relationships that give back to you. There may even be relationships that you have been neglecting while dating your ex-partner that you could reignite. When lonely, it can feel easy to isolate and go inside ourselves. Although this can be what feels most comfortable and easy, these are the moments when it is most important to connect. Join that intramural team you never signed up for. Go out to eat with a friend. Ask them for a hug- we need touch and connection, especially when we are struggling with hard emotions. Even going to sit and read in a coffee shop instead of in your room alone can lead to a shift in energy and mood. We cannot go through hard experiences alone, so finding and leaning on the people in our lives is crucial following a breakup.
It is common that breakups can stir up a lot within us. The loss of a major relationship in our life can cause us to think about different aspects of ourselves, how we relate to others, how we cope and what we may or may not be missing in our life. Because breakups can cause this kind of reflection and introspection, it can be useful to have resources to help navigate these thoughts that may be coming up. Below are six book recommendations along with why we think that they could be especially beneficial after a breakup.
1. BreakUp and BreakOut by Rachel Thomasian and Valentina Setteducate
We wanted to write a book that could really support anyone going through a breakup. Our book is meant to help provide education around why breakups are so hard, give exercises to help deepen understanding and help the reader engage in a way that helps them connect more to themselves and get to a place of healing, closure and connection that they create from within.
2. Attached by Amir Levine
This book is a great education tool and talks extensively about attachment styles and the ways in which we relate to others (specifically romantic partners). This book can be helpful in understanding why certain matchups can be more difficult than others and can be a tool to deepen understanding of yourself and your needs (and how you express or do not express them) in relationships. If you are wrestling with certain patterns that seemed to keep occurring in your past relationship, this book may help gain some insight into why.
3. Rising Strong by Brené Brown
If you have not heard of Brené Brown- you should look into her books and her work. She is a therapist and has extensively studied shame and vulnerability- two very important topics when it comes to relationships. In Rising Strong, she speaks about what it feels like to get up and be brave after we fall down, and helps the reader identify the stories we tell ourselves that keep us down. This book provides strength and hope to anyone going through a tough time and trying to stand back up and move forward.
4. Self-Compassion by Dr. Kristin Neff
This book is an absolute must read for anyone- but can be especially helpful if you are being very hard on yourself due to a recent breakup. Dr. Neff talks about the three different components that make up self-compassion, and includes endless exercises to help practice showing ourselves grace and love. Breakups can often kick up guilt, shame and other tough feelings that can cause us to be hard on ourselves, and this book helps the reader work on and become aware of the ways in which we talk to and treat ourselves.
5. When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön
Pema Chödrön is a Buddhist nun who has written several best-selling books. In this book, When Things Fall Apart, she provides spiritual insight to help clients navigate tough feelings- especially the ones that come up when things do not go as planned in our lives. This book is divided up into short chapters that are all labeled so you can skip around and come back to certain ones that resonate with what you are specifically going through. When Things Fall Apart is a great book to have in your back pocket and something to quickly come back to if you need words of affirmation or some loving guidance.
6. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
Lori Gottlieb is a psychotherapist that writes about her work with clients as well as her relationship with her own therapist following a breakup. This book is a fascinating sneak peek into the healing that happens through therapy and the relationships that impact our lives. As you follow Lori in her sessions with clients working through relationship struggles, while she works through her own loss, you learn about the intricacies of interpersonal relationships as well as the significance of your relationship with yourself. We also appreciate that this book normalizes the experience of therapy by shining light on the process and revealing the warmth, care and fun that exists in the therapy room.