How did you let go and forgive after a loss and a breakup?
February 27, 2013 11:24 AM   Subscribe

Death of a parent and a breakup- how to disentangle the two, get a virtual lobotomy regarding the breakup, and for heavens sake just fucking move on regarding the breakup.

Rationally you know all the reasons why the breakup happened, why it was inevitable, why it was going to happen anyway in the future, why you don't even want the person back. But emotionally, feelings kick in at the oddest times - mostly hurt and anger for the betrayal of not having the ex support you when you became the most (emotionally) dependent on them after losing a parent; mostly because you are struggling with everything every single damn day with grief and all the crap the universe has unloaded on you all at once (thank you!) and you know for a fact that they have moved on and are loitering on the same website for the next toy to have fun with; mostly because you rationally know that 'oh, its half the time we were together so I should be over it by now already' (which is how I do feel often, but not always) and yet there are plenty of bad days when you cant get past the hurt and anger and are just bloody paralyzed; mostly because you have read a ton of crap on forgiveness and letting go and still it hurts like hell (even if it is for hours or days) because the consequences of that breakup affect only you all negatively and the other other person can just get away with it without a scratch; mostly because you already had a very hard time trusting people for being reliable and then had the experience of a lifetime for becoming emotionally dependent on someone for a few fucking weeks and then get punished for it with the consequences.

The breakup per se is not what bothers me as much- if everything in my life was fine and dandy, I'd be way over a guy by now: I'd be sad, confused, disappointed, angry but, I'd get over it. The worst is when the feelings creep up on me when I am grieving for my parent and everything gets mixed up and messy. I cannot seem to use logic to compartmentalize the two. (Men seem to be good at compartmentalization- maybe I could use some of those strategies!) I guess my question is- how do I let go of this breakup already (feelings) and disengage the breakup feelings from my grief once and for all? All of this mess, apart from the grief, is affecting my work big time (I am writing this at work coz I so upset right now!) and I want to so desperately move on.

FYI- I am getting all the professional help I need, but I still need some real perspectives from people who have successfully made it through a breakup WHILE going through other crappy things in life- that mess up all the feelings even more. For the same reason, I would especially love to also hear from folks who lost a parent/were dealing with a sick parent and then went through a divorce/breakup.

Sincerely thank you for your time!
posted by xm to Human Relations (20 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I think the amount of time you were together could be helpful for other answerers.

I suggest no contact - don't look for him online. Block sites if you have to. It's easier said than done, but not filling parts of your time with him will help.

Be mindful. When does it hurt the most? When does it hurt the least? This might help you identify things to avoid, and good coping techniques for when you start to feel bad.

Good luck. It will get better.
posted by sockermom at 11:39 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

You may also be transferring some of your grief from the loss of your parent onto the breakup, which you might think over with your therapist.

Also, sometimes when I have thoughts that are upsetting, I just remind myself to say "hi" to the thought, to welcome it, and then let my mind just walk on by. It sounds weird, but it helps me acknowledge that the thought, which is often familiar, is there, and that I can choose not to get stuck in it.
posted by sockermom at 11:44 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

First, I am very sorry for your loss. Secondly, your situation is nearly identical to my own. You've got the double whammy of two deaths (one parent and one relationship) to deal with.

Dad died in mid-November after a long illness and the wife left me in early January (it is turning into an ugly divorce despite my wishes for a reconciliation or at least an amicable parting). The best thing I've done is to keep busy. It is essential. Here is what I've been doing: reading (mainly self-help, but also for pleasure), weightlifting, hiking, reconnecting with old friends, therapy, picking up old hobbies, discovering new hobbies, and taking care of things (divorce business, estate business). An idle mind is the devil's plaything in situations like this.

The thing is, things are going to be mixed-up and messy. Life (and death) is a mixed-up, messy business. It's okay to feel sad, angry, and even happy all in the same day (or same five minutes). Every time I think I have a handle on things, there's a new monkeywrench in the gears. In the past weeks, I've thought I've hit rock bottom and promptly fallen through another floor. It's not a linear process. At. All. But, with all apologies to Dr. King, the arc of recovery is long, but it bends towards betterment. I can see things are, on the whole, improving.

When I get home, I'll try to recommend specific book titles for you if you're interested.

MeMail me if you want to talk one-on-one. This community has given me so much, I would like to be able to give something back.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:44 AM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

mostly because you rationally know that 'oh, its half the time we were together so I should be over it by now already'

I only have something to say about this part. It's not true that "rationally" anyone "should" be over their relationship or anything that happened in it within a specific time frame that someone made up. That's awfully arbitrary. Don't beat yourself up for not feeling a certain way by some arbitrary mark. I was once involved with someone for only two and a half weeks, and I felt fucked up about it for a solid two months afterwards. That's how long it took, and it was fine in the end.
posted by cairdeas at 11:45 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well, grief is grief, after a fashion. A bunch of years ago, my dad died; a few months later my partner of six years broke up with me; a few weeks after that, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and she died a few months later. (It was a really bad year.)

I sort of kept no-contact with the ex, but not completely. And emotionally there was just no way for me to keep a mental no-contact when I howled as a motherless child, because yes, I was in fact sad about the break-up, too. The relationship with my mom was not ideal; the relationship with my partner was less than ideal; in both cases, I mourned the what-could-have-been as well as the ending of the relationship itself. And I was just feeling alone and all fucked up. I gave myself permission to feel fucked up and confused.

I did get fairly good at compartmentalizing the grief from everything else - that is, if I felt like I was going to lose it somewhere where I didn't really want to lose it (work, the grocery store, the bus), I breathed deeply and told myself, self, you can do this later. I promise you that you can cry like a motherfucker later. But not now. [breathe] Not now. [breathe] Not now.

It passed, as most things do. I was in therapy for a while, and that helped. I had good friends and that helped too. My best to you, and my condolences.
posted by rtha at 11:45 AM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

I know you want to be Over it already, but have you done that thing that therapists make you do where you sit down and just... feel the feelings for awhile? Without saying how much you want them to be Over, you just say, "yeah, I feel hurt and betrayed because X."

Journaling can help with this, too, to pick apart what about the breakup makes you think of other hurtful things, or why it hurts especially hard.

Then, once you've gotten it all out, I find the pain lifts much more readily. That is, unless the reality is that you're transferring the pain of grieving on to the breakup. This all stinks, definitely work with your professionals to help you process.
posted by ldthomps at 11:46 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

I went through a divorce while my mother died. And since it was the end of a marriage, this was also accompanied by the stress of moving, a period of unemployment, and a new job plus more.

Look, it would be great if there was a magic thing you could do to make it hurt less. The truth is, it was just a crappy time. It passes -- just hang in there. No trick, just keep plodding along, putting one foot in front of the other.
posted by Houstonian at 11:46 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

For a while in my life, horrible things just kept happening. The specifics aren't important as much, but there were breakups and the illness/death of a parent and a whole host of other things.

There is no real secret to getting through it. You just sort of do. You accept that it will take as long as it takes; we understand that it just needs time, but it can be harder to understand that it doesn't happen on a schedule. It happens when it's ready. While going through my own personal hell, I decided that the most important thing was that I must always be moving forward. No standing still, no moving backwards. Take one more step forward, no matter how much it hurts. Then another and then another.

There won't be a Big Triumphant Moment when you're suddenly over it and the sun comes up. You'll realize, after a while, that you're doing okay and you've been doing okay for a while. Some songs may make you sad; some things may trigger memories. That's just the way of it, and it will be that way for a long, long time.

Keep the ex out of your mind. Don't look them up on social media sites. Block or hide them on every site you can. Returning to that well will prolong the healing process.

Accept that the heart does not process things rationally. It processes them in its own way that we can't really understand most of the time. It is not beholden to logic. Don't get angry at yourself for being irrationally upset or sad.

Spend time with friends and be kind to yourself. Other than that, the only real ingredient is time. Cry when you feel like crying and feel whatever you're feeling and give it time. There will be moments when you absolutely refuse to believe it could ever be okay, but it will.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:46 AM on February 27, 2013 [8 favorites]

Oh, lord. I had three years where everything bad that can happen to a person, short of me actually dying, happened to me. Divorce, loss of pets, multiple deaths, multiple illnesses, unemployment, breakup, car accident (though at least nobody was hurt, but I loved that stupid car...) just one thing after another after another after a-goddamn-nother.

After floundering around trying to actively Get Myself Over It, I gave up. I basically went to work, ordered pizza, and watched The Wire for a couple years. (Eventually The Wire ended and I started watching Deadwood. You get the picture.)

Then after that I went to work, went to a gym, ordered pizza, and watched Deadwood.

Then after that, I went to work, went to a gym, made a sandwich and watched The Venture Brothers.

So now it's like, what, 4 years maybe since All The Badness? 3 years since the very very last of the badness. And I'm kind-of-okay. It's probably not an Optimal Recovery Plan, but it worked-ish. Routine. Exercise. Food. Distraction.
posted by like_a_friend at 12:00 PM on February 27, 2013 [16 favorites]

Distraction is your friend. Grieving is hard, and it takes time and there's no way to speed it up. It sucks, but that's the truth.

I think intellectually knowing that you have no reason to miss your boyfriend is one thing, but emotions will override that each time.

Here's what I recommend after a break up:

Rearrange your furniture and get new bedding.

Get new perfume.

Buy new outfits, get rid of anything that reminds you of your relationship.

Archive pictures, presents, anything that has him, reminds you of him, etc. You may never opent he box again, or you might want to look at all of that stuff when you're in a happy relationship and you want to remember who that ass was you used to date.

Get involved in doing something that will take up a decent amount of time. An advanced degree, finishing up a degree, a certification program. Anything that will be an accomplishment once it's completed.

Do a thorough and deep cleaning of your house. It will help cleanse your mind as well.

Reconnect with your friends, find new places to go.

In other words, be distracted.

Hang in there, you're going to be fine, you really, really are.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:08 PM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

I thought I'd come back and clarify one thing. I'd written "it passes" and after posting I remembered how much I used to HATE when people said that to me. It seemed ridiculous and entirely too pat.

Some things (like your parent dying) hurt differently than other things (like a breakup). With the breakup, eventually you might be able to say that you wish him/her well and that they were a good person just not the right good person for you. You start to recognize that it really was probably for the best, for both of you. The hurt becomes more of a sad smile when you remember what was and what might have been.

Death hurts differently but that hurt, too, passes. It's more like having a sore tooth -- the tooth still hurts, but after a while you learn to stop poking it with your tongue. Not sure if that makes sense, but there it is. That's what I meant (and maybe other people mean) when they assure you that it passes.

And it does. Hold onto that. There will be a day when it doesn't hurt this badly.
posted by Houstonian at 12:35 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

The death of my last parent and my divorce happened in the span of a year. Still I mourn every day the passing of my parents. Its not all at one time where you should be fine after the funeral, its a continuing process.
The breakup was more anger oriented, with an overall sense of freedom afterwards. What did I do? I put my big girl panties on and dealt with it. Made sure the kids had their routine. Spent time closing out the estate and running errands dealing with making myself a Ms. instead of a Mrs. with banks, bills, etc. Then came a few hobbies. Finally, the kids and I took a nice vacation by ourselves. Oh, and I got a great tattoo to symbolize the year that I had. Good luck. You've turned a page, start writing.
posted by PJMoore at 12:57 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I read an article once about a woman whose twin died. She was tore up for a long time. Then one day she realized it tore her up because they had been so close. She realized she had had something special that few people get to have. After that she felt better, remembering her sibling as a cherished part of her life.

Perhaps I am wrong, but I am always a little envious of people who have lost a relative and are grieving because it looks to me like they probably had more love in their life than I have had. I wish there were more people in my life whom I would mourn terribly if they died. My life just hasn't had much warmth.

My ex was terrible about not calling. In the beginning, I worried myself sick whenever he was late and didn't call. As the debts piled up and the marriage deteriorated, I found myself halfway hoping he was dead and a big insurance check was on the way. That was the ickiest feeling. If I was widowed, I wanted it to be the worst thing ever. I wanted it to rip my heart out. I wanted to feel like I would never love again. I didn't want to feel like "Thank god. Now I can pay my debts."

So I am wondering if your grief is perhaps evidence that you were very loved and if viewing it that way might make the pain more bearable.
posted by Michele in California at 2:11 PM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am so sorry for your loss.
a bit more than a decade ago, I was in the same situation. I did all the wrong things, and ended up depressed for a very long period of time. Chaos followed in every aspect of my life.

So I don't have good experiences from then I can pass on. I can tell you what I wish I'd done:
- made a habit of walking or cycling an hour a day (I can't run because of my knee, but that would be fine, too)
- made a habit of inviting friends - even friends I hadn't seen for ages - at least every fortnight (inviting guests keeps the house clean)
- made a habit of going out with friends or colleagues every week
- made a habit of dressing well every day, even when not necessary
- made a habit of being polite to everyone, even the local homeless guy, every day

It could be something similar but different - eating only vegetarian is another good option to add. I've done these things at other difficult times in my life, and they have actually always worked for me. I can't say exactly why I didn't do it then, but I have a couple of ideas: first of all, I didn't really recognize the depth of the grief I felt for the loss of my parent, and second, there were some aspects of the relationship that were profoundly fake, and part of that me wanting to fake myself. I wanted to be someone and something else, and I couldn't. When I began to accept myself as I am, things got better.
posted by mumimor at 2:48 PM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

This isn't an answer, per se. I'd just like to play you a song.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:41 PM on February 27, 2013

You know, it isn't so wrong to say "hell, yes, I've been through so much in such a short time, that there's no need for me to ration it out into reasonable buckets; I'm just going to grieve it all as it comes, and get it over with."

Sometimes there's no way to compartmentalize, and sometimes there's no rationality to the way we grieve. I thought I'd grieved for my father during the five years of his deterioration, and that was why I didn't feel awful when he died, but three years later after I got divorced, all of a sudden my father's death was something that overwhelmed me again, instead of the divorce.

You definitely want to avoid triggers, unless you're having a good day and you feel like doing some grieving at your own pace, but just realize you're grieving, and leave it at that.
posted by davejay at 7:45 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Be kind to yourself. It doesn't matter how long it's been - you're not done processing. Your grieving process for either event isn't done. That's OK. In fact, that's completely normal. It took me a long time to process my mother's death because I had other crises crop up at the same time. In fact, I wouldn't even say I'm done grieving and it's been over 2 years.

Basically: shit happens, do what you need to do in order to survive. Don't judge yourself according to other people's standards or other people's outsides. It's OK to take a long time to get over things, it doesn't mean you're weak or a bad person, it just means it's taking a long time.
posted by buteo at 8:17 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

but I still need some real perspectives from people who have successfully made it through a breakup WHILE going through other crappy things in life- that mess up all the feelings even more.

I got fired from my dream career path (completely closing that door to me forever) while also the love-of-my-life slowly, meticulously destroyed our relationship.

SO! Imagine all the hurt, the hate, the pain, the sadness as a brick. You want to hold onto this brick - it is what you have left of the relationship that was so much to you. You want to throw this brick through windows, smash and scream about what you lost - it sucks! You want to make people notice, to cry out, to smash that brick around with its heavy weight, give it meaning.

But you can put the brick down. You don't have to carry it. You can just place it on the ground, and leave it alone.

you know for a fact that they have moved on and are loitering on the same website for the next toy to have fun with

It is important to realize that you do not, truly, "know this for a fact," and perhaps there are other forces at work here.

The worst is when the feelings creep up on me when I am grieving for my parent and everything gets mixed up and messy

It is OK to be sad (for a while, not forever).
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:45 PM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

I can console myself a little during times like these by thinking "well, at least these horrible things are happening when I ALREADY feel horrible. I suppose that's better than them ruining some future time when I feel great."
posted by MsMolly at 7:58 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Two things helped me in a similar (but not the same) situation. The first was the realisation that the's no logic behind the grieving process, but that doesn't mean it's not rational. At first, I found myself oddly grieving for the comfort and security of the awful and demoralising job I'd left and for the city I was leaving behind with far greater intensity than for the relationship that ended coldly and abruptly or the sheer terror of finding out that the abnormal cells I'd had removed were indeed cancerous. Grief and its accompanying hurt and anger is a big, unwieldy, complex emotion and sometimes it's impossible to untangle. Trust that it's unfolding as it's meant to unfold and your mind is dealing wi this in the best way possible for you right now.

The second is realising that you really don't know for sure that your ex has moved on unscarred. With respect to all the Internet daters out there, loitering online is a low intensity way of meeting a lot of people without ever having to commit of deal with emotions in real life. Your ex may be terrified, they may be numb, they may be incapable of fathoming what's happened. It doesn't really matter what they are, other than to alive there's all manner of possibilities and you can't know for sure, so stop beating yourself up by assuming the "worst."

Wishing you all the very best.
posted by rockpaperdynamite at 7:10 PM on March 2, 2013

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