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Overcome heartbreak: dealing with the pain of a separation

Almost everyone knows the pain a breakup or divorce can cause. Life is thrown off track, and one's emotions seem uncontrollable and often overwhelming. Such feelings are part of the process and therefore perfectly normal. This article offers tips on how to better process and get over a breakup.

Breakups: a challenge and part of life at the same time

The emotional turmoil of a breakup is often very intense and difficult to bear. In these moments, it is hard to imagine that so many people go through this experience in the course of their lifetime. But the high divorce rate of 38% alone shows us that it’s the case.

Although modern society is often blamed for a general difficulty to maintain relationships, this is not the main reason. As sociologists describe, it is instead due to social change. As people prioritise personal happiness, the demands on couple relationships and a partner are significantly greater today than they were a few decades ago. People do not stay in relationships out of mere dependence. Instead, they go their separate ways when they are no longer satisfied in the relationship or have the impression that their needs are not being met.

Breakups cause great disappointment; not only must the loss of a person be dealt with, but one must also say goodbye to unfulfilled wishes, dreams and ideas of a life together. After all, the bond was originally entered into with the hope of being seen and understood and with many other hopes for the future. Consequently, the end of a partnership can be a great shock. Regardless of who broke up, whether the relationship was happy or unhappy, breakups are drastic losses that must be processed. It is a parting that also includes mourning. The feelings that come with it - confusion, fear, anger, even guilt - can throw your life off track and turn it upside down, especially emotionally.

You want your ex-partner back? About the desire for reconciliation

Questions that are constantly on people’s mind during heartbreak are "Will we get back together?" or "How do I get my ex-partner back?". Such topics are favourites on Google Search. In the meantime, there is a whole industry that revolves around the desire to win back ex-partners and earns a lot of money from the broken hearts of people. But why is the desire to reunite so intense, especially soon after a breakup?

Researchers at Yeshiva University found that heartbreak is comparable to the experience of drug withdrawal. PET scans of the brain revealed that in the case of heartbreak, it looks similar to addicts who are in drug withdrawal. After the end of a relationship, many people have a craving for their ex-partner, just like others have for nicotine or narcotics and painkillers. They constantly think about the other person, want to be close to them and win them back at any cost.

This illustrates how much a relationship breakdown can be taxing and how much suffering it can cause. It is an extremely stressful situation that triggers a chaos of emotions. From anger to sadness to helplessness and the feeling of not knowing who you still are without your counterpart. As the University of Amsterdam suggested in a study, breakups even affect parts of the autonomic nervous system. These are responsible for sexual desire, digestion and the regulation of other internal organs - such as the heart.

Letting go: key points for emotional healing

About one-third of separated people consider a possible relationship comeback, researchers have found. An American study shows that 14 percent of couples dare to get back together, but break up once more. Only 15 percent succeed in a renewed attempt at a relationship in the long term.

The chance of a successful reconciliation depends very much on the reasons for the end of the relationship. If communication difficulties were not too serious, a second attempt can work. Even one-time affairs and the crises or separations they triggered can be overcome. If money problems, addiction problems or a too different change in personalities have led to the breakup, a successful next attempt is rather unlikely.

Should emotional or physical abuse have occurred, it is especially important to resist the urge for a hoped-for reconciliation - although in these cases it is of course exceptionally difficult. In such a situation, moving on in a healthy way is sometimes only possible with professional support.

Of course, no statistics in this world can stop a broken-hearted person from harbouring certain hopes. However, through a healthy healing process and successful grief work, one eventually manages to let go and start a new life chapter. Checking off the hopes is an important point in processing the relationship. For the way there, we have compiled some tips that can help.

Tips for getting over the initial pain of separation

A breakup or divorce can cause extreme stress and pain - no matter what the reason was or who initiated it. Healing and processing this experience of loss is difficult and can take a long time. But with time, support and these little tips, it can be overcome.

Give space to your feelings

No one should ever be ashamed of their feelings. Acceptance of emotions is an important step. Fighting them can often make the situation worse. If you have the opportunity, talking to friends or family members about your emotions can be extremely beneficial. A study has shown that people who regularly talk about their breakup regain their individuality more quickly. For this, you can also find the space and support in a support group or group sessions under psychotherapeutic guidance.

Write to process

Writing down your feelings is also a great way to process and let go. From journaling to other writing techniques, there is something for almost everyone. Writing lists can also be a supportive tool. For example something that can help is listing every way in which the ex-partner has disturbed the relationship in the past or even writing down all the positive aspects the new single life promises. It's best to save them on your cell phone and read them through whenever you're overcome by longing. If you don't like writing, you can also record audio files to process your thoughts.

Take care of yourself

Demanding yourself to function fully during such a difficult phase can be very harmful. Instead, it's important to cut yourself some slack and make your own well-being your top priority. This includes putting your own needs first and making healthy choices, which are often neglected. Getting enough sleep, eating a relatively healthy diet and exercising regularly can be difficult to maintain at this time. Establishing routines can counteract this a bit. With them, you can do something good for yourself and support your mental healing.

Pay attention to others affected - especially young family members

Should children be part of the relationship or marriage, this represents another level of psychological stress for all involved. This is because children and adolescents are often no less thrown off course by this life disruption than their parents. If this challenge is a continuing strain for parents and children, seeking psychotherapeutic help can be a great help to the separated and the young family members. In this way, children can holistically process what they have experienced and parents do not bear the burden of the child's emotional well-being entirely alone. With professional assistance, the whole family can manage to navigate the stormy waters.

Find your way back to individuality

Especially in long-term relationships, one can lose their own individuality. You quickly lose yourself in the other person and merge into a "we". When such a partnership ends, it may trigger an identity crisis. It is also an opportunity to fully concentrate on the positive aspects of a separation: you finally have time to get to know yourself again and to focus on your own interests, hobbies, friendships and dreams.

Seek professional support

If you notice that the breakup is too emotionally overwhelming, that experiences from the relationship are having a lasting impact, or that you cannot manage to find your way back to being yourself on your own, it is advisable to seek professional support. In the first phase directly after a loss experience, such support can carry you through the most difficult time. Of course, in this time it is more than inconvenient to wait for months for a place in therapy. This is where online therapy can be a good alternative to traditional options. Group sessions that take place over a set period of time and online may be just the right space to get over the pain of separation together with psychotherapists and like-minded people.

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