I’m in conversation with several people who are in the midst of a break up, one of whom I’m very close to. So in addition to the chapter on Breaking Up in my free eBook, Conscious Transitions, (which you can download through signing up on the right sidebar), I’d like to offer a few more thoughts about the transition of a break up.
First off, my heart goes out to you. Breaking up is excruciatingly painful, for whether you were together for ten months or ten years, your heart opened to this person and now he or she is gone. There’s a reason why it’s called a “break up”, and it’s not just because you’re separating or breaking off from someone. It’s because a break up also breaks your heart open. You are broken open. Your heart is in pieces.
As I wrote in the Breaking Up chapter, when you’re enduring a break up you’re in a death experience. There may be moments in the day when you feel like you’re not going to be able to make it. The pain sears through your solar plexus rendering you almost incapable of breath. The grief is real and it needs time and attention. Sometimes when you contextualize what you’re enduring as a “death experience”, it helps to validate the enormity of the pain. If someone died, you would give yourself the necessary time to grieve the loss. Well, someone has died: your relationship. The loss needs to be grieved and there’s only one way to do that: cry.
Break ups are one of the transitions that trigger our early blueprints of love and loss. So when you’re grieving the very real and present-day loss of your loved one, you might also be grieving old losses and disappointments from primary caregivers. The early abandonments come shooting to the surface of consciousness and you find yourself immersed in the memory of the first day of kindergarten when your mother dropped you off at the door and you felt like your insides had dropped away. Memories of divorce and death might also figure prominently in your early morning and late night grieving.
As always, the remedy is to allow the grief to move through you. What resists, persist and nowhere is this more true than around the emotional field of grief. You must let yourself cry. You must let yourself break down. The grief is painful, of course, but when it becomes lodged in your body it mutates into depression or anxiety and the pain increases tenfold. Grief fully expressed in the presence of a loving friend or therapist – or wrapped in your own compassionate embrace – isn’t actually as painful as people fear it will be. It needs to wash through you. If you’re going to prepare your inner ground to receive your next partner, you need to clear out this one. And that means crying… a lot.
Clearing out this partner also means actively letting him or her go. If you’re still in love or emotionally attached – which you will be for some time – letting go feels counterintuitive: why would you let go of someone you love? But for whatever reason, the relationship has ended and letting go has to occur. I often prescribe the following exercise to help people practice letting go:
Lie down and settle into your body and your breath. If the tears are at the surface, breathe into them and let them out. Cry for as long as you need to. See if you can imagine a loving and compassionate source close by, holding you in a wise embrace. This source of love sees your essential nature and loves you unconditionally. Once this wave of grief has passed through you, imagine that you can see a cord – or many cords – that attach you to your ex-partner. These are the cords of your love and your relationship. Some are healthy and others aren’t, but they all need to be cut in order for both of you to move on and continue to evolve toward your next stage of growth.
You may find it difficult to execute this exercise at first. That’s okay; that only alerts you to the level of your attachment to this person. Try it again in a few hours or at the end of the day. See the details as clearly as possible, including the kind of tool you’re using (scissors, knife, teeth) to complete the cut. This exercise is called “cutting the cords” and the more you do it, the more you will release yourself from your grief and attachments.
And remember: this too shall pass. You’ve been in grief before and you’ll be here again. Grief has its own timetable and it arrives in waves, so as much as possible allow for it to work through you and practice non-resistance when you feel the swell of grief rise up in you. I know it’s not fun. I know it’s hard and scary. But you will find your way through and when you walk through this transition with consciousness, you will be a better person on the other side, ready to dive into the risky and wonderful world of love once again.