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Surviving a Breakup

Did you ever have the flu?  Do you remember how every muscle and joint hurt, and even your hair hurt?  Remember not wanting to get out of bed, wondering if you would die, and even thinking dying may be a better option than feeling as horrible as you were feeling? Well, breaking up can feel very much like having the flu.  We can think of it as the Relationship Flu (BFGF flu and other variations),  not so deadly as H1N1 (Swine) flu, but miserable nevertheless.

When you had the flu did you tell yourself you shouldn’t feel so miserable?  No, of course not - you recognized that the misery came with the virus and you didn’t blame yourself for getting the bug.  Same with a break up - you have a right to feel miserable.  The misery comes with the break-up and there is not much useful in wallowing in self-blame.

When you had the flu did you expect to keep up your usual schedule, go to work, run a marathon, paint your house?  Of course not.  So what did you do?  You did what you could to decrease the misery (bed rest, fever control, pain medications, liquids, etc.)  You watched TV or read books/magazines to distract yourself.  You slept when you needed to.  Same with a break up - decrease the misery – in whatever healthy ways you can find.  Be kind to yourself, lower your expectancies for yourself for a bit. Get enough rest.  Eat in a healthy manner.  Be careful about the kinds of liquids you choose (alcohol doesn’t help any kind of flu).

When you had the flu, did you expect to manage it all on your own? Of course not.  You probably called your physician, or a friend, or a neighbor, or a parent for some help.  Same with a break-up.  Call the folks who care about you and ask for what you need – a visit, a movie, phone contact, a new car (just kidding abut the car).

When you had the flu did you truly think it would last forever? Of course not.  Didn’t you have some confidence that it was time-limited and that it would eventually pass? Didn’t that thought help you stand whatever misery you were experiencing in the moment?  Didn’t you look forward to feeling better and getting back to “normal.”  Of course you did.  Same with a break up.  No matter how miserable you are in the moment, time is on your side and you will start to feel better.  Not in an hour, or a day, or a week maybe, but definitely in the foreseeable future.

When you had the flu, did you believe you would simply wake up one morning and feel “normal” again, as if an /off switch would miraculously put an end to the misery?  Of course not.  Didn’t you simply feel a bit less miserable each day, and then each hour? Didn’t you see some slow progress towards feeling “yourself” again, and then when you overdid it, slip back briefly into misery again.  Same with a break-up.  It takes time to feel a bit better, and then even better, and there still may be some brief slip-slides back into misery.  Expect the relapses and keep up your courage and optimism.

When you got over the flu, did you think you would never have the flu again?  Of course not.  Didn’t you recognize that even with good vaccines and good hand washing, you may have the flu again in the future (maybe not this particular virus, but a similar one)?  Of course you did. Same with a break up.  There are many losses we may experience over a life time, additional break ups, and even the deaths of loved ones. Surviving a loss teaches us that we can adapt and grow. 

Author: Alice Q. Libet, Ph.D.
Reviewed 2/8/2010