“Life changes. You lose love. You lose friends. You lose pieces of yourself that you never imagined would be gone. And then, without you even realizing it, these pieces come back. New love enters. Better friends come along. And a stronger, wiser you is staring back in the mirror.” ~Preetham Mohanty
One year ago, I quit my high-stress job. Then my husband quit me.
There had been signs of our unhappiness in the six months prior, but I thought it was dissatisfaction with our work lives, not with our relationship. It was clear, though, that our dynamic had changed—we were no longer the adventurous, passionate couple who were addicted to each other, but had become the exhausted duo who would drink a bottle of wine in front of the television most nights.
We de-evolved from conscious love to unconscious companionship. We became complacent. We took each other for granted.
Still, my love for him was as strong as the day we had met, and I thought the same was true for him until the week after I had left my stressful job, he said the words that would obliterate my life as I knew it: “I don’t want to be married anymore.”
I had quietly convinced myself that this day would inevitably arrive due to our significant age difference. And with my proclivity for the melodramatic, my only reaction was hysteria.
I screamed, I cried, I collapsed on the bathroom floor. I refused to let him touch me, I refused to let him speak. All the while cementing his belief that he made the right decision.
Within a period of one week, I suddenly found myself in an empty home, without an income and without a husband.
I had no time to process that trauma, as my resilience kicked in and I swiftly found myself in a new apartment, with a new job, and my supportive cat in tow.
But someone was missing.
My heart and brain struggled to make sense of such a loss. How could the man I had passionately loved for the past seven years leave me when I needed him more than ever?
To answer that question, I did all the things the relationship “experts” tell you not to do: I called him daily in hysterical tears, bombarded him with pleading texts, and begged him to remember who I was and who we were to each other. But that behavior only solidified his resolve and destroyed any remnants of self-esteem I had left.
Over the next twelve months I struggled through all the stages of grief: Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. And then… Acceptance.
It took over a year of introspection and healing through holistic therapy, embracing new experiences, and getting comfortable with discomfort, before I was able to let go of my marriage and find a new path to a purposeful life. Here’s what you can do to get there faster.
Step one: Delete, delete, delete.
I know this is hard and goes against your deepest impulse after you have been hurt, but you must STOP all communication with your ex. This means deleting them from your social media accounts and blocking their number (if there are children involved, just limit the communication).
If they are calling or texting within days or weeks of a breakup it is only to alleviate their own guilt for leaving you (or to make sure you are still there in the event things don’t work out for them).
They broke up with you for a reason, and they are not going to suddenly change their mind if you make yourself so easily available to them after they broke your heart. Repeat that: THEY BROKE YOUR HEART.
Step two: Keep a journal.
Anything you want to say to them, write it down in your journal. Something magical happens when you invest time in this—all the anger and pain spills out, along with some realizations too.
You start to recognize how the relationship crumbled, and the part you both played in its demise. You learn to forgive and to be grateful for the lessons learned and the love shared. You also begin to remember who you are, to acknowledge your strength, and to believe that you can survive this like you have all the other times in your life when things seemed to fall apart.
Step three: Move your body (or shake it off).
I know your energy is depleted after a breakup and you can barely make it out of bed, let alone get your body moving! But there are some gentle, healing exercises you can do that will swiftly replenish your energy, such as nature walking, joining a Qigong group, or taking a restorative yoga class.
If even that sounds like too much for you right now, there is one thing that worked for me (and was surprisingly fun too): “shake it off.” Get out of bed and shake your body, dance like a lunatic, laugh at the silliness of it—get rid of that heavy energy for a few minutes to boost those feel-good chemicals.
Step four: Laugh with the people you trust.
Go to a comedy show with your best friend, take your nieces or nephews to an amusement park, have a spa day with your sister or mom, take your dog to a dog park, or sunbathe with your cat!
Connection is so important to your recovery, so please don’t isolate yourself. Look to the people who love you because they are the ones who will reflect how lovable you are when you have forgotten.
Step five: Get out of your comfort zone and try something new.
This is so important, as it reframes your mindset from living in the past to being in the present and exploring an alternative future that you never thought possible. This happens because every new experience rewires your brain to positively adapt to change. Some activities to consider:
- Learn a new language.
- Make a piece of art.
- Learn a musical instrument.
- Attend a dance class.
- Travel solo to a city or country you’ve never visited before.
Step six: Try volunteering.
What cause are you passionate about? What injustice fires you up and makes you say, “Someone has to do something about this!”? Is it animal abuse? Child abuse? Homelessness? Racism?
Whatever the cause, there is no better time than now for you to act and make someone else’s life a little easier to bear. This gives you a purpose when you struggle to find one and allows you to make meaningful connections with others who are vulnerable and in need of some compassion.
Step seven: See a therapist.
If a year has gone by and, after trying all or most of the above, you are still unable to function, it may be time to consider some professional help in the form of a psychotherapist or holistic counselor.
Sometimes we just can’t keep doing it alone, but it can be hard to share everything we’re going through with our friends and family, who think we should be “over it by now.” And that’s okay. Talking to someone outside of the situation, who is trained in grief and loss, can make all the difference between being crippled by your grief or empowered by it.
The second I decided to release the grip on my husband and our love story, I became awestruck by presence.
Standing at the beach and watching a pod of dolphins frolicking under the morning sun, I felt so much gratitude. Gratitude for the sun on my skin, for the sea air in my lungs, for the beauty of the natural world, and for myself: my resilience, my willingness to love despite the heartbreak, and for my desire to make the world a much kinder place for the vulnerable and the broken.
To survive this grief, you must find some meaning in your pain and a purpose that gets you out of bed in the morning. If you don’t know what that looks like, ask yourself the following questions:
- What has this experience taught me about myself?
- What am I grateful for right now?
- What do I truly want? Is it aligned with my core values? Will it also benefit the world?
- How can I use my unique talents to be of service to others?
- What can I do today to be of service to others and to the life that I want to live?
Therein lies your path from grief to empowerment.
It’s okay to feel, it’s okay to fall, and it’s okay to take your time getting back up. But you MUST get back up, with self-compassion, self-love, and intention.
Remember, there is nobody on this Earth like YOU. That is how powerful you are.