When you lose a relationship you can feel as if the loss has put you on a roller-coaster of emotions. You may experience many different feelings, including anger, blame, guilt, fear, relief and even euphoria – often in quick succession.
Sadness and fear
Perhaps most common is a feeling of overwhelming sadness. You may feel this when your relationship breaks down as well as for some time afterwards.
How long your sadness lasts will depend on the circumstances of your separation. It will also depend on your past experiences of loss. You may find your current loss triggers feelings of past losses, and vice versa.
In Relate’s book, How to Have a Healthy Divorce by Paula Hall, it’s suggested the following can help you to cope with the overwhelming sadness you may feel when you lose your relationship:
- Take care of yourself. Eat, rest and sleep well when you can.
- Talk about your feelings. Confiding in friends, family or people trained to listen, such as Samaritans, can help you feel less alone.
- Appreciate the good memories. It’s OK to grieve at a song on the radio, but remember the happy times too.
- Cry if you need to. This is part of coming to terms with your loss.
- Treat yourself. Reward yourself for getting through these tough times, one step at a time.
If grief triggers depression
Sometimes grief can trigger depression. Symptoms of depression include:
- Changes in appetite
- Sleep difficulties or oversleeping
- Tiredness and lack of energy
- Concentration and memory problems
- Physical restlessness
- Suicidal thoughts and feelings
If you feel constantly sad for more than six months and you experience any of the symptoms of depression you may wish to consult your GP.
Talk to someone
Practical tips for dealing with feelings of sadness
To help keep your feelings of sadness balanced it’s useful to focus on things that are going well in your life.
- Think of all the things that are going okay for you – draw a series of balloons and write these things in them
- Colour all the balloons that are going really well a bright colour and the things that are only just okay a paler colour
- Add to the balloons every day
Fears and worries
It’s quite normal for you to feel scared, worried or anxious about some things after your separation. When you lose a relationship you go through a period of grieving. It may take you some time to feel you’re back to your old self again.
Taking things more slowly can help you keep your worries and fears in perspective. You could try:
- Deep breathing
- Taking 10 minutes out to focus solely on relaxing your muscles. (If a thought pops into your mind, just let it pass.)
- Having a hot bath
Feeling like you’re losing control can contribute to worried feelings. It may help you to jot down the things you most fear, for example missing friends or not finding another partner. Doing something positive or active about these fears can help you feel more in control. For example, if you’re concerned about being alone, you could join a new club.
If you take action about your fears to prevent them becoming real it can also help to boost your self-esteem.
You may find that sticking to a routine is a good way to remain in control on a day-to-day basis.
If your feelings of anxiety become overwhelming or uncontrollable, or you experience panic attacks, you may want to speak to your GP.
Making fears feel more manageable
Try this activity to help you manage fears and worries:
- Draw 4 columns. In the first list all your fears. Title the second column ‘Probability of it happening’, the third ‘My power to avoid’ and the fourth ‘Impact on my life’.
- Number your fears between 1 to 10 in each column. 1 being the least and 10 being the most value.
- When complete, stand back and compare each fear, how likely it is to happen and also the real impact it may have on you.
- Completing these steps may help you to rationalise your fears and to prioritise which may have the most impact on you and which you can control. (exercise from Paula Hall in ‘How to have a Healthy Divorce; A practical Step for anyone going through aSeparation or Divorce’).