An Expert Weighs In On How To Put The Pieces Back Together After A Break Up
The moment you decide to end a relationship OR are forced out of one because of your significant other’s decision, the world as you know it, ends. Our partners become a part of our days, nights and routines, and unhinging from that reality is disorientating. Dr. Carolina Castaños, Ph.D and award winning relationship expert, spoke to MadameNoire about the journey from devastation to new beginnings. Castaños pulls from tools mentioned in her new project, MovingOn, the first interactive program designed to help people overcome heartbreak.
Get into her advice below:
The first few days after a breakup are hard. How do you suggest women fight the temptation to “run back” to their ex just to relieve the pain?
The first days are tough, and we enter a phase of denial and wanting to do anything to regain our lover. We enter a state that is similar to drug withdrawal where we crave. We have this intense motivation to connect (we might even do things that are outside of who we are and what we would normally do), we are obsessed (we think about this person all the time and it is so difficult to keep them out of our mind). The first thing is to understand what is happening inside of us… we are craving the love we once had. Also know that this is a phase and it will pass… but what this phase is telling us is that we are grieving and that we need to do things that make us feel good, we need to pay attention to what we need. We need to take care of ourselves, of our bodies, of our soul. I recommend establishing the following in our daily routine:
- Support: find a group of individuals that are going through what you are going through… you will realize that there is nothing wrong with you and that you are not alone.
- Reach out to friends and family. Do whatever it is that you need and your life. You can get together in small safe groups of friends/family that are understanding, non-judgemental and are there for you.
- Find things that bring you joy: this can be meditation, exercising, going out on walks in nature. Be mindful of these moments. For example, if you go outside, notice the sun, it’s warmth, the leaves in trees, the life in each flower, butterfly, bird. Listen to nature and allow yourself to feel it.
- Be kind with yourself. There will be times when you will have a strong urge to connect with your former partner… see if you can talk with yourself as you would to a friend… what would you say to your friend? How would you feel towards your friend?
What are some ways to mentally or physically self soothe while mourning a relationship?
- Meditation is a great resource. Many times, though, it is hard to keep your mind quiet and stay with yourself. If your mind is running, you can try therapy where your therapist can provide tools and teach you how to reach that place.
- A warm bath… as warm as you can. Heat relaxes muscles and helps you calm down. Add some essential oils (lavender is calming) and some soothing music.
- Breathing exercises: there are some specific breathing exercises (for example belly breathing0 that can help calm our nervous system down and allow us to relax.
Is there a time period women should wait before dating/entering a serious relationship again? Why/why not?
One of the things we tend to do is to start relationships, go on dating sites to find someone that can help soothe our pain. I always recommend to wait until you are healed, until you have processed the end of your relationship. Going into a relationship too soon might only make things work because it is likely that you will end up repeating the same patterns. There is not a determined time frame for grief as it varies from individual to individual. How we grief depends on our past losses and how we have dealt and processed them. Many times, the end of a relationship opens up wounds that we thought were in the past. Many times we are unaware of this and only when things quiet down a little, we are ready to see all these connections.
How do you prevent yourself from “rebounding?” When can you trust yourself to know you’re really ready?
You know that you are ready when you are at peace with yourself, when you feel that you have not only accepted but also when you see that there is actually something positive that came out of this painful experience. This experience has allowed you to grow, to see things in a different perspective, when you have dealt with all the emotions that come with this process: hurt, anger, fear, and maybe guilt.
Are there stages of grief in breakup as there are in death? If so, what are they and how do you navigate each one?
A breakup is a loss, thus we go through a grief process. There are “stages” but they are messy and different for each person. We have in the literature the five stages of grief: denial, pain and guilt and bargaining (if I would have done this, maybe things would be different… or if I do this, then we can go back to what we had), anger, “depression” (a sense of loneliness), and eventually acceptance and hope. These are all moments we go through, but they do not happen in order. There can be moments when we feel hopeful and happy and then something triggers anger or sadness… like when we lose someone, we go through all these emotions in different ways and times, in no specific order. What is important is to allow ourselves to be where we are and feel how we feel. We need to find an outlet to our feelings but the key is how we let those feelings out. That is what makes the difference. Many times we get angry and frustrated with ourselves for feeling how we feel. Sometimes our guilt takes us to beating ourselves up instead of finding this experience as an opportunity to learn from life and ourselves. This is, I believe, the transformative piece: learning to be with ourselves and our feelings in a kind and compassionate way…. Just like we would if our child or best friend was sad or angry… we would be that with them, without judging, without telling them how terrible they are.
For women who can’t see to the other side of their heartache, what words of advice would you have for them?
If you think abut your life, you can realize that there have been many losses, many challenges, and you have gone through them. They have all made you stronger. You have so much strength, you are stronger than what you believe. Think about all the things that you have done in your life, all your achievements… even though you had tough times, you were able to go through them. You might go back to school and remember a time when you had difficulty in a class or a certain subject, you were able to go through it, maybe think of graduation, school or college… think of the effort it took, and you did it… maybe friendships or relationships that were difficult and you were able to survive them. Make a list of all your achievements and besides each one of them remember all you had to give up to get to them and how you did it. Notice how you feel towards yourself as you go back to each one of them. See if you can connect with pride… feeling proud of yourself. That is your light, that is your strength, that is you.